I trotted off to the CAA today to pick up some travel books for my long-suffering sweetie (LSS), who is planning a trip with his gang of hoodlums (GOH) Picked up a Campbook for the Eastern Provinces, and two things immediately occurred to me.
First, it’s way thinner than it used to be – the whole of Eastern Canada, including Quebec and Ontario, fits within a mere 159 pages. Are campgrounds vanishing? Are they just degrading to the point where they can’t score a spot in the guide? Do people just not camp anymore? Will I eventually be expected to stay at some of these places?
And so to the second point. I glanced over the listings, and even the very “swish-iest” (as my mum would say) sound absolutely dreadful. How fun can they be when the biggest thrill they offer is “lawn games”? There seems to be a choice in quality, between:
1. places with dubious access to toilets and no showers, in swamps or deep dark bug-filled forests, and
2. places named after cartoon characters with all mod cons and 500 sites on a two acre lot, many of them “pull-through”.
I can’t help but imagine hundreds of screaming, yelling, ice-cream-sticky children racing around, many of them from the GOH. The last time I stayed at such a place I woke up to the sound and shadow of a young lout peeing against the side of our tent. It was in a place with the best aspects of types one and two, so I couldn’t fault him. The toilets were fifty miles away across the tarmac, which was simmering in the heat. The lineups ended thirty miles away.
That was a different family and a lifetime ago, but I can’t help but flash back to endless camping trips, always in the rain, always involving way too many insects and burnt hotdogs and charcoaly marshmallows (okay, I liked the marshmallows), and usually some construction site that hadn’t been mentioned in the guidebook. There were other parts I loved – the tranquility of the early morning before the construction started, nighttime campfires when the wood wasn’t too wet to burn and the smoke blew away from our faces instead of right into them, the closeness with the kids as they rolled their sleeping bags over my face, those marshmallows.
The kids? They remember the marshmallows. So we figured out how to do them at home and put the gear in the shed, where the insects could camp merrily, undisturbed.
When I picked up the guides, the frazzled woman at CAA asked me, “You mean camping? Like…in tents?” She pulled up her lips in horror.
I smiled and said, “Well, what’s a girl to do when her guy has kids?” (I didn’t mention the size of the GOH, which is considerable, not including electronic appliances that talk.)
She snorted. “Find another guy, that’s what!” The she paused, considered that perhaps that wasn’t the caring approach….”Or at least, separate holidays for a start!”
And here is where the joy of decrepitizing comes in. I’m a wee bit older than the LSS, you see, and I have a couple of health problems that get me easily out of the camping scenario. A little whimper about walking being too hard, or the need for good rest or air conditioning, and I’m off the hook. So, instead of having to smile bravely at the hordes of children and their ice cream smiles, I can shrug and say, “oh sorry, just can’t do that…” and then go and book my escapes to inclusive “every whim catered to” resorts, or to B&B’s filled with delicious antiques that just wouldn’t survive a GOH assault, or even to a humble cottage that at least has a roof and a fully functional bathroom and a place to store food where it won’t get suspiciously warm and sweaty.
It gives me such guilty pleasure to have this out, to be able to avoid the uncomfortable beds, the bug scratchies, and those cold walks to the toilet late at night, pushing through spiderwebs and listening for wandering skunks. Been there, done that, still have the scars on my legs.
Now I camp at coffee shops, sipping hot liquids, listening to adult chatter, watching people. It’s good stuff for a decrepitizing old gal.