Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Camping is not EZ

 In 1990 my family and I were living in Okinawa, Japan, as part of my military assignment. 

The military had a ‘retreat’ at Okuma Beach. Okuma was truly beautiful. On one occasion, my wife and I left the family in our eldest daughter’s care (she was 18 and a high-school graduate by then) and went to Okuma Beach for the weekend. We took a small pop-up tent and not much else as this was intended to be a real ‘get away’ for us. We had a great day and dinner at the club. Our campsite was all set up in the crowded campground. Night fell and we crawled into the low tent and retired to our sleeping bags by about 10pm. Okinawa is hot. And very often, humid. This night must have been trying to set a record on both counts. Dead still, not a sign of a breeze, the temperature hovered around 100F and the humidity was so high it felt like a sauna inside the tent. This tent had a removeable ‘fly’ at the top, which we had taken off to allow us to view the heavens through the screened open top of the tent. The flaps were all open and tied back in an attempt to capture any vestige of moving air. There was no moving air. There was no idea of getting INTO the sleeping bags, rather we lay on top trying to sleep. Pajamas were abandoned for underwear. In the sticky heat, that clothing was soon clinging to our sweat-covered bodies and even that light material was too much, so was removed. Finally, probably around midnight, despite the discomfort of the heat, we drifted to sleep, skyclad, as my Wiccan friends would say. 

FLASH! CRASH! BANG! Then SPLASH! Thunder, lightning, then torrential tropical rain awoke us, fierce wind shook the tent—a severe thunderstorm had moved in. What was it, 2:30am or so? Remember that open ‘fly’ at the top of the tent? It now served as a direct conduit for rain to drench in as if through a funnel—and the rainwater felt cold after the earlier steamy heat we had experienced. Looking outside through the tent-door-flap screen, I could see that all was in total darkness—the electricity must be off, as all of the security lighting around the campground was out. My wife, muttering, had pulled a sleeping bag over her nakedness to fend off the rain. Well, there was nothing for it but to try to get that ‘fly’ fastened back onto the top of the tent to protect us and our belongings from the rain. I told her, “Zip up all of the side flaps to keep the rain out!”

Fortunately, the fly was inside the tent and I knew exactly where it was. Unzipping the screen flap, I grabbed the fly and forged out, on hands and knees, onto wet sand and into the driven rain. Desperately holding the flapping nylon fly material in the wind, I stood and felt for the loops to which secure the flap with its clips. FLASH! BANG! The world was briefly illuminated by lightning as if it were noon. That meant I could see the first of the clips. It also meant, that if anyone were looking, they could see me. In all my glory. In the wind-driven rain. Fighting with a piece of nylon tent material. Snap. One clip done. FLASH! BANG! With each bolt of lightning the world was daylight again for a second. Snap. Two clips. Snap. Three clips. FLASH! BANG! Finally, I finished fastening the fly, dropped to hands and knees, and with one final FLASH! I crawled into the tent. 

As I pulled the door flap shut and zipped it, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The storm moved on to the east, but it had, at least cooled the temperature and left a gentle and steady breeze in its wake. We were able to once again open the side and door flaps, with screens in place, and while wet, we were comfortable enough to get some sleep, awaking to a gorgeous sunrise.

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