I have camped.
I have camped in tents.
In tents at campgrounds with bugs, raccoons, skunks, bears, alligators and other assorted wildlife. And probably snakes. (I have a pathological fear of snakes so I prefer to imagine that all my camping trips have been snake free.)
(But they probably weren't.)
I have camped in almost every kind of weather, from sunny and carefree, with starry campfire nights, to dismal, rainy, thunderstorm ridden nightmares. In temperatures ranging from balmy and 72, to over 100 and sweltering, to a finger stiffening, bone chilling 30.
I’ve squeezed into little pup tents for one, two person tents, four person tents, even the tent we borrowed from our friends that sleeps eight. (It actually had little tent “dormers” – I took to referring to it as the “Taj Ma Tent”.)
What I am saying here is this: I. Have. Camped.
And I like to think I have been a good sport. I have put up with bugs and campfire cooking recipes that don’t turn out right - or even edible – and questionable weather and scary wildlife, all because I genuinely enjoy the outdoors. And I enjoy the magical bond you form with people as you sit around a campfire on a beautiful, starry evening telling stories and singing classic "we're sitting around a campfire" songs. And the even more magical bond you form with friends when you all suffer through the same camping mishaps.
But I have to be done.
Because the bit about camping I haven't mentioned yet is the actual sleeping bit. The "sleeping on the ground in a tent" bit.
The "sleeping on the cold, tree-root-ridden, slightly sloping, this tent isn't as waterproof as we hoped" bit.
When I was younger and full of spit and vinegar I could handle just throwing my sleeping bag on the ground and calling it a day.
When I was about 30 I started noticing that they weren't making ground like they used to. It was getting harder. And stonier. So I started putting a foam mattress down under the sleeping bag. (You know the kind. It looks like a giant egg carton. And, now that I think about it, it did make me feel rather like a giant egg. A hard boiled egg.)
Then, at 40, the cold started to seep into my bones during the night. My joints would stiffen and, by morning, I would have to be pried out of my sleeping bag like a pit from a peach.
So. I bought an air mattress.
Air mattresses are an adventure all their own. If you are cheap (like me) you buy the kind with a foot pump. Or worse, the kind you have to blow up using nothing but your own lung power.
You do this once.
Not only is the cheap air mattress smooth, (which means your sleeping bag slithers about on it and dumps you onto the ground periodically), it also springs a leak sometime in the middle of the night so that, eventually, you find yourself lying on a large vinyl crepe.
So you invest in a better air mattress. One with flocking (non-slip), and a built-in electric pump which allows you to refill said mattress periodically through the night. Of course, it has a loud motor, which, not only wakes up everyone in your tent, but also the occupants of surrounding tents in a radius approximately eight campsites deep. (You do not care.)
Sadly, no matter how expensive this air mattress, or how diligently you keep it inflated, you are still basically lying on the ground. And, as surely as the princess could feel the pea, the cold and the tree roots make their presence known.
So you grit your teeth, lay your hard earned cash down on the counter and purchase the super duper deluxe air mattress with a folding frame like a cot. This mattress sits 20 inches above the ground. This is almost a real bed.
You are set.
You are ready to sleep like a king. Until, in the middle of the night (it always happens in the middle of the night, doesn’t it?) the ubiquitous leak again appears, and you find yourself draped, pretzel style, over the aluminum frame.
It was at this point I decided I was done.
No more tents. No more egg cartons. No more leaks.
"But wait!" you say. "You haven't tried a pop up camper!"
That is correct. Nor am I investing in a gas guzzling RV.
I am graduating. As I approach 50 I am graduating to the campground I lovingly refer to as "Le Holiday Inn". With the comfortable beds and the indoor swimming pool and flush toilets and a restaurant.
Because I've earned a good night’s sleep.