Camping with Strange Bedfellows: Week 21

Left the bicycle at home to go camping.

My husband and I have reached an age where sleeping on the ground means not sleeping, so we have a Big Top of a tent, big enough to stand up in, and which fits two of the sturdiest camping cots we could find.  Takes over an hour to get it all set up (what else is there to do when you’re camping?) and more than once we’ve been asked how many people are staying with us, but hey, it’s really fun.  It’s as close as you can get to an RV without the crummy mileage.

It might be my imagination, but it seems like the fellow campers we run into are getting more colorful.

Here’s my mental picture of camping:

Reality:  On a trip last fall, the two guys in the site next to us, very polite and friendly, brought along a punching bag, which they fixed to a Douglas Fir and from time to time, well, punched it (whupata, whupata, whupata, whupata). 

Across the road?  A foursome who set up a compound, with a screen room (check the Cabela’s website if you don’t know what that is), tent, motor home, a 4-wheel drive off road vehicle.

They were also polite, and quiet, wore camo and were well-armed.  It wasn’t quite hunting season, but we weren’t going to be the ones to point that out.  When we came upon a huge elk in the woods during a hike, I tried to warn him (the elk), but he didn’t seem very impressed.

On a trip to the coast this summer, we camped next to a couple of women cycling from Astoria, Oregon to California, and their son, who was driving the sag wag.  There was a minor disagreement about who claimed a particular campsite first, but I was happy to accede because a couple years ago some friends and I pitched our tents too closely to the neighbors’ for their comfort, and a woman came screaming over to me (everyone else was away at that particular moment), instructed her dogs to pee on our tents, told me I was full of excrement and other unmentionable things.  We acceded then, too.

So … is it worth it?  Knowing that it’s possible to end up bivouacked next to any kind of bedlamite?

Absolutely.  Sleeping in a tent, even if it’s 50 yards from someone who makes me a little nervous, is a good reminder that I’m not in charge.  Not really.  Without fresh air and lungs to breathe it, I wouldn’t be here.  It’s kind of like church, under stars,  atheists welcome.  It’s not a bad thing to get a little grimy.  Without central heating, door locks, wi fi, a refrigerator and running water, it doesn’t take long to be humbled, or to discover that it is possible to sleep for 11 hours a night, and then to wake up to a kind quiet you just don’t get anywhere else.  We read, we talk, we hike and fish. We rest.  Time stretches out and snaps back, the way time does.

Of course, coming home again is pretty sweet.

Got any good stories about interesting camping neighbors?

Update on my quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 21:  rode/commuted 1 time.  Grand total:  56 (14 rides in the bank).

20 comments

  • I just love camping in Oregon Julia. Besides being so beautiful, you have the best campgrounds. I haven’t camped in a tent in, well, forever. I like the RV. But, a tent will allow you to camp where you cannot bring an RV. Ah, the neighbors. Guns???? Hmm. Well, you’re in the wild. But to be on a hike and see wildlife is simply amazing. So glad you enjoyed your vacation. I imagine that first shower at home was wonderful. 🙂

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  • While camping in NY, our neighbors came over and offered us a basket of cherries. It was so nice, until we realized why. The moment after the camp guard drove through to do his nightly check, they turned on their music LOUD. We listened to Shania Twain music on repeat until the wee hours. I can’t hear “I feel like a woman” without thinking about those cherries! 🙂

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    • Bribery! Were they politicians?? Hope you saved the cherry pits to … um, never mind. I’m sure you were very civilized. Thanks for the reminder to bring earplugs on my next camping trip and thanks for the visit.

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  • I haven’t camped in ages, so I appreciated the chance to camp vicariously through you! I love what you said about the anxiety sleeping in a tent can instill – the wonderful reminder that we’re not in charge.

    My husband is a climber and has reminded me how spectacular nature is, and how much I’d missed it. There’s nothing like hiking up above the city sights and sounds… Next hike, I’ll think of you!

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  • Thanks August. You are lucky to have a guy who loves the outdoors. Also lucky to live (L.A? I’m guessing from your blog) somewhere warm and sunny, where hiking is pretty inviting more than four months a year! I’ll be thinking of you when the moss starts growing out of my ears this winter.

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  • That is so insane! I Love camping, but these days, it can be scary. Someone got arrested recently for a gun violation in a Boulder County campground. His went off….
    Thanks for bringing this by the party!

