Saturday, July 25, 2009


Here it is the end of July and I haven’t gone camping yet. The kids and I will next week.

Sometimes I think I could live in a tent.

In the early 90s I traveled to a lot of small airports around the country to skydive. I never had money, but there was always somewhere to pitch my tent. There were usually water and electric hookups too.

I’d be snug in my sleeping bag with an electric blanket on an air mattress in the middle of Tennessee in December. Sometimes I had a TV. The only problem was running through the snow to the showers in the morning.

My friend Benet and I used to go camping so he could spend quality time with his blond lab Mel. I tried sleeping in my hammock on one of these trips. It rained but I stretched a tarp over a rope for protection. I remember reading about Simon Bolivar when he was first traveling through the jungles of South America. He’d sleep on a hammock. I wanted to know what it was like. I don’t recommend it. That was twenty years ago and I still haven’t made up for the lost sleep.

In the early 80s my girlfriend Pam and I spent a week camping just before she would leave forever to join a theater group in Milwaukee. We camped on the top of a hill. One night a bunch of kids came into the valley below. They were blasting Dark Side of the Moon. Listening to the music drifting up through the woods was a good as listening to it on drugs. We moved our camp to a private place somewhere farther up the Jack’s Fork River. We were trapped in our tent for days as it rained relentlessly. At one point I was afraid we were going to be flooded. I got out and dug a trench around our tent. When I finished I was so covered in mud I looked like something out of Quest for Fire. I threw off my clothes and walked into the river. It was warmer than the outside air. I had an incredible sense of well being that I’ve been trying to relive ever since.

My friend Sharon, her daughter, her ex, Dominic and I went camping once. We went to Clearwater Lake which was flooded at the time. Dominic and I found a tree that was several feet under water. We dove into the lake from its branches.

I was a vegetarian even back in the 80s. Sharon reminded me I brought a can of veg hot dogs. They tasted like Alpo. Things have improved greatly for vegetarians since then. They were too soggy to hold together on a stick.

In the early 90s I was practicing formations on creepers in a parking lot in Sparta, Illinois with my skydiving team Muffy and the Divers. It was always an event when a jumper had to cut away their main canopy and deploy their reserve parachute. Those of us on the ground would try to watch the main as it descended so it could be retrieved.

I remember the four of us looking into each other’s eyes as we practiced. My friend Laura told me to hold still as she took her fingernail and picked a piece of spinach from my teeth. You have to be a real friend to do something like that. Jumpers get incredibly personal with each other. A lot of social barriers seem pretty petty.

All of a sudden Muffy pointed up. “Reserve, reserve!” she shouted. We stopped what we were doing and watched what looked like a cut away main canopy float to the ground. We ran out to the middle of a corn field to retrieve my tent. I hadn’t staked it down yet when I set up camp. A strong gust of wind took it way up into the sky.

When I first began to camp as an adult my girlfriend Joanie and I bought a 2 person tent. We left the Broadway Oyster Bar around 3:00am after our shift and drove down to the Black River. We pitched our tent in the dark in the middle of a dry creek bed. It wasn’t long enough for me to fully stretch out on. I awoke to the most sever back pain I’ve ever known. The combination of lifting cases of beer and sleeping on rocks threw my sacroiliac out. After a chiropractor slipped the joint back into place I was on a cane for 2 weeks. I bought an 8 person tent and have been sleeping on an air mattress ever since.

First pic is at Mike Mullin’s dropzone in the middle of Tennessee. I’m with my buddy Pat Harrington. The airplane is Mullin’s King Air. It’s the fastest jump plane in the country. This is the airplane I was married from in Vandalia, Illinois. The other pic is from one of my camping trips with Joanie.


...Sharon said...

Our camping trip to that lake was all so spontaneous. We had started off in a cabin on the river but it was owned by some control-freak.

We didn't have any supplies. You and Dom slept on picnic tables. My kid and I slept in the back of my pickup and Len wandered about in a drunken trance.

Good times.

Doggie said...

That's exactly how I remember it. Remember our pet skunks?

...Sharon said...

Those skunks were just some marshmallow-lovin' puppies weren't they?!

Hey. Remember the two totally different places we camped at while on our Montreal trip? They were as different as night and day.

My dad loaned us that big ol' tent. He wrote a few pages of directions & even marked the poles accordingly (he knew how frustrating it is to not get the tent set up correctly). He also slipped me $100. What a guy.

Doggie said...

Hey I don't remember the $100.00! I do remember Rat Lake, or however you say it in French. That was really the name of the lake and I've never seen so many rats in life at one place. I still get chills thinking about it.

Doggie said...

I also remember thinking my French was getting pretty good. I ordered a chocolate milkshake at a Macdonald's and got a hot chocolate.

...Sharon said...

Lacs aux Rats!!! It looked like everyone there were in RV's with reason.

Remember the park was full; each site taken. We drove for hours. It's a huge and beautiful park. But everyone was out camping on a Saturday night. We were lucky to get the spot we did. The park was Parc du Mont Tremblant.

The first place we camped on that trip was right outside the Niagara Falls area. It was in an orchard region. The campgrounds was in a valley and like a big ol' neighborhood parking lot. Crowded with a european feel. (You were crashing out cause you did all the driving and got us there in record time.)

Russell said...

Long time no see! Hey, just a note to let you know "The Leroy Pierson Band Retrospective" album from the studios of Randomseed Productions, can now be downloaded from Amazon, Rhapsody, and soon Emusic and Itunes.
I assume Dominic has given you and Sharon and others your own personal copies of the CD. There is only a hundred of those and that's it. MISS YOU GUYS, PEACE AND LOVE RUSS