Monday, December 2, 2013

Chapter 2: Camping Equipment

Carl here!

There was only one thing stopping us from going to Camp Paradise. Well maybe a couple of things. We had no camping equipment. I mean nothing, no tent, no sleeping bags, nothing to cook on, nada.  Being on a tight budget with four kids, we couldn’t afford brand new equipment.  So there were only a few options left.  My first thought was to cancel the trip, but that didn’t go over to well.  Then I figured maybe we could borrow some equipment from our friends and the rest we could get from the neighborhood garage sale.

Garage sales are great.  It might be one of the greatest ideas of all time.  Get this, instead of throwing out all your junk and clogging up the local landfill, you display it on a table, have people buy it, and then they haul it away for you. What could be better than that?  You can’t ask for more.  So we checked out a few garage sales hoping to find some good used equipment.                                       

At the first garage sale, we came across a couple of sleeping bags, but buying sleeping bags at a garage sale just isn’t a good idea. You never know what took place in that sleeping bag besides sleeping.  Do bodily fluids come to mind? I can think of five types without even trying. You could always borrow a sleeping bag, but who would lend you one.  Sleeping bags are like underwear, they aren’t meant to be shared, that bodily fluid thing again.                                                                                                                                                                                           
So we (Bonnie) decided to spend some money and go shopping for sleeping bags.  How difficult could that be?  I figured they would make two types, a pink one for girls and a blue one for boys.  I never realized how hard it would be to select just the right one.  Sleeping bags have degrees associated with them.  Not college degrees, but degrees Fahrenheit.  They are rated anywhere between +40 degrees down to -40 degrees.  This is called the temperature comfort zone.  Comfort zone, at -40 degrees, maybe for an Eskimo Pie.  You would think the lower the temperature rating the better the bag would be, not true.  Using a -40 degree bag on an 80 degree day will make you wish you were that Eskimo Pie.

Ever see those sleeping bags that look like a cross between King Tut’s coffin and the Michelin Tire Man, they're called mummy sleeping bags. I know I’m not planning on sleeping that long. How would you like to go to sleep in one of those bags and wake up 2000 years later in some museum display, not me!

You would think a sleeping bag would be made out of some kind of natural fiber like cotton.  NOT.  How about a Polarguard Continuous Filament with a Super Wicking Polyester Liner with a sleeping pad made from .25” poluethylene laminated to convoluted whatchamacallit foam.  Now if George Washington would have had these high tech sleeping bags for all his men, maybe that crossing the Delaware thing wouldn't be such a big deal.

 So after looking at all the different makes, models and ratings, we did what every other family would do on a budget, forget the mumbo gumbo and buy the one on sale.  Six sleeping bags to go, please!

Our next concern was cooking equipment.  A good portable camping stove would cost at least forty bucks, too expensive for a family on a budget.  It’s time to go browsing at the neighborhood garage sales again.  The first couple of stops along the garage sale circuit came up empty, but on the third house we got lucky. There they were, in all their glory, a Coleman stove and lantern, just waiting for the right buyer to come along. You know, a cheapskate.  I’m thinking to myself this must be the home of a disgruntle camper, why else would he be selling them.  Unless he’s just like me, his wife made him do it.  Anyway they looked like they were in pretty good shape except for a little rust and a few dents.  So the next question was, how much does he want for them and how much I’m willing to pay.

“How much for the stove and lantern I asked.”  He replied, “one dollar for the stove and two dollars for the lantern.”  Man, this guy must be really disgruntled!  He's giving them away for practically nothing.  Then I thought to myself, should I try to chew him down to fifty cents for the stove and a dollar for the lantern.  Why not, you never pay retail even at a garage sale. “Hey buddy, how about a buck fifty for both the stove and the lantern.” “A buck fifty!  Maybe I should give them to you for free, he yells.” That would be nice I said to myself.  So after a couple of dirty looks and some mumbling under his breath, he agrees to sell them.                                                                                                                                                                                     
Boy, now I know how “The Donald” feels when he makes one of those big deals.
So now we have sleeping bags, a cooking stove and even a lantern.  The only thing missing now is the tent.  Not only do we need a tent, but we need a tent big enough to sleep six people comfortably.  The key word is comfortably.  I wasn’t sure they even made tents that large.  The family room in my house is only ten by twelve feet and there’s barely any room for six people.  Of course, if we all came from Munchkin Land we could fit in there comfortably.

