When my wife and I were first married, we were poor. Dirt poor. The kind of poor where we thought how much does a kidney sell for on the black market? Yet, as broke as we were, we still managed to have fun and do nice things for each other once-in-awhile.
For my birthday one year, my wife planned to surprise me with a weekend camping trip to one of my favorite spots on the west coast. Knowing how much I enjoyed camping and the outdoors (and plus camping is a inexpensive vacation), my wife secretly reserved a space in my favorite campground, shopped for my favorite camping foods, and packed our car for the weekend.
Did I mention that we were poor? Previous to this trip, we had both thrown away our own tents and much of our camping gear. These were supplies that we had used throughout our childhood, and our tents had holes, our sleeping bags smelled of dead fish, and our camp tools were broken and rusted. To conserve room when we moved, we had thrown away all of our old camp gear, in the hopes of getting brand-new “married” supplies one day. Well, one day took longer than usual, so we when we took camping trips, we had to borrow supplies from other people.
For this trip my wife asked my in-laws to use their tent and supplies for my birthday weekend. Since this camping trip was a surprise, I was not privy to what gear my in-laws loaned us. If I had, the weekend would have been VERY different.
Early on the Saturday morning of my birthday, my wife threw me and the gear in the car, and we sped over to the campground. Six hours later, we arrived. I was so excited to show my wife all the special fishing holes, hiking trails, and hidden caves in the area. I believe my exact words getting out of our car were This is going to be the best trip you have ever had, babe! We have come to the conclusion that I jinxed the trip with that phrase.
We unloaded all of our gear and started to make camp. When I unloaded the tent from my in-laws, I discovered a structure that must have been manufactured sometime in the early pioneer days, when settlers came across the great plains, and used whatever materials they found to rig up suitable lodgings. Being used to (and spoiled by) modern tents with carbon tent poles and high-tech nylon panels, I had NO idea how to assemble this tent that lay before me. The materials I had to work with were: three aluminum u-bars, twine, and a large swath of plastic that—I guessed—had seen every world war, and some of the little wars as well. But my manly pride kicked in, and wanting to impress my new, pretty wife with my survival skills, I attempted to construct a tent that only three engineers with the backing of NASA could construct. It took me two hours, but I managed to erect a sad-looking hodge-podge of metal, rope, and plastic into a make-shift dwelling.
Feeling somewhat accomplished, I turned my attentions to getting dinner ready. I was famished at this point, and was looking forward to grilling some beautiful steaks on our camp BBQ. We started to make a fire, but at the first sign of smoke, the camp host came RUSHING over, and instructed us to put it out immediately! Apparently, we had arrived in the thick of the fire season, and all the
campgrounds in the area had strict fire restrictions—mainly being that you couldn’t have a fire. Well, you could have a fire if you wanted to pay a $1,000 fine, but after looking at the mess of a tent that I had constructed, the camp host assumed that we probably couldn’t afford that luxury.
So there we stood. A tent that looked like it could fall in a stiff breeze and a cooler full of food that required a camp fire to cook…And the night kept getting better!