Monday, June 11, 2012

Dude vs Nature

I’m admittedly not an outdoorsy person. I went to sleep-away camp for many summers as a kid and my least favorite experience every single year was the night we had to hike into the woods, roll out our sleeping bags in the dirt and actually go camping. Yes, nature is beautiful, wonderful, etc. I’d just rather observe it while driving by in an air-conditioned vehicle. 

So when I received an email inviting my family to a KOA Blogger Event, I was excited. Then I Googled “KOA” to see what it was. If you don’t know, as I didn’t, KOA stands for “Kampgrounds of America” which is a company that franchises campgrounds throughout the US. Knowing absolutely nothing about camping, I assumed people just walked into the woods, popped tents and did their thing. I now know those people are usually known as vagabonds or hobos.  

After learning what KOA was, however, I figured this event wasn’t for us. To me, roughing it means staying at a Hilton that doesn’t offer a full breakfast buffet. Then I looked at the KOA website and saw that this wasn’t just camping. It was “glamping”. And yes, that’s a real term people use, meaning "glamour camping".  While there are traditional campsites for people who enjoy sleeping on dirt, many KOAs also offer luxury cabins, teepees and other amenities that are the antithesis of “roughing it”.

The event was being held the weekend of Mrs. Dude’s birthday, so I figured that’d be a good reason not to go.  Since neither of us could be considered “outdoorsy” by anyone other than an agoraphobic, I figured the birthday girl would nix the offer. But then again, it’s been so long since we’ve had a real vacation that I would’ve considered a getaway to Siberia if it was free. Lo and behold, when I told Mrs. Dude she said we should do it. (Camping, not Siberia.)

I really didn’t know what to expect as we trekked the 50-something miles to KOA Ventura Ranch. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that there is real-live nature so close to where we live. Nestled in the mountains near the town of Ojai, CA, I was captivated by the beauty of the surroundings as soon as we entered the area. And not just because there wasn’t a McDonalds or Starbucks in sight.    


We drove to our “Comfort Cabin” and unloaded enough stuff for a week, even though we were only staying 24 hours:

We had a queen-size bed, full bathroom, mini-fridge, microwave and air-conditioning. (It wouldn't be camping without artificial air.)  And to top it off, literally, was a loft area where our Little Dude could play, hang out and sleep.  He thought it was the coolest thing ever. I did, too, until I cracked my head on the super-low ceiling for the first time. 

As you can see, they maximized the cabin space by limiting the width of the staircase leading to the loft:  


We wanted to explore the property a bit before dinner and since their pool is under construction, we wandered down to the creek. I already felt like a figurative fish-out-of-water by this experience, and that was compounded when I found myself surrounded knee-deep by literal fish-in-water.  Schools of tiny white minnows fluttered in the clear water as we walked by. I could almost feel their sliminess through the water:



The Little Dude was having so much fun he almost had to be dragged out of the water. And not just because his non-waterproof diaper bloated when immersed and weighed about 11 lbs.  


With a new diaper in place we headed to the recreation area. They had a giant jumping pillow, but after he nearly got catapulted off by an overeager tween’s flying leap, he’d had enough.  He was too small for the rock wall and most of the other activities, but was eager to ride the peddle bikes with me. I can’t remember the last time I rode a bike in general, and am pretty sure I’ve never done it with a 35-lb lump sitting on my lap. As we navigated the dirt path, the Little Dude cackled with delight while my legs burned in agony. 


At dinner KOA buttered us up, literally, with rich buttercream. They got a special cupcake-cake in honor of Mrs. Dude’s birthday:


Thankfully my child/picky eater, who declined the hosted BBQ dinner, wolfed down two cupcakes in his mother’s honor. And looked like Heath Ledger’s Joker in the process:


Our amenities were very comfortable and our son was so tired from his fun day that he crashed on the loft for 10+ hours. After he passed out Mrs. Dude and I ended up talking, which is apparently an evening activity that people utilized in the old days.  In our attempts to connect with nature, we’d left our laptops at home. Who would have known that a 75-acre campground had Wi-Fi? Thankfully our iPhones had full service. 

Since you are reading this, you know that we survived our night in the wilderness.  And much more pleasantly than I ever would have imagined.  I've stayed in motels in big cities with much scarier accommodations and  surroundings than this. Considering the closest I normally get to nature is buying Girl Scout Cookies every year, I am glad to know that glamping exists.  Even if I had to venture all the way into nature to experience it.
  

Disclosure: KOA hosted us at Ventura Ranch and provided a cabin, meals and more fresh air than an Angeleno is used to. This post is entirely my opinion.  
For more info or to find the nearest KOA campground, please visit KOA.com.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

73 comments:

  1. GLAMPING!! sounds awesome! :) the cabin looks adorable- and perfect for a family of three. sounds like a lot of fun despite the fact that you had to actually exert yourself on the pedal bike thing. ;) Happy belated Bday to the Mrs!

