I am not a camper. We camped quite often when I was a child, but I am not a camper. I do love the outdoors. I can hike all day, go whitewater rafting, horseback riding–I even did a midnight rainforest hike in Costa Rica with poisonous snakes, spiders, and creepy crawlies. But I am not a camper. At the end of my outdoor adventures, I want a bed, a toilet and a shower. I want the bed off the ground, and I want the toilet and the shower within steps of the bed. And not steps that require me to go through woods, gravel, or dirt to reach them.
Early in our love story, My Knight asked me to accompany him on a music festival camping trip. I am all about a music festival. Great music, dancing, singing, meeting people, yummy/greasy fair food–I’m in. But camping? Nay, nay. But love was new and the blinders were still on, so I thought “Hey, I can do this. I am an outdoors girl.” Then he mentioned that it was a bluegrass/zydeco festival. Ahhhh. Well, now. Not exactly my first choice of music, but what the heck? Love was new, so I said okay.
I packed a few things, slid on my brand-new sequined black flip-flops, and off we went. He knew some people that were camping there already, and he called them while we were in route. My Knight seemed a little quiet on the phone, so I asked what was up.
Turns out there was a bit of a storm the night before, and the campground would be a little muddy with some downed tree branches. Well, hey. I’m a Southern girl. Born and raised dealing with mud and tree branches. I got this.
We arrived at the campground with a long line of vehicles waiting to check in. Wow. Pretty popular event. I was impressed. They gave us our site information, and we wound through the trees as I searched for the site on the map. I glanced up to get my bearings and saw a large lake on the left of the road. Hmmm. Wasn’t on the map. I looked back at the map and back at the lake, thinking maybe I was seeing the map wrong. Nope, no lake on the map.
It was then that I noticed the large roof in the lake. A large white roof supported by four white poles in the middle of the water. WTH? Why would they do…Wait! There was a Miller Lite truck in the lake. A full-size eighteen-wheeler Miller Lite truck. In the lake. Near the roof. But I think it was the port-a-potties floating along one edge of the lake that finally clued me in.
“Honey?” I asked nicely. “How much rain did they say they got last night?”
My Knight: “Ummm . . . I guess a lot. There was a flash flood. The music festival is kind of canceled. That’s the stage.”
Oh. Well that explains why there was a roof in the middle of the lake. I was still processing this information (flood, floating port-a-potties, beer truck in a lake that’s not on the map, music cancelled) when I saw five people dancing in the mud. Not like dancing and their feet happen to be moving in mud. I’m talking dancing fully-covered head-to-toe completely brown with mud. Slinging it on one another, laughing, dancing IN MUD with no music. Okay. That’s not something you see every day. But hey, we’re camping.
Then I saw another group of women and children along the side of the road dancing in a circle holding hands. All wearing flower-print dresses and braided hair. I literally heard a voice in my mind say “these are not my people”. I am not sure who “my people” are, but these were clearly not “my people”.
We found our camp site, but it had washed away. Literally. A deep trench dug in the clay with water still flowing through it right where our tent was to be pitched. So back to the front office we drove, with me absorbing the wonder of sights along the way. I felt like I had time-warped to Woodstock. We were able to get a tent site close to the people My Knight knew, and we headed back to get set up in the quickly fading daylight.
I stepped out of the vehicle at our campsite and immediately sank into thick, wet, brown mud that oozed over my entire foot almost to the ankle. I could see the sparkle of the sequins as my flip-flop disappeared in the goo. Have you ever tried to walk in flip-flops in ankle-deep mud? I certainly had never tried that, and I can tell you it is not a natural talent that I possess.
Storm clouds had begun to roll in as My Knight tried to set up the tent in the increasing darkness, and I was about as helpful as a thumb on a forehead. I knew NOTHING about setting up tents and what poles went where.
By the time we finished the tent (by using the headlights), I was hungry, tired, covered in mud, and I’ll admit it– a tad bit cranky. Did I mention I’m not a camper? I just wanted a hot shower, clean clothes, clean feet and a decent meal. So My Knight suggested that I head up to the bath house for a shower while he prepared dinner. (Isn’t he awesome??) As I gathered my things for the shower, he asked, “Where’s your towel?” MY WHAT?! “Your towel. Where’s your towel?” MY WHAT? “You didn’t pack a towel?” No, I didn’t pack a towel. When I go away for the weekend, the towel is already hanging on the hotel rack, where the maid hung it for me. I don’t normally need to PACK a freakin’ TOWEL. He actually looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you didn’t pack a towel.” I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM CAMPING.
