SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

 

            My concept of camping is a great example of wanting to have things both ways. I like being away from home for a day or two … but I want to bring home with me.

 

            When my wife the Girl Scout went camping, she’d take a square of canvas, fifty feet of rope, and a pocket knife. For a week. To her, it’s not really camping if you can get there by car. No, you have to hike, and preferably climb a cliff, to get to the perfect site. Once there, you dig a pit for a toilet and make furniture out of twigs.

 

           

To some people, the best way to camp is to buy several sets of wheels and red flags, then take your house with you as an oversized load. I may not be one of those people, but I’m way closer to it than she is.

 

            It seemed a compromise was in order.

 

            Complicating matters is that we now have an 85 pound dog, and he’s not the kind of pet who can be left behind overnight. Well, not unless you’re planning to refurnish.

 

            We decided to make a test run at Chain O’ Lakes State Park. The advantage is that the park is only six miles from home: If we forgot something, or if I started missing cable TV, we could simply drive back to town.

 

            Now, I need to point out that we’ve wanted to have what we call writing holidays. I was about a third of the way through the first draft of a novel, and being on a roll I wanted to keep going. Emily, also a writer, understood. It’s a strange thing about writers, that they’d want to take their work with them. Maybe if we were doing it full time we’d feel differently.

 

            That explanation makes what I said next seem just a little less ridiculous: “We need to get a space with an electrical hookup.”

 

            “Why?” We had a tent. No air conditioning, no mini-fridge, and battery powered lanterns.

 

            “Well, so I can use my laptop.”

 

            She didn’t even blink. My portable computer is getting old enough that the battery no longer holds much of a charge, making the term “portable” questionable. She, meanwhile, took along a notebook and pen—and her cell phone, which has a writing app on it. We also took along a book, a writer’s magazine, and a Kindle with maybe a hundred books in it.

 

            Because heaven forbid that while relaxing we should, you know … relax.

 

            Meanwhile, because of the dog, we traded in her pup tent. The irony! We couldn’t leave him chained up outside in an unfamiliar campsite, so we went for a bigger tent. A four man tent? Big enough for the two of us, the dog, and maybe a small bookcase?

 

            Nah.

 

            Our new tent sleeps ten people. You can stand up in it. Yao Ming could stand up in it. (He’s a basketball player. I looked it up.) Bae, the dog, took off to explore it, and we didn’t see him for two days. There wasn’t enough room at the campsite for both it and the car, so we parked the car inside.

 

            And now to stock it.

 

            Emily had a list. One lantern. A small cooler. Just one sleeping bag, ‘cause it’s summer. A warm dog, just in case it did get cold. And, her one luxury, an inflatable queen sized mattress.

 

            Incidentally, while queen sized is plenty big enough for two people, it becomes a problem when you add a very determined dog who wants to cuddle.

 

            My list was, shall we say, more eclectic.

 

            For one thing, I like lots of light. That’s the big reason why I hate winter so much: the short days. I have … let me count …  nine flashlights and lanterns. I brought ‘em all, and also stocked up enough 

firewood for three hog roasts.

 

            Emily drew the line when she saw me heading toward the car with two lamps from the living room. “We do not need those.”

 

            “But … we’ll have electricity!”

 

            “We have enough light. Now, put them back, then remove the TV from the car.”

 

            She wouldn’t let me take my writing desk, microwave, chain saw, or toilet. (Granted, there were practical problems involving that last one.) She wouldn’t even let me take a full case of Mountain Dew, just a couple of cans. It was uncivilized.

 

            Still, when we sat at the picnic table that evening, with the scent of food cooking on the campfire, listening to the sounds of birds while hungry raccoons circled the dog … it was really nice.

 

            Even if the folks in the double-wide camper next door did look at me strangely when I plugged in the laptop.

Okay, maybe we didn't have a rig like the neighbors ... but we had a great view.

 

 

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