Stay-cation 2020

Top o’ the morning, all! Being that Vietnam closed its borders to travelers from the US, Quỳnh and I now have 3 weeks of PTO to use. Bummer! Both of us have been 100 mph at work and were feeling pretty burned-out. We took last week off and enjoyed some time with friends, had some adventures, and tried to relax. I didn’t realize how far gone I was!

Day 1: The Griswolds Go Camping

Ah. camping– the outdoors, birds chirping, water flowing, nature… naturing; it’s all great! When we lived in Alexandria, we made it a point to go camping a few times per year with whoever would go. It seems like since we bought our house, we’ve had an easy time making excuses on why we shouldn’t go. Thankfully, our friends found a park they really liked and asked us to go camping with them at a place they recently found (Greenbrier State Park). How could we resist?

Greenbrier is a state park a few minutes away from Boonsboro, MD (Home of the original Washington Monument!) and 45 minutes from our house. Three campground loops, a man-made lake with sandy beach, and plenty of hiking- this promised to be a pretty great place to spend some time. Quynh and I made our checklist and tossed everything in the truck, making sure to grab beer, er, “bread soda” (Alcohol’s prohibited in the campground) and ice before leaving town.

The First Fail: Let’s play word association for a sec: When I say “breakfast”, you might immediately think of pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc.; right? OK, so when I say “camping”, what’s the first word that comes to mind? More on that later.

It’s late in the afternoon when we get to our campsite. A-24 on the Ash Loop, right near the lake. We began unloading the trucks- camp stove, coolers, chairs- then the wives suggested we set up the tents before dark. James got his tarp out and began erecting his 6-person hippodrome while I set about unloading our comparably diminutive 3-person dome tent. Funny thing; I couldn’t seem to find it in the truck! Now, ours is not a large vehicle by any stretch: a 2002 Rav 4 is not an easy place to lose a tent. “Joe, where’s the tent?!”, Quỳnh emphatically inquires. A brief feeling of fear followed by a vivid image of a tent on a shelf in our basement pulses into my mind’s eye, lingers for a moment, and vanishes as quickly as it came.

Was your camping word association “tent”?

“It would seem, my dear, we’ve left our tent back in the basement.” Q’s eyes went wide in amazement, waiting for the “Gotcha!” that would never come. I imagined Quynh as a disheartened James May calling me a pillock.

The Second Fail: Not one to stay down, I whipped out my phone and searched for the nearest WalMart to score a tent. Such luck! There were two WalMarts nearby. A thoroughly scornful Q got into the passenger seat and we headed down the road to the first one. Who forgets a tent going camping?

Walmart was only 15 minutes up the road, but these would be 15 wasted minutes. It would seem tents and camping equipment had become as popular as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes– nary a tent as far as the eye could see. Not even those gazebo-type dealies! I could feel the daggers from Q’s eyes firmly lodging themselves in every vital organ– a few of the non-vital ones as well.

“No sense in crying over spilled milk, nor missing tents. Onward! To the next one!” George Custer, eat your heart out.

9 minutes away from WalMart… was WalMart! As before, Wally World was totally absent of tents and gazebos. Figuring this was some kind of WalMart supply issue, I phone the local Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Me: “Hi! I’m wondering if you currently have a tent- any tent- in stock. Or a gazebo?”
DSG Lady: *Chuckles* “No, sir; I haven’t had them in stock in days. It’s crazy!”

I have imagined my own death at the hands of a 5’2″ tent-less Viet woman.

We headed back to the campground and told of our odyssey to the Paks. They had offered to let us stay in their tent before we left, and now we gratefully accepted. It’s nice to have your privacy when camping, but it’s even nicer to have friends with a 6-person tent.

Rain had been forecast for the weekend, and the weatherman kept his word. Shortly after our return to camp and raising of an improvised rain fly for the table, the intermittent deluging began. Our neighbors, already struggling to light a fire, fled to their tents. We enjoyed the rain, enjoyed our fire and “bread soda”, and eventually cooked dinner. It was an uneventful afternoon, but all in all a good one. With any luck, tomorrow would be dry and we could hit the lake.

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