Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.
I grew up with a love and respect for the outdoors.
Camping was not top of my family’s priority list but I was very fortunate to be involved in a very active Girl Scout Troop and went with friends often as well. As a child, I appreciated hours spent collecting pine cones to decorate, fish to catch and freedom to explore. Of course camping as a kid is totally and completely awesome! We had little work to do and much fun to be had.
My first camping trip out of high school with a big group of friends, was a huge shock. What? I have to wrestle with a hateful ancient tent by myself? No I didn’t rake before i set up the tent. Sleeping on rocks insn’t THAT funny! What do you mean there is no toilet… or bushes for that matter. Instantly I had to pee. The thought of 3 days riding dirt bikes, eating turkey jerky and looking for a secluded sand dune and pray that no one drove on past as you used the outdoor commode sounded more like an ad for the hotel industry than fun. My Handsome Prince happened to be on that fateful trip as well. After he got his fill of laughing at my total befuddled craptastic camping skills, he schooled me on the art of camping and actually enjoying it.
I joke that everyone wants to camp with him because he brings everything and the kitchen sink when camping… all without owning a camper or trailer. He’s an expert packer and slowly we have acquired all the “little things” that help make camping a kin to having a oasis where ever you want it to be. Sure, we would love to have a toy hauler but why spend the money when we already do the same thing in style without the additional costs. For now… something tells me that the older I get the more I will appreciate a trailer. It’s on the list after we put 4 kids through University. Priorities, oh yeah we’re always having to keep them in check.
I survived my first “adult” camping trip and ended up having a really great time. I LOVE being outside! Camping should be right up my ally but my lazy screamed every time I’d think about planning a trip. Too much work and so unpredictable became my camping mantra. I went again with friends to another location mentally complaining the WHOLE ride there. This time I used some of the tips that were shared with me and shocking, I had a much easier time. I saved and purchased a good sleeping bag as well as a tent that worked for me. Easier! I got a few pieces of equipment for cooking that I could still pack in. I asked really dumb questions and learned valuable information. Before I knew it when the word camping was uttered, I was like a dog so excited that you’ve just grabbed their leash… Freedom! I’d love to go on a walk, I mean camping with you!
Dirt bikes usually dictate where we choose to go camping. We all have developed other hobbies that we enjoy when we camp as well. Most of the time we stick to hard pack dirt to take the kids riding. Sand riding requires us to change out tires on all the bikes for paddle tires, which takes many hours to do with so many bikes AND we’ve found that sand is harder to teach little ones. Our girls all could ride sand but our little guy isn’t quite there just yet. I have always had a relationship with the ocean that brings me such peace but also challenges me when I drag my old out of shape rear out there surfing. Sometimes when we just need a get away and some fresh air, we’ll combine our love of bikes and surf and head to Pismo Beach to camp in Oceano Dunes. Camping along the beach or anywhere your truck/ rig desires to haul back to provided you have 4 wheel drive. Back in the day there way a wicked water crossing that kept anything smaller than an SUV or Truck on the non riding side. Sorry but I MISS those days! Now it far busier, more riders that are not taking safety seriously and people banging on your tent at 3 AM to pull their Celica out of high tide that’s slowly trying to take it over. I’d like everyone to have fun but it’s become more of a party atmosphere on the weekends not a place for joy and peace to be located.
My Dad was in the last few weeks of his journey here on earth. The months and weeks had been so taxing emotionally, even though we were so blessed to have all the knowledge so that we could make sure to spend those special family moments together. It was a very difficult time. The stress was building, emotions were all over the map and my birthday arrived. “I want to get you 1 thing for your birthday that you really need or want. Something just for you.” my Handsome Prince announced. I’m not one that feels a need to recieve prizes because I made it another year. Heck, maybe I should be doling them out to those that put up with me that year. Gifts often make me uncomfortable… I need to work on that. He needed to do something to make me smile. It was hard on him to see me so sad and there was nothing we could do to change the events that were occurring.
” What’s the one thing you really need right now.” he asked. ” Air.” was all I could think to say.
“Pismo” we said almost in unison and then accused each other of thinking with the other’s brain.
My Mom assured me that we were doing the right thing by taking our family to decompress for a couple of days and wished us a wonderful trip. Feeling guilty but also so grateful to relax and enjoy my family, we set off a few hours up the road for some much needed R&R.
We set up camp and had a great day. That night we star gazed, made s’mores, told ghost stories and fell asleep to the sounds of bikes off in the distance. The next day we played along the shore, took pictures of the kids leaping into waves and enjoyed our morning together. After lunch, we piled everyone into the truck so we could off road in the sand dunes together.
I had learned from my fateful first “adult” camping trip to the same location, if I wanted to be a happy camper we needed to bring a toilet with us. My Handsome Prince purchased a shower tent to be our zip up restroom and a really nice camping toilet. No more shall we awaken and trudge children to parts unknown to “go”, only to get there and not have to since the bush isn’t a girls best friend in the wee hours of the morning. Once attacked viciously by a startled giant fruit moth, I gave up seeking out a throne that flushes while in the wild. OK, so maybe it was trying to get away and my screaming and flailing only encouraged it further to hold onto the front of my hair and bat it’s mothy wings in my eyes. It was huge! I woke the whole camp ground and had the host, baseball bat in hand rushing to my aid. My suggestion of posting “Beware of Moths” signs didn’t make him any more thrilled to extract an insect from the “Valley Girl’s” hair. A toilet tent was the answer to our problems and so that other campers didn’t have to be falsly alerted to any further moth, snake or weirdo peril during sleeping hours. Before taking off to the dunes, we made sure that everyone “went” before getting in the truck. Zipped everything up tight and off we went for an adventure.
After a few hours of playing in the dunes, we stopped to watch a big group of people race their sand rails and toys. We were all having a great time! Families were out with their kites and frizbees. Motor heads are a fun inclusive group of people. We all pitched in and dug a few trucks out and then the kids learned how Dad can pull people that are stuck back out with our truck. Slowly the wind was picking up. We were having too much fun to notice. Pretty quickly the wind felt sharp and stung when it hit the skin… a sand storm wasn’t just coming, it was here! People were scrambling to get back to camp. We made our way back and as we came out of the dunes the only way we could tell where our camp was located was our second truck. Our tents were no where in sight! We rolled up and left the kids in the car as we hopped out to figure out what the heck. Our 2 tents were completely buried under a thick layer of sand… luggage weighed them down enough to stay put. The toilet tent that had been anchored to the truck had taken flight! Pulling sweatshirt hoods up and then pulling the strings so tight to the point that all you could see was a pair of sunglasses sticking out, we went to work digging up the relics of our camping gear, looking more like we belonged as characters in Spaceballs than anything else. As awful as it was, we kept cracking up in fits of laughter only effectively sucking in mouths full of gritty air. Tents were full of sand as was everything not in the truck. It felt like someone was sand blasting us as we raced to see how quickly we could quite literally roll up the whole dang tent, stuff and all and shove it all into the truck. Who picked the “physical challenge”? Like a Fear Factor, just without the half naked ladies, getting covered by bugs and taxable prize at the end. My eye caught furious waving from the kids. Checking on them, the message was… I have to pee. Oh my lordy! I signed up for this! I wanted air and at that moment was finding my airways clogged with sand. There was no place that sand was not one with me! We loaded the stuff in record time and I hopped into his truck to make a game plan. “Well, we like making memories,” I said. “Could be worse.” He flipped down the passenger mirror so I could get a good look at the sand snot formations I had working as well as the caked on sand in my eyebrows making them look like I’d glued 2 sandy caterpillars on for eyebrows. Not my finest moment! We busted up and laughed because otherwise we’d cry… this trip was going down in a blaze of sand!
We plotted how we’d get out to surface streets but as I opened the door, wind yanking it forcibly out of my hands, I remembered.
“Toilet Tent!” I shrieked horrified. ” We have to look for it!”
The Prince didn’t care about the item it’s self, however the idea of having our John lifted and dropped on someone’s home away from home, might quite literally “crap” on their day. I felt so bad but evilly there was a sliver of me that thought it was just too stinkin’ funny for words. I pleaded in the name of our Karma Points to look for it. The kids were on the look out as we slowly weaved our way about the lengthy beach. No tent, no toilet and everyone buttoned down to ride out the storm. It could have been half way to Santa Barbara by now or will be an unfortunate discovery for future archaeologists. Here lies Meg’s toilet tent… used well and appreciated in it’s short life. Bless it for it took one for the team!
