The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Roughin’ It


Have you been camping? Not in a camper with a bathroom but on the ground in a sleeping bag in a tent. Me? The last time, 1988. A brown Coleman that took two people to pitch. A pool with icy water. Skunks on a hillside. Rolling out the door. Then one summer the tent mutated into a playhouse in the woods overlooking our house.

Step up into a tent trailer that had been pulled by my in-laws behind a red Rabbit on a couple of trips to Arizona. Once with two kids. Then we borrowed it for trips to Geauga Lake and another to Sea World Ohio. Half tenting. The upper half. No sleeping on the ground. A fusion of camping styles.

My family never camped. Farmers don’t take a lot of vacation time, and I suppose pitching a tent every night wouldn’t seem like much of a vacation on the road. Our vacation nights were passed in strip motels that littered the landscape of highways. The door opening with a real key hanging from a thick plastic fob. The room with a door that opened right out to your car. The kind of motel we hoped would have a swimming pool and usually didn’t. What a disappointment when my father pulled into the pool-less motel! The kind of motel room in scary movies. The same kind of motel in Erie this past weekend. But a motel with a pool this time.

I tented. In my backyard. An old pink chenille bedspread halved over the metal clothesline with sides stretched to a 45° angle and held down by wooden clothespins pounded into the ground.

I’ve been wanting to pitch a tent for the last couple of years. Bears be damned. I’ll stay out of bear country. Yesterday I shopped for a tent and sleeping bag. “I want a two-person tent that one person can set up,” I informed the clerk helping me. He knew his stuff. He used the stuff. I picked a tent. Only one color in stock. Lion. Great name but it won’t keep out any on the prowl. Then a sleeping bag. “What’s your lowest temperature?” he asked. Uh…maybe 10 or 20. Oh??? Well, not right away. I’m going this summer. So maybe low of 40 or 50. Here’s down. Are you allergic? Here’s a fiberfill. Feel this. Here’s lightweight to stuff into a little bag. One of those lightweight stuffers for me. If I decide to do more camping, I’ll probably need other equipment. “I have nine sleeping bags,” he said. This is his perfect job! Tents? He tries out new models and then gives his old ones away. I want to be his friend. Or work for employee discounts. Maybe I’ll hate roughin’ it. Maybe I’ll long for those conveniences of home. Motel rooms, pool or no pool.

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