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    1. Yeah, it was actually a lot of fun, Christina. You should check it out. Thanks for the good wishes.

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  2. Thanks for a fun read, Jay. I am glad we found a mutually new experience at which to meet. And believe it or not, there are a TON of places to commune with nature right in your own backyard. :-)

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    1. It was great meeting you and your crew, too, Debi.
      Wow, who would have known nature was so close? ;)

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  3. I wrote about camping this week too Dude! Although my post is not quite as pro-camping as yours. Haha! And Mrs. Dude is beautiful.

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    1. So funny that our posts are similar but different. Yours makes a good case for Glamping. Indoor plumbing would cure almost half your list.

      And thanks, she definitely is :)

      Readers: here is a link to Delilah's post:
      http://www.semidomesticatedmama.com/2012/06/how-not-to-die-while-camping.html

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  4. If you have to go camping, this is the way to do it. We had a slumber party at the KOA for my daughter's ninth birthday. I was worried when the lady at the check-in counter warned us about an "aggressive swan," but it was okay. The swan was a bully to the ducks and the other swans but wisely steered clear of 5 squealing 9-year-old girls.

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    1. I think the teepees would be fun for a kid's b-day party. Very atypical accommodations and lots for them to do.

      This KOA had wild peacocks. The Little Dude got close, but not too close.

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  5. Now that's my idea of camping. Excuse me, I mean GLAMPING.

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    1. You should check it out, Joe. It was definitely better than expected.

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  6. Oh my gosh, GLAMPING? I think I found my niche!

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    1. You should definitely check it out, Emily!

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  7. Dude, you went glamping! On your wife's birthday! And lived to tell about it! It looks like a super fun weekend. Maybe our Big Love crew will do that next year! Erin

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    1. Erin, I think your crew would definitely dig it.
      Though skeptical at first, we all survived and went straight to a shopping center afterward to reenter society.

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  8. Hahahah glamping! That is MY kind of camping. Seriously, I'm not into camping at all, but a cabin in the woods? Sure!

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    1. It wasn't anything I could have ever imagined. And we didn't even stay in the fanciest cabins. Those ones have HD flat screens.

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  9. I've been glamping ( or perhaps it should be called "gramping"?) for the last ten years. Doc H and l spend the day at the lake with the kids and his parents doing all sorts of water related fun and then after dinner we leave the kids with the grandparents in their luxury RV and we high-tail it to the nearest hotel (not motel)....even if it is in another state.

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    1. Wow, you must really hate camping if you dump your kids and cross state lines to get away.

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  10. I'm totally not outdoorsy either so glamping sounds like something I MIGHT try. :)

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  11. I laughed hard when I read this..."Yes, nature is beautiful, wonderful, etc. I’d just rather observe it while driving by in an air-conditioned vehicle."
    I'm not much of a camper, but glamping...I might be able to try that.
    You made it look and sound fun. No easy feat when it comes to camping. :)

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    1. Thanks, Heidi. Sadly it's true. Though I guess I do "rough it" sometimes by rolling down the car windows.

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  12. Your glamping experience sounds fabulous (other than hitting your head on the roof). I think the first camping experience with my kids with my a glamping one too. In fact maybe all their experiences will be glamping ones lol...

    I'm glad that you had a wonderful time, and hope your wife had a fun filled birthday, even if your son did eat half her special breakfast lol.

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    1. Thanks, Carrie. Let me know if you check it out.

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  13. I sometimes feel like the only person in southern California who feels this way:

    Yes, nature is beautiful, wonderful, etc. I’d just rather observe it while driving by in an air-conditioned vehicle.

    I agree whole-heartedly. But I would go glamping in a heartbeat.
    Especially after reading this post.

    And I'm not even a vagabond...

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    1. Glad to know I'm not alone in feeling that way as well, Julie.

      Let me know if you check it out...

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  14. Yes! Glamping sounds right up my alley!
    I used to love actual tent camping, but the more kids we have, the less it appeals to me.
    It sounds like you guys had a blast! Your little Dude is so stinkin' cute. The picture of him in the water is awesome.

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    1. Thanks, Dawn. You are very sweet.
      We had a really good time. Trust me, I was as surprised as anyone.

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  15. Oh my, that looks awesome, and I am so anti-camping. I was once dragged camping and got teased so much over bringing a butane-powered curling iron that I never went back. That KOA looks like something even I could deal with!

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    1. Butane-powered curling iron? That sounds pretty intense in unto itself.

      This was definitely great for non-campers. Or at least for us.

