The Ol’ Rusty Gazzette Vol 1

June 13 2010

Another camping trip in Ol’ Rusty.  She looked a bit out of place among the rows of miniature houses on wheels that line the street of the campground.  And yes- Ol’ Rusty is, in fact, a girl.  This was decided when we first brought her home.  Upon reflection, Ana determined that the camper HAD to be female since she holds us inside her belly.  How do you argue with that kind of logic? In any case, Ol’ Rusty is a moderately decrepit, 35 year old Viking pop-up camper. We considered trying to get historic plates for her, but I am not sure that you can get those for a trailer in New Jersey.

Campgrounds like this always crack me up.  Generally when we camp we set up on campsites that contain little more than a picnic table, some dirt and a fire pit.  Our camping equipment is similarly simple, a small propane stove, my trusty cast iron skillet and some assorted seconds from my kitchen cabinets.

My favorite  is a stainless steel percolator which makes delicious coffee that is so scalding hot that you have to let it cool for at least 20 minutes before attempting a sip.  So there I am, in the middle of this suburban camper jungle, staggering out of our camper into the cheerful morning light with my hair mashed in at least three different directions, percolator in hand in quest of a likely place to set it up to heat.

The looks of horror were hilarious, and several of our camping companions did not even recognize this arcane implement that I held in my hand.  Of course, I matched their horror with my own astonishment as I examined the blenders, toasters and microwaves they had hooked up to their campers. All the comforts of home, but in the great outdoors.  The campsite behind us even had a wraparound porch complete with deck furniture and covered grill.  I was, however more than willing to sustain a bit of ribbing because I knew that in the end my coffee would be so much better than their electric dripped filtered brew just like they get every morning at home.

In the end I think I had the last laugh on that one.

I do not mean to imply that I did not like this campground. In fact I think we will go back there, perhaps even before the summer is over.  It was, however, a bit of culture shock for me.  I guess I am more of a hardcore camper than I realized…I always thought I was a bit of a wuss because I will not camp anywhere that I do not have access to running water, and will only use an outhouse in a dire emergency.  A campground with cable TV hookups available? THAT is a perk that I would never before have associated with camping. I think even my MOTHER could camp at this place!

We were camping with the family of one of Frances’ oldest friends who we have recently started to socialize with on an adult level. This trip was apparently a yearly tradition and involved at least 4 other families. Honestly I am not sure how many people were in our group and I certainly could not keep track of all the names.  I will say that there were at least a dozen kids ranging in age from 3 to 16, and they ran in packs accordingly.  Owen found two other boys in the 7 to 9 year old range, and the three of them spent the entire weekend tearing around the campground on their bikes toting loaded squirt guns and eschewing shirts.  I imagine there were spitting contests and so on but I chose not to notice.

Owen is very proud of his bike, which we recently purchased for him.  He even has a coiled steel bike lock in an attractive shade of lime green that he carefully keeps wrapped around the base of his seat.  A bike lock is pretty necessary in Edison, but on a campground….. not so much.  Owen, however felt the need to ‘share the joy’, and in order to demonstrate how cool it was to fasten a bike to a tree, he not only locked up his own bike but also the bike of one of his new buddies. This was great fun until he dropped the only key we had with us somewhere in the grass.

Despite his confident assurances that his mom had super vision and could find anything, I was not able to find that tiny key lost in the field, thus leaving two nice red bikes safely locked and in no danger of being stolen…or RIDDEN for that matter.

Needless to say, Owen no longer has a nice lime green bike lock.

Frances was in her element, since almost-teenage girls (much like prepubescent boys) tend to run in packs. Packs of girls tend not to be as noisy and gross as the boys. They do seem to involve a lot of walking in aimless circles and clutching of cellphones.  Frances spent a great deal of time texting with her friend Johnathan who she claims is NOT her boyfriend. I am not sure I buy that because I find it difficult to believe that he would invest the time to send her hundreds of text messages a day if he were not interested I her that way- nor would she respond so avidly if she did not reciprocate his interest.

Frances, of course was way too cool to sleep in our old decrepit camper with us, preferring instead to cram into a single bunk with two of her friends and sleep in air conditioned comfort.  The only time I resented that was when a huge beetle dive-bombed me in the middle of the night and I had to dig it out of my shirt.  Times like that certainly engender a certain wistfulness for creature comforts that do not involve little crawling creatures.

My darling Ana fell into the donut hole on this trip.  Although she is technically old enough to run with the big girls, she is too much of a tomboy to be interested in doing so.  Riding bikes with boys would have been right up her alley, but she is still girl enough to be grossed out by spitting, and she definitely was not interested in running around without her shirt on. She instead spent her time floating between the two groups, escaping the girls when they got too giggly, and abandoning the boys when they got too gross or exceeded her threshold for war games.  In between, she came to me for mommy time, something that I have little to complain about. She helped me cook, then let me thoroughly dunk her in the pool. In a tangentially related episode. she learned, the hard way, that she is NOT allergic to bees.

Matt went out kayaking with the guys and had a great time, even going so far as to say that he found a moment of nirvana floating in the center of the Delaware river with no responsibilities except to paddle home. Although I concur that he could really use some nirvana to offset the stress of everyday life in the work grind, I would have been more likely to agree to a kayak if the purchase price did not also include a new camper being pulled by a new truck with dirt bikes for the whole family. I swear that man is such a boy sometimes….of course that is part of his charm.

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