May 23, 2013

Camping: There is no substitute

Camping is good for the soul. It’s also good for the wallet. Both of these adages were soaring through my head as we drove out of cloistered Yokohama at 0530 – that’s no typo, 0530! -- in the morning on the first day of the Golden Week holiday. We’ve found the only surefire way to escape the predictable traffic jams that signal a long holiday is to just simply outwork the competition. So, our holiday began with a crazy-early drive toward the Izu Peninsula. It worked: scored a smooth exit from the city and down the coast.

To relax as we journeyed toward our destination we had to quell the mutiny in the backseat. Quarrels between the sisters abound in the confined space of the rear seats. We endured their conversations, spiked with kiddie expletives, and drowned out the racket with music. As we drove on, I heard only a few “I’m bored” quips and “how much longer” queries, which we studiously avoided answering, lest it generate even more. I was inspired to keep going by Van Morrison as we cruised down the coastal highway.
First stop: Izu Guranparu Park. This is an amusement park-cum-commando course and restaurant complex. We avoided the rides for the most part, but the girls, with their pent-up energy from the hours-long car ride, attacked the wooden beams, obstacles, and Tarzan rope swing with the gusto of Navy SEAL trainees. Marina was undaunted, clearly wanting to keep up with her older sister, while I ran shotgun to make sure she did not dent her head or otherwise do any permanent damage. 
Blood oxygen levels replenished, we proceeded further down the coastal highway, passing several hot spring resorts that were clearly not within our budget. Hence the camping.

Next up was the Atagawa Tropical and Alligator Garden. It was a fascinating pairing of Japan’s largest collection of alligators from around the world and tropical fauna.

Odd combination. There are three separate areas, one filled with pens containing the mostly-immobile alligators. The other two areas had some other creatures, and many hothouses with various flora and fauna, all kept warm by steam created by natural volcanic gases. We boarded the shuttle bus and visited all three areas, determined to get our money’s worth. It was a pleasant afternoon. The girls pestered us for treats and Elena would sometimes get exasperated and stomp off, but overall it was fun. Good spirits prevailed.

The nightcap: tent up, fireworks that dazzled the eyes. Elena is a pyro, just like her dad.
So, what are attractions of camping for the Rising Family? 
- Modern camping is comfortable and relatively inexpensive
- We’re low-maintenance: the camping part is just sleeping and fireworks
- My family is 75% chicks: clean toilets and bathing facilities are the only prerequisite
- We rarely cook or BBQ. Easier and cheaper to eat out. 
- Oh yeah: easy way to reconnect with nature without too much planning
 - I get to spend time with the girls without competing against friends or booping electronics
- We can go exploring (in this case, along the beach)
- I get to scare them at night with my flashlight pointed at my flaring nostrils together with my corney Darth Vader voice
- We wash off the day’s dirt at cheapo hot spring baths

No comments: