A Camping We Will Go!

Ahhh, the great outdoors!

I took my two sons camping a few weeks ago, a joyous and wholesome family affair which, with time and extensive therapy, we might someday be able to blot from our collective memory. It did not go well. It started, as camping usually does, with a rousing game of Car Tetris. I used to drive a pickup truck, which made camping preparation an exercise in excess. “Tent? Check. Cots? Check. Giant novelty sombreros? Check. Player piano? Check. Inflatable scale model of the Alamo? Check.” But when you have a car the limited amount of storage forces you to be selective. (“Should we bring water, or pornography?”) And with a limited amount of space, you find yourself utilizing every square inch, even if it means the dog has to ride in the glove compartment.

Camping was a lot easier when I was in my 20’s. We only had to remember to bring two things: Booze and drugs. Everything else was strictly optional because the whole world is your tent when you’ve got enough booze and drugs in you. Sure, occasionally this means that you’ll wake up in the middle of the interstate, but that’s a small price to pay for being in touch with nature.

I remember one time a friend and I went camping in the mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. We brought cases of beer, a bunch of pot, and a couple of assault rifles because… Well, I forget what the reasoning was behind that, other than that it promised to be a metric fuckton of fun, which it absolutely was. The highlight of the evening was when my friend fell off of the roof of a stone prospector’s cabin and into a fire. (Really.)

The next morning, we decided that we should probably clean the assault rifles, which we had fired a zillion rounds through the night before. As luck would have it, at that very moment a desert tour for seniors happened by.

Tour operator: Ok, folks, up here we’ll see an authentic prospector’s cabin which is estimated to have been built in the late 1800’s. It’s an amazing piece of Arizona history, and really gives you a feel for what life was like back then…

(walks into view, sees two long-haired guys smoking a joint, assembling guns, with about 50 empty beer cans lying around)


We should have charged those people, because honestly, you’re not going to see anything in Arizona more authentic than a bunch of drug-addled lunatics fucking around with guns in the desert.

Pictured: Camping, Arizona style

Pictured: Camping, Arizona style

Now that I’m a responsible adult and a parent, camping is very different. Now we shout “heads up!” before we let loose with the assault rifles. Hahaha, I’m joking, of course. The kids make me nervous when they brandish firearms, so I make them leave the weapons at home.

Kids: Awwww, come on dad! Please?

Me: No! But maybe if you’re really good, I’ll let you shoot up a gas station for your birthday.

Kids: YAY!

Although we were not equipped to fight off dangerous wildlife or Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were still excited to go camping. The kids had been talking about it for weeks, and all the signs leading up to our trip were promising, including the weather forecast which called for a “stray” thunderstorm. This is normal for this time of year, and in all the years I’ve gone camping, I’ve never seen more than 15 minutes of light rain while we were camping.

Needless to say, we quickly found ourselves discussing the possibilities of building a fucking ark because the instant I got the tent set up, the skies unloaded with an unholy amount of water. I mean, we were looking at Rosie O’Donnell in a women’s prison levels of wetness. It was coming down.

At first, this didn’t concern me very much. Finding dry firewood was going to be a challenge, of course, as was keeping two young boys entertained while confined to a tent without the benefit of automatic weapons, but a little rain never hurt anyone, so we hunkered down to wait out the storm.

After 30 minutes, however, things were only getting worse. This is when I noticed that the gravel road we used to get to our traditional camp site was a fucking river. And all of a sudden I realized that if we didn’t get out of the woods immediately, we were very likely to wind up camping for a hell of a lot longer than an evening, with our car up to its axles in mud.

Well, looks like we might be here a while, kids. Who wants to sing 5 Billion Bottles of Beer on the Wall?

Well, looks like we might be here a while, kids. Hey, who wants to sing 5 Billion Bottles of Beer on the Wall?

I should point out that we like to practice what is known as “dispersed camping”, which is another way of saying, “camping in the middle of fucking nowhere”. Part of the reason for this is habit, because when you’re ripped to the tits on beer and skunk-weed, it’s a lot harder to accidentally shoot someone in the face when you’re 500 miles from the nearest human being.

But mostly it’s because designated camping areas are fucking stupid. I do not see the point in driving all over the place to camp twenty feet away from other people who have invariably brought along a generator, a television set, a boombox capable of deafening bears, etc. If that’s your idea of camping, it’s just a whole lot easier to have someone deliver a bunch of trees to your house, isn’t it?

So we camp in difficult to access areas of the forest, which is great from a solitude point of view, but not so great in terms of, say, retrieval of corpses. All of which meant that we had to get the fuck out of Dodge, which was not helped by the fact that I was hit with four separate rounds of cherry-pit sized hail while I was trying to play car Tetris with a soaking wet tent, a 70 pound waterlogged dog, and two howling children who wanted to know if they’d live to play video games again.

My children appreciate the important things in life

My children appreciate the important things in life

As a dad, I am a Master of Distraction, and any concern my sons had in terms of being alive at the end of the day were quickly forgotten as we played fun driving games on the way home, such as The License Plate Game, which is played as follows:

  • The driver of the car, announces that the License Plate Game has begun
  • The children ask “Are we there yet?”
  • The driver points out a license plate from New Mexico
  • The children ask “Are we there yet?”
  • The driver informs the children that the License Plate Game is FUN, goddammit, and points out a license plate from California
  • The children ask “Are we there yet?”
  • The driver intentionally plows the car into a concrete abutment at 105 miles per hour
  • Emergency personnel load the mangled passengers into an ambulance
  • The children ask “Are we there yet?”

We did play one road game which everyone enjoyed: Come Up With a Great Name for a Rock Band. My six year old won this game, hands down, by instantly and with no hesitation suggesting the following names:

  • Baby Wipes!
  • Strawberry Pudding!
  • String!
  • Your Mom!

That young man has a bright future naming rock bands ahead of him because those are all really solid band names, and don’t think that he doesn’t know it. When I told him that there was an old band named Strawberry Alarm Clock, he said, “That’s a stupid name, daddy. Strawberry Pudding is way better.”

And you know what? He is right. Watch this video and tell me that everything about Strawberry Alarm Clock wasn’t stupid.

Holy shit, lookit those guys! They look like they got high on ether and wandered into Joann Fabrics. Even Helen Keller would have been able to tell them that look was a bit much.

(I’m just kidding, I have nothing against Strawberry Alarm Clock. Oh wait, according to their web site, their name is “The Strawberry Alarm Clock”. I stand corrected: Stupidest band ever.)

So we got home in the early evening, just in time to watch Spongebob and microwave some s’mores, prompting my eldest son to say, “TV and s’mores… Why were we going camping again?” It was a good question. A better one was, “Will we ever go camping again?” which came up when I unpacked the car and realized that in my hurry to get out of the rain and hail, I had left our tent sitting by the side of the gravel road, 40 miles into the forest.