♪♫ LaLa, LaLa, La, La, La,La, La, La, La La, LaLa, La, La, Laaa, ♪♫

But I really can’t imagine dragging something as large as my family room on a camping trip; unless the couch and television came with it.                                              

We started looking at “new” tents in the, “why did you have that many kids size”, and decided that my, “why don’t you make enough money job”, could not pay for it.  I figured maybe we could borrow a tent.  I knew a few people at work who liked to go camping, I could ask them.  I also knew, even if they would lend me their tent, no one would have one big enough for six people.  Then we would cancel the trip, take back the sleeping bags and forget about camping, once and for all, sounds good to me.
I went to work the next day and asked a couple of my closest friends (they’re all close when it comes time to borrow something) if they had a tent I could borrow.  I kept striking out until I happened upon Sally.  We started talking about the 4th of July weekend coming up and what our plans were.  I just happened to mention that we were considering camping as an option but we had no tent and…. Sally cuts in, “you know, we just bought a brand new truck, and as part of the promotion they threw in a brand new camping tent.  You could borrow it if you want.”

“That’s very nice of you Sally but we need a tent that sleeps six people.”  “Oh, no problem, my tent sleeps eight people, Sally replied.  You could fit the whole Brady Bunch in there.” “The Brady Bunch, does Marsha come with it I asked?”  I always had a crush on Marsha…. Sally went on to say, “We used it only a couple of times and it’s really big and roomy.  The only problem is we let our neighbors borrow it last weekend and it might be a little dirty.   You might want to set it up and air it out before you leave.”

That’s probably a good idea since Bonnie’s a clean freak.  Spending a few days and nights in a dirty tent would drive her nuts.  If you ever lived with a clean freak you know what I mean.  I just recently bought her one those central vacuum cleaners. You know; the one with enough suction to pull the moon out of its orbit.  She loves that thing.  I actually caught her cleaning the rust off of my car door with it.  Talk about a clean freak.

I think she loves that vacuum cleaner more than me.  If she could make love to it, she probably would.  I always had this weird dream about her and the central vac (not that kind of dream).  Picture this, the Central Vac and I are hanging from a cliff and we can both barely hang on.  Bonnie comes to our rescue but has to decide who to save first before the other falls off the cliff.  Who do you think she picks?  I think you know the answer!   It comes with a thirty five foot hose……  That’s when I wake up in a cold sweat. 

Who says size doesn’t matter………Not that I have that problem! 

Vacuuming that tent is not going to be enough for Bonnie.  Bonnie is going to make sure that tent is sanitized, deodorized, and eat off the floororized before she would consider spending one second in it. That’s where Clorox, Ammonia and Soap come in.  The Three Amigos in a clean freaks arsenal.  She loves all of them, but Clorox is her favorite.  Clorox to a clean freak is like Vodka to a Russian.  They just can’t live without it.  Anyway, that tent is going to be so clean, that Mr. Clean himself is going to shake his bald head in envy.  Mr. Clean got nothing on Bonnie!

Now we have a tent, sleeping bags, a stove and a lantern.  I guess were all set.  Well, now that I think about it, we still need pots, pans, forks, spoons, knives, drinking cups, matches, clothes line, clothes pins, detergent, scrub brush, tooth brushes, hair brush, hair dryer, Band-Aids ( Alicia ), bug spray, table cloth, shaver, deodorant, flashlight, sleeping cots, air mattresses, air pump, and a U-Haul truck.             
Wait a minute, I forgot about the kids.  Baseball bat, mitts, balls, footballs, whiffle balls, soccer balls, badminton, fishing poles, roller blades, Playstation 2, 13” portable TV, baseball cards, football cards, credit cards ( those are for us ), skate board, bicycles and a bigger U-Hall truck.           
Well now that we have all the necessities for our trip, we just have to figure out how we’re going to fit it in our 1982 Granada station wagon.  U-Hall trucks are just too expensive.                                 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chapter One: The Brochure

Carl here!

There I was, minding my own business, lying on the couch, doing what I do best, pondering life’s most important questions, “Is Dr. Phil a real doctor,”  “Do the Kardashians have one ounce of talent to justify their enormous paychecks,” and the question to end all questions,“Ginger or Mary Ann. ” All while my wife Bonnie is doing what she does best, telling me to get off my lazy butt and do something.

