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Modern Dad

Camping. Why not just call it a torture test?

Prior to having kids I’d only slept outside two times on purpose. Both were rafting trips in Western North Carolina and it rained each time. I vowed never to go camping again.

Two years ago our kids begged us to go camping so now we go once a year.

We do what I call “Check the Box Camping.” We drive 30 minutes north to Lake Norman State Park and stay for 18 hours – long enough to pitch a tent, go for a hike, consume chili and s’mores and hot cocoa and campfire eggs, and go home.

The first year was rough. Last year was awesome. This year was a “challenge.” This is our story:

2:30  Pack the car. I pre-cook chili, pre-scramble eggs, pre-heat coffee and hot cocoa and bring disposable everything. I also bring three packs of wood because foraging for wood is the worst, and a case of water because The Mother of Dragons is actually a camel.

3:00  Everyone is finally in the car. The children are fighting over who has to hold the pillows. Yes, we brought pillows.

3:30    Stop at a gas station in Troutman. Lightning – who gets motion sickness – vomits in the back seat. Clean up hot dog barf.

4:00  Arrive. It poured the night before and our campsite is essentially a drainage ditch for two other campsites, each of which is located within fart-smelling distance of us. One is occupied by The Campfire Dudes – an old southern gentleman, his two sons and their two toddlers. The other is home to The Frenchies, a twenty something couple who, I think, speak French.

5:00 Spend 30 minutes trying to light the fire because I got the cheap Harris Teeter wood that only burns if tossed into a three alarm fire. The dog is lying in mud.

6:00   I am alone and the chili is close to burning.

6:30 The children return but The Mother of Dragons is unaccounted for. The dog is still lying in mud.

6:45 The Mother of Dragons appears out of the woods holding a paper cup of what I think is wine but I have no idea where she got it. Eat chili.

8:00 We transition to the nighttime activities. The Blonde Bomber won’t drink her cocoa because I put rainbow marshmallows in it. The s’mores are also a failure – I accidently grabbed giant marshmallows that won’t get hot enough to melt the also-too-thick Halloween Hershey bars.

8:30  The kids refuse to sit by the fire and would rather obnoxiously jump around the tent. Somewhere, in the darkness, a group of children loudly plays Marco Polo.

8:45  After losing my patience for the umpteenth time I go for a walk in the darkness and decide to sit in the car until my diastolic dips below the century mark.

9:00   Kids go to bed and we stay up. One of the Campfire Dudes is playing guitar, which is nice. Bourbon. Wait, booze is illegal in state parks so no bourbon. As far as you know.

10:00 We go to bed. The Campfire Dudes – who apparently only know two songs – are now playing acoustic Christmas carols. I was hoping for a silent night, not Silent Night. The Frenchies go to sleep in their car. In the distance, a dog barks nonstop. The campsite on the hill with giant tapestries and fairy light projectors is blaring the Grateful Dead.

12:00 Everyone has to pee but I can’t find the tent zipper. Ah, there it is. Pee.

1:00 Awaken. The old Campfire Dude is dispensing life advice to his sons. The dog is still barking in the distance.

2:00 Awaken again. The dog is still barking. This moment in time repeats itself every hour until dawn.

7:00  Sunrise. Spend 45 minutes relighting the fire. Cook scrambled eggs and sausage. Contract what I think might be a fairly severe case of smoke inhalation.

8:00 The Campfire Dudes are now playing bad gospel music on a Bluetooth speaker. The Frenchies have not emerged from their car.

9:30   Go for a hike and take a family picture on the shore. I set a timer for the photo because I refuse to take selfies. Later, I’ll discover my family is obscured by a giant shadow that I couldn’t see at the time because I refuse to take selfies. 

10:00   Strike camp. Pack the car. Put a blanket on the floor of the car in case the dog vomits again. The Frenchies are still in their car and I fear the worst, but I might also need to immediately seek medical care. Depart.

10:30     Arrive home and unpack the car. Wash everything. Vow never to go camping again – a vow that I will completely forget when it comes time to book next year’s camping trip.


Jon Show

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls the “Mother of Dragons.” His 9-year-old son is “Future Man,” and 5-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.”