Tag Archives: Quiz

Camping vs. glamping: Incident at Site 82

Throwback Thursday: I’m sharing again this post first written two years ago when my Beloved and I were living more-or-less full-time in a 355-square-foot RV. Camping season is upon us, and sometimes even the bad experiences are worth it because they make great stories. Like this one …

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Interested in the differences between camping and glamping? Take this quiz, followed by a cautionary tale.

1. Your food is stored:

  • A. In a cooler on ice.
    B. In a refrigerator with an ice maker.

2. You sleep on a:

  • A. Sleeping bag on the ground.
  • B. Bed. With sheets.

3. Your entertainment includes:

  • A. A 50-inch fire pit and marshmallow sticks.
  • B. A 50-inch flat-screen TV connected to a satellite dish.

4. Your primary tool for tidying up is:

  • A. The plastic bag from Wal-Mart that originally carried your groceries.
  • B. The central vac.

5. Your plumbing system is best described thusly:

  • A. You wash your dishes in a bucket, you take a sponge bath in a bucket and you pee in a bucket.
  • B. You wash your dishes in a sink with a pull-out spray spout, you bathe in a hot-water shower and you pee in a toilet that flushes.

If you answered mostly As, you’re camping. Fun, because who doesn’t like s’mores cooked over a flaming campfire, right? If you answered mostly Bs, you’re glamping. Lucky you.

Of all these elements of a great adventure, the primary determinant that separates the campers from the glampers is the plumbing.

But when the plumbing goes bad, as illustrated by Hollywood to great comic effect by Cousin Eddie in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and Robin Williams in “RV,” a glamping trip becomes Chinese water torture in a flash. Or a flood. Depending.

Our worst problems on the road have been plumbing problems. My Beloved has replaced the toilet in our RV twice, for example, but nothing compares to the incident at Site 82.

It all began one sunny afternoon with a loud and terrible noise that could be described as a cross between a clunk and a crunch.

I was inside, my Beloved was outside. I ran to the door and leaned out, “What was that?!”

“I don’t know,” my Beloved replied, his eyes wide. “But where is that gushing sound coming from?!”

Lo and behold, a pipe beneath the camper was spurting. And the underbelly of the camper was seriously deformed.

Our first instincts were to sniff the air.

“Doesn’t smell like black water,” I said, a tiny bit relieved.

If you’re not sure what black water is, it’s the stuff in National Lampoon’s “shitter.” No further definition is necessary.

RV plumbing also includes something called “gray water.” This is the tank that contains the rinse water from the shower and sinks. In our RV, our gray water is further separated into “galley water” which comes specifically from the kitchen drain.

A lake of cold soapy water infused with food particles and coffee grounds was quickly forming beneath our camper in Site 82.

After a bit of hand-wringing (me) and crawling through the damp gravel under the camper to scope out the damage (my Beloved), we determined the galley tank had become unmoored and the exit pipe busted.

Plan A: Call a repairman.

We located a RV repairman with “trusty” in his brand name and, wonder of wonders, he answered his cell phone.

But, being the week before Memorial Day weekend, he was not only trusty but also busy. He could pencil us into his schedule in two weeks.

Two weeks?! We were scheduled to leave this campground in three days. And we have non-refundable reservations at a highly-prized campground east of here.

Not only that, the trusty repairman was well-connected, and he said knowingly that RV service centers would probably make us wait eight weeks.

Ohhhhkay, then.

Plan B: Repair it ourselves.

First, my Beloved had to take things apart, which began by eviscerating the underbelly of the camper to expose the plumbing system. After much grunting and groaning and rolling around on the damp gravel while I fetched various tools from various cubby holes (“what’s the difference between a wrench and a socket wrench again?”), he determined the parts required to fix the problem.

And then we went to bed. Exhausted.

The next day, we made not one but two visits to Home Depot. The repairs required the following tools, most we already owned (because my Beloved hoards tools the way I collect shoes) and a few we purchased:

  • Flashlight.
  • Floor jack.
  • Utility knife.
  • Screwdriver. And screws, of course.
  • Sockets and ratchet (“there is no such thing as a socket wrench”).
  • Sawzall (borrowed).
  • Hammer. But not nails.
  • PVC pipe.
  • Zip ties.
  • Ratchet straps.
  • Silicone.
  • Compression union.
  • Washers.
  • Plastic fender washers.
  • Scissors.
  • And, since no job is complete without it, duct tape of the gorilla variety. Because it’s “super strong.”

