Some people like the outdoors. Some people like roughing it. Some people I ain’t. If Mother Nature calls, I’m out.
Born in New York City, my idea of roughing it is taking the subway instead of a cab. Brought up in Las Vegas, my idea of the outdoors is the time it takes to move from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car. Yes, as the joke goes, roughing it means staying at a Holiday Inn.
Now Handsome Hubby (HH), a rugged, outdoorsy type, accepts these facts (some might say limitations) about me. Early in our dating days I had told him the harrowing tale of my one and only sojourn with Mom Nature. It was really more a word-to-the-wise there’s-a-moral-to this-tale than anything else.
Happily, HH was a good listener. He has never suggested we go camping in 30-plus years of marriage. Although when we married, he planned our honeymoon for Yosemite National Park.
“You’re taking our sister camping?” my brothers asked aghast.
“No,” he assured them. “I’m taking her to the Ahwahnee. It’s a fancy, historic resort with cozy beds, fluffy pillows, gleaming bathrooms, and a Vintner’s Special gourmet festival.”
I Meet Mother Nature
And about that one and only camping adventure? It took place when I was 25, living in Las Vegas, working as a TV reporter, content going out to dinner and movies as my main form of recreation.
My BATT (boyfriend at the time) loved the outdoors. We went biking, which was sweaty and strenuous, but bearable. We went to Death Valley – beautiful when the Spring flowers bloom – but sadly we missed that magical two-week blossoming window. So, while the BATT hiked, I sat in the car reading.
Then one day the BATT suggested the unthinkable – a three-day camping trip to a national park in Utah.
“It will be fun,” he promised/cajoled. “A group of our friends are going. We’ll camp by the water, hike, make dinner around a campfire, sleep in a tent.”
Now, first of all, none of my friends would ever go camping. So, when he said “our friends,” he meant we’d be spending 72 hours with his tremendously buff buddies and their equally buff girlfriends.
And in regard to those females, you know the type. Girls and women devoid of make-up. Girls with sun-bleached leg hair. Girls devoid of cellulite, who look great in shorts. In sum, girls, who were my exact opposite.
To cinch the deal, the BATT said I could consider the camping trip an early birthday present for him. He really wanted to go and he really wanted me to go too.
Short of breaking up with him, there was no way I could say no. I couldn’t refuse, but I could obfuscate. Boy, could I obfuscate.
The Road to the Campsite is Paved with Lies
So, that’s what I did. I lied. The next day I told the BATT that, as the newest employee in the newsroom, I had to work part of the three-day holiday weekend. “You go ahead with your friends. It isn’t a long drive. I’ll come up on my own … later.”
The big weekend arrived. Off went the gang of happy campers. Off I went, supposedly to work, but instead for a manicure and pedicure. Girly pink polish. I got a massage. I napped. I went to the movies with my best friend.
The next morning, I slept late. Read the paper. Looked at the clock. Calculated how long it would take to drive to Utah. Picked up a fashion magazine and killed another hour.
Then I got ready. I selected attire with an ironic flare – a white tennis dress, a delicate pearl tennis bracelet and dainty pearl earnings.
I packed: clothes, make-up, hair care products, and three kinds of bug spray – everything a city girl needs for a country outing. Out the door I went, taking one last longing look at my comfy couch and my softly purring AC unit.
I arrived at the campsite late in the afternoon. No one was there. I spread my beach towel (white, of course) down on a dusty chair by the river. I opened the book I had specially picked for the trip, Dante’s Inferno. Sadly, I didn’t get far. First, I mistakenly bought a copy in Italian, which I don’t read. Second, there were, you guessed it, bugs.
I retreated to the car and to my music. “Do cry for ME, Argentina,” I belted out, safely nestled in my insect-free upholstered cocoon.
Time passed. Off in the distance, I saw the BATT. He saw me and hurried forward. Warily, I emerged from the car. Throwing his arms around me, the BATT gave me a big hug. He was sweaty, smelled, and caked in dust. My tennis dress was white no more.
For dinner, everybody ate franks and beans, except us. The BATT cooked fillet mignon with mushrooms and onions. It took forever. The smoke made my eyes water. I was starving. I was grouchy. At last, dinner was ready. I sawed at the steak with a plastic knife. It broke. As I reached for another one, a moth landed on my steak. I refused to eat it. The BATT offered to swap plates. I declined and stomped off to sulk in the tent.
“Let her calm down,” one of his buddies advised, digging into my steak with complete disregard for the bug germs.
Time passed. I slept, sort of, sweltering in my tightly zipped-up sleeping bag in the tightly zipped-up tent, all to keep bugs and beasts out. Perhaps this tent, this moment, was my personal Inferno, no translation from Dante’s Italian required.
The Need for Speed and to Pee
Then I needed to pee. What to do? Where to go? I nudged the BATT, who mumbled something and handed me a flashlight. “What the Hell?” I asked, both figuratively and literally.
Desperate, I unzipped the tent and readied myself for an onslaught of mosquitoes, gnats, and bats. None appeared. I ventured forth.
I wandered around, stumbling over people sleeping on the ground. Without tents, surely these foolish folks were ripe pickings for the lions, tigers, and bears that must roam the campground after dark.
Just in the proverbial nick of time, I found “the facilities,” if you can call an outhouse a facility. It was hot, foul, and swarming with flies. I set an Olympic record for speed peeing and fleeing.
Morning finally arrived. My hair was flat. My face, streaked with sweat and dust. There was no point in applying make-up. I went au naturel, at least from the neck up.
Lox, Bagels and Bugs
For breakfast, the gang hunkered down to cereal from those cute little foil boxes. Not the two of us. The BATT served me lox and bagels, complete with cream cheese and capers. His friends looked at me and glared. His friends looked at him and shook their heads.
Starving, I gratefully grabbed the plate and started eating. Then, of course, a bug landed on my bagel. There was a gasp (from him). I, however, no longer cared about larvae or the like. I flicked the little bastard away and continued gulping down the grub.
Feeling better and also, belatedly, a tad bad for being so mean, I agreed to go on a hike (along the easiest trail). I did not fall. I did not get bitten by a bug. I did not get eaten by a bear. I survived and even … almost … had fun.
Returning home, I bid that kind, but misguided boy good-bye at the door. It was the last time I answered his or Mom Nature’s call again.
HH and Me Happily Ever After
And what about HH and me? Where are we vacationing this year? Well, we’re still debating, but you can be sure, it will be somewhere warm and sunny … and with indoor plumbing! Even the once outdoorsy HH agrees. We’re middle-aged. Who wants to wander outdoors? Why, with our creaky, middle-aged knees, we couldn’t outrun a bear, no less a bug!