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    • You’re right, insane! Camping these days is a little like a dog rolling over on its back to be scratched. You’re just hanging all out there, hoping for the best — but sometimes it really is the best. Thanks for the visit.

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  • I’m really happy that I got the chance to read this post, because not only is it well written and amusing, but also so evocative of so many camping memories of my own, including the good, the bad, the ugly, and also the funny ones as well. And ohhh the stories I could tell about some of our camping neighbors… Like at the unofficial Hell Angels biker campground, which my wife and I set up in, only because it was peak weekend for Fall foliage in New England, and all the actual campgrounds were full, so we had nowhere else to go.

    But since I do have some good survival instincts, I quickly decided that the only way we would be safe there, was if I had remembered to bring my 50 caliber machine gun along with beau coup ammo, and lots of claymore mines to set up all around our perimeter. But silly me – I forgot.

    So we wisely broke camp and left, and I think it was a good decision. Besides, even if we had a well defended position, my wife and I wouldn’t have enjoyed having to alternate watches all night long – since as you mentioned, it’s hard enough to sleep while camping, even in better circumstances.

    Thanks again for your post here, that I genuinely enjoyed reading, and enough so, that I’m now going to follow your blog. (So please use your turn signals cause I don’t know the area and I don’t want to get lost) Lol 😀

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  • Hells Angels go leaf peeping?!? Well I never. You paint an excellent visual with your bunker scenario. Believe me, there were a few times I wouldn’t have minded a few claymore mines, just for show of course. Sounds like you made the right choice, and hope the leaves were absolutely spectacular that year. Thanks for the follow.

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    • I think the arrival of Hells Angels and other outlaw bikers along with Fall foliage peak weekend was purely coincidental, but maybe I’m judging them unfairly in a stereotypical way, and they really do enjoy leaf peeping.

      But honestly I doubt it. It’s more likely that they wanted to engage in some extortion by turning one of the isolated but frequently traveled woodland back roads into their own toll road, by blocking it and not letting cars pass until drivers paid a them toll. Because yes, they really did do that one year, and for once I’m absolutely serious.

      Glad that you liked the bunker scenario, and I can set you up with some claymores if you want them. Of course I’m just kidding, and I hope the FBI and NSA also understands that if they happen to be watching. I also hope that the expanded version of the bunker scenario I did for Susie doesn’t make her think I’ve finally completely lost it.

      Or for that matter, you as well, after you read my long and bizarre meandering reply to you, beginning with my “strained relationship with Time.” because after I posted and reread it, even I thought that one was overdone and too far past the weirdness line, without enough humor to justify it. I think I’m going to reconsider my levels of coffee consumption, and maybe go with “less is more” for a while so I don’t weird people out, and especially someone like you, who hasn’t had a chance to get used to me yet.

      You are welcome for the follow and I’m glad to be following, since I’m sure we’ll have some fun and amusing as well as intellectually stimulating exchanges together. 🙂

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      • Well, I won’t interfere on your tete a tete with coffee, but– full confession — had to lay off the double espressos myself when my children were young, when it became apparent that a couple hours post double shot, my voice tended to, well, raise. Also, my ears rang and … you get the picture. So, I know, it’s fun while it lasts, but …

        Cheers

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  • Glad to have found you through the Susie Lindau party network! We had a crazy incident this last summer when a woman became so drunkenly belligerent that she had to be taken away by the police. So much for wholesome family moments!

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    • I hear you. Nothing like a hard partier to make you realize just how thin the walls of a tent are. Thanks for the visit, and hope the belligerent didn’t spoil your camp out.

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  • The last time I went camping, I ended up staying overnight at my sister’s house. Unfortunate as that might have been, the upside was pizza delivery and catching up on ‘Dexter’.

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    • Ha ha! Rain? Bad neighbors?

      Some of my best friends go “camping” by driving to a camp site, hanging out, making hot dogs and s’mores, and then go home when it gets dark. Sounds like your sister had the ingredients to whatever went wrong on your trip. The main thing is that you get away from all the stuff that you fiddle around with at home! Thanks for the visit.

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  • Sounds like the lyrics to a country western song. “We got three-quarters there with on a bright night so fair, when she said oh no where’s the last quarter?”

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