You see, in spite of the fact that my wardrobe appears to be incompatible with the camping lifestyle (not to be confused with “the gay lifestyle,” whatever that is), I like to camp.
And I’m here to tell you: it’s easier to put on a dress in a tent than it is long pants.
I’m also here to tell you that even when camping, you won’t see me wearing sneakers as everyday shoes. To me, they are specialty-use only, meant for actual exercise- or yard work.
So… in preparation for this year’s Memorial Day camping trip to the Virginia Women’s Music Festival, tucked away in central Virginia, first I did my pedicure- and then I chose my shoes: a fancy little pair of flat thongs that my sister brought home from her exotic travels to Indonesia (yes, flats!), a quirky pair of black platform thongs, and my Frye boots.
So very practical.
I also took my lucite-heeled mules strictly for my Friday evening as MC on stage. Not too bad for grass and dirt walking, though admittedly not ideal. I was certainly not under the impression that I would do any major camping in these shoes.
See- I’m luxury-minded, yet still very practical.
Just for Friday night
(Note: This post is my longest ever! I won’t be offended if you hang up on me BUT maybe you’ll sit back, put your feet on your desk, and read on because you are, deep down, oh so very curious.)
Because I spent a period of time a while back as a minimalist camper carrying as little as possible, we used to camp in a sharp and snappy little 4-person backpacker’s tent (which we all know is really only for two people).
But these days, while a certain member of our party is a backpacker- that’s her story and she’s sticking to it- the rest of us have sworn off little tents.
GF and I have graduated to an 8-person Coleman Taj-Ma-Tent (with a hinged door!) that we keep borrowing from a couple of cool friends who’ve graduated to the next level- a pop-up camper. I can see us going pop-up eventually, but that could mean giving up the nice sites that only tent campers get, so we’re weighing the pros and cons.
Anyhoo, on our annual trip to “CampOut,” we once again lounged in the Taj-Ma-Tent, only this time we didn’t even share it like we’d done before. We had the place to ourselves!
Yes, that’s right; two of us in an 8-person tent.
Still, though, a certain unnamed camper one-upped us this year with her brand-new 9-person Taj-Ma-Tent with two hinged doors. It was like a department store, that tent.
But I’m telling you, this big-tent thing is the life:
A hinged walk-on-in door, a queen-sized mattress with a rug at the foot and room for our matching Vera Bradley* duffle bags, a bed-side table (alright- an upside down crate), and space to walk around.
The lap of luxury.
(*Um… for the record, we got 100% reliable info from a member of our party that Vera Bradley’ sister- who is friends with our friend- has a fabulous girlfriend of many years! Who knew?)
Anyway, we all joined forces in a group site called “Woody,” which meant that we had a minimum of eight campers, which pretty much discourages minimalism if you think about it.
Our site, ready-made with hammock
Yep, we’ve moved on.
Give me a Taj-Ma-Tent and a village of friends, a Coleman stove complete with frying pans and a tea kettle , multiple coolers, a screened-in kitchen, and a well-stocked bar ANY day.
The kitchen & bar
To further illustrate the level of luxury on this camping trip, the folks at CampOut offer up three kick-ass meals a day plus snacks, hot-water-under-the-stars-showers-with-adjacent-flowerbeds, pre-set-up campsites (tent and all!), air mattress blow-up services, ice delivery, and trash pick-up- and they’ll even haul your stuff to your site for you.
Yes, I’m talking five-star camping here.
We’ve arrived to this festival a day early three years in a row now, which I totally recommend for the relaxation factor. The festival music starts Friday night and for the second year, I was fortunate to hang out backstage with the uber-cool stage crew and stars and then get on stage as Friday night’s MC.
Call me Coco Q.
FRIDAY NIGHT: First up for music was the talent-rich, crazy-fun and funny Jamie Anderson, followed by a smooth and pretty duo with cool guitars, Driftwood Fire. The wild-haired Australian with the mighty voice, Martine Locke and two her sexy drummers wrapped up the evening with some big, fun energy.
Fortunately, Martine let everyone know that Act #1, Jamie Anderson, was giving away free drinks all weekend back at her site.
This seemed to come as a surprise to Jamie.
Later there was a dance with proud new mom, DJ Michelle. She was playing lots of techno dance music- or at least I think that’s what it was- and my GF and I sidled over to the DJ’s booth and asked for some oldies. She looked at us like we were, well, old, at which point Carla of the CampOut staff tells me, “Hey, suck it up! You’re practically staff- you’ve got to play with the team- we’ve got young people here now!!”
She put me in my place, that Carla did.
SATURDAY began with CampOut staffer, Kari’s new project, the first-ever CampOut 5K, a treacherous, yet lovely, trail run/walk through forests, by flower beds, along Lake Towanda and a muddy bank or two, up a steep hill with a sign saying, “Make this hill your bitch,” and finally wrapping up by the camp kitchen, a beaming Kari draping each runner and walker with her handmade CampOut medals and offering free beer, which few took her up on, though the water was popular.
