Monday, July 14, 2014

Unhappy camper

This weekend I took a last-minute, very quick trip to Utah to see my new nephew. (For all my Utah friends, my apologies for not having time to look you up. I'm planning to come back for Labor Day). Because we only had three days off, my parents and I thought we would leave after work on Friday and spend the night in Ontario, thus cutting off almost four hours of the next day's drive.

Since we were getting to Ontario around midnight and leaving before dawn the next morning, we thought, why spend the money on a hotel room when we could just pull up to a campsite and throw a few sleeping bags on a tarp?

I'll tell you why.

It was dark when we got to Ontario. Guided by our trusty GPS Yoda ("In five hundred feet, turn left you must") we made our way through the city and onto a dark country road. The darkness shrouded everything we wanted to see, like where the heck the campground was, but our headlights did manage to illuminate a rather large snake lying across the road. It was at that point Dad informed Mom and I that he would be sleeping in the middle.

It was also at this point that Mom revealed that most of the online reviews of our campground gave it one star. She was unconcerned, however, because some people had also given it five stars. We explained to her that if there was a flowchart for rating the campground it would look like this: Do you or a relative own this establishment? Yes --> Five stars. No --> One star.

When Yoda told us we had arrived we found ourselves staring at an empty field. We drove around a bit and soon found a sign with the word "campground" on it, near a mobile home with a large front yard.

"This must be it," Mom said.

"This is someone's home," we replied.

"No, no, I talked to the lady who runs it on her property and she said there's just kind of a random grassy area to pitch tents," Mom said. "I'm sure we're just supposed to sleep on this grass here."

We almost did just that, but once we began to look around for a bathroom, we eventually realized there was a narrow gravel road next to the campground sign, which you were supposed to drive down to get to the actual campground.

We came this close to sleeping in a stranger's front yard. That would have been great. "Don't mind us, we just got tired of driving and decided to lay down on your lawn for a few hours. Here, we got your paper for you."

When we finally arrived at the actual campground we were confronted by a lot of trailers.

"This looks like a trailer park," Dad said.

"Oh yes, I think you can rent these spaces by the month," Mom said.

"Why are we driving past a mountain of old tires and broken furniture?" I asked.

"I seem to remember the website mentioned it was next to a junkyard," Mom said. "But somebody gave it five stars, remember?"


We finally found a grassy spot between some trailers that had a tent pitched on it. Since seeing the snake Dad was having second thoughts about the no tent thing. I tried to reassure him that the short, sparse grass we were sleeping on wouldn't be appealing to wildlife, but my argument was undermined by the appearance of a baseball-sized frog.

That was a really cool frog.

After putting down some sleeping bags we found the bathrooms, which Mr. Five Stars had said were clean. If that's his definition of clean, I'd hate to see what he considers dirty.

Finally, we were ready to go to bed. We skipped the tent, preferring to enjoy the light breeze and fit in a few extra minutes of sleep. In theory, it was a good idea. In practice, mosquitos.

So many mosquitos.

At some point during the night someone threw a sheet over me, but it was too late. I had already slept soundly through the mosquito buffet. I awoke at 5 a.m. by an intense itching sensation that spread from my ankles to my face, a testament to my night as a blood donor via a hundred tiny, venomous needles that pierced everywhere from my knee to my eyelid, causing them to swell rapidly.

I felt like I had chicken pox. I looked like Quasimodo. Not cool.

When I sat up I realized that the light coming up revealed a swamp on the other side of the road, which explained the mosquitos and the frog. Dad was now sleeping in the car. I stumbled to the bathroom, turned on the water in the shower and was immediately greeting by a horrible sulfurous stench coming up through the drain. I rinsed off in the cold water anyway in an attempt to stop the itching (it didn't work). We got out of there quickly after that.

Normally, I love camping. But I don't think I'll be doing it without a tent again. It may be a great way to become one with nature, but it turns out nature includes swarms of tiny flying vampires.