The wind was only getting worse, after 30 minutes we abandoned the search and headed for the streets of Pismo Beach. Being a tool and watching out for the toilet, my insuperior driving skills at the moment got us stuck twice. Making the Prince have to get out of his truck again, hook up and yank us out. The last time he said he wasn’t unhooking me until we were out and then he got stuck. Re working tow ropes, I yanked him out and we made it. Dear Sandstorm: You win! I’m beaten, crunchy and my tushy is thoroughly coated in grit. Thanks for the memories! xoxo me. If you off road in the sand you will be familler with the concept of airing down your tires for the sand… creating a larger “footprint” to drive on helps you to not get stuck. We pulled into a close parking lot to fill our tires back up with our air compressor.
The kids settled in watching a movie as we went to work prepping the trucks for the drive home. Leaping from the car, the Prince and I exchanged grateful hugs and then laughably put truck drivers to shame reminiscing about the last 24 hours. Oh my! He felt so bad that my “air” was not the trip we had hoped for. So what! It was pretty crazy but we did it together… what doesn’t kill ya make ya stronger! It was decided that we’d salvage this trip by stopping by our favorite Bagel place there in town and treat ourselves to sandwiches, ice cream and a couple dozen delicious bagels to-go. Looking like we just got creamed by an army of Sand Troopers, our band of ragged campers filed in. The trip form hell took a sharp turn right then. We had a wonderful dinner of sandwiches with hot chocolate on the house after they overheard us laughing about our adventures. I learned how to make homemade fresh whipped cream from a young man behind the counter when we ordered ice cream. They even vacuum sealed our bagels so we could put some in our freezer when we got home. We checked in to let family know we were coming home early and made our way safely home.
“The Pismo Trip” became legend around these parts. My father earned his wings and became our angel. The kids went back to school in the fall. Life goes on even when a most important member can no longer be here physically. I think God needed someone to make heaven sweeter and since my Dad was always doling out candy, he was just the one for the heavenly job. Months past and we found ourselves sitting in parent teacher conferences. We have pretty great kids, knocking on wood, that have not had much trouble in school nor do they cause it. Feeling confident that everyone was right on track. We get to the end of once conference when the teacher says she has something to show us. She slides stapled papers in front of us, ” I might have some questions after you read this.” she says with a smile in her voice. Before us was a picture of someone sitting on a toilet in the middle of the forest with a caption that read ” Where did my toilet tent go?” Followed by the story and conjectures as to where our toilet is currently taking up residence.
“Should I die now or wait?” I asked
“Please wait, my room was just cleaned.” she said as she winked.
The moral to the story?
Strap your toilets down folks, they lift like the Lorax.
How to make fresh whipped cream.
Best laid plans like expectations… must be flexible unless you want to break.
Memories are just that, memories. It means what ever it is, is behind you. Gather what you can from it, laugh about it and enjoy the badge of honor. You earned it!
Camping is an adventure. Sometimes it’s a stinker but sometimes it’s awesome! If you never dare to try doing something new, you may never find the things that make you tick and bring you joy.
Never did I believe I would be doing half of the things I currently am enjoying in this most bizarre wonderful life I am so graced with. Almost everything great in my life came to me when I was out of my comfort zone. A virgin to the new experiences but grabbed on with gusto and carving it to work for me. We don’t have it all by society standards but every single day we make our dreams come true. EVERY SINGLE DAY! Doesn’t take a whole lotta money and a whole lotta time to enjoy this life. Together we have it all and what we lack we hardly notice. If I need to break the ice with a snarky teen, all that needs be said is “toilet tent” and we dissolve into fits of laughter. Priceless memories shared!
My “air” was thick with flying sand but looking back I’d not change a thing. We got our distraction from the real world. We made memories and eventually found a toilet safe to flush. ;) It wasn’t the recharge that I had ordered but the universe offered different lessons. We still bring a toilet and tent where ever we roam, off normal grid. Now it’s going no where, unless it’s taking our box truck with it! Promise! No more Oz bound toilets for us! Camp safely… you never know when a toilet will land on your sister!
**** If you were the one who made the unfortunate find, We are SOOOOOO SORRY!!!****