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.