We thought of ourselves as serious travelers. So what could be simpler than a 3-night, late summer get-away on the Delaware shore?
We reserved a walk-in camping site at Cape Henlopen State Park months earlier but were so busy in the weeks leading up to the trip that we didn’t give our imminent departure much thought.
A few days before the trip, we mentioned in passing that we needed to begin packing. Nothing happened. It wasn’t until the day before that Beth took the tent and shade canopy out of the storage unit. Joe remembered the mallet. We threw a few clothes in small bags.
The morning of departure we overslept. We raced to get the last few things packed, threw a few snacks in a bag, and triumphantly added our bed pillows which had never come with us on a camping trip before, but this time there seemed to be plenty of room in the car. Off we went.
The first stop was Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. We looked for birds with our binoculars. Hundreds of American avocets wading in a pond some distance away. They seemed to be the only birds of any number we spotted that afternoon. Maybe this wasn’t our lucky day?
We tried to shake off that thought as we headed off for lunch. The highly rated restaurant in Dover did not look promising from the outside. Maybe our luck was turning – as the service was good and the seafood was delicious. Our good cheer vanished when, in the middle of our lunch conversation, Beth realized she’d forgotten to pack the sleeping mats. Could we get along without them? Then, Joe remembered, not only had we forgotten the sleeping mats, we’d forgotten the sleeping bags as well! Who takes a camping trip without sleeping bags and mats? We’d driven too far to go back and retrieve them, and it was a late Sunday afternoon in a not highly populated area – so now what could we do?
We came up with an idea. Joe did an internet search, and we headed for the nearest option just a few miles down the road: Walmart. Some minutes later we came out with 2 warm weather sleeping bags @ $9.97/each and a heavy blanket to act as a sleeping pad @ $14.93. A disaster averted!
We had a lovely time exploring old, historic Lewes, Delaware.
We spent hours walking on the beaches of both Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
The food was delicious, and we enjoyed browsing in our new environment. The downsides of camping became apparent that first night: camping on one side of us was a family with a baby who cried us to sleep and awoke Joe at regular intervals through the night. On the other side of us was a travel group of 15 or 16 – mostly high school boys – who were loud, boisterous, and oblivious to all other campers. They, at least, quieted down at 10pm and slept through the night.
The last night, we awoke after 2AM to several young women carrying on a loud conversation in their nearby, well-lit tent. After a very long time, we had to get up, remind them that this was QUIET TIME in the campground, and, within minutes, the lights were extinguished, and the campground was truly dark and silent for the first time in many nights.
We kept discovering over the 3-day trip many more items we’d neglected to pack – like bug-spray. We asked ourselves, “How did we leave so much behind?” And the answer is not hard to understand. We both wanted to take a trip, but neither wanted to do anything to get ready for it. We must have hoped the other would cover all the packing that we ourselves had put off doing.
Right after the new blanket and sleeping bags were set up in the tent, Beth sat down at the picnic table that first day to create a spreadsheet to itemize “things to pack for future camping trips.”
We realized that in all past travels we’ve relied on lists, and they’d always worked before. We’d never tested, until now, what happens when we don’t create and use a list. We can say definitely that we have now proven that everything falls apart without a well-thought out, itemized record of what-to-take with us.
Maybe that has meaning well beyond a camping trip.