Monday, August 01, 2005

So we went camping.

That's right. Thanks to another fun bout of insomnia, I was up early on Thursday morning, and my heart being made of pure gold, I woke Jason up too, on his morning off. We hadn't seen actual morning hours in months, and at first we were struck dumb with what to do, when suddenly, Jason had a flash of brilliance: coffee and doughnuts.

True, the Tim's near our house is open 24 hours, but it shouldn't be. Legitimately it should only be open for about 3 of those hours, because at all other times, the doughnut selection is either slim and stale, or non-existent. We have learned from experience at least 3600 times. But 7am is doughnut time, and the little burst of sugar high that Jason got as he bit into his second boston cream was this: go camping!

And so we did. We did a haphazardous stint of groceries, where we threw all kinds of random junk into the cart and then nearly fainted at the bill. We collected ice for the coolers, propane for the stove, and batteries for everything else. We loaded up the car until its ass was dragging on the pavement, and set off knowing that we had surely forgotten at least a dozen essential items.

But wait. Clearly we have neglected the one thing that every good camper needs for a successful trip into the wilderness: booze. Have no worries; we stopped at the good old LCBO and plied ourselves with all kinds of stuff that we would otherwise deem undrinkable, stashed it in some ice, and considered ourselves ready for anything.


We set up camp fairly quickly. We have a lovely little dome tent that sets up easily, unlike the old canvas tents of my childhood that required 3 hours worth of tears and at least a pint of blood shed from tiny fingers, plus 6 yards of duct tape before it would begin to stand erect. All around us we heard grown ups cursing at poles, cursing at instructions, cursing at each other for just not getting it. Oddly enough, Jason and I set up tents without falling into this trap. Don't think about it too hard, we know it makes no sense:

1. I am obstinate
2. I have a short fuse
3. I have the worst and quickest temper known to humankind
4. I believe that I am always right, and that it's my way or the highway
5. Although I love to boss people around, I am loathe to do any actual grunt work

And yet, despite all of this, Jason and I are the only couple on earth that can put together Ikea furniture without mutiny or mention of divorce. Weird, huh?

So as I was saying, we have a little dome tent, which is great, except that there is no graceful way to enter or exit such a little abode. I usually go with the ass-first method, which might be cute if I was 4, but I'm not. Ah well. There are worse things to come.

We divide tasks at the campsite equally: Jason splits the wood, unloads the car, makes the bed (we always bring the mattress from our pull-out couch because I have a bad back and a tendency to whine) and sets the table while I sit and watch. Eventually I get tired from watching so much work get done and insist that we get ourselves to the beach.

The only problem with that is that we are currently dressed in shorts and t-shirts, and we need to magically change into our bathing suits. I say magically, because I think magic would be a more probable way of accomplishing this task than to attempt it in the little dome tent. Did I mention that it's little? It is. Perfect for sleeping. It does fit a queen sized mattress, after all. But you can't stand up in it. So all the changing has to be done flat on your back, which is a struggle. So we both go into the tent, foolishly, and discover that we should have attempted this one at a time. I only elbow Jason in tender places twice before he insists that I sit still while he does his thing, and then I can have my turn. Great. Good stuff.

Our lot is pretty private. I watch out the tent window while Jason changes at the river, which glistens so invitingly. A nice breeze is passing through the open windows, which is good, I can imagine how hot it would get in there with all the twisting and turning around you have to do while getting dressed in the prone position. Eventually it is my turn. I lie down and squirm my hips until I seem to have shed my pants, and then I squirm them again to get the bottom half of my bathing suit on. I almost cry when I realize that I will have to do this again when the bathing suit is wet. And then I sit up to strip off my shirt, and when I do so, I look outside the tent window, hungry for some fresh air, and I find myself starting straight into the eyes of a strange man.

So basically these people (yes, there were 2 of them) had wandered into the back of our lot to look at the river, and found themselves instead looking at my boobies. Not cool. Jason is mortified of course, not because someone has seen my breasts, but because I don't have the good sense to be overly embarrassed or outraged about it.

Finally we get to the beach, which is a good 10 paces away from our site, and we are rewarded with a nice cool dip in the water. We wade around, playing and talking; it's all fun and games until a little boy points to the water near his toes and exclaims "Fishy!" with much glee. Suddenly, the beach has become something else entirely to me, and I don't like it one bit. Oh, I'm okay with fish as long as me and fish are kept firmly separated. But the mere thought of a fish swimming stealthily between my legs, possibly brushing up against my skin or nibbling on my backside is enough to send me into a tailspin. But the water is achingly beautiful and I really don't want to get out just yet, so I order Jason to start kicking his legs around underwater in an effort to deter the fish from becoming acquainted with any part of me. So Jason and I are surrounded by curious, splashy children, but it is he and I who look the fools as we use our limbs to stir up the water and hopefully create a fish-free zone.

"He probably only meant a tadpole" Jason reassures me.

"Tadpole! That totally counts!" I tell him, disgusted with the slimy idea.

