Vail Daily Column: A canvas love shelter
July 29, 2010
We called it the “Honeymoon Tent.” It was named long before we were married.
Twenty years ago, my future mate and I were bicycling around Utah when our paths crossed for the first time. The first night we camped we noticed we both had the same tent. It was called the “Flashlight” – at the time it was the latest and greatest.
Over the course of a month, our relationship changed to the point where only one tent was required. We used mine because hers had a hole in the floor caused by a too-hot stove.
Ellen was not the first person I had shared that tent with, but she would be the last. I’m sure she had done some entertaining in hers as well, and it is possible that the hole in the floor wasn’t really caused by a stove.
Four years later, we married and brought the honeymoon tent along on our actual honeymoon on a two-month bike ride around New Zealand.
For the next 17 years, more than a few tents have come and gone, but the honeymoon tent remained in our garage – though seldom used.
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One reason for the lack of use was we bike-toured and backpacked less and used our small RV to take long trips that allowed us to bring assorted bikes and ski gear. When we did go backpacking, we usually opted for a larger, lighter, floorless tarp tent since our destination was usually above treeline where bugs are less of an issue.
I would bet the tent went for 15 years unused; that changed last week.
While packing for a three-day journey, we decided that the season was early and our destination wet enough that bugs could be a problem, so we broke out our old friend.
It was dejà vu stuffing the tent in my backpack. I could not remember the last time it was used.
The first day we stashed our gear and climbed a peak, making it back to camp as the clouds were building over the peaks. Ellen made dinner while I set up the tent in case the storm came our way.
“This can’t be right.” I said.
Ellen assumed something was mislaid.
“Are we missing some poles or stakes?” she asked.
“We have everything” I answered, “But this isn’t right.”
She walked over and looked at the just-erected domicile, and we both said at the same time, “How did we ever fit in that thing?”
Granted it had been at least 15 years since we spent the night in that tent; neither of us had put on weight, but the honeymoon tent looked impossibly small.
“How are we going to fit in that thing?” I asked again.
Ellen handed me a bowl of gruel and said, “Well, it is going to rain in about five minutes, so we’ll soon find out.”
I would like to believe my mate’s and my love has stood well the test of time. But over the years, we have learned that, in order for flower of fondness to grow, the roots should not be constricted. After spending many hours hiding from the rain and bugs in our honeymoon tent, we were sore, stiff and a little sick of each other. It began when I shifted positions and spilled pesto sauce on her goose down hoodie and was not helped by her kneeing me in the thigh while enjoying a REM spasm (she was dreaming of a larger tent). I also don’t remember, during those salad days of exploration and discovery, having to get up so many times in the course of the evening – requiring me to climb over my sleeping mate.
But just before we dozed off, as the rain hit the roof and the lightning boomed, we spoke of those early days when there was no such thing as too close. The memory of that took the sting out of the next morning’s stiff neck and bruised thigh.
We returned home, and I hung the tent in the garage to dry. The next day, I packed it up for the last time to give it to the teenage son of a friend of ours. I can only hope that, some day, he will share it with someone special. As for Ellie and me, we are looking at new tents. Hopefully one big enough to sit up in and read, cook – among other things.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com.