Thursday, June 20, 2013

Throwback Post: Suburban Camping

*Throwback Post #5*

I've never been one to make big, in-depth plans for Labor Day Weekend. It's always been an extended weekend filled with rest and the start of college football. This past weekend, though, I decided to do something different. I went camping...sort of.

About a week prior to Labor Day, I was approached by Jen (another AmeriCorps member from NY) about doing something Labor Day Weekend that got us out of our apartments and to a different part of the area. I instantly agreed and after some planning and asking around, we settled on camping.

As the weekend crept up on us, we researched various options. One of the places we came across was on an island and looked super sweet. However, upon further research, it was discovered that in order to get out to said island, it would cost around $600 for a boat - one way! New sites and plans were quickly made and executed!

We finally settled on the T.Y. Campground, which is located about 40 minutes south in Hollywood, FL. It was reasonably priced and had plenty of room. SOLD! It was even near a lake, pool, and small water park!
On Saturday, Jen Rebecca, Phetsada, Tavia, and myself piled into Jen's car. We stuffed all of our gear into her trunk (and back seat!) and headed off to WalMart for food and other necessary supplies. After our purchases had been made and the car was re-packed (thanks to the master Tetris skills of Tavia!), we headed off to find our campsite. The trip down was fairly quick and uneventful. The real fun began once we reached the park.

As we pulled into the entrance of the park, we quickly realized that we weren't going to be camping in the traditional sense. There were no woods, no real outdoorsy setting surrounding us. We were in the middle of the suburbs at a local city park. The interstate and neon lights surrounded us as we made our way to the campsite office to try and reserve a spot. Once we arrived there, we found out that this was a site designed for RV camping, not tent camping (despite the information that Jen had received when she called to inquire about the site).

We decided to go and check out the site to see if we wanted to stay or try to find somewhere else for the night. As we were driving around the park/campsite, we quickly noticed that were mainly the only white, Caucasian faces around. Being in the minority like that was definitely a new experience for most of us. When we arrived at the actual sites, we discovered that they were comprised of a slab of concrete and a small patch of grass. There weren't that many people there, so we decided to go ahead and stay and make the most of it.

Once our reservation had been secured (complete with some sideways glances and a little bit of attitude from the people at the front desk), we made our way back to our site (#20!), set up the tent, and got settled in. We sat down to play some cards and watch the sunset before starting up the grill and getting dinner started. Turkey burgers, corn-on-the-cob, and s'mores were all on the menu and ended up being a great meal and start to our night!

Following dinner, we played some games, engaged in some meaningful conversations, and just had an amazing time under the stars, full moon, and neon lights of the surrounding buildings. Many laughs and joyful tears were shared as we got to know each other more and were able to fully enjoy the company of new friends. Around midnight, we started to slowly trickle into the tent for a restful night's sleep. Or so we thought...

At about 4 a.m., the daily Florida showers rolled through (mind you these showers normally occur from 3-5 pm everyday - this one was just a tad ahead of schedule). Of course, we hadn't put on the rain guard on the top of the tent. Once the rain came, we felt it due to the mesh opening at the top of the tent. Tavia and Rebecca were running around outside trying to get the rain guard on while Jen, Phetsada, and myself tried to keep ourselves and our belongings dry. We weren't completely successful. Rebecca ended up sleeping in Jen's car, while the rest of us crammed into the middle part of the tent to avoid the puddles alone the perimeter of the tent.

In the morning (or about 5 hours later), we all rolled out of the stuffy, heat box that the tent had become overnight, shared a lovely breakfast of bananas and fruit snacks, packed up the tent and our stuff, and headed back to the apartments. Once we arrived back to Las Ventanas (the name of our apartment complex), we went down to the pool and partook in a BBQ that was being held with the other AmeriCorps members that are in the program. It was nice to be able to relax by the pool, enjoy some more food, and spend time with the other members.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend filled with tons of memories, stories, and great times. The next camping trip will hopefully be just as memorable, if not more!

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