Finally all of this manic treading of the water tires us (me) out, and so we face the second great conundrum of camping: we are in the water, our sandals are on the beach. How to get wet feet into clean sandals? Impossible. The walk from water to sandals across beach accrues much sand and mud on feet. You can then put on the sandals, dirtying them, then trudge back down to the water, rinse them and your feet off, but then you still have to cross the beach to the grassy area, and you'll still get full of sand. And you can't just wipe your feet clean in the grass because the grass is full of goose shit. Or at least, it was at this particular beach. So we had to walk sandy-toed back to our site, and then Jason fetched a pail full of water from the river's edge, and I dunked my feet into the pail, and then laughed convulsively when we found out that Jason's feet are too big to fit in a bucket.

Camping is exhausting. There's a lot of work involved in getting out into nature for some rest and relaxation. For example, I decided that a nice read out in the sunshine would be nice. So I got my chair, and I put on my hat, and my sunglasses, and the sunscreen, and then I reached into the cooler for a drink, and then I hopped about trying to restore circulation into my poor frigid hand that had to dive into the ice water to find the drink, and then I struggled to twist the cap off my drink, and then I squinted about to find where the cap landed, somewhere in the billions of blades of grass, and then I stepped on it, and had to dig it out of my heel, and then had to root through the bags for the bandaids, and just as I was ready to sit down, I discovered there was a bug on my chair, so I went to the edge of the bush to get a big stick to poke the bug with, but upon poking said bug, it still didn't move, so then I had to get Jason to come remove the bug for me, and then he demanded payment for bug removal, and by the time I got back to my chair it was no longer in the prime sunny spot, so I moved it all over the site trying to find just the right place where the sun would hit my shoulders equally but not cast strange shadows on my book, and finally I settled in, content to read, when a bird of some sort (pigeon? seagull? what's the difference?) came to squawk at me, and I didn't like the look it was giving me, so I chased it away, and then I worked up such a sweat that I decided just to go swimming again instead. Ugh!

And that's pretty much how the camping carried on. We spent our days lounging, and then hiking about, and then swimming to cool off. We played "guess what animal is caught in the bush behind the tent" and traded the quiet seclusion of our site for the speedo-happy crowd at the beach. We compared bathing suit dilemmas - Jason insisted that his "junk stood out" when he got out of the water sopping wet, and that there was no good way for a guy to adjust. I insisted that women have the same problem, but in the back, and Jason agreed that this was so, but that it was "hot" and that this is why guys always let girls get out first. And then we'd spot another speedo heading toward the water, and we'd run for cover.

The first night, we were in the tent, doing some needlework, when we had to suddenly stop halfway through. "What's wrong?" I asked, because it was hard to make out the look on his face is the growing dusk.

"My knee hurts" he said, and so we inspected the knee, and sure enough, it was sunburned. Just that knee, the right one, a half-moon of bright red.

"Have you ever seen a bee with a sunburned knee down by the bay?" I sang, because I couldn't resist.

Jason had no idea what I was singing about. Jason seems to have missed all kinds of key parts of childhood in my opinion. He obviously has never been to Brownie camp, or else he'd know all of these songs that I start singing involuntarily the minute we arrive at a campsite. But this particular song was from my Fred Penner repertoire, and I fail to see how any Canadian kid could have missed that!

But aside from the one-sided singing, camping is always good. Jason built some very nice fires, and we sat my them nice and toasty well into the night. Jason drank more beer than a human body should hold, and had several of "the greatest pees of his life" and I learned what peeing on auto-pilot meant. He insisted that I should be jealous of his abilities, but the jury's still out on that one.

We ate so much good food that it was criminal, almost. We have standard camping fare, including my famous potato salad, and devilled eggs, and chicken caesar pitas that are good to have around in case it rains (it never did). We made chicken fajitas one night, and our fellow campers gave us strange looks indeed, but boy were they good. Camping really does a doozy on the appetite. I think I must have eaten at least my body weight in grapes alone.

We tossed the frisbee in the grass (Jason taught me to throw, and to try to catch a frisbee only earlier this year). We threw footballs to each other in the river when we had the beach to ourselves, which we often did, until our arms hurt, and then we built sandcastles that were the envy of no one, because we're terrible at it. Jason, being at typical boy, built mostly moats and gun turrets, and I , being a girl, combed the beach for pretty rocks to adorn the castle walls.

But eventually it's time to go home. And you find that somehow, you can't possibly fit everything back into the car even though you have way less stuff because you ate all the food and drank all the booze. But somehow you squeeze it all in, say goodbye to the flattened patch of grass where your tent has sat all this time, and drive away from a small corner of paradise. And you head home with loads and loads of laundry ahead of you, and dreams of taking a hot shower with oodles of soap so you can find grains of sand in all kinds of nooks and crannies, and you know that if at all possible, you'll head back out again in a heartbeat. August is only just beginning, and there's still plenty of trouble left to get into.

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