 (Ding Dong) “Great” saved by the door bell, or so I thought.  Bonnie answers the door,” It’s Barry," she yells. 

Oh great, my brother-in law Barry decides to pay us a quick visit. To give you a quick overview of the kind of guy Barry is, just combine Duck Dynasty,  Hee Haw, and just a touch of Deliverance....enough said.  Anyway, he wants to know if we want to go camping over the 4th of July weekend.  I immediately say no, while Bonnie simultaneously says yes. Can't she ever agree with me just once!

Barry hands me a brochure on a campsite called Camp Paradise, tells us to think about it, and then takes off.  I love quick visits from relatives, especially on Bonnie’s side of the family.

Camp Paradise, isn't that an oxymoron. How can camping have anything to do with paradise? And what does paradise have to do with an outhouse. So I force myself to read the brochure.

Back in the olden days, before the Internet was even a thread of thought in Al Gore’s political left brain, and Global Warming was, well… just warming up, brochures were the way to go as far as advertising was concerned. 

The one thing all brochures have in common is they are mostly fiction with a little fact thrown in just to make them legal.  All of those beautiful photographs of exquisite campsites, clean rest rooms and crystal clear lakes were all taken before the campgrounds were even open. Not after many years of use and abuse. The photographers who take those pictures are professionals; they could make Love Canal look like a five star resort.

Why is it that all the people in the photographs are always smiling; because it’s always a picture perfect day, or maybe because they always catch that giant trophy fish.  I really doubt that.  They’re smiling because they’re getting a big hefty check from the ad agency.  I'd be smiling to if I made that much money just for looking good.  It wouldn't matter how many flies and mosquitoes were using me as their personal smorgasbord. The more they would pay me, the bigger my smile would be.

That picture perfect day on the brochure's cover never occurs during the first week or two of your vacation, it always happens on the day you intend to leave.  Too bad you couldn't plan a vacation and start it on the day you intended to leave; then you would more than likely have terrific weather.  How many times have you seen the sun while you’re on vacation?  You know; that big bright thing in the sky.  It seems like the sun is on vacation when you’re on vacation.  As soon as you go back to work, so does the sun.

What about that person catching the fish.  Do fish that big really exists?  Does the person who caught the fish exist? Was Jaws a real shark?  The answers are no, maybe, and definitely no.  With digital photography, you could have Gary Coleman catching Moby Dick and make it look real.  That fish in the picture could feed a family of six for more than a whole week.  The fish that I catch wouldn’t be big enough for a McDonald’s kid’s meal.

The brochures always tell you that the lakes are well stocked with fish.  That might have been true when the campsite first opened, but not after many years of over fishing, acid rain and dioxin poisoning.  The only fish you’re going to catch will have three eyes and glows in the dark.  Just remember, when there's a danger of radiation, always let your wife clean and gut the fish. Better to be safe than sorry.

The lakes in the pictures are always crystal clear and sparkling blue.  I can't even keep my swimming pool water that clean.  It doesn't matter how much chlorine, ph+, ph-, algaecide, mercuric acid, or any other chemicals you use; the water is either, cloudy, green or muddy brown. . . never crystal clear. When was the last time you ever seen blue water?  Does the Tidy Bowl Man come to mind.  Blue water vacations do exit if you have enough money to fly off to some remote Caribbean island; but if you’re the average Joe Blow like me, you settle for cloudy, green, mud filled lakes with three eyed, glow in the dark fish.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
The brochure mentions the clean, sanitary rest rooms and showers.  If you’re like me, using the rest rooms are a last ditch, emergency only situation.  It’s bad enough when a family member uses the toilet before you, but a stranger.  Yuck!  At least if it’s a family member you have some kind of genetic tie, some kind of connection. A few jumping bugs aren’t going to kill you. But if it’s a stranger, all bets are off.  No telling what those mutated Deliverance bugs will do.  You might start having the urge to play the banjo.