The coveted CampOut 5K medal
GF ran the course and even beat her last 5K time, which surprised us both, given the rugged terrain and the hills, which she is most assuredly not accustomed to here at sea level.
She also beat quite a few other runners, not that that mattered to her as much as it did to me.
Now, sound checks are part of the loveliness that is being in the “Woody” site so close to the stage- such a tease. And with Kris, the sound genius at command central, I have yet to hear better music quality at any event- outdoors or in.
I’m telling you, the woman’s got a gift.
Music began that morning with the lovely and crystal-voiced guitar player, Christie Lenee, followed by Nancy Beaudette totally belting out her right-on, full-out creations and throwing in a real oldie for a sing-along- “Georgie Girl” (remember that?!) Then our favorite couple of Jersey girls, Virago, let loose on some fiery love and justice songs.
We then took an afternoon break for a hay ride down to Lake Towanda.
Headed to Lake Towanda
Luckily we located our favorite air-mattress from years past and a few of us floated on it for hours. I was in the middle so I was freed up from steering or paddling and could concentrate on sunbathing.
What a princess.
SATURDAY NIGHT‘s music started with a creative couple of gals called nervous but excited playing what they refer to as “pleasantly aggressive folk music.” Then the peace-loving, crowd-pleasing, get-your-passion-on Sonia & disappear fear got us feeling all great about everything.
The pace took a turn toward party when Sister Funk came flying onto stage before dark and played at full tilt into the night, and finally, the Saturday night dance party of all dance parties commenced, led by the incredibly versatile rock-n-roll party band, Wicked Jezabel who played for two high-energy hours without coming up for air.
Meanwhile there’s a bonfire every night for the fire sitters to gather ’round.
And new this year, there were light-up hula hoops and my GF had her first-ever hula hoop success. I’m telling you, milestone after milestone this year!
GF and the light-up hula hoop
SUNDAY started with sound checks and then Martine Locke took the stage as MC and started egging on Jamie Anderson and fellow MC and musician Christy Snow, to the point where the two of them rushed the stage and started chasing her around while Martine thought she could hide behind a column.
Of course we could all see her.
The beautiful Crys Matthews then started Sunday’s music off with her sexy voice and tight, gutsy ballads and was followed up by one of the most amazing singers I’ve ever heard live, Veronika Jackson, whose voice I was supposed to have gotten- I have a feeling that this woman’s voice could blow out whole sound systems.
In the evening the ever-powerful good-time trio with the three big voices, Mama’s Black Sheep filled the stage. Indigie Femme, a creative force with a Navajo singer and a drummer whose smile lights up the whole campground, wrapped up their set and the festival with an all-out celebration of musicians that they brought to the stage.
Enjoying the music
After the day’s music, we headed down to the lake for a Memorial Day celebration and floated candlelit wooden disks festooned with American and rainbow flags in honor of our military family and friends. So beautiful.
Memorial Day at Lake Towanda
After Friday night’s techno dance party experience, which was not our cup of tequila, we decided to skip Sunday night’s dance and have a fire at our site, since we had a fire ring down at Woody and all.
We passed on the s’mores and went far more gourmet, as one of the truly industrious in our group decided to fill banana halves with chocolate and mini-marshmallows- she cut the bananas crosswise, left them in the skin with a slice down the center and then wrapped the stuffed treasures in foil. She set them over hot coals.
We smelled them while they cooked- and we waited.
When they were done, she unwrapped these decadent little desserts, showered them with a few extra mini-marshmallows “just for garnishing purposes,” and of course we ate not only the elegant grilled chocolate bananas, but also the garnish.
So, sitting around the fire laughing and BS-ing, you can imagine our surprise when what do we hear coming from up at the pavilion where the dance is taking place? Yes, you are correct- oldies. Brick House, Play That Funky Music White Boy, You Sexy Thing, YMCA, We Are Family, and a Donna Summer must-hear, Last Dance.
We just shook our heads. Was Sunday “senior night” and we didn’t know it?
MONDAY came all too quickly. We lolligagged out of our luxurious beds and started breaking up housekeeping, but of course not without a proper breakfast of omelets, biscuits, and fresh fruit.
Our breakfast chef licking her fingers
One last luxurious meal.
After a frustrating go of it on Thursday, I managed to back our trailer smoothly down the windy path into our site. We packed everything up in record time, filled out our surveys, gathered our snacks, stopped by the port-a-janes for good measure, said our good-byes, loaded all our new CDs from the weekend, and sadly pointed our rig homeward.
We were on the road for less than 30 minutes before we started talking about next year’s trip, planning what to pack, what else might add practical luxury to our experience, who else to invite, and wondering if we should stay through Tuesday next time to help clean up after the big party?
Oh, to prolong the magic…
Other (shorter) posts for you to enjoy:
To Courtney: Why I Ignored Your Friend Request On Facebook
Thank You, Amendment One, For The Ass-Kicking
Bucking The System, The Early Years