15A familiar scene in many films features a family planning their summer holiday. Dad sits at a table covered with maps and colourful brochures from amusement parks, mountain resorts and historic locations.
And then Mom, Dad, Junior and Miffy and Muffy (the twins) cluster together and consider each destination until a family consensus is reached – and off they go!
Welcome to Redneck Riviera
As a child, I was always a bit confused by that scene.
Throughout my boyhood, the Weaver clan, rakish thousandaires that we were, did one thing only during our summer break. We went camping. At the same place. Every year.
When the first week of August rolled around, Dad loaded up our ancient Falcon station wagon and we headed for Redneck Riviera – Eagle’s Nest Camping Ground in Ocean City, MD.
Crammed with food, a tent, sleeping bags, kids and several dogs, the old Ford actually groaned as we headed down the highway. It often displayed its displeasure by quitting miles from any restroom. We peed outside a lot. Excellent training for my eventual move to Denmark.
The great outdoors
Danes are wild about camping, so my wife and I have subjected … err, treated … our children to the joys of sleeping in leaky nylon dwellings as well. I only hope they will forgive me someday.
The years march on, but the camping experience remains the same, be it on Bornholm or the east coast of the US.
The camping places at Eagle’s Nest consisted of a rotting picnic table, dubious electrical sockets screwed to a rusty metal pole and a leaky tap supplying all the salty, warm, brackish water we could drink.
We pitched our tent near a scenic drainage ditch, the perfect location to enjoy the mosquitoes. I would lie awake, listening to them as they tore through the impotent netting with their bare proboscises. We always thought the sultry sea air made us sluggish, but I realise now it was probably those nightly blood donations.
A gourmet dream
Killer mosquitoes and stroke-inducing heat followed by torrential rain aside, it was always a rush when Mom started frying chicken and boiling eggs the night before the trip. Dad hosed down the rusty metal cooler, packed it with ice and loaded in the food. He also tossed a box of night crawlers in as well. In the same cooler. And we had a few laughs when scavengers mistook the worm cartons for leftover Chinese food … like my parents were ever going to actually buy food while camping.
We ate what was in the cooler. It got pretty gamey after about five days, but my dad was a believer in the “if they get hungry enough, they’ll eat” school of nutrition.
Seen through the haze of nostalgia and summer afternoons, I remember those trips fondly. We laughed, swam, sang, played guitars, suffered epic sunburns and fell in and out of summer romances (which can also sting).
There were no breakfast buffets, just Mom burning some eggs and bacon over a camping stove. We kids took off right after breakfast, turning up at lunch for a leftover hotdog sandwich and disappearing again until the moon rose up over the ocean.
I always wondered what my Mom and Dad did all day in that stuffy tent while we were gone. Now that I have kids of my own, I think I can guess.
The wife and I have been needing some quality time. Time to load up the wagon …