A camping trip can clear the mind, expand the imagination and fumigate most clothing - if you do it right.
With that in mind, my girlfriend and I loaded the car and took off to rural Ohio with dreams of being at one with nature, eating granola by the metric ton, and not showering for days.
We took along a tent, a small camp stove and the bare necessities for survival in a campground. With a carload, we thought we had more than any human could take camping.
Boy, were we silly.
This campground was overrun with motor homes and camper trailers. A southern-accented family camped next to us. In all my years of being related to people of the southern persuasion, I have found many of them have a penchant for lighting things on fire using flammable liquids.
This family was no exception.
One man stood over his fire pit, squirting lighter fluid into an already roaring blaze, while little shirtless children danced around the flames laughing and squealing with delight.
At one point, I heard the man say, "Huh-huh-huh," as the flames leapt toward him. I kept waiting for a game of "Hey, Y'all, Watch This," but it never came. The pinnacle came when we realized that this family had brought along a satellite dish.
This is not camping.
Camping doesn't involve television; satellite dishes should be left at home. Camping does not involve a 70-foot motor home that could double as a rock band's tour bus. This same tour bus should not be pulling a car and/or a boat.
This is not camping; this is relocation at the least possible compromise of comfort. This is not getting away; this is bringing life along.
There is little mind clearing or potential for imagination when one lives in a 70-foot motor home and watches a satellite broadcast. This is not "roughing it."
While we watched the families around us "camp," I built a fire - without lighter fluid, mind you, because I am a real man. I took special pride in this because I didn't need flammable liquids (although I did use toilet paper for kindling).
There is a certain primal relationship between man and fire. The fire takes on its own personality, and even speaks to a man's primal instincts:
MAN: "Come on, light!"
Flames can be stubborn, but when a man gets a good fire going, the flames become mesmerizing; thus, while campers sit around it, only one caveman-like phrase is appropriate:
CAVEMAN: "Good fire."
Mind you, the smoke blew right at us, so our clothing developed that "We've been on fire" odor. In the end, we decided this was fine, because we hadn't showered for a couple of days.
As the flames danced, we watched our neighbors and wondered if they realized what they were missing. Perhaps they weren't missing anything at all, because they brought everything along. Perhaps we were the ones missing something.
Somehow I doubted that.
As I went to sleep that night, I listened to the stillness of the air and the far-off noises of nocturnal animals in the woods. Meanwhile, the wind blew gently, shaking the trees above us. Life was simply peaceful.
I turned the world off long enough to hear what's out there.
And then, of course, it rained.
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