“…But, it’s so small.”
I had barely pulled it out. We hadn’t even had a chance to get it up yet.
“Is it supposed to be this small? It doesn’t look like it’s going to be big enough.”
Talk about a bad way to start what is supposed to be a fun, romantic Valentine’s Weekend trip. Merelyn had to work on Valentine’s Day so we had planned to go camping on the beach near Galveston the weekend before Valentine’s Day. I had grabbed a few things from home and brought them to Texas for the trip. She’s moved around so much the last few years that she didn’t really know where any of her camping gear actually was.
Preparing for the trip back in Phoenix, I had gone through my shelves of gear and looked for stuff I could take to Texas and, potentially, leave there for future use. I knew we needed a stove, so I grabbed my spare JetBoil and packed it. I also grabbed a small, unused tent from the bottom shelf and tossed it in the box with some other assorted items (including her new backpack and hydration system).
This is where the problems started (entirely MY fault). I don’t know where this tent came from. It has been sitting on the bottom shelf of my gear storage for years. I’m not even exactly sure how long it’s been there. I figured this made it the perfect candidate for a take-and-leave tent for a simple beach camping trip. Also, for some reason, I never opened up my JetBoil before packing it. I’m not sure what I was thinking.
The plan was to bring some basics out to the beach, build a fire and cook a nice dinner. We were looking forward to enjoying a beautiful quiet sunset together and an evening under a big Texas night sky. We would spend our Valentine’s Trip comfortably curled up together near the fire enjoying a quiet night alone.
The plan began unraveling early when I realized the JetBoil I brought was just the container…no stove. And, apparently, you can’t buy “just the stove” part of a JetBoil from retailers. So our pre-trip trip to REI ended with us buying the Pocket Stove and a Kettle so we could actually have hot water. Further complicating things is that neither one of us had a sleeping bag. I didn’t bring one because I had expected she would have one we could share as a blanket. Instead, we had to pack a bunch of blankets in hopes that it wouldn’t get too cold. We still pushed forward with our plan, we made some food, brought some basic supplies and packed the car for an overnight trip. Even with these stumbling blocks, we were still excited.
We got a late start the morning we left. REI took longer than expected which pushed us even later. Then traffic was stalled on the freeway due to a semi-truck getting itself wedged into the overpass (seriously, he was pinned between the upper and lower decks of the interchange!). By the time we got to Galveston we were starving. It was the weekend before Mardi-Gras and Galveston was buzzing with festivities. Finding lunch and getting through Galveston took longer than expected and by the time we got to a piece of beach we could camp on it was almost sunset.
Not only was darkness approaching fast but it was windy…..damn windy. Stupid windy. Let’s-go-home-because-this-is-going-to-suck windy.
Pushing headlong into disaster, we found a place to park (you can drive and park on the beaches in Texas….weird), unpacked our stuff and as Merelyn bundled up and set off to capture some last minute pictures of the sunset I set to work building a fire. Then we set up the tent…
“Why is it so small? Are we both supposed to fit in that?”
WTF is this?? What the hell kind of second-rate, miniature, child-sized tent did I bring? This was supposed to be a 3-person tent! But unless your names were Grumpy, Dopey and Doc there was no way you’re squeezing 3 people into that tiny bubble of a tent!
“Is the air mattress even going to fit in that?”
Nope. There’s no way in HELL the queen sized, inflatable mattress we brought is going to fit in that. But I guess that won’t matter much since we also never charged the pump to blow up the air mattress! So even when we crammed it into the tent, it got about half-full before the pump gave out.
We did our best with it though. As I worked on building a solid fire, dug into the sand with a high wind-break around it, Merelyn built us a nest in the tiny little Hobbit-tent. We folded the air mattress over on itself so even half-full it still gave us some cushion. We piled sheets, blankets and extra clothing on top to give us as much insulation as we could muster. Then we unpacked our food and cooked dinner as we sat in front of the fire.
Even with all our challenges, we were still in pretty good spirits and taking it all in good humor. We had a fantastic dinner of fire-roasted vegetables and grilled-cheese sandwiches (see the post about the cooking iron). Even as the wind picked up we ate, drank, laughed and had a great time together.
That night turned out to be a record mid-February low for Galveston. Winds gusted up to 50 MPH. Even using the car as a wind-break we still felt our miniscule shelter being buffeted about by the howling winds. We slept off-and-on finding it difficult to get any real sleep in the wind and the cold.
But all of it – the record cold, the lack of blankets, the under-filled mattress, the ridiculously inadequate square-footage of the tent - in the end, added up to this: I got to spend my Valentine’s Trip outdoors, with my Dream Girl curled up in my arms next to me. That (and some fantastic grilled-cheese) made this an amazing trip I will always remember.