The Great Outdoors!

This week’s Spin Cycle is all about the great outdoors. Train Guy and I love the great outdoors. He’s a little more hard-core than I am. I think this is because he grew up camping with his parents whereas I most definitely did not.

My parents’ idea of “roughing it” is, like, a Motel 6. Or no, actually this one family trip we took to Jackson Hole, WY, the power went out in the hotel and each little drawer had a candle in it and my brother and I thought it was all very cool and exciting but my parents were a bit disgruntled because by the time we got to the lodge, the coffee was gone and there was no power to make more. THAT was roughing it.

One time when I was very young, my parents borrowed a friend’s RV and we went “camping” somewhere. My dad caught pneumonia, and to this day he insists on blaming the RV (too cold? bad night vapours? I dunno). Every single time I would bring up camping after that, Dad would say, “We WENT camping, and I got pneumonia, remember?”

Yes Dad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the two events were related.

The majestic beauty of Yosemite

But there is one epic great outdoors experience my family had that will live on in infamy forever–our trip to Yosemite. We’ve actually been to Yosemite a couple of times, but this was the last time, and we don’t even need to identify it in conversation. It’s just, “Remember that time in Yosemite?” and everyone knows which time THAT time was. I was in high school and my brother was in his first year at college. It was Thanksgiving break so we headed out to the great outdoors for a nice family trip. We stayed at a hotel just outside Yosemite Valley (that point becomes important later) and it was really quite bucolic. We took a horseback riding trip where you stopped halfway through and made steaks over a campfire. I thought it was awesome, but Dad? Well let’s just say that Dad ever getting on a horse again is pretty much just as likely as him sleeping in an RV. REMEMBER THE PNEUMONIA??? Right, Dad, I remember.

Anyway, so there were some wildfires going on in the area at the time–nothing major (we thought), but the entrance into Yosemite Valley nearest our hotel (which you might remember was just outside Yosemite Valley) was closed, so we drove around and went in a different entrance. We had a lovely day enjoying ourselves–we rented bikes, did some hiking, whatever, but upon returning to our car to go back to the hotel, it seemed like there were a lot of people milling around. Like, A LOT.

As it turned out, those fires that weren’t a big deal turned out to be kind of a big deal. They blocked the only remaining exit, so we were stuck for the night. And sadly, we were pretty much the last four people in the entire Yosemite Valley to have been informed of this, because everyone went out and booked every cabin and room and tent and whatever was available for the night so when we went to do it, there was nothing for us.

Ladies and gentlemen, we slept in the minivan.

No room at the inn

Yes, my father, the man who claims that an RV gave him pneumonia, actually slept in our family minivan. Dad was in the driver’s seat, mom was in the passenger, my brother had the middle row (plus the cooler next to the door to prop his feet up on) and I had the back row. Now, I had a couple good advantages going on. One, I’m short, so the back row was relatively comfortable for me. And two, because we’d left home at some godawful time in the morning on our way to the park, I brought along my blanket and pillow. I was more than happy to hog both of these items, but my parents made me give one to my brother (I gave him the pillow).

When the park ranger told us that we had to sleep in our car and directed us to the area of the parking lot where everyone else who didn’t get the message in time were also sleeping in their cars, I kind of expected my dad to pull out the RV/pneumonia thing, but as I recall, he took it like a man. An unhappy man, who kept repeating that we HAD a hotel and it was just outside Yosemite Valley. But a man, nonetheless.

At any rate, we all snuggled up (so to speak) and then at dark o’thirty in the morning, we were scared out of our minds by the forest ranger tapping on our windshield saying that it was time to evacuate. Sadly, my dad’s foot had become wedged under the brake pedal, and after a considerable amount of effort to remove it, found that the foot was completely nonfunctional, so Mom had to drive us out.

It was kind of surreal, driving this narrow road with active fires on both sides of the road, but we made it out. And thank goodness we had a lovely hotel all lined up, right outside of Yosemite Valley.

Like I said, it’s the vacation that went down in infamy.

And despite sleeping in a vehicle, my dad did not contract pneumonia a second time.

Catch some more Spin over at Sprite’s Keeper!

How My Camping Trip Got Much Better…

This entry is titled: How My Camping Trip Got Much Better After I Penned Everybody Up.

But perhaps I should back up a little. Train Guy’s grandparents own an RV they are always imploring us to borrow. Last year was our first RV trip, and let’s just say it hovered somewhere between the sixth and seventh levels of Hell. But after Train Guy insisted that we would not make the same mistakes twice, I agreed to another RV trip this year.

It was one of the most relaxing vacations of my life.

We headed up to the amazingly beautiful Sequoia National Park for 6 full days of The Great Outdoors. Train Guy had reserved the perfect site at the Lodgepole Campground and we set ourselve up for a fine old time. Which, as the title indicates, involved penning everyone up.

BCF: Beagle Containment Facility

See, we brought the Mouse and both beagles. Last year we had both beagles on tie-outs or crammed in the very snug RV,  and while they thoroughly enjoyed the trip, they were always underfoot. Particularly Scout, who has a spectacular habit of winding herself over and around every tree, post, table, and chair leg until she’s got about 4 inches left on her tie out and stands there looking confused about why she can’t move. So solution #1: Outdoor dog pen!

We bought the extra-tall fencing, since Digory could make a mighty jump if he were truly motivated, and set down a groundcloth in a nice shaded area and built our pen. We threw in a water bowl and two beds, and both dogs were in absolute Doggie Heaven. It was fantastic–they had room to stretch their legs, they could lay in the sun or the shade, they got a ton of fresh air, they were able to be out with the people, and best of all, they weren’t underfoot. They did amazingly well out there, even sleeping comfortably in the dark of the night when Train Guy and I were at the campfire. We all slept in the RV but the pen worked perfectly. We dubbed the area “Beagle Glen.” And the expression on Digory’s face was priceless when we introduced him: “Is this a very large crate, or a very small dog park?”

Once the dogs were taken care of, it was time to think of Mouse. Our Mouse is a very, very Busy Boy. He never, ever sits on a lap unless it’s special circumstances (drinking a cup of milk with some books, or if he’s very tired). He’s just never been a cuddly lap-sitter. And now that he’s walking, it’s even worse. At home we let him wander around the babyproofed living room, but it’s a little difficult to babyproof a National Park. We didn’t want to just bring his Pack ‘n Play (which I hate anyway), because it’s so small, but we also didn’t want to be following him around constantly trying to keep him from wandering off or eating organic materials of any variety. What to do?

The solution was obvious. Put him in a dog pen! But wait! They make baby pens too!

BRZ: Baby Recreational Zone

And so we invested in a baby pen and extension kit. Once again, we put down a groundcloth covered by a play quilt and blanket. We brought along a mix of new and favorite toys and popped Mr. Mouse in. Just like the dog pen, it was a fabulous solution. The area we chose was a little sloped so we had to roll a big tree stump in front of it to stabilize the front, but Mouse loved it in there. He could stretch his legs, run his new truck all around, kick back, and totally chillax, and we could chillax too, knowing that he was safe, entertained, enjoying the outdoors, and closeby.

I highly recommend penning everyone up on your next camping vacation.

Oh, and what is it about food that tastes a thousand times better when it’s cooked outside? That’s one of my favorite things about camping!