Tamera Schlueter Schlueterville revisits the tent phase of life

I have taken a recent interest in camping, which sounds a bit goofy with winter lurking just around the corner. Blame it on the exhilarating awareness that our tuition-paying days are finally behind us. Blame it on websites that offer outrageous deals on an enticing array of gear that prompts visions of dominating a woodsy trail or scaling a rocky cliff. Whatever the reason, I have the unbearable itch to sleep unconfined by drywall and brick, under tree boughs and a blanket of stars, with the smoke of a dying campfire dancing on my face.

Hunka Burnin’ Hubby does not share my newfound passion.

“Have you forgotten the tent days?” he asks as I blab on about the wonders of rain shields, footprints, double entry zippers, and innovative poles. “Oh yes,” he says, “I remember it well; every rain-soaked, wind-blown, buginfested, heat-sweltering, bone-chilling bit of it.”

He makes a good point. Thirty years ago we packed up our tiny $25 pup tent and took a honeymoon camping trip that meandered through several western states and a couple Canadian provinces. We wore down coats and wool hats as we burrowed into the mallardprinted flannel of our canvas Coleman sleeping bags. Air mattresses were a luxury we had yet to discover. In the morning we peeked out of our cocoons to discover that tiny ice stalactites had formed inside our tent. We were monsoon magnets, and our campsites always seemed to be chiseled out of granite. It was still romantic and ridiculously fun.

We bought a bigger tent when the Schlueterville sons came along, and became pros at pitching it in the dark next to train tracks, power plants, and dump stations. Our nylon days ended soon after enduring a particularly harrowing lightning storm, and waking to find our toddler afloat on his air mattress. Then we bought a used 32-foot Jayco travel trailer, complete with indoor plumbing and cushy beds, and were happy campers until a 2005 hailstorm turned it into a giant golf ball. We watched misty-eyed as it tooled down the street and out of our lives, feeling the door slam shut on our spontaneous adventure quests.

Vacations were largely sacrificed to the gods of schedules and tuition while our sons were in college, but by the time our youngest graduated last spring, I was more than ready to hit the road, take a hike, and blow the dust off my cooped-up self. A camper was not in the budget, so I bought a new tent and assorted outdoorsy gear, and announced to Hunka that we were headed to the woods.

“Just to be clear,” my stone-faced husband inquired, “you intend to sleep in a tent? And better yet, you intend for me to sleep in it, too?”

“But it’s a technologically advanced model!” I chirped. “It’s rainproof and easy to set up! Trust me, we’ll have a blast.” He harrumphed and zealously began searching websites offering campers for sale.

And so a couple weeks ago, we stuffed our enormous SUV with food and equipment to outfit an army, and struck out for adventure.

I’ll tell you how it went next week. Let’s just say Hunka is a patient and tolerant man.

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