Camping: A Cautionary Tale


Ah the joy of camping. So many of us travel every spring or summer, to various and rare bits of nature that have yet to be tamed by man. We pitch tents, bring friends, roast marshmallows, and explore the wild outdoors. At one end of the spectrum are those who “rough it” with only a compass and a canteen, (I call them crazy) and at the other end those who enjoy the comforts of a house sized vehicle(with all the amenities) and a campground where your assigned plot is only surrounded by trees, not filled with them. I consider myself in the middle. I need a tent and a cooler full of food, but I don’t need the luxuries of an RV. I love to be surrounded by nature, but I don’t need to get lost to enjoy it. All of us have our camping horror stories; attacked by bears, lost in the woods, tents on fire, but the worst camping horror story is that of the buzz kill friend.

You know the one; he has mood swings that hint at a multiple personality disorder. He insists on lighting the fire, all the time. His car is his precious darling baby and if mud gets on it then you have to pay for the detailing when we get home. Oh you don’t know the one I speak of? Well let me tell you my story as a sort of cautionary camping tale, the moral? Never invite someone camping just to use their car; karma will make sure they ruin all the fun.

The “one” I speak of is named Will, in my case. And we really only invited him camping because we needed an extra driver. Leslea was driving her moms SUV and the rest of us were poor college students whose cars could barely cross the Rhode Island border, never mind make it to our camp site in New Hampshire. Will incessantly yapped about how his 6 year old Toyota Corolla basically had the same engine as a Lamborghini. He wore driving gloves wherever he went and wiped it down with a diaper. He “detailed” it every weekend and would come out of wherever he was to watch you pull out if you were parked anywhere near his car. He LOVED to drive it and loved to show it off so we sucked up to him and he ended up really excited about the camping trip. Convincing him was easy… too easy actually.

The day came to leave for New Hampshire. It was morning and we were all packing our cars up for the trip. When we started piling things outside of Will’s car he got really confused, and then infuriated when he realized that they were meant to go in his car. Mind you, Leslea's SUV was so stuffed she couldn’t see out the back window and she was driving Joe, Josh, and me. Will was driving with Mike…just Mike. He eventually conceded to a cooler of food, his own belongings, and Mikes. Nothing was allowed on the back seats… not even pillows and sleeping bags. Those ended on Josh and my laps.

When we got to the campground it was absolutely beautiful. Everything was lush and green; our site was right on a small river that was studded with stepping stones. It was completely void of the everyday sounds of cars and phones. Instead all you could hear were bird chirping at each other, and various insect noises. There were squirrels and chipmunks running in and out of the trees, one chipmunk became our mascot for the weekend after I decided to leave him a trail of tortilla chips to munch on.

But all the glories of nature were lost on Will. He was too busy having a hissy fit because his cell phone didn’t get signal where we were. He was furious that he couldn’t call his new girl friend with who he was already madly in love, and he stormed off in search of precious signal bars. This was when Mike jumped in to vent about his ride up with Will.
“Guys you all suck, riding with him is torture! Every time we went up a hill he would wince and act like his car was breaking down. He bitched the whole time about how you guys have to pay for all the repairs he’s going to need on it“. Sorry Mike.

And then we realized that Mike didn’t bring a tent. He thought, for some strange reason, that he was sharing a tent with me and Josh. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to sleep in a tent with two twenty year old boys, but I wasn’t about to test it out. The sounds and smells are what worried me. Mike would have to share a tent and air mattress with Will. It turns out that Will snores like a chainsaw and only after he wishes his girlfriend a 3 hour long good night. Really sorry Mike.

Fire time! What is supposed to be the classic staple of camping fun turned into yet another excuse for an absolute temper tantrum. How dare we light the fire while Will was MIA for over an hour! And he should have been the one to build it! We didn’t even know what we were doing! (I actually used the Lincoln log technique and that sucker was blazing thank you!) So as payback for not waiting for him to start the fire, Will woke up at five every morning with his flip flops. Flip flop, flip flop, flip flop all around the camp site while he wasted all of our wood trying to make a fire. He would dowse it in lighting fluid and when it would die out he would just pour more on. No matter how many times we told him that was bad for the fire and he was wasting wood, he just kept doing it. I was just waiting for my moment to dowse those freaking flip flops in lighter fluid.

Our drive up to a trail of caves was just ridiculous. We were warned that bears had been spotted in the area so we made sure to bring our coolers with us when we left the site. Will had a cooler with bread and crackers in his trunk and he was not happy about it. He was sure his car wasn’t going to make it this time, not with all the weight of a cooler full of bread! Leslea took the other two coolers filled with ice and sodas and meat. On the drive I kept looking back to see how Mike was doing driving with Will. At one point he aimed his finger at his temple and shot. Sorry again Mike. He eventually texted us that we needed to turn around, Will had pulled over and we didn’t notice. Leslea was beside herself; Josh closed his eyes and threw his head back against the seat. Joe and I burst into giggles.

When we found Will he was checking his car. The hood was up and he was actually checking the oil. We asked if it was smoking or anything and he said no, but “something didn’t feel right”. Mike just rolled his eyes. Will told us that he just couldn’t make it with all the weight and that was the last straw for Josh. He opened the driver door, popped the trunk and took the cooler into the SUV and onto his lap.

“Happy now? Can we please go?” Leslea’s voice gave away that Will was hanging on her last nerve. He hopped in his car drove up the hill, pulled a u-ey and drove back full speed with a big stupid grin on his face. Yep, he was happy now, he got what he wanted.

The caves were fun, exciting and beautiful. Will didn’t join us for one attention searching excuse or another. We took fun pictures and squeezed into tiny crevices where the cold inside of the cave was refreshing on our skin. There were long caves with ladders built inside them and they were so dark you never knew where your foot would land. Even though it was a tourist safe trail, it was still an adventure and one of my favorites at that.

Packing up for the ride home was gratifying. Nobody felt afraid of Will anymore; we were all just about ready to leave him there. We gave him two coolers this time, both empty, one on a towel in his back seat (which he had an absolute panic attack over…”the upholstery!”) And one in his trunk. He also stowed his gear and mikes, just like the ride up. When he wasn’t looking we all snuck things into the coolers; Flashlights, towels, rolls of garbage bags, just little things. Right before we piled into the cars Josh snuck his boots into the back seat.

Before Will even started his car he walked up to Leslea’s window (she was driving). As she rolled the window down she said, “I swear to god if he says anything about his car being weighed down I’m going to ring his neck.” I was piled up with pillows and ready to enjoy the show.

Sure enough he asked if we could take anything from his car. “It’s not going to make it”, to which Leslea replied,

“WILL LOOK AT MY BACK SEAT, I CANT SEE OUT OF MY BACK WINDOW. JOSH AND ASHLEY ARE SUFFOCATING AND IF WE SHOVE ONE MORE THING UP HERE I WONT BE ABLE TO CHANGE THE RADIO STATION. GET IN YOUR CAR.”

Will stormed back to his car and just as Leslea was rolling her window back up we heard, “WHO THE HELL PUT THEIR BOOTS IN MY CAR!?” We sped out before he could catch us and laughed for a solid three minutes.

And so, again, the moral of my story is to rent a car rather than invite a Will when you go camping.

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