California has the beautiful beaches of San Diego. Mexico has the lush seas of Cancun and cheap booze. New York City has the most incredible nightlife. Florida has girls riding on rollerblades in bikinis in Daytona. And Wisconsin has White Trash Disneyland, aka The Wisconsin Dells. The Dells are not to be confused with Orlando’s Disney World, because if Tinker Bell lived up this far north she’d be sporting a large beer belly hanging out of her mini-dress, and holding a baby while shopping for a knock-off Juicy sweatpants ensemble at the local Wal-Mart before heading back to her double wide. Just picture Britney Spears with fairy wings.
If you’re from the Midwest, you either love the Dells or you hate it. There are no feelings in between. You either like 50 holes of mini-golf, thirty different water parks, Paul Bunyan’s all-you-can-eat-breakfast, Tommy Bartlett’s Water Ski Show, cheap motels, cheaper campgrounds, duck boats (drive on land and sea!), children running around everywhere barefoot/half naked while their parents lounge on a lawn chair on the side of the road drinking out of a tanning oil bottle that they’ve secretly filled with rum, or you don’t.
“No one wants to be that girl who shows up with a hairdryer with an optional car adapter and sucks the battery out of a small SUV.”
It’s a tourist trap. A tourist trap that I have been sucked into more than once. If it weren’t for Meghan being allergic to chlorine, we’d all go camping there every summer. And personally I think she doesn’t have any allergies to pool water at all. I think that she was tired of tubing down the lazy river while having the option of purchasing a corn dog from one of the many floating vendors along the way.
Getting a group together to go camping is rather difficult, isn’t it? Probably because everyone has a different idea of what exactly “camping” is. There are the hardcore campers who believe that camping involves a lot of hiking, pitching a tent somewhere in the woods, and trading in the beer cans for bars of granola. There are the people who believe that camping is staying at a two-star hotel or any place without room service. Then there are the people who fall in between. Those who enjoy camping out underneath the stars, making a fire to drink around, but easily rest assured knowing that if it ever started to rain, there are a variety of suitable hotels nearby to act as immediate sanctuaries.
I’ve taken many camping trips and every single trip there has always been a clear and distinct separation and competition among the sexes. Camping is exciting and all, but even starting out on the drive to the campsite, the guys always make it a race to see who gets there first. And you know what? The girls lose every single time! The one driver could have gone to this campsite everyday since she was seven, and if one landmark has changed (“that Shell Station used to be a Mobile”), she’ll forget to take a left, continue going straight and refuse to turn around until it’s dusk, continuing to circle the scary-looking church with the three huge looming crosses in front at least six times.
And then, without fail, upon arrival at the campsite, the guys will already be there working on their third beer with their tents setup, giving each other high-fives on how they got there waaaaaaaaaaaaaay before you girls did. The only justice is that hopefully they paid the entrance fee for you girls upon their early arrival, and you’ll conveniently fail to pay them back.
If you go camping with a large group it’s inevitable that you’ll have to get two campsites, and therefore two fire pits. Here again, the male need to dominate the forest will arise and manifest itself in an informal competition to see who can build the biggest fire. This is an opportunity for the ladies to take a win, and believe me we pull out all the stunts to ensure a W. For example, my junior year of high school three girlfriends and I had this huge history project competition that required us to use four large cardboard displays. After we finished at state level, we decided to say goodbye forever to the project. Instead of slowing burning wood, and placing pieces of paper strategically underneath the logs, we threw the entire project into fire and then condemned it to hell with a couple long spritzes of lighter fluid. Sure we may have cheated, but the real losers of the competition were my friend’s parents who had to turn on a powerhose to put out the parts of the trees that were starting to singe.
I think guys get pretty annoyed with how much unnecessary stuff girls bring on a camping trip. First-timers learn quickly that while having a hairdryer in any situation is ideal, it doesn’t really do anything if there’s no outlet to plug it into. Just stick your hair into braided pigtails and top with a signature baseball cap. No one wants to be that girl who shows up with a hairdryer with an optional car adapter and sucks the battery out of a small SUV.
I will admit that sometimes feminine products come in handy when camping. Another time the fire competition occurred was a couple of years ago. After careful planning and placing of the logs, the girls fire were falling behind, their fire looking week and pathetic in comparison to the guys roaring one. So we secretly compiled all of our magazines from the drive up, threw them in the fire, and sprayed the whole mess with an emergency can of hairspray. Sure we couldn’t roast marshmallows on it, and security came by to question us about the sizeable flames, but regardless, it proved that feminine products are occasionally very useful. Also, it never really occurs to you that you’re spraying flammable liquid on your hair until you go camping. Now when you’re at a bar this weekend you’re going to be more aware of just how many people are holding cigarettes close to your head.
