This past weekend I went camping with a friend outside Fredericksburg. Actually, camping might be the wrong word…we stayed in a cabin with heat and electricity at a campground and for the outdoorsy part of our trip we watched part of a Yellowstone documentary on the free Wi-Fi network. I did learn a few lessons though. For example, when it says bring your own linens that means you have to bring pillows and blankets too, not just bed sheets and pillow cases. Also, it’s a good idea to make a list of things you need to take so you remember to pack things like soap, shampoo, towels and food.
But despite the chilly, pillow-less night and overall lack of practical food, being at a campsite always makes me feel good. When my siblings and I were little we spent two weeks every summer camping somewhere along the east coast. We’d pack our Cadillac Deville to the brim with blankets, food, camping supplies, backpacks, books, toys and bikes and then we’d spend the next 8, 10, 12 hours in a vicious and inevitable cycle of war and peace. Peace in a Cadillac packed with camping supplies and three kids (and sometimes an extra kid or dog) is not very peaceful so you can only imagine how hostile it got when things were bad. My mom would always purchase a meager bag of sour worms with the highly unrealistic hope of sleeping through the entire road trip by buying our silence with candy. I’ve never quite been able to understand why my mom believed sleep was a feasible objective when traveling with three little kids high on sugar and excited about summer vacation. I guess you could say my mom’s an optimist. But my mom was persistent and hopeful. As soon as someone started complaining, yelling or hitting, my mom would start dispensing sour gummy worms, one complaint, yell or hit at a time. They were usually gone within an hour and my mom was left without an effective bribing tool.
During our camping years, my brother and sister were going through their Cold War phase which also included the occasional threat and/or attack. My sister would put a pillow between her and my brother and inform my then 4, 5, 6-year-old brother that if he even thought about trespassing, he would face dire and violent consequences. So as all little brothers would, he spent the next 12 hours licking his fingers and threatening to give my sister wet willies, occasionally physically encroaching on her space. My sister never quite understood that ignoring the enemy (annoying little brother) is sometimes the most effective tactic; instead, she would engage the enemy with threats and, ultimately, violent retaliation. Eventually, my mom would reach her limit, tell us to be quiet and let her sleep and reach back to give my brother a disciplinary, warning pinch because it was always obvious he was the primary instigator. However, my brother was unusually flexible at that time and would spread his legs wide open, laughing maniacally the whole time, so that my mom would always miss his leg and end up pinching me or my sister. As you can imagine, my brother did not have very many allies on these trips and my mom never actually got any sleep. As for my dad, I just remember him hunched silently over the steering wheel, refusing to take sides or engage in whatever conflict was unfolding. For some reason, I don’t remember me being anything but an angel.
Anyway, we almost always went on vacation in August and my siblings and I slept in a tent meant for two so the nights were often humid, and stuffy – even miserable sometimes – but the days were full of freedom and exploration. We’d spend hours biking to and from the camp store where we would buy sodas, candy and cheap, cheesy souvenirs; we’d play in the pool, go on covert missions to spy on other campers and, of course, as with all family vacations, visit innumerable historic and cultural sites. For a good six or seven-year period, we went camping every year, visiting just about every state between Florida and Maine. There was even a three-week camping vacation to Canada one time. To this day, whenever I step foot on a campground I get all warm and fuzzy inside with memories of happy family vacations. Maybe that’s where my nomad life was born?
But back to the present. My friend and I stayed at the Fredericksburg/Washington KOA and it was nice and peaceful. The campground is located in Spotsylvania County about 15 miles outside Fredericksburg and it made for a great little weekend getaway just an hour south of D.C. Though technically part of the D.C metro area, Spotsylvania is a semi-rural county of about 120,000 people best known for being home to the Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg National Military Park as well as the place where Stonewall Jackson died. It’s whiter and more conservative than the inner suburbs, with smaller, older houses on large tracts of land, country roads, woods, open fields, strip malls, the occasional newer development and mostly empty highways; a picturesque and peaceful kind of place. Most of these pictures were taken during a country drive near the campground and some were taken in Fredericksburg.