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Updated: 07/16/2013 @ 11:07am

There’s camping.

And then there’s camping.

When our kids were young, we took them camping all the time. Go out to the garage, pull the tent out of the rafters, blow off the dust, and hope there were no mice in the cracks. Throw three kids in the car along with a cooler full of hot dogs, marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers and head off to a state park. Come home two days later full of marshmallows and mosquito bites, try to remember to wash the cooking equipment, and air out the tent.

I thought we were camping, but boy, was I wrong.

A young woman we know was invited to go camping with some friends from work. She thought it sounded like fun, and her husband and kids were up for it, too.

She asked the organizer, “What can I bring?  I have a wonderful “hot dogs over a fire” recipe. I’ve found the key is breaking a clean branch off the tree.”

She was told, “Oh, just go to the website and sign up for your share of the menu. Don’t worry about it – most people already have whatever they need in the cupboard.”

She thought a moment, because as best she could recall, all she had in her cupboard were three teabags and a half empty bag of Ethiopian spices. She decided to go to the website to see what was up.

When Eisenhower and the Allies invaded Europe with 160,000 troops, they didn’t have a website - what with the Internet not being invented yet - but if they’d been fortunate enough to have had a website, it no doubt would’ve looked a little like the one used to organize this camping excursion.

There were complete menus for three meals a day and two snacks (and shopping lists to go with them), a rundown of recreational equipment, and a rough schedule of events. No logo and theme music, but that was probably just an oversight.

I realize a lot of people like organization. I know another family that has a beanbag toss tournament at their reunion each year, complete with a league, playoffs, trophy, and blood tests for banned substances.

We’re not that family. My wife used to say that at an Olson family reunion, everyone would show up, say hello, and then get books out to read.  

I noticed that she seemed vaguely critical when she said that, which I don’t quite get. Our way has no fights, no time spent on planning, and plenty of sleep.

This may well be the great division in this country. Forget Republican/Democrat, rich/poor, or Yankee/Red Sox fans against most of the world. The biggest area of disagreement: Is fun that you need to organize still fun?

I can come down on both sides of this issue. After all, when people tell me they’re up for an adventure, I’ve been known to say that most of my adventures were just the result of poor planning. On the other hand, if I’m on vacation, I’m perfectly willing to wake up in the morning without a clue about what I’m going to be doing that day.

We checked in with them after the weekend to see how things went, and it had all been big fun. No one ran out of food and the kids were so tired they slept late - until a thunderstorm washed them out of bed.

Some things you can’t plan for.

Copyright 2013 Brent Olson

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