91 degrees / by Christina Rosalie

We are sweltering. It is official: I hate summer. Well, maybe that is too strong. Oh wait, no it isn't. Not if summer means this. This 91 degrees business. This so hot my brain inside my head feels like a lump of boiled ham bumping about on a plate.

Oh you poor thing, you are thinking. Where I am it's 110. Yeah. Well. And where you are probably has air conditioning.

Sooo. Can you tell I'm a delight today? The whole weekend has been a bit like this. One ill advised idea after another. Yesterday we decided to go camping. Sort of off the cuff. We had initially decided we wouldn't go camping and would just go to spend the day at a lake somewhere, but then DH called some camping place and they had a teeny little cabin available for the night and we thought: cabin + 6 month old + 4 year old might be better than a tent in that same equation. But it wasn't.

It was a cabin at one of those places where people are sandwiched in like sardines. It was by the bathrooms, and didn't have it's own bathroom. And it was surrounded by EIGHTH GRADERS on some vaguely organized youth group camping trip. Really. Dozens and dozens of them listening to music with the refrain "I wanna have sex with you" (I couldn't find out who sings it. It was some very innocent sounding girlie, actually. I did discover that maybe it's not wise to search for that phrase on the Internet.)

Evidently they were not a church group. Also, I was the only one who was noticeably snickering and/or flinching as these lyrics blasted sweetly through the campground which made me feel terribly, depressingly old. I am a prude. Who knew? But wait, it gets worse.

Once we had settled in and unpacked somewhat, we loaded up the running stroller with an ENORMOUS amount of stuff (ninety percent of which we didn't use) to take to the beach across the road because we didn't want to be going back and forth across the relatively busy highway for every little thing...but when we got to the beach, it was PACKED. Again with the whole sardine business. People and their kids and kayaks and fun noodles and towels and umbrellas and dogs on every square inch of sand.

So we schlepped all of our ridiculous stuff through the woods along a very bumpy rooted trail to another beach I'd seen out of the corner of my eye as we drove up, one cove over from the first beach.

Picture us please: it was 90 degrees yesterday and we'd spent the morning packing all kinds of crap and then driving, and all we had had to eat were hot peanut butter sandwiches. We wanted to swim. We were dreaming of leaping into cool lake water and parking our stuff in some nice little secluded corner where Bean could wade, and Sprout could occupy himself on the blanket, and DH and I could finally cool off, sip something refreshing...and blah blah.

Picture the stuffed cooler and the iced tea cooler and the heap of towels. Picture Sprout (who was an angel ALL DAY LONG by the way) stuffed in there too, and Bean running uncontrollably ahead, nearly slipping off the edge of the steep path in his crocs. Picture: huff puff. Swatting mosquitoes in the shade. Snapping at each other. Heave ho. And then picture this: rounding the bend we finally came to a beautiful secluded beach with pristine water and...

... at least three dozen naked old men and a few very brave naked women.

A nude beach. Fantastic.

To be clear I don't really mind nude beaches. I've gone naked more than once on the beach (alright, it was France, but still.) So it's not the naked that bothered me so much. It was just. Well.

"Are you okay with it?" "Yeah I guess so, are you?" DH said scanning the view. "Sure, I mean if it was France...." I let my sentence trail off.

Passing us: an old guy with a saggy paunch wearing a bright blue tank top and NO PANTS. Really, buddy? News flash: Penises, even young ones + a shirt = not that flattering. No. Not at all. Something about the way those bits dangle makes them look compromised and foolish when poking out from under a shirt.

"So, what do you think of that other beach we passed?" I finished.

The other beach was at the other end of the lake. A five minute drive, but DH agreed. It was really too much to wrap our heads around: navigating between naked folks with a bulging stroller and a questionably behaved four year old. We could already imagine his loud proclamations. "WHY ARE THEY NOT WEARING PANTS, MOMMY? WHY DOES HE LOOK LIKE THAT MOMMY?" It could go terribly wrong. Just think what we could bump into. See? It's official. I am a prude.

So we pushed the stroller back and shoved the entire thing into the truck and drove to the other beach which was a thin strip of sand between the lake and the road. A road that seemed to be the 'it' place for all the locals to cruise by with their music blaring (when did I become such a grump?) But we were going to have fun, damn it. And also. It was hot.

So we situated ourselves on the only available postage stamp sized piece of sand we could find and attempted to have FUN. Fun was Bean wading out into the lake and trying to kick away from me in his inner tube despite the fact that he can't swim, and ending with me catching him and him just as he was going under and him coming up sobbing. Fun meaning, DH breaking the buckle on my favorite belt trying to use it to open a beer while I was in the water instead of just asking me where the bottle opener was. Fun, as in: sand everywhere. And also the girl next to us was very pregnant and very young and very decidedly chain smoking.

It just about broke my heart, watching her watch us. She had this vapid depressed look on her pale face. Like it was the end of the world. Like we were everything she never wanted to be. Us, with our baby and our Tupperware of watermelon and our umbrella blowing away. Us, with Bean covered in sand and 'accidentally' hurling a toy that nearly took out some unsuspecting sunbathers.

Her boyfriend was blond with lots of tattoos and a soft stomach. He kept taking his shoes off and putting them back on. I heard her say, "I just can't get comfortable," as she took a drag on her cigarette and squirmed about on her towel, her belly round and pale, like she'd swallowed a watermelon. I kept picturing them in the middle of the night with their newborn and it was devastating. And it put things in perspective.

Because really, even though the day proved to be more disaster than not, DH summed it up perfectly when he said, "If I have to have a day like this, I'm so glad you're here to have it with." And really, it wasn't that bad. Sprout was delightful the entire time, and Bean, well, he's a rascal at 4 and a half. He had a lot of sugar and he was thrilled about the bunk beds in the cabin, and let's just say we might have fared better had it not been 90 degrees with Eminem playing and soccer balls flying over our heads.

Still, we managed to salvage the afternoon by going back to the campsite as the sun was setting. We lightened our load significantly, bought some ice cream and then went down to the first beach we'd gone to in the morning and it was much less crowded and the water was pristine. Bean and I swam and the light was golden. DH had fun grilling sausages on the camp stove. We made a fire and roasted marshmallows. We licked our sticky fingers.

And then we drove home.

Because really, after the day we had just had, imagining a night in a tiny cabin with two tiny windows (and no screen on the door) and a double bed with a baby just sounded impossibly horrific when we could be home in our own bed in just over an hour.

Turns out, we're not so much the car camping type. Backpackers first, DH and I both long for seclusion and nature when we camp, and the point of being in a small uncomfortable space (tent) with compromised sanitation is lost when multiple neighbors playing loud music are added to the equation. I have always loved to camp, and it's one of the things I miss the most about summertime now that I have children.

Obviously, backpacking is out of the equation until both boys can tote their own small packs (with their own clothes/sleeping bags), but I would like to believe that car-camping can achieve a similar experience, if done right, in the right place. This apparently means massive research and planning and checking online in advance about things like nude beaches and how people define the phrase "spectacular views."

Also, ziplocs. We forgot ziplocs.

Do you have any tips/advice/stories about camping with kids? I would love to hear your experiences and must-haves lists. Or your condolences. Or anything really. Something. Because I'm still rather traumatized and it has only just now gotten cool enough to commence breathing indoors, and heat and I apparently do not mix well.

Pictures tomorrow. :)