Monday, April 18, 2016

Misadventures -- The stuff our vacations were made of

I come from a family of adventurers. Before we bought our summer place in Fogland, we spent our summer vacations discovering America like other average American families. But unfortunately, there was never anything typical about our trips.

My father is a true pioneer, and each summer I would shudder to think what he had planned for us. He loved camping in the wilds and exploring terrain where no man had gone before. He considered pit toilets an amenity.

We blazed our own trail up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire in the company of millions of ferocious mosquitoes, and in the heart of the Florida Everglades, we shared a campsite with poisonous snakes and swam with a crocodile, although we were unaware of its presence until we got out of the water.

Perhaps our most memorable vacation was a trip to Montreal, Canada. Many families spent that summer at the World’s Fair. We made reservations at a Canadian campground called “Camping Robert,” packed the tent into the van and headed north.

When we finally arrived, we paid the fee for a week’s stay and were told to proceed to Site No. 15, which would be clearly posted on a tree. The van bounced as my father drove down the heavily-gutted dirt road. After passing over a tiny bridge, we spotted our site, which indeed was clearly marked. The only problem was that a little river ran through it.

My father cautiously backed up, but the bridge’s pitched slope made it nearly impossible to maneuver. Consequently, our van was leaning against one of the posts of the bridge. He immediately got out of the truck to assess the situation. If he attempted to move the van, he took a chance of damaging the vehicle, or even worse, rolling over into the brook below.

A man from a nearby campsite, chattering profusely in French, arrived with an axe. After a few thrusts, the post was in the river; and we were free. My father thanked the Good Samaritan, and we headed back to the office.

This time they assigned us Site No. 20, and the campsite was as nice as a piece of ground in the center of a huge city during a worldwide exposition could be. We were finally settled.

My father and little brother began to erect the tent, while my mother and I climbed the steep hill to the restroom.

Opening the door marked “Les Femme,” we were unprepared for what we saw next. Women were showering “au naturel” without a stitch of shower curtain anywhere.

As we made our way down the hill, we were not sure we were in Canada anymore. It seemed more like Yellowstone Park because there was a geyser in the middle of the campground. The amazing thing was that the water was spouting from Site No. 20.

Then we spotted my father, who was dripping wet with a very incriminating hammer in one hand and a very incriminating tent stake in the other.

Later, we learned that they used rubber water pipes buried only a few inches in the ground in these makeshift campgrounds. With my father’s good sense of direction, he had pinpointed the location of the rubber hosing; and the wall of water had erupted.

So, this was the stuff our vacations were made of…

Finally, after years of cross-country adventures, my parents decided to set down some roots in Tiverton. We pitched our tent in its turf, and the only thing my father hit with the stake was a rock. The mosquitoes at twilight were just as ravenous as their mountain counterparts so we also erected a screened tent. Thankfully, there were no holes in the ground harboring poisonous snakes, just the occasional garter. However, we traded crocs for sharks.

Now, we look forward to the new season at the summer house and wonder what new adventures it will bring. Having survived my childhood, I’m game. I just hope that pesky skunk that took up residence under the shed is gone…

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