  I always try to plan our camping excursions based on my bathroom needs. Not to last more than two days or three days max, and only if we’re within 30 minutes from our house.  I figure I could hold it for a couple of days without too much discomfort. Worst case scenario if it gets really bad, I could say I’m going berry picking, sneak into the car, go home, due my duty and be back before anyone is the wiser. As far as those showers are concerned, I have no problem with smelling worse than the animals. There’s no why I’m going to use those showers. Did you ever look at the drain?  Double yuck!  No telling what went down that hole. No telling what's going to come out of that hole, grab your ankles and pull you in.  Does Freddy Kruger come to mind.
There’s no such thing as a sanitary rest room.  Is Mr. Clean standing by, waiting for the person ahead of you to finish.  NO!  He’s even afraid.  Rest rooms by nature are biological breeding grounds not fit for humans.  I learned this by having two sons.  They can throw a baseball fifty feet into a catcher’s mitt but can’t hit the toilet from two feet away.  Did you know that when a toilet is flushed, anything that was swimming around in there can be thrown twenty feet in the air? You better bring your catcher’s mitt, and a toothbrush.  So if you’re really planning on using the rest rooms bring plenty of Lysol (industrial strength) and a strong stomach. One more note, if the brochure states that they have hot showers, you better be the first one in line.                                                                                                                                                                                 
The brochure also lists all the extra frills that are offered like access to public telephones (B.C.), mail service, ice, firewood, dump stations, etc.  Dump stations?  That means you can’t leave you garbage in the front of the tent and expect it to be gone in the morning. Actually the raccoons and skunks will take care of it for you.  Of all the above items listed, ice is the most important. You cannot plan a camping trip without worrying about that tiny, frozen, cubic chunk of H2O.  Ice keeps your food fresh, beer cold and in extreme cases, bumps and bruises from swelling.  My daughter Alicia can attest to that. Sometimes your whole day is worrying about the ice. Where do we get it,  how much do I need, how long it will last, will it be there in the morning.

Another important item is the firewood.  You can't go camping without building a camp fire.  There’s some kind of written law on that.  You have to end the day with a campfire, or at least trying to start one in my case.  But if you have limited space in your car, van or truck, it’s a lot easier to buy the firewood at the campsite, then to haul it with you.  Besides, the kid’s just love taking a three hour trip with a bunch of logs on their laps.   

The last important item is the telephone.  Every woman knows how important a phone is.  A telephone to a woman is like a remote control for a man, you just can’t live without one.  At the time of our camping adventure, the modern cell phone wasn’t invented yet.  So having a telephone nearby, in case of an emergency was a good thing.  My daughter Alicia can attest to that.  A phone is also nice to have if you’re sick and tired of hot-dogs and hamburgers and want to call out for pizza.  Of course, I don’t know of any pizza joint that delivers to the wilderness, except in Yogi Bear cartoons.    
So after Bonnie and I read through the brochure and looked at all the nice pictures, we (Bonnie) decided to pack up all the kids and half the house, get in the car, take a three hour drive and head to Camp Paradise. 

I’d better take a quick nap; I want to be well rested.

Camping Fun with Carl signing off.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Camp Paradise Intro

Carl Here!
Everyone remembers their first time.  Emotions run rampant; your heartbeat races with anticipation, beads of perspiration explode onto your skin. . . senses are amplified, colors become brighter, smells more intense, a boy becomes a man, a girl becomes a woman. . . . Ok, get your minds out of the gutter; I’m talking about camping here, your first camping adventure to be exact.
Whether your first time camping was memorable or forgettable, it stays with you for the rest of your life.  And the longer it stays with you, the more embellished it becomes.  My first time camping was over 30 years ago.  Can you imagine how embellished my story has become.  The thing is, you don’t have to imagine it, because I wrote a book about it.  And I’m going to share a good portion of the book with all my readers.
 I’m going to publish my book online, which will send it into God's great universe to manifest itself.  Hopefully, if everyone likes it, a book publisher will print it, a big star like Adam Sandler will make a movie about it,  and world peace will reign again.  I like to dream big.
Lao-Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” well, my journey began with a 1982 Ford Granada tan colored station wagon (not a good choice to pick up chicks)……..and it was only about 150 miles, but it’s my adventure and my gas, so strap on your seat belt, and let’s take a ride to. .o . . . o. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .you guessed it. . . . . . . .

                                                               (Trumpets sounding)
Camp Paradise ! ! !

Did you hear the trumpets?  Oh, I’m sorry, that’s the movie version.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Camp Paradise

Camp Paradise is coming!

Camp Paradise is coming!

Camp Paradise is coming!   

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bigfeet or Bigfoot?

