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.