Thursday, 15 August 2013

Never Judge a Camper by His/Her Vehicle

Sandbanks..what a beach! I was lucky enough to spend 3 days at Sandbanks Provincial Park last week.

The truth is that although I love being there, I was dreading the prep work that goes into camping. Whether you go for a night or a week, you still have to bring the same basic equipment for sleeping and cooking. (While we were away, our son found my typed camping supply list  on our kitchen counter. He sent out a text and pronounced it "nerd alert". For me such a list is my sanity.) At any rate, once all the equipment  was stuffed into the car and we were on our way, I was looking forward to our stay, and the opportunity to sleep outside and swim in that glorious water.

Now our old tent, well I could have set that up by myself in five minutes. Unfortunately a few years ago, a strong wind rolled it down a hill and into a lake. This is our third year with this new one but putting up a complicated tent once a year is not often enough to make any serious imprint on my aging brain cells. It feels like the first time very year. It must have taken the two of us a half hour to erect the tent. Pat kept saying,"You've got to laugh" but I didn't find it funny.

After all that exertion of mind and body we decided to swim. What a be able to walk for a mere five minutes and be at that magnificent beach...all that sand, the sun shining on the water and the wind creating wild crazy waves.To jump in the water and swim at 6 made up for the packing and setting up the tent.

What I enjoy, and don't enjoy, about camping is the shared experience, the sense of our common humanity. We are all here for the same reasons: the beach, the waves and the chance to spend time outdoors with family and friends. That's about where the common characteristics finish though. All kinds of people have all kinds of ways to experience camping.

I made my way over to the "flushies", the "comfort station", the bathroom we would be sharing with hundreds of others. I noted the new sinks and taps with appreciation. I was also pleased to see a new toilet seat in one of the stalls (why not both?) but was perplexed by the sign posted over the toilet. "Please do not flush toilet with your feet." I was thinking about that as I walked back to the campsite, wondering how and why a person would flush with their feet.

We've had better campsites other years. This time we were on a road where the sites were close together, offering very little privacy or shade. Our next door neighbours had a huge trailer plus a gigantic tent. There were about 8 people milling about.

Lately I'm not very good about guessing peoples ages. I mean, if I go to an emergency department in a hospital, all the doctors look about fifteen. So, in my cursory assessment,  our bikini clad neighbours looked to be in their late teens or early twenties. "Great", I thought. "It's going to be noisy."

 Over the years we've had a variety of camping neighbours. Often it's been a quiet, peaceful time..nothing but the sounds of the waves and wind, the cracking of campfires, crickets and.... the sound of our own kids fighting. Occasionally we've had the misfortune to be near yahoos... the guys who are there just to drink and party....the kind who don't care how drunk they get and how many people they disturb. Provincial parks have rules of course, but it isn't always easy to reach a park ranger in the wee hours. Camping is like being part of a gigantic sleepover, only you don't know any of the other guests. You just hope you end up beside some considerate folks.

Anyhow we started prepping dinner, a very simple affair. It was getting cooler so we went into the tent to change into pants. Now the only flat area on our site was right beside the road so there we were. The flaps were up on the windows so we couldn't  see what had arrived but all of a sudden it sounded like a truck was about to drive into our tent. If we were at home in the city I might have thought it was a garbage truck or a furniture delivery. Whatever it was, it was incredibly loud and revving its motor right outside our tent.

When we looked out we saw this.

Now there were 3 vehicles at our neighbours. To me that was the clincher: all those teens and now a huge noisy truck with young guys piling out of it. We were in for a long noisy night.

But you know what? I was wrong. There was actually a set of responsible parents on that site. Although there were 16 people there for dinner and a bonfire after that, they were not noisy...just a friendly group of family and friends having a good time. Some of them drifted off to their own sites and those who remained were totally reasonable. I wonder if I would have been convinced we'd have a noisy night if that truck had been a Ford Focus? Of course it was wrong of me to pre-judge them.

And, as I scribbled this out the next day, I was interrupted by our neighbour on the other side,  who came over to talk to us. Stupid me! It turns out that I had accidentally left our parking lights on in the car. Glen, a mechanic from Toronto, had noticed the lights on and was concerned that we were going to run the battery down. He offered to give us a boost if needed. He returned a few hours later, to make sure the car was alright.

That's camping for you, yet another confirmation of ...We're all in this together.

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