If you camp in a state park, you have to be really careful how you sneak your alcohol in, and even more careful how you drink it. Because come midnight when quiet hours start, security is looking around every corner, just aching to make you pour your beers out into the grass and send you off to your tent sober and annoyed that the nearest bar is a ten mile drive away.
Sometimes you don’t even need booze to make security pissed. Sometimes you just need nudity. Playing truth or dare while camping always turns into “Sexual Truth and Naked Dare,” so you either have to tell everyone around the campfire how many girls have gone down on you, or climb through the bushes and make your penis flop around towards the people in the next campsite while wearing a ski mask. Yeah it sounds a lot more fun on paper than actually experiencing it. Or explaining to security that there’s just no way your buddy is going to drop trou just to prove that he is not the same naked maniac your neighbors caught on their cell phone camera.
You guys have it so easy. All you have to do is find a tree and lift your leg upward a little like a dog to relieve yourselves. The ladies don’t have it that easy. Toilet facilities at a campsite usually consist of a tiny concrete building with two bathroom stalls and two showers. At night after drinking a couple of beers, it’s quite a journey for the ladies to go to the stall. They all have to get together and hold hands, the bravest one carrying the flashlight to lead the way. If there’s any movement in the bushes, the screaming starts and doesn’t end until some children come running out of the bushes to laugh at how scared you are. And by that time, one of you has already peed yourself, and heading to bathroom won’t seem that important at all.
Some campsites offer other alternatives to the main bathroom if it’s too far of a walk. These facilities usually consist of a poorly-built wooden structure with three to four stalls inside, but no bathroom doors. So you can either do your business while a friend holds up a beach towel, or hold it in until you get to the water park bathroom. Either way there will always be a severe lack of toilet paper.
Hooking up on a camping trip is never a good idea. Yes, I know that being underneath the stars are incredibly romantic. Yes, I know that close sleeping quarters and shared sleeping bags are tempting. But you gotta face the facts ladies. First of all, guys never shower when camping. Asking a guy to shower on a camping trip is like asking him to pee sitting down. No way, it’s just too girlie. Guys think that their time spent at the waterpark qualifies as a shower and will try to justify it with the fact that chlorine kills everything. Well that’s fantastic, but eau de kiddie pee is not a fragrance any woman is running out to buy their man anytime soon (until CK manages to market it properly).
Camping food is amazing. In the Dells it consists of fast food, pizza joints, ice cream stands, and for the more sophisticated palate, Ponderosa, where I am told you can have mac-n-cheese and a steak for under seven bucks. But if you’re in the Dells for breakfast, take the girls to Paul Bunyan’s all-you-can-eat-breakfast. It’s not a buffet I promise; it’s a science. First, the waitresses bring you doughnuts to fill up on. They are amazing, but wrap them up in a napkin and stick them in your purses—as many as you can. They’ll taste amazing later that night when you’re wasted. Then just fill up on scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes served on tin plates, and drink chocolate milk out of chilled metal cups. It’s deliciously white trash, literally, and you’ll love every savory moment of it.
Normally, after breakfast, it’s on to the waterpark. Any waterpark fanatic knows the first rule of waterparks is “find the most responsible person to hold the locker key in the spiral key chain around their wrist.” The second is “find the bar and see if the rides within eyeshot of it are going to be worth going down drunk.” (If you’re in a waterpark in Orlando, rule two doesn’t apply to you. There are no bars in waterparks there. It’s kind of a Midwest culture thing.) The third rule is try to get the girls to see if they can beat you and your buddies down the sickest-looking group waterslide in the park. And ladies let me save you the trouble right now: they’re twenty times heavier than you are and they will throw all of their weight to the front to make themselves go faster. The only thing you can hope for is that at some point they’ll accidentally flip themselves over so you can wave at their bruised bodies as you float by.
The biggest waterpark in the world is “Noah’s Ark” in the Dells. For many people it’s like heaven: there is no judgment, and there is no reason to feel ashamed about your body. Anyone who can fit into a bathing suit is welcomed. Some people opt not to even wear their bathing suits and prance around in dance leotards instead. I don’t know who these people think they’re fooling, but regardless of the fashion times, I doubt that any bathing suits will ever feature short sleeves. But like I said, no judgment. If dance gear is all you can afford, well you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s a character builder. This experience will make you not laugh at those less unfortunate than yourself when you’re insanely rich later on in life. (That one’s for the all the leotard-wearing five-year-olds out there reading my column.)
Finally, I’d like to wrap this up by saying that while the male lifeguards are there to save lives, and look sexy while doing it, they’re really fucking arrogant. But even more annoying than the cocky college lifeguards are the high school girls trying to hit on them. You can go down the water slide as many times as you want, but there’s no way to look sexy while standing next to a teeth-chattering four-year-old wearing a nose plug, holding hands with her best friend who’s wearing a ballerina outfit.