The other day I ran into a fellow who was sitting on a park bench beside a recreational vehicle that was roughly the size of my first house. This was parked in a municipal parking lot in the centre of town and running on a generator and assorted power outlets.
When I passed by, he told me that he and his wife love to “camp.”
A lot of people would have laughed at that statement, since the nearest “wilderness” was a manicured lawn 15 feet away. But I’m not one of those people. I am old enough to recognize a highly evolved camper when I see one.
The camping process, as most campers know, is not so much about the destination as the journey. That’s because a camping destination is loosely defined as a place where raccoons and mosquitoes gather and where it rains from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. The journey, on the other hand, is defined as a happy event on the way there and a happier event on the way back.
The fact that the journey either way is such a happy event is why people buy RVs.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The average camper starts with far more youth and romanticism as well as a body that doesn’t ache in damp weather.
That’s why they begin with the simple thought: “Why have a tent when you can sleep under the stars?”
It’s actually very cute.
But, after their first outing, they discover the answer – mosquitoes and rain.
Like all evolutionary processes, those who do not adapt, do not survive to the next phase in evolution, which is the pup tent.
Pup tent campers quickly learn the cardinal rule of tent camping, that being, if you want to find a sharp rock, place your sleeping bag on the ground and get in it.
This is such an unfailing rule that if I were ever starting a company that sells sharp rocks, I would hire a bunch of campers to find them.
This realization eventually leads them to buying expensive inflatable sleeping bag pads, whose sole purpose is to make sharp, jutting rocks feel duller.
The evolution continues from there.
Somewhere along the way, the pup tent camper discovers that “roughing it” would be much better if they had a “few” items. These include, portable camp stove, headlamps, better sleeping bags, a nicer waterproof and windproof tent, a water filtration system, a portable shower, a solar powered cooler, titanium mess kits and cutlery, camp chairs, camp table, radio, generator, big screen TV, their own personal satellite and several manservants.
Of course, these amenities are not inexpensive, so campers purchase them slowly over time as their view of camping evolves. Eventually, they reach the tent trailer and camper trailer stage.
Then something quite miraculous happens. It is a metamorphosis of sorts, much like that of a caterpillar turning into a monarch butterfly. The only difference being, they don’t have to consume milkweed. By the time these campers have reached middle-age or older, they understand two things: first, they have a lot on camping gear and, second, camping would be so much better if they could only sleep in a bed that is close to a kitchen and a big screen TV.
So, they have a garage sale and sell all their camping gear and use that money to buy a recreational vehicle.
And then they become the happiest campers that I know.