Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tarping - Sherri-style

My cousin, Sherri, is one of my heroes. When we were little girls, she had a t-shirt that read, "anything boys can do, girls can do better!"  If that girl was Sherri it was certainly true. While I was infamous for tripping over my own feet, wrecking my bike on the slightest incline and producing copious tears anytime I saw my own blood; Sherri could take on the boys, jump any bike ramp and climb the tallest tree.

I wanted to be her, freckles and all.

As grown-ups, Sherri became my single mom hero. She worked really hard at her job and built a career. She bought her own house and raised an amazing young man. When my boys were small and I was newly divorced, it was Sherri who showed up at my door with groceries or flowers or sometimes just her contagious grin.

I don't know what I would have done without her.

The first two times I took the boys camping, it was in the company of Sherri.We both grew up camping, but not necessarily together. Because of that, we have a different set of outdoor skills.  While my camping strengths are along the lines of nature lore and scout's honor, Sherri's are along the lines of what we lovingly refer to as hillbilly engineering. It's a skill she inherited from our dads. My dad and his brother could construct anything--ANYTHING--out of a little PVC pipe and duct tape.

When it comes to camping, Sherri's has refined our fathers' skills to create dining tent masterpieces. Actually, they're more than just dining tents. They're campsite canopies made from a delicate web of bungee cords, duct tape and tarp.  We once spent an entire happy rainy day, blue-tinged, but dry as a bone, under our tarp sky.

On mine and the boys' latest trip, we arrived at our campsite in the middle of a downpour. After an hour it slowed to a drizzle, but showed no sign of stopping. It was getting late and we were hungry. We decided to set up camp. I was pretty proud of how fast we got the tent up, but when it came to the rest of our gear, I found myself wishing for Sherri. 

The boys knelt in the backseat of the car, watching me through the open hatch as I surveyed our site, my lengths of rope and bungee cords. This was what I came up with.

Okay, so maybe it's not the best idea to have the water from the tarp run toward your tent, but it was the best I could come up with given the materials at hand. And my little attempt at engineering did the trick. Our table, stove and chairs stayed dry through three thunderstorms and a rain shower. Matt and I even weathered the latter sitting at the table.

I showed these pictures to Sherri. She had a few helpful tips, but I think she was kind of proud.

I was proud too, but my thoughts have turned away from tarps and more towards this for next year:

REI Screenhouse

It's bug proof. 

Given Sherri's hatred of spiders (it's a family thing), I think she'll approve.

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