As we’re down to our last 2 apartments, and a month away from the great blistering hell that is campus turnover (wherein I will get no time off from August through September), Ken and I decided that we needed some time off. We both like to camp, but after the Great Sing-along Debacle of 2009, we haven’t really gone back out. This is the year we decided we should change that. We reserved our camping space in June, and slowly accumulated any gear that we were missing. Then, on Thursday afternoon, we loaded our provisions into the car and head southeast to our little oasis by the muddy Mississippi.
We got 10 minutes out of Verona before the following conversation took place:
Me: “I have to ask – you remembered to pack the tent, right?”
Him: “I packed everything that was sitting by the door, and everything I brought up from storage.”
Me: “I don’t recall you taking the tent downstairs though, and I didn’t see it by the door or in the trunk.”
Him: “…The tent was in the closet….fuck.”
So he pulled over and checked the trunk, and sure enough, there was no tent. After several hulk-like grunts of anger, we were back on the road headed for home to grab the tent. It was already 2:30, and we had a 3:00 check-in for the site.
Me: “It’s okay! It says here that as long as we check in by 3:00 the day after our reservation, we won’t forfeit the spot!”
Him: “Great! Maybe we should call it a day and try again tomorrow!”
Honestly, that attempt at humor would have been advice well taken. To call this trip a comedy of errors would imply that there was anything to laugh about. We’ll see if I still feel the same way when the burning skin finally subsides. No, this was a tale of epic facepalmery.
In hindsight, it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d forgotten the tent at home. When we got there, it was 5:00 pm and 101 degrees in the shade. We pitched our tent, unloaded the coolers, and set up the campstove before sinking into our camp chairs to read for a bit before dinner. Ken fired up the grill and cooked some brats, and here is the point at which our trip went awry. Where there’s food smells, there are mosquitos who are now alerted to your tasty, bloody presence. And we forgot bug spray.
After a few hours of mashing mosquitos into my sweaty skin, I decided to check out the local facilities. This particular campground has a bath house with running water and showers, so I jumped in and rinsed off. The water only ran for 20 seconds at a push, but it was lukewarm and it was GLORIOUS! And then I slipped on the wet floor and rammed by elbow into a brick wall. Awesome. About an hour later, I couldn’t take anymore mosquitos buzzing my head, so I went and hid in the tent, where I read my book and fanned myself with a paper plate until my flashlight died. Did I mention that it was still in the low 90s at 10:00 pm?
We drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours, me waking up every hour or so to fan myself with my paper plate (and my husband, because I’m a giving wife), and listen the the distant whistle of freight trains, which also seemed to come through every hour. Oddly enough, the train noise wasn’t very bothersome, and had it not been for the oppressive, breezeless heat, I probably would have slept right through it. But then the camp visitor stopped by.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:00 am, we heard the clanging of cans in the garbage bag by our picnic table. There was no food in the bag, but that’s never been known to stop the local wildlife before and this time was no exception. Sure enough, Ken beat on the wall of the tent and yelled, “Hey! Get out of there!” as I shined my flashlight out into the semi-dark expanse of night (Summers in Wisconsin are never truly dark because of our proximity to Aurora Borealis). Not 10 seconds later, a small, furry, ringed bandit traipsed to the edge of our campsite before turning to look at me and give me his racoon-y rendition of Fuck You Eyes before disappearing into the brush.
After that, we were basically tossing and turning and counting the hours until daylight. By morning light, it was a crisp 78 degrees, and I was on my handy smart phone looking for battery operated fans (and bug spray). And so it was that we found ourselves in the car for an impromptu trip to a Dubuque, Iowa Walmart where I secured a camping fan, 2 packs of D batteries, and another bag of ice because the coolers had already half melted.
We arrived back at camp around 10:00 am to find that it was already 93 degrees, and the mosquitos were dining alfresco on my pasty ass. I did my best to ignore them and read my book, combat them by keeping my new fan blowing at my face, and even hiding in the car for a little bit. But it was hot, muggy, and miserable and I was so busy fighting nausea that I forgot to eat.
And then, salvation! The local community pool happened to be open, and it was the best $5 we’ve ever spent in our life. For 2 blissful hours, we escaped mosquitos and sweltering forest heat to play in the cool, refreshing pool. So greatful for the respite was I, that I did NOT try to drown the shrieking harpy of a woman screaming at a little boy to stay away from her daughter (who was happily splashing him and giggling, as children are wont to do).
Nor did I try to ride the tubby little beluga whale of a 12 year old boy, with bigger tits than mine, like a big squishy pool float. But I thought about it, and you’d be lying if you said you’ve never thought about doing the same. Okay, maybe you’re not lying, but I can guarantee that you’ll be thinking about it next time. And maybe this is the line of thinking that lead to my karmic sunburn.
I wore my wet suit back to camp and managed to maintain some semblance of comfort for a few hours whilst I knocked out a few more chapters of my year-old book. Alas, the mosquitos were quite interested in my tireless preparation of meat and veggies for my exquisite foil campfire chicken. I almost slashed my own face and neck repeatedly with a dull butcher knife trying to wave them off. The experience was off-putting enough that I ate 2 bites of dinner before waving it off to free up a hand for waving off the unending barrage of mosquitos.
The final straw came when I screamed in frustration at the millionth mosquito to buzz my ear and ended up swallowing one. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
I. Swallowed. A. Fucking. Mosquito.
And then Ken got stung in the ear by a yellow jacket, and that was it. I believe we may have set a new record for striking camp and loading the car. We didn’t even stick around for s’mores – just left our bundle of firewood for the next campers, deposited our trash in the dumpster, and drove for home as fast as our little Civic could putt-putt along.
Now, I can hear several of you in my head right now, and I just want to say that you’re WRONG. The moral of the story is NOT that camping should involve a Mastercard and Room Service (Drew, I’m talking directly to you here). No, my friends, the moral of this story is more winter camping, and napalm backpacks for all.
Because not even Mother Nature can behave amicably when it’s 105 degrees.