Friday, September 4, 2009

Condo in the Wild

Being the youngest of three and the only girls in my family, I have never been a girly girl. We used to be outdoors all the time, nature to my father was rejuvenating. For years we used to go camping every weekend. Now, mind you, we had a pop-up camper, and that was many years ago, but when my friend asked me if I wanted to go camping, I was excited. I was given the task of finding a tent for a couple of my friends and I, so I borrowed one.

My friend who owned the tent is someone that I actually consider a “camper.” He not only lent me the tent, but his camping “ditty” bag. This bag was full of his most treasured camping equipment, tent, wool blanket, hatchet, Frisbee and softball. The minute that he started telling me about his equipment a lump of hesitation started forming in my throat. When I was a kid, I slept in an enclosed camper. This was going to be very different, how could I forget that!

He agreed to drop the tent off with me, and give me a brief lesson in a park nearby. Unfortunately it was raining, so we made do with my living room, my warm dry living room. Now when I tell you that this tent was a four person tent it does not convey the enormity of it. My friend is six foot two and his head did not touch the top, this thing was big. As we started to assemble the tent, I made notes on a post it with my pink pen and realized the irony of it. I was a city girl headed to the dark wilderness of Wisconsin, with a giant tent and instructions written in a pink pen.

The week of our trip the weather was forecasting an unseasonably cold weekend. The temperature of 40 degrees was mentioned. WHAT? This was supposed to be August, 40 degrees? I was supposed to sleep on the ground in a tent in that weather? Oh gosh. This was not going to be the camping trip of my childhood.

When my group piled into my car on the day we were supposed to leave we tried to pretend that the weather was not going to be as cold as forecasted. As the sun set during our drive I thought about the impending adventure of assembling the condo that was the borrowed tent. This thing was huge and every minute that passed it was getting dark, really dark!

The earlier car already had their small tent up and built a lovely fire. We were jazzed to start getting our stuff together. I put on a face of confidence. I couldn’t let on that I was terrified that we would be sleeping in my car that night. I delegated the necessary jobs, such as ensuring that my headlights did not go out, silly automated headlights and saving my batter, and started unrolling the monstrosity. The minute that we had the tent unrolled, the skies opened and big fat rain drops fell at a fast pace. I mentally calculated the time that it would take to get this up vs. the percentage of wet that I was willing to get. Staying relatively dry won. I ran to go get the “tarp” to cover the tent so the inside wouldn’t be drenched. Running in flip flops in the rain and mud is not easy.

Two of the wet group jumped in my car. I silently cried about my newly detailed car, not wanting to know just how much mud had just made its way onto the mats. I ditched my muddy flip flops and jumped into the assembled tent. I was soaked. Tonight was going to be a cold one. The muddy car was looking like a better option by the second.

Twenty cold wet minutes later the big fat rain drops subsided to a light mist. I decided that we needed to get that tent up quickly if we were going to sleep in it. For all of the precautions that we took, the tent was drenched. The tarp had about three inches of rain on it that we had to dump off. We worked quickly putting the poles through and clipping and anchoring. The process was smooth once we got the rhythm, and practicing in my living room really did pay off. I felt very outdoorsy.
After another twenty cold, wet, and muddy minutes, our tent was up, but we had about two inches of water in one of the corners of the tent. I went to my newly muddy car and grabbed the leftover tacobell cup and started bailing. Picture this, a GIANT tent, fully assembled, with giant cups of water being thrown out of the front of it. I finally got it to the point where I could use a towel and grabbed the nearest one, making note that I would have to buy a new one for the owner of it… my sleeping space needed to be dry! Then the towel became too saturated, my friend realizing the dire situation and not wanting to sleep in water herself, offer her cardigan for wiping. I was so proud of her for offering and thankful, and thrilled to have a dry piece of fabric to try and soak up any left over moisture.

The tent was up. Our beautiful, dry condo in nature was finally erect. I could not have been more thrilled with my self, the city girl who once used to “camp” getting a fully functioning tent up in the rain. I also had to give props to my friend for sacrificing her lovely cardigan for the cause of a warm condo. Let me tell you, that night, we had the warmest tent in all of the tent city that was our campgrounds.

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