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  16. This looks like so much fun! It's leaving me less anxious about our trip NC in August. We'll be staying in a cabin, and I'm excited and scared!

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    1. Not sleeping on the ground is a must for me. Beyond that, you are in good shape.

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  17. That is almost my kind of camping, particularly the WiFi and cupcakes.

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    1. I would do just about anything that offered WiFi and cupcakes.

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  18. Damn KOA Ventura! Hook a sister up! Can we bring our dogs? I never even knew that place existed. We HAVE camped at Lake Casitas which is IN Ojai and has a mini water park. Good time.

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    1. Dogs are allowed, but not in the cabins and teepees, I think.
      I never knew it existed either. I barely knew that Ojai existed, as I'd never been there before. Great area. You should def check it out.

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  19. I suppose if nature must be involved "glamping" is the way to go! This was great! :)

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  20. I had scratched camping off of my list after our stay in a smelly tent on the side of Interstate 93. Well, "glamping" is definitely for me! And topped off with the beauty of Ojai and butter cream frosting? Who'd of thunk, I am now going to put camping/glamping back on the list.

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    1. Definitely worth a second look, which I never would have given camping if not granted this opportunity.

      Smelly tent on the side of the highway sounds pretty awful. Ugh.

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  21. Glamping! I'm going to put some satin sheets and incense in our camper and totally call it glamping!

    Most excellent post. I'm glad your family had a good time. I am also glad the pool was under construction, or Hawley and Rahbee might have maid an appearance. Who am I kidding? They don't Glamp!

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    1. I have a feeling Hawley and Rahbee would have enjoyed the pool more if it was under construction. Better acoustics for yelling.

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  22. That's actually really nice. I had no idea KOAs had cabins. I thought it was a just bring-your-own-tent/camper situation. Of course, I can't imagine these are nearly as lovely in Texas. You could probably park a cardboard box in California and it would look like a lovely nature retreat. Looks like fun!

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    1. I had no idea KOA even existed, so we both learned things. I think many of them have those cabins, but you can check on their site to make sure. Probably tons of KOAs in TX.

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  23. I love camping and spent quite a few trips around Ojai. The Los Padres National forest is beautiful, as are the Topa Topa mountains.

    It sounds like you had a great time. That campground looks nice. I love the picture of the Joker. ;) He looks very happy.

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    1. Yes, beautiful area and a great getaway. The Joker was all amped up as you can imagine.

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  24. VERY cool post--sounds like a fun weekend! We love our camper so much now; we started in a tent and in a pop-up before. Glamping--what a great way to connect with family, nature, and 11 pound diapers:)

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    1. Thanks, JW. It was a lot of fun. You have your own camper, so you must be pretty hardcore, eh?

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  25. Love seeing the photos of your wife; she's adorable, and what a good sport to try this on her birthday. Glad you survived to write another great post!

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    1. Thanks, Louise. You are too kind, as usual.
      She is definitely a trooper...

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  26. Wow those are pretty luxe "camping" accomodations! Looks lovely!! PS: Your wife is adorable.

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    1. Much nicer than I ever imagined. You should give it a shot ;)

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  27. Wow, KOA has come a long way since our family's car trips in the 1970s, where they would have signs like "We don't swim in your toilet so don't pee in our pool!" Very cool.

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    1. Sounds like a classy sign. They probably didn't even have WiFi back then, so it's probably pretty different.

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  28. I think that camping sounds like so much fun, except for the actual doing it part. It seems... fun to think about doing. But Glamping, now that's another matter! This place looks great!

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    1. I don't even think camping SOUNDS fun, but glamping is definitely more up my alley.

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  29. Now that's putting the luxury back into camping!

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  30. "Considering the closest I normally get to nature is buying Girl Scout Cookies every year..." Ha! This does sound like pretty luxe "camping".

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    1. It was something else. If only they sold Do-si-dos, it'd be perfect.

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  31. I could glamp. Totally. Baby, glamps like us were born to...gingerly explore the great outdoors.
    I've heard about this thing you mention, this chatting in the evening after children are sleeping...interesting. I may have to try it sometime. Preferably while glamping. Hmm....

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    1. It's a weird phenomenon. Not sure it has gotten to your part of the world yet. Let me know if you check it out, Deb ;)

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  32. Sounds like fun---glamping definitely seems more my style than camping. And I can deal w/ a narrow staircase (but couldn't 7 months ago, so I feel Mrs. Dude's pain!). fun post!

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    1. Walking up and down that staircase made me feel like I was 7 months pregnant. It was a lot of fun, though. Thanks, Erin.

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  33. Earlier today, I said, "we should go camping." Truly. I did. The only camping I've done is at music festivals, