Tag Archives: camping

Dying of Embarrassment!

I love words. I love learning new words. I love trying to determine the meaning of a new word based on the context in which I might hear or read it, after which I will open a dictionary (or ask Siri) for the definition. Please don’t hate me for it; it’s my job. I’m not shy about telling anyone who asks what I “do” that I’m an author, so my passion for words is entirely defensible. I initially wrote “excusable,” but found “defensible” more appropriate for expressing my proclivity to wax poetic when given the opportunity.

Just today I posted the following plea on Facebook:

Everyone please repeat after me: “I feel BAD about that.”

You don’t feel badly (unless you identify silk as barbed wire in a blind touch test). How many of you feel goodly about things? You don’t. Stop saying you feel badly.

So, you can only imagine the horror and embarrassment I felt when I committed a most heinous faux pas—on a couple of levels—at an RV Campground this past weekend. Here’s what happened:

In bold print along the mirrors in the bathroom are warning signs about what you “Absolutely” cannot do with your hair. I suppose the signs are necessary, what with potentially clogged sinks and power issues and such. So when I was in the stall and heard the sound of a hairdryer, I tried to think of a non-threatening way to bring my concern to the blatant rule-breaker.

At this point in my story, please remember my comment about reading words “in context.”

I went to the sink next to Ms. Rule-Breaker and smiled at her, then stared at the sign right in front of her, then looked back at her.

“I feel like I’m on Candid Camera right now,” I told her, giggling a non-threatening giggle, “like someone’s watching to see who’ll report the person, or tell them not to do what they’re doing.” I smiled again and nodded toward the signs.

Ms. Rule-Breaker looked confused and mumbled something like, “Yeah, okay,” and kept drying her hair. A woman of about 45, she looked like she could have been a school teacher or a librarian. I expected more from her, but I wasn’t about to make a bigger deal than I’d already made of the situation, so I left to help Mike prep the trailer for our departure.

“Emptying the shitter” is the last step before locking up (Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation fans will appreciate that visual), and I took the opportunity to grouse to Mike.

“They have the same signs in the men’s room too,” he told me, though he thought it was weird. “Maybe they have problems with circuit breakers.”

“Well, I guess the lady I just saw in the bathroom believes the rules don’t apply to her.”

No sooner had I uttered the words than the very same rule-breaker walked around our trailer, hairdryer in hand, and glared at me.

“And just so you know,” she said, “the signs say ‘No Hair DYING’.” She turned in a huff and walked away.

I wanted to run after her and say, “Oh! Really? I’m so sorry! I’m an author . . . I’ll write something funny about this . . .,” but Mike suggested that she might be an author too, and the words she’d use to describe me might not be so funny.

Yes, I was a sanctimonious ass, but come on! “ABSOLUTELY NO HAIR DYING” just doesn’t make sense in an RV Campground bathroom, does it? And in the men’s room too? Well at least now I know (should I ever decide I need to touch up my roots while camping), and I also know I need to read signs more closely . . . and speak more softly in public places!

Kudos for Camping

I used to love camping because the trip would end and I’d be deliriously happy to be back in my own bed again in a home with all its comforts. That was back in the days when camping meant backpack tents and packs and sleeping bags and Therm-a-Rests and bulky coolers and portable Coleman cooking stoves and mosquitos and wet wipes and . . . the adventure was always memorable, but heading home was even more exciting. I’m anticipating Mike will groan when he reads this. He’ll call me a baby, and I’ll smile.

Now I don’t want to go home.

When we made the transition from tent to truck camper, I knew my perspective on camping would improve significantly, and although it felt like fibbing to say we “camped” in our micro-truck-bed-home, we still experienced elements of roughing it. Since loading the camper into the truck bed took precision and patience, lots of patience, we rarely offloaded it, so getting in and out required the finesse of a pole vaulter. The bed, though more comfortable than the one in our home, was up over the truck cab. I won’t elaborate on the difficulty of certain things in that confined space.

With just the two of us, we could scooch around each other in the one-person-wide walking area between the 2-burner stove and the scrunched table, but when our two grown sons came along—one curled up in the table-bed area and one stretched out on the floor between our bed and the door at night—well, then it became absurd. We eventually traded in our two sons for an 89-pound German Shepherd, and somehow, Ranger took up even more space than our boys.

Plenty of head room over the bed, and storage space under it!
Plenty of head room over the bed, and storage space under it!

So when Mike suggested trading in the camper for a trailer with a walk-around bed, a dining area bump-out providing ample room for the two of us and the dog to do a little jig on the exposed floor, a 3-burner stove, a shower separate from the *porcelain* toilet (you should all be hearing the Celestial Angels singing now), a kitchen sink large enough to bathe a baby in (up to 3 months, perhaps) and . . . I’m going to hate myself for exposing this . . . a flat screen television, well, how could I say no?

I’m writing this from a trailer park in Moab, Utah, where Mike and Ranger and I have set up for a week. It’s been unseasonably warm here, in the 90s this last week of September, but I’m savoring the sweat. It’s 30 degrees cooler in Leadville and new snow already frosts our mountaintops. I might be ready to return to our winter paradise by the end of the week, but each trip we’ve taken since upgrading our camping experience has left me less inclined to hurry home.

With no schedule, no meetings, no news (we only occasionally watch movies on our TV), no mail, no alarms, no saving lost tourists in the middle of the night, no lots of things, sleep approaches a magical quality. We wake from dreams we can recall with surprise at the hour of our waking. We sip our coffee leisurely while considering options for the day. Shall we hike? (not for me until I’m rid of these crutches, but Mike and Ranger can go for hours). Shall we kayak? I can do that. Shall we swim? That, too. How about a nap? Always. We’ve learned that from Ranger. Let’s read for a couple of hours. Yeah. And okay, Mike, I know you want to drive one of

Supermoon, Blood moon eclipse through my iPhone.
Supermoon, Blood moon eclipse through my iPhone.

those off-road big-wheels for big boys, so let’s rent one for a day while we’re here.

After dinner last night we loaded Ranger into the truck and drove out to Gold Bar Camp to watch the Supermoon-Blood moon eclipse for over an hour. Without a smidge of light pollution, the enormous sky—sparkled with stars and streaked with galaxies—struck us with awe. Well, Ranger was unimpressed, but we’re pretty sure he was happy to be with us. I captured a few fuzzy

John Stewart's Supermoon Blood moon eclipse photo from Leadville.
John Stewart’s Supermoon Blood moon eclipse photo from Leadville.

photos with my iPhone before receiving a message from a friend back in Leadville who should win a prize for the photo he sent to me. We eventually returned to our camp site to breathe in the balmy night air while watching the eclipse’s slow progress until we yawned ourselves to bed.

We’ll head home in five days and I’m sure I’ll be happy to be back in our beautiful old home again, but not the deliriously happy I used to be in days past. I’ve come to love the simplicity of life on the road, life without too much baggage, life with a little bit of unknown each day. I know I’ll want to give away more “stuff” when I return to our wheel-less home, and I’ll do it. I know I’ll return to a routine that’s pretty darned nice, and Mike will return to one far more burdensome. And we’ll start to plan our next great escape.

Call me a baby if you’d like, but camping with conveniences is the shit.

Ranger remained unimpressed by things in the sky.
Ranger remained unimpressed by things in the sky.

Home again, home again…

Week 2 of our road trip is even better than week 1. Our sleep schedule is increasingly more like Ranger’s and each waking moment is an opportunity to explore extraordinary new scenery. The simplicity of our routine is invigorating. I don’t miss home at all.

Our only frustrations are with the occasional drivers who slow down when the road is not hairpin straight, or truckies who won’t pull over with a mile of traffic behind them.

“What are you hauling? A black hole?” Mike asks one driver when we can finally pass safely. The driver doesn’t hear him.

“Panguitch,” I read on a sign. “I’m hungry. I’d like a peanut butter and jelly panguitch, please.”

But then we see an even better sign advertising “HO-MADE PIES.” As I’m fairly certain hothey’re not gluten free, we pass on the Ho-made pies. “I once was a tart, but now I make them,” I say, and the pin-up girl on the sign agrees with me.

Debris, my iPhone, takes us on a circuitous route to one of our destinations, adding close to an extra hour of driving, and at some point I tell her to “stop navigation.” As soon as I finish my command, Mike adds, “and stop being a such a douche.” He’s angry at Debris’ faulty directions.

My phone responds sweetly with, “Okay, Laurel, here’s what I’ve found for stop navigation and stop being a douche,” and Mike and I burst into laughter. We cannot believe what we’ve just heard. Mike wants me to click on the “How can I stop being a douche” link, but I’d rather look at the scenery.

“Well,” I say, “we’re seeing lots of things we wouldn’t see if we’d taken the direct way.”

“Yeah, sheep,” he says. “Lots and lots of sheep.”

stormy skyFor hours we pass open land for as far as we can see and laugh at people who talk about the threat of overpopulation. The contrast between what we are seeing on our travels and what we know about those who live on top of one another in big cities is nearly irreconcilable in our minds.

Along a particularly rough stretch of road there’s a sign warning of an upcoming bump and we figure if the bump is worth noting, it must be a doozie. We maneuver it just fine, and then there’s another.

“I wonder if they’re related,” says Mike.

“Who?” I ask.

“The bumps. Because that would make them bumpkins.”

This is how many of our conversations go.

