Tuesday, November 6, 2012
"When I was a boy, just about every summer we'd take a vacation.
...And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun."
A 'fun' thing I did this summer was to go camping with my family. I have a 4-year old son and 7-year old daughter in case I've never mentioned it (I don't want to go do something crazy like actually check (!)). So we went to the local state park and camped about 10 miles from our house. Since we live in south Denver, it's not too far from mountains and open spaces and stuff, but this park is pretty much 3500+ acres of wilderness surrounded by suburbs. It's still nature, dammit!
I like camping, in theory. As long as there's a bathroom and not a bucket to pee in, and we can have and are able to make a fire, it's fun for a few nights. I love the brighter stars and chirps and rustles and the mechanical quietness. I love relaxing outside when the morning is bright and the wind is still cool and we all smell smoky from last nights fire. There's no TV or Internet attempting to lure me into submission and no messy house to not clean up.
We went in June so it wouldn't be quite so hot and we packed crap into the borrowed pickup truck for what seemed like days: tent, sleeping bag, cast iron pans, pokey things to cook marshmallows with, canvas fold up chairs with mesh danglers attached to holes in the arm rests to put your frosty and refreshing beverage in, water, food, utensils, snacks, sun screen, rain jackets, hoodies, shorts, jeans, swimsuits, extra socks, insect repellent, bug bite cream, bandages, neosporin (or its generic equivalent), sinus medicine, headache medicine, sunglasses, toenail clippers, that pink tummy stuff that is all chalky, thick, looks and tastes like My Little Pony vomit, firewood, cooler with ice, and some other stuff. Did I mention we only went for 3 days?
'Fun' #1: There was a crazy heat-wave this summer and the 3 days we were out camping in the sun were the three hottest days in June. EVER. 104 degrees. But at least for the rest of the summer I was like, "It's only 98 degrees today? That's not so bad. Remember when it was 104 AND WE WERE CAMPING?"
'Fun' #2: My daughter is a typical 7 year old and is, for some reason I don't understand, in love with horses. So the two of us went on a guided horse ride for an hour. And as if slowly meandering down an un-shaded dirt trail in 100+ degree heat on a gigantic, furry animal in jeans and a helmet wasn't enough fun, we did it in a group. There was another mother-daughter combo in our midst, and they were annoying for several reasons:
1. They were late and we had to wait for them.
2. The horses kept trying to snack on the grass and it's not good for them (for some reason that I can't remember), so if they start a-grazin' you're supposed to yank up the reins to remind them they're not supposed to. Now, if a 1000 lb quadruped really wanted to eat that fucking grass, my Caesar Milan-style jerk-and-pull wouldn't even phase it. But horses are like, trained and stuff, and they know the rules, so you give 'em a tug and they're all, "Aw, man, this sweaty thing sitting on me knows the rules. Can't get away with it. I'll just keep biding my time until the horspocalypse and then I'll eat so much goddamn grass they'll be picking up my green, marshmallow-shaped turds until the end of time! Bwah ha ha h- I mean neigh-h-h-h!"
These ladies, especially the squealy teen-aged one, didn't have the girl-balls to 'be mean to a horse' so they only half-heartedly tried to get their horses to stop eating the grass, which made the horses think they could control the situation, and soon they were veering off course into the brush to partake in the bouquet of the new summer's grasses. And by 'new summer's grasses' I mean, 'crispy, dried up weeds that probably cut those damn horse gums all up to hell and are also most definitely a fire hazard' So we'd have to stop while the increasingly irritated cow-girl-guide went and got them back on track.
3. DON'T CHECK YOUR FUCKING MESSAGES ON YOUR FUCKING PHONE WHEN YOU'RE ON A FUCKING HORSE ENJOYING THE MAGNIFICENCE OF NATURE!!
4. It was hot and I was cranky and they were strangers.
'Fun' #3: We also went to the 'beach.' The park has a huge reservoir in it and they rent out boats and jet skis and stuff, and have a marina where people bring their own boats. That they bought. In a land-locked state almost exactly in the middle of the country. That they haul to a man-made lake so they can float around for a weekend and play that game where you see how many beers you can drink before you run into another boat piloted by other stupid people in boats that they hauled to the park so they can float around for no good reason and play that game where they see how many beers they can drink before running into another boat.
Just to clarify, I'm not talking about sweet little paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, or even small sailboats or those little fishing boats with the motor somehow attached to the back with that little handle on it so you can steer; those are hobby boats. Those boats can be strapped to the side of the house or tossed in a shed or even deflated if you have a really shit one. What I'm saying is they don't take up a lot of time, energy or space. No, I'm talking about gratuitous speedboats and mini-yachts (or regular-sized yachts, I'm not sure exactly how big a yacht is supposed to be). The boats that I think are ridiculous are the ones that need their own trailer and giant-wheeled truck to tow it around. The boats that need insurance and winter storage places and are named less-than-classy ladynames (ever heard of a boat named The Maya Angelou? No, no you haven't). Those boats have no earthly business in Colorado and are just another notch in the 'Americans-are-so-stupid-they'll-buy-anything' category. The reservoir is FULL of those fucking things.
It's shaped like a check mark, this reservoir, and the boats and drunk folk being pulled 30-miles-per-hour on an inner tube are up at one end (its ok though because they wear life jackets! Just kidding, that would make them look dumb) and there's this little beach on the other end with a roped off area of water that you can wade into and freeze your ass off and scrape you feet all up on the rocks because it's a fucking lake and not a swimming pool. We went there and brought our foldy chairs (see list of camping gear above) and towels and sunscreen and water bottles and the kids forced us into the water with their manipulative statements like, 'we can't swim!' and 'I want to play with you because I'm still too young to know better!' and 'I love you, Mommy'. Pffff.
We would go in for the three seconds the kids could stand it then we got out and dried off. Then we did it again. And again. And again until they started fighting and we went back to the tent. Have I mentioned yet that it was the hottest day ever? Oh, and also, I got a sunburn even though I wore SPF 70.
'Fun' #4: The best part was that since it was so hot and dry, after the first night they increased the fire ban so we couldn't have a fire. No campfire while camping. Dinner and the next mornings breakfast needed fire, or at least some kind of high temperatured, concentrated heat source to be edible. We considered running the engine of the car until it was hot enough to fry up some eggs, but we had already wasted so much gas from sitting in the cab and blasting the air conditioning for short bursts that we decided not to. At least we were surrounded by city and could skip out to Red Robin. Which we did and it was the best Whiskey River Chicken Burger I've ever had. We went to bed early in the pitch blackness, woke up with the bright sun, packed up our numerous possessions and grumpily sweated all the way home.
That was the major event of my summer. We cooked marshmallows and hot dogs over an open flame (the first night), and watched the bats come out. We looked at constellations and played on the playground. We laughed, we cried and no one lost any limbs or was otherwise seriously maimed. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Update 12/9/12- Fun #3