Also, cardboard. It’s amazing how much easier it is to crawl around beneath a camper when there’s a bed of unfolded cardboard boxes over the gravel.

At the end of Day 2, my Beloved left the underbelly exposed in order to let the silicon in the piping dry and so he could check for leaks.

On the morn of Day 3, no leaks could be found. Yay! So my Beloved commenced in stitching together the camper underbelly like an experienced cosmetic surgeon (and I continued my role as nurse who handed him the correct tools). He even spray-painted the white plastic fender washers black to match the belly skin. To impress the zerk greaser, I guess.

As most disaster stories are told, it’s said “it could have been worse.” This is true of this story, too.

Our gray water tank could have broken three days earlier when we were camping in a place where the ground is optimistically described as “loamy.” Negative Nellies might describe it as spongey. But in any case, when combined with rain, it was the perfect ingredient for making mud. And Mother Nature delivered rain three of the four days we were there.

But even worse, it could have been our black water tank. In telling our story to a fellow camper while cooling off in the pool at the end of Day 2, she related a story of a black water tank explosion that could only be fixed after the work of waste cleaners in haz-mat suits to the tune of $2,400.

Our repairs cost only $67.38.

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Epilogue: We went on our merry glamping way as scheduled after the Incident at Site 82. Since then, we’ve experienced flat tires and broken axle connections while traveling with our trusty RV, but fortunately, the black water flows as it should: Downstream and contained in PVC.

What your favorite Christmas cookie says about you

It’s the time of year flour, sugar and butter manufacturers live for: Christmas cookie baking season. Bakers across the country (and the world) celebrate the season by assembling different combinations of these three ingredients (plus an assortment of others) to tempt the rest of us into gaining Christmas pounds so we can resolve to lose them in January.

Your favorite Christmas cookie can reveal your personality, but before we look deep into your psyche, a definition is in order: Christmas cookies may have chocolate chips, but chocolate chip cookies are not Christmas cookies! As I have ranted in the past, Christmas cookies are special, once-a-year ordeals. They use special ingredients — like crushed candy canes or chocolate extract or dried cranberries or apricot jam. Or they come in special shapes — like spritz cookies or gingerbread men. Or they require complicated assembly, like sandwich cookies or red-hot-nosed reindeer cookies or those tedious twisted candy canes made of vanilla and red-colored sugar cookie dough. Or they have special toppings like powdered sugar or frosting or crushed nuts.

Chocolate chip cookies are for every day – they’re not for Christmas!

So with that in mind, what’s the one Christmas cookie you never pass up when the cookie plate comes your way? The one you pray to see when the neighbors gift you a batch? The one kind you’d make if you had enough discipline to bake only one batch this season?

I Like To Help: Sugar Cookies

My sugar cookies are decorated with mini M&Ms this year (because I thought they needed help).

My sugar cookies have mini M&Ms this year (because they need help).

When I worked at Target long ago, my name tag (and everyone else’s) read “My Name is [insert first name here] & I Like To Help.” I was imbued with the servant heart I don’t possess, but if sugar cookies are your favorite, helpfulness probably comes naturally to you. Sugar cookies are the Mr. Rogers of the holiday neighborhood: Everyone likes them because they have no offensive qualities like nuts, foreign spices or messy powdered sugar. They offer sweetness and light time after time.


Look At Me: Spritz Cookies

Sylvester Stallone probably likes spritz cookies. Making them, too.

Sylvester Stallone probably likes spritz cookies. Making them, too.

Your favorite Leo probably likes spritz cookies. The ingredients are plain vanilla (with a dash of almond flavoring), but their presentation is anything but. Sometimes food coloring is added to the dough, it’s tortured by being squeezed through a press and decorated with sprinkles. If you like spritz cookies, you’re popular, you work hard to distinguish yourself from others and you’re probably physically attractive. You’re the king of the jungle, and anyone who doesn’t believe that gets mauled and eaten.



Second Thoughts: Snowballs

Nutty on the inside, sweet on the outside.

