Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Roughin It

Michelle over to Scribbit mentioned she had gone camping over Memorial day. She quickly amended the word camping to say she and the family had stayed in a cabin with all the amenities. She went on to admit that she is a wimp when she can't have the basic comforts most of us take for granted. I admire her honesty. I wish more people would be so forthcoming.

In the mid 1990s I had made plans to meet a friend at a camping area the State of Maine provides up in the Bigelows. The Appalachian Trail winds through this small mountain range up country. On the north side, drive up camp sites on Flagstaff Lake are enjoyed gratis on a first come, first serve basis.

I show up with my bike and camping gear all tucked into my B.O.B. trailer. I had planned to continue an off road tour after a couple of days of fun in the Sun with my friend. Mountain biking, cooking over a fire and telling tall tales between shots of JD was the plan.

I had arranged to meet my friend in North New Poland. I would then lead him up to the sites about 25-30 miles away. I had been hanging about 20 minutes when this huge RV rolls up. Thinking some tourist is about to ask directions I walk over to the driver's window. My friend sticks his head out of the window and smiles. "My father in law finally let me take his baby for a weekend."

They don't call them motor homes for nothing. Air Conditioning unit on top looking proud and loud. Showers, full kitchen, and an antenna/dish array that looked ready to zero in on any incoming missiles 100 miles away. It had to be 35 feet long and be able to cram a family reunion into it.

My mouth must have been hanging open or there was a look in my eyes, my friend quickly followed up with, "Problem?"

Still looking this beast over, I say, "Uh Yeah dude, where we're going won't handle this thing." All I could think about was how quickly that satellite dish was going to end up on the ground from the low branches as we drove the final approach to the campground. "The sites are primitive sites, not maintained ones. We will be lucky to get this boat within 6 miles. That dish won't make it."

"The Hell with it, we'll set up camp somewhere and ride to the trails. The Sam's Club directory says there is a RV park close by. We'll camp in style."

But then he looked odd and asked, "The dish is still up on the roof?"

"Yeppers", I informed him. Instant panic ensued as he parked, scrambled up on the roof and folded the dish down for safe keeping in transit.

"I come back without that and A's ole man will fry my ass."

I could feel the dark cloud gathering. All I could focus on were his words, "Camp in Style". Yeah, we would surely be stylin. But in the name of our friendship, I kept my mouth shut and told him to lead the way. He headed up Long falls Dam Road and I think this might not be bad. At least we are headed in the right direction. About 15 miles from our original destination, I see him pull into a drive with a huge sign announcing our arrival at RV heaven. Another huge sign informs me that electrical and water hook-ups are available but no tents allowed. The dark cloud becomes darker. Guess I'm sleeping in the RV. Gee I couldn't wait.

So we find our spot right next to 30 other RVs. Everyone had their canopies and screened in porches out along with some indoor/outdoor carpeting down so the Missus's feet wouldn't get dirty as she set up full course meals on real plates on collapsible picnic tables with fake flowers on them. I looked down the row of huge motel rooms on wheels and realized I was more in the woods at home than here. That dark cloud began to sprinkle rain. I knew if the words "roughin it" passed my friend's lips, I was going to flatten him.

Just as we get the RV settled in, my friend says, "You can pay your share when I check out. Shouldn't be more than $25 for your half."

I lost it. I was willing to put up with the RV, the packed like sardines in a can arrangement with our neighbors, but when he mentioned I had to pay for the privilege, something just snapped. I went outside, got into my pick up and drove away. It might have been nice to see the look on his face, but the red glare I was viewing would not allow anything else in.

I drove the last 16, 17 miles to the primitive sites. I hooked up my trailer to my bike. I then rode 3 miles into the woods to a site on a beautiful point on Flagstaff Lake. Set up camp and did not see another human for the next two days. Cooked over an open fire, drank JD, and just basked in the emptiness of the area I was in. Watched a cow moose and her youngun swim across the lake and disembark at my campsite. Almost took out the tent as they shook the lake water from their stinking fur. This is what I came for. Not some half assed tourist see it from the safety of a moving vehicle thing.

Back in Acton I ran into my friend a few weeks later. Seems he couldn't stand the isolation. Went over to Eustis, got useless drunk in the tittie bar and was tossed out on his ear. Ended up sleeping in his RV in the dirt parking lot. I would say he had been "roughin it" more than I was.


Apertome said...

Great post. As you described your friend's plans, I thought "that's not camping!"

This post really resonates with me after hearing generators everywhere memorial day weekend (primitive campsites are intended to keep things quiet, not convince you to bring a generator!) and loud neighbors in my bike camping trip this weekend.

Dawn on MDI said...


GJG said...

I'm thinking with the price of gasoline spiking ever higher, that those big RV's are gonna be one of the first things to dissappear off the roads ----damn things make driving in the mountains a real chore, to slow, and ya can't see around him to pass.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Hahahahahahaha!! Great story!

Your RV friend reminds me of my friend Dave. About 20 years ago, we were camping in a National Park in eastern Canada with a bunch of other friends. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Dave is not into camping. He's more into 4-star hotels. He looked at a shiny RV in the next site, and said to me, "THIS is camping." Then, turning to our friend Colin's tent in our site - the same tent Colin had set up so that Dave could have some shelter at night while he slept - Dave said, "THIS is sh*t."

I don't think he's gone camping since. Certainly Colin hasn't invited him.

Noah said...

My wife likes the outdoors, but she likes amenities. To her, a hole in the ground is not a suitable toilet. A shower every few days is nice, too. What ends up happening is we have a huge tent and a big air mattress inside. We have a huge campfire but still cook with propane a lot of the time, and we go fishing.

It's an outdoor party with good eats, great drinks and a tent for shelter. Good times.

I personally prefer something between that, and minimalist backpacking.

An RV, though? You might as well just stay at home, or rent a motel.