So… we camped.
If you recall from my previous blog, I am not a camper. My husband is not a camper. And my children have never camped.
We bought our first tent. We practiced setting it up in the yard, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. We bought our groceries and packed our beach towels.
On a beautiful Friday morning, we headed for western Nebraska to Lake McConaughy, a five-hour trip if we went straight through.
We stopped in Kearney at the Great Platte River Road Archway Memorial.
My husband and I thought it was high time we learned a little something about our state’s history. It felt a little “National Lampoon’s Vacation” as we forced my youngest up the escalator while he tried to get away from the mannequin pioneers while screaming “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!”
In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at the lake. My first impression: Wow! This is beautiful. The lake was so clear and green-turning-to-blue.
And the shoreline! It was covered with fine, white sand that I could already imagine sinking my toes into. I felt like I was back at the beach in Southern California, but with cleaner water and nicer sand.
After we bought our permits, we called our friends who had arrived shortly before us and scoped out our space. Carefully, we drove our all-wheel-drive SUV through some pretty thick sand down to the water.
My kids immediately wanted their swim trunks on, and I figured that was the best way to keep them occupied while we set up camp. We then planted ourselves firmly into our beach chairs with a cocktail.
Friday night’s dinner was a simple buffet because the propane grill wouldn’t stay lit for the grilled chicken sandwiches we had planned.
Later, the wind became the problem. My husband put the boys down for bed and informed me that the beautiful, fine white sand was pouring down into our tent through the mesh top and windows. We hurriedly zipped everything shut, and put the rain tarp on. Sideways.
It was hard to sleep that night with the wind shaking our tent and the sideways rain tarp flapping. But our kids slept through until 7 the next morning.
Still sleepy, we got up to gray skies and more wind.
Around lunch time the sun broke through and was in and out of the clouds all day long. But it was warm and relaxing. That is, until my husband tried to drive my half-potty-trained son up to the outhouse for a No. 2. This was after he attempted unsuccessfully to have him do it in a hole in the sand. He managed to get our car high centered in the drifts that had formed overnight.
A tractor had to tow him out, but he felt much less inept as we watched many other campers get stuck in the same spot throughout the day.
Saturday night, the sky started to look threatening, and by 7:30 p.m. we were piling into our tents. Around 8 p.m. the storm picked up, and so did the nasty wind. By then, we had put our rain tarp on correctly, but we still had to hold the front for fear one of the poles would snap. Magically, our kids slept right through it.
It was the most scared I’ve ever been in weather. Once it stopped, my friend and I ran out of our tents and embraced. We were relieved and grateful that a flying canopy or a tornado churning through our little campsite didn’t kill us all.
Luckily, the fire that we started right before the rain hit was still raging. We pulled up our beach chairs and spent the next few hours of a now-starry night reliving the storm and making jokes about how well we were “camping this lake.”
Sunday morning we packed up all of our gear. We took an “after” picture of our two families and started for home.
My husband and I were hesitant about camping from the beginning.
Yet even after getting our car stuck, the sand storm, the Category 5 rainstorm, almost-sleepless nights, and running out of gas (yes, we ran out of gas, too!), we had an amazing time.
I may not be into camping, but I am into white sand, warm fires, good friends and watching my kids have the time of their lives.
If a tent is part of that equation, then so be it.
Amy Grace is married with two children. Read her Fridays on momaha.com