Call of wild hard to hear inside RV

Burt's Eye View

As winter wears on, we’ve been pining for another camping trip. Only this time, Terry and I want to rough it in a 45-foot RV with air conditioning, full kitchen, shower and large-screen TV.

We’re still adventurous in our 60s. But the ground’s grown a lot harder over the last half century.

Terry and her family camped a lot when they were kids. My outdoorsmanship resume is more sparse.

One Christmas, I received a blue sleeping bag festooned with stars striped in red and white. I looked like a little flag that had exploded. I camped out on my bed in my room at home. Mom wouldn’t let me build a campfire in the house, so I had to settle for glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling for light.

Then one glorious summer evening, I got to do real, live outdoor camping. Cousin Billy pitched a tent in his backyard. If it got too dark or spooky, all we had to do was peek through the flap to see the warm glow of his house 20 feet away.

I didn’t think I’d ever get to sleep, but the next thing I knew, a creature clamped a paw on my shoulder and shook me. “It’s storming and the tent’s leaking. We gotta make a dash for it.”

Twenty feet is a long way when you’re trying to sprint while dragging sopping sleeping bags. And just like that, my first outdoor campout moved indoors by 10 p.m.

I unrolled the sleeping bag a couple years later when we showed dairy at the county fair. We kids stayed overnight in the open barn — just us and about 120 cows. Whoever waxed poetic about the gentle lowing of cattle never slept in a barn. Also, those bucolic scenes of farm kids snoozing in the hay — don’t believe them. Bales are hard as rocks, and loose hay is scratchy with sharp edges.

Decades later, when my daughter was 6, we camped out in our backyard. This time, I pitched the tent 10 feet from the back porch. And we ran an extension cord from the house to power the lights and TV that stayed on while we sat up and read comic books and ate sandwiches we fixed in the kitchen. I slept on a cot well-padded with quilts from the house.

When she was a teenager, I joined a church outing in someone’s backyard in West Virginia. I’d bought a fancy new three-room tent for the trip. The advantage of camping with 30 other people is that there’s always someone else who can figure out what poles snap into what hooks, and what lines tie into what rings, and what flaps afix to what canvas to create a tent.

I was in my late 30s by then and the ground already was growing hard. So my supplies included a thick, queen-sized air mattress. I don’t want to ache when I rough it.

This past summer, I discovered that not only had the ground calcified into concrete, but musty night air tickled my allergies, and that old man problems meant too many, uh, after-hours field trips to the latrine. My wife suffered through a full-fledged concert of grunts, groans, snaps, crackles and pops every time I tried to push myself into a standing position and then again every time I tried to lower myself all the way back to the ground floor.

And then it began to rain.

But now it’s winter, and I yearn once more for the wide-open spaces. As long as there’s an easy chair, inflatable hot tub and a microwave oven. Does anyone have a luxury RV we can borrow? We promise to leave the cows at home.

— Rough it with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or at www.burtonwcole.com.


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