We finally make it to our campground near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and notice our slight stature amongst the other campers, something we observe everywhere we stop. We clearly have the smallest travel trailer in the whole place. We’re surrounded by Death Stars, and Mike—who is not a singer—never fails to hum the Star Wars tune whenever we pass one on the road.

I count over 45 different names on the various mobile homes, all promising something special. Attitude, Beaver, Freedom, Fury, Hideout, Independence, Jazz, Komfort, Puma Unleashed, Voltage, and Wildwood are some of my favorites.

“What! No Beaver Unleashed?” Mike asks. Beaver jokes are always funny.

“I could see trading up in a few years,” he says, checking out our neighbors’ rigs, and although our trailer feels palatial after years of trips in the truck camper, I can see a time when we might need just a little more space. Like when we’re on the road for months, or when we’re taking potential grandsnarfs on adventures.

Our neighbors at one campground, owners of a Death Star, tell us they call their trips fairy fort“Glamping.” The dad is a Marine, and like Mike, has decided he’s paid his dues roughing it for long enough. Their daughter, a serious 7-year-old, is engrossed in making a fairy fort out of pine needles and cones and sticks and stones. She is methodical in her creation, and I can tell she’s happy I’ve noticed her effort.

We decide to traverse one of the longer, steeper trails at the canyon and agree to do a timed out and back. I know Mike wants to cover as much ground as he can, and I want to stroll and take photos and chat with people, so we decide we’ll both turn around at the 90 minute mark.

“Don’t get lost,” I tell Mike, and he knows I’m joking about an experience on our previous hike—a simple half-mile round trip out and back to an overlook—when a group of Harley riders (I’m assuming they were Harley riders as they were all decked out in Harley leathers) asked us the way back to the lodge. We suppressed our urge to ask if they were joking and pointed to the only possible way they could walk.

So off we go down the steep Kaibab trail, which smells of mule dung punctuated by an occasional blast of fresh pine. But for the noisy swarms of metallic blue-green flies—why are they so beautiful?—on the freshest piles, they’re tolerable.

After I overcome my concern over several small children approaching an overlook with no fences and a rock slab slide into the void—they’re not my children and their parents seem to be watching them—I continue down the trail to a quiet piece of shade and sit in the cool silence, breathing in the canyon breath. A haiku presents itself:

Breathing canyon breath
No responsibilities
Peaceful cliff birds sing

During my turnaround hike back up the path a canyon-red butterfly outlined in white dips and turns and climbs over and over, a little dance just for me.

On our way to our next venue I watch Mike surreptitiously as he drives, this man who has made my life one huge adventure, and know I could travel the world this way with him. I notice for the first time the tin foil hairs interspersed with the brown ones on his forearms sparkling in the sun through the windshield and I think about the hairs on my own arms that now stick straight out as if trying to escape, and my eyebrow hairs that are growing willy-nilly like Einstein’s. I plucked one the other day that must have been an inch long, half brown, half gray, wholly twisted. blue steelI notice the gray stubble on Mike’s chin, something I rarely get to see, and it makes me wish I had my tweezers handy to pluck the persistent stray hairs that grow faster than a startle reflex on my own chin. Mike doesn’t like his facial hair, but he forgot to bring a new blade for his razor. I don’t tell him I’ve got extras. I like to see a little scruffle now and then.

We listen to a radio DJ who starts an excited expression with, “Holy …! Don’t worry, folks, I’ll never curse on the radio, so if you’re driving home with the kids now, you’ve got nothing to fear. This next song by 311, All Mixed Up, is one of my favorites. I mean, these guys work their asses off,” (emphasis on the asses).

“Wow,” is all Mike says.

Ranger profileWe’re a little quieter on our final drive from Mesa Verde to home, our last day of vacation. Sure, we laugh at the “Nothing Satisfies Like BEEF” sign and make the obvious pork references. It’s not like we’re somber or anything. And we’re truly pleased by Ranger’s response to our truck to trailer to truck routine these past two weeks. He’s always ready to jump into or out of whichever door we open, and after only a few minutes of whining in the truck, he settles down and does what he does best: sleeps.

We know we’ve seen only the tiniest fraction of what our country has to offer, and every place has been our favorite. Driving back into Colorado—after the mandatory donation to the Navajo Nation at 4-Corners where vendors of silver and turquoise surround you, entertained, no doubt, by the antics of tourists splaying themselves across the geographic marker—we are grateful once more to be living in one of the scenically most spectacular states.

Bouquet upon bouquet of orange, white, yellow and purple brighten the roadways, and over every rise there’s another castle or ship chiseled by an unseen sculptor’s hand from the cliffs of stony red earth. I imagine dinosaurs tromping alongside us and pterosaurs gliding from peak to castle peak. And then, the snow-capped mountains rise from flowered fields, and we are . . .

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. almost home