Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Return from the wilderness

Camping these days isn't quite the experience I remember from my childhood. Oh, sure, you can still camp in the wilderness with sleeping bags in a bare tent, choking on the fumes from the gas lantern. You can still fire up the old gas Coleman stove and eat chili or mac and cheese. You can still roast hot dogs over an open fire and eat trail mix 'til you're nutty... But why would you want to?

These days you can get water, electricity, telephone, cable TV, and wireless Internet, right in your tent! And most people don't even use a tent anymore.

We use a good-sized tent--big enough to sleep six but small enough not to blow away in a stiff wind--but we're still among the rumbling motor-powered, air conditioned giants at campgrounds. RV-ing is the 'in' thing now. Tents are passé.

And there seems to be an 'us' versus 'them' mentality among some RV-ers, who won't so much as nod hello to a tenter. When you meet up with them in the camp store or at the camp pool--away from your respective campsites, they'll nod and say, "So, ho big's your rig?" while tilting their hips in such away that suggests they might be talking about something else entirely. When you say "Seventeen feet," they'll raise an eyebrow and say, "Mine's twenty nine." Later, when they walk by your campsite, they'll raise their hand to say hello, then notice the TENT behind you. The hand will swipe through their hair as they quickly look away. While you laugh and decide not to tell them their zipper is down.

Yes, an RV would be nice, I admit. But tenting it has its advantages, too, aside from the difference in initial cash outlay. For one thing, it takes a lot less time to set up a tent than to hook up an RV, believe it or not, and you can do it almost silently. RV's are noisy and have so many bells and whistles--even the more basic ones--that getting them ready to actually sleep in is a major undertaking.

Tents don't require full hook-ups to be usable. In a pinch, a 'primitive' site will do--which is nice if you're on a long trip and stopping when and where you can. Tents also get much better gas mileage, and don't take up three parking spaces at McDonalds.

Next time we go exploring, we're taking the tent. And the microwave and portable A/C unit--but it will ALL still fit in the back of the minivan.