So I stubbornly refused his offer of using his towel (on some principle that is a little unclear to me now) and I pranced off to the bath house with no towel. Only to find that the bath house had been CLOSED due to septic issues from the flash flooding. Seriously? Now I am camping in a tent with NO BATHROOM OR SHOWER AVAILABLE AT ALL? Did I mention I hate camping?
So I clod my way back to the tent site with at least the hope of rinsing the caked-up mud off my feet under the faucet at the site. I was not a happy camper.
A few steps from the faucet, I stepped into the largest ant bed this side of the Mississippi. You would think that my feet being covered in thick, dried mud would have offered some barrier of protection, but no. I had more than 30 ant bites on my feet when I counted the next day. And did I mention that I’m allergic to ant bites and they swell and itch tremendously? Oh, and did I mention I’m not a camper?
That was my breaking point. That was the last shred of dignity and “I can do this” attitude. I broke into tears. My Knight tried to console but I dramatically rebuffed his hugs and tearfully exclaimed: “I have tried to do this, and I have tried to have a good time. But I hate camping! This is not my cup of tea. This is not even my teaspoon. These are not my people. I am not earthy!”
I think it was right around the end of that Oscar-worthy meltdown that the golf cart came by for security to tell us they were obligated to let us know there was a tornado warning in the area and we should seek shelter. It was my first ray of hope all day.
“We can leave?” I asked, a bit more enthusiastically than was proper.
My Knight: “Naaah. It’ll be fine. We can’t take everything down in the dark. If it gets bad we’ll just get in the van.”
I walked a few feet away on my swollen muddy feet and called my BFF four hours away. “I’m not asking you to come get me, but if I did ask you to come get me, would you? I just need to know I have a way out.”
BFF: “I think this is a really good experience for you and you should stick it out.”
Goddess: “That’s not what I asked. Will you come get me?”
BFF: (I swear she chuckled). “It can’t be that bad.”
G: “There are no bathrooms and there are hippies dancing in the mud and there are floating port-a-potties and tornados and I’m being eaten alive by ants and my sequins are covered in mud!”
BFF: “It’ll seem better in the morning.”
Just then, a group of people walked by, strumming a guitar and singing songs. I tried really hard to just take a deep breath, get myself under control, and resolve not to be a whiny brat about all this. I plastered a smile on my face and headed over to the friends’ campsite where the singing quartet had gathered. It was actually kind of going okay–nice music, cool breeze, campfire–until I noticed that one of the young men had his entire head in a bandage with one eye completely covered.
“What happened to you?” I gawked unpolitely.
“Oh, a tree fell on our tent in the storm last night and landed on his head. He has a concussion.”
I almost walked four hours home right then. If my feet hadn’t been so swollen, I would have tried it.
It may have helped at that point and the rest of the night if I was a heavy drinker. After all, the other people around the campfire had been drinking for two days, and they didn’t seem bothered by any of these things I’ve described. But alas, I was not drinking at all, and there isn’t much in the world more irritating than a bunch of loud drunks partying heartily while you’re sober, tired and cranky.
I honestly believe the material a tent is made of actually amplifies normal sounds. You can hear a conversation happening 50 yards away and it sounds like they are in the tent with you. And if they are screaming and laughing and singing drunk karaoke, it can actually sound like they are inside your skin.
Campers all around us kept screaming “shut up!” and “go to bed!”. I don’t know which was worse–the loud partying or the fear of being shot by sleepy tyrants simply because our tent was in close proximity to the revelers. Finally about 6 AM they either went to sleep or passed out, at which point the sleep-deprived masses around us started banging on pots and pans, playing their own loud music and screaming, “How do you like that? How’s that feel?”
So we were up. My Knight found a bathhouse on the other side of the park that was in working order. I still had no towel, so I squeegeed myself dry in the company of many hippee women. Yes, it was as awkward as it sounds.
The skies cleared to a brilliant blue with white puffy clouds. The zydeco band played in the mud without electricity or speakers, and the people danced and drank and sang. We shopped at merchandise booths with cool stuff you would normally only see at a Renaissance Faire. And My Knight bought me an exquisite charm, which I dropped and broke on the bathhouse floor the next morning, but maybe we should start wrapping this up for now. It’s long-winded even for me.
So I survived the weekend. And when I called my dad on the way home to recount the horrors, he had the audacity to say that if My Knight made it through all that and was still willing to put up with me, I should keep him. WTH?
Didn’t I mention that I didn’t like camping?