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Oddchester: We've traded the tent for air conditioning

As we have every summer for the past decade, our entire family recently spent a week camping.

The term "camping" is used loosely. Because, after a lifetime of tent camping, we decided, this year, to rent the Lodge at Lazy D Campground.

Lazy D is a private campground near Whitewater that features laundry facilities, a WiFi hotspot, and a swimming pool. The Lodge, which we shared with friends and their kids, features five beds, a full kitchen, and an air conditioner.

We will never, we decided, pitch a tent again.

Sure, you can question our hardiness, our ruggedness, and our devotion to reconnecting to the outdoors.


But we have, year after year, paid our tent camping dues. Like The Year That Mouse Wouldn't Stop Scratching At Our Tent. Or The Year The Monsoon Lifted Our Tent WIth Our Entire Family In It And Dropped Us Down In The Adjacent Campsite. Or, The Year We Decided To Try "Winter Camping."

At a primitive state forest campground in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we tent camped next to a small stream. Late on night two, I took a pot down to the stream to gather water to douse our campfire. It was very dark. I was already a bit on edge because I had been kept awake the previous night by a mouse who wouldn't stop scratching at our tent. I knelt down to scoop up the water. Just as I put the pot into the stream, I heard, from about six inches away, the loudest sound — a terrifying slap on the water — that I had ever heard in my life. It was, I figured, probably just a harmless beaver slapping its tail to warn other beavers of my presence. Though I figured that much later because, at the time, I was sprinting back through the woods, pine branches pummeling my face and body, before diving into our tent.

"Did you hear that?" I yelled to Lindy.

"Yes! What was it?" she asked. "It sounded like a terrified bear crashing through the pines! And did you hear that high-pitched screaming?"

When we first moved to Minnesota in 2000, we tent camped with our daughter Hadley, then 2. In order to fully appreciate the diversity of our new state, we decided to explore the prairies of southwestern Minnesota at Blue Mounds State Park. Because we wanted only the best for our precious firstborn's first camping trip, we splurged on a new, three-person tent and bought our first air mattress. We'll be floating on a bed of air!

Four hours into that first night, all three of us were laying on a completely deflated air mattress on the rock-hard dirt of southwestern Minnesota. Fortunately, we didn't pay much attention to the pain of sleeping on prairie rocks, mostly because we were too distracted by fighting off the thousands of fist-sized black flies that were apparently trying to eat us down to our bones.

That air mattress, incidentally, was the first of 19 air mattresses we have purchased over the years, each one of which was apparently designed to deflate entirely by 3 a.m. and then never hold air again due to a leak along a seam. I know it is 19, because that is the number of different air mattress pumps we have in our garage.

During our first stay at Whitewater State Park, we had to leave in the middle of the night when our son, Henry, then 3, would not stop screaming, mostly because the air mattress had deflated at 3 a.m. and left us sleeping on a very aggressive root system. Fortunately, we didn't pay much attention to the pain of sleeping on the roots, mostly because we were too distracted by the rain, which was pouring through every seam in the tent. That was also the year that I woke up to realize that, luckily, the sticky s'more residue on my hands had managed to entrap a spider before it made its way down my sleeping bag.


On the last morning of this year's camping trip at Lazy-D, we woke up in The Lodge on intact mattresses in real beds to realize, only now, that it had rained the night before. We hadn't heard it over the hum of the air conditioner.

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