Nutty on the inside, sweet on the outside.

These cookies go by a half-dozen different names: Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian (or Polish) Tea Cakes, Butter Pecan Cookies, Snowballs, Crescents, Pecan Sandies or one of the 5 million names that come up when you enter the recipe into Google. Also known as Those Buttery Cookies With the Powdered Sugar that Make Such A Mess on My Sweater. Despite the coating, they’re distinctive because the dough has relatively little sugar. If snowballs are your favorite, you eat fudge when you want sugar; you eat snowballs when you want Christmas cookies. You think deep thoughts and might be considered eccentric or even radical. At your best, you’re a genius, at your worst, you’re schizophrenic (what name are you going by today?). You probably hate sugar cookies and when you do actually bake, you don’t like to share.

Hey, Man, Don’t Get Crazy on Me: Gingerbread

cookiegingerbreadEverything about gingerbread says tradition. It’s been around for a 1,000 years in various incarnations; in contemporary times, it’s a handy building block: Think gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. If gingerbread is your favorite, you like a good rut, a good boss and good political party. Family and friends are important to you. Without people like you, the world is an anarchy of white chocolate bark, chocolate sprinkles and whole cloves.

Just Wanna Have Fun: Peanut Blossoms

The No. 1 favorite cookie by many measures, peanut blossoms marry cookies with candy (and Hershey’s Kisses is forever grateful). And who can deny the appeal of peanut butter? If peanut blossoms are your favorite, you’re dazzlingly multitalented, uninhibited and enthusiastic. Haters call you hyperactive. What do they know? They probably like gingerbread.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies or Macaroons

cookiewhitechocolateWhite chocolate cranberry cookies differentiate themselves from chocolate chip cookies with seasonally appropriate coloring that coordinates with Santa’s suit. And the crazy coconut of macaroons reflect his beard. If one of these types of cookies are your favorite, you’re courageous, possibly heroic, and entrepreneurial (how else could you deliver toys to 2 billion children every Christmas Eve?). At your worst, you’re a megalomaniac running an elf sweatshop in a country without income taxes.

Mr. Spock’s Favorite: Biscotti

cookiebiscottiBiscotti is both the bane and the savior of the holiday baker: It’s a pain in the arse to bake it twice, but once done, crisp biscotti lasts until the 12 days of Christmas are a faint memory. “Moist” and “soft” are insulting to biscotti. If you like biscotti best, you’re wise, ethical and humorless. Be honest: The only reason you even profess to like Christmas cookies is because they’re an excuse to drink coffee.

What’s In A Name: Snickerdoodle

cookiesnickerdoodlesWithout the cinnamon coating and a name that’s as fun to say as boondoggle and dingus, snickerdoodles wouldn’t even qualify as Christmas cookies. If snickerdoodles are your favorite, you’re peace-loving and unpretentious, but whatever you do, don’t bring these to the Christmas cookie exchange: Your lack of flash will get the stink eye from the woman whose favorite cookie is in our final category.

Everything but a pageant sash: Cookie contest cookies and anything with pretzels

Photo by Six Sisters' Stuff

Photo by Six Sisters’ Stuff

Who needs flour, sugar and butter when there are so many other ingredients in the world?  If your favorite Christmas cookie is the one you’ve never seen before it appears on a plate from your familial gourmand, you’re creative and you know it, clap your hands. You are a romantic, possibly tortured and probably competitive. Aesthetics are important to you. And you probably play a mean game of Scrabble.

Daily newspapers across the Midwest hold Christmas cookie contests every year to inspire bakers to try new things, but that’s just a cover: Reporters like free cookies and Christmas cookie contests are a lot more delicious than lutefisk tasting contests. I devour the annual recipes with amused curiosity. Who has time for 16-step recipes and where can you find ground chipotlé pepper (don’t neglect the accent)? But these are my favorite cookies. Really, who can resist cookies with names that include chai latte, salted caramel and spiced something-r-other. My sister is taunting me on Pinterest with pins of elaborate cookies she thinks I should make in preparation for her visit later this month, but this one she sent sounds divine despite the multi-step recipe: Chubby Hubby Buckeye Peanut Butter Truffles. Because it has peanut butter. And crushed pretzels.

I am an artiste.

How about you?