Carl here.
As campers, we run into all sorts of wild animals; we encounter raccoons, skunks, squirrels, ground hogs, deer and even bears.  But just once, wouldn’t it be nice to run into that mythical seven foot hairy beast named…….. Chewbacca (Star Wars Movie).  Ok, you thought I was going to say Bigfoot, didn’t you?  I would have said Bigfoot if I thought Bigfoot really existed.  But where is the evidence? 
Let us start off with the name “Bigfoot.” You would think they would have named him Bigfeet.  After all, most mammals that walk upright need at least two feet.  The problem with Bigfoot is….. he only leaves one footprint to find.  And it’s always the same foot.  Now unless he’s hopping on one foot….in which his name would be “One Foot Hopping Sasquatch,” he should be leaving at least two footprints behind. Where is the other foot print? 
Then again, if Bigfoot could dance, he might have two left feet, which would account for the same footprint being found all the time.  Now I know what you’re thinking, Bigfoot can’t dance.  But ….. they can train Russian bears to dance at the circus, can’t they!  I’m sure Bigfoot could bust a few moves he wanted to. He could call it “The Bigfoot Shuffle.”
Bigfoot is described being tall, hairy, very smelly, screams alot with a low forehead.  I myself have four of those traits….. I won’t mention which ones.  "Bonnie, did you find my deodorant yet?"  Ok, I won't mention which other two I have.  So I could easily be mistaken for Bigfoot, as well as any member of the NBA. Hmmmm…….Bigfoot playing basketball.  I would imagine any NBA player would love to have Bigfoot on their team.  He smells so bad, no one would play defense against him. 
There is one tell tale sign that proves Bigfoot doesn't exist.  Where is the big pile of poo Bigfoot should be leaving behind?  Remember that giant bowel movement the Triceratops deposited on the ground in Jurassic Park.  That's what animals do, they drop a big load.  The same goes for Bigfoot.  Unless he has the worst case of constipation in the world (maybe that's the reason he screams so loud), he should be pinching a big loaf somewhere, and sooner or later, someone is going to step in it.  Hopefully it won't be me, I just got new sneakers. 
The point is, all sightings of Bigfoot are just a case of mistaken identity, or a few too many beers. I’m willing to bet on the latter. 

Camping fun with Carl signing off.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bulk Up!

Carl here!

It’s time to bulk up for camping. I’m not talking about lifting weights; I’m talking about going to the grocery store and stocking up on bulk candy.  You will need plenty of candy in order to keep the kids happy during a weeklong camping trip.  Your dentist will be happy too!

Bulk candy is the ultimate, there’s like a 100 different barrels to choose from, each one with a different candy surprise. You just fill up the bag with whatever candy you want and just pay by the pound…..  A word of caution, only pick the candy that’s individually wrapped.

See that big scooper next to the candy barrels? It’s there for a reason, a hygienic reason. Like Kelly Ripka said, “I don’t know where your hands been.”  How many times have you seen some snot nose kid reaching in the barrel with his hands swirling all the candy around, touching every single piece.  Then they turn around, and you find out it’s your own snotty nose kid doing it.  And you definitely know where his hands have been!  No matter how many times you tell them not to do it, they always reach in there.

You can’t really blame the kids. If kids see candy, they just naturally reach for it.  If kids have an itch, they are going to scratch it.  That’s where the problem is.  It doesn’t matter where that itch is; they are going to reach down there (underwear) and scratch it….. and after they scratch it, they reach for the candy barrel.  And you know where that piece of candy is going to end up; in your candy dish and then in your mouth; yummy! 

The second reason you only pick wrapped candy is the gravity factor.  You lift that protective cover; you put your head over the barrel to get a good look.  You’re shaking your head, tilting it left and right, trying to get a better view.  What do you think is falling into that candy barrel?  How about sweat, dandruff, nose excretions, epidermal flakes, hair, hair bugs and last but not least, spit and drool.  That’s why you never go for the soft candy, like gummy bears, gum drops, worms.  Not only are they not wrapped but their just tacky enough that everything sticks to them.  I mean everything.  Ever drop a gummy bear on the floor, pick it up and find ten hairs stuck to it, double yummy! 

I just can’t figure out why the soft candy barrels are always empty first.  Shoppers must think that’s sugar sprinkle on the soft candy, and not epidermal skin flakes. I willing to bet Dermatologists never buy bulk….. Hannibal Lector…..defiantly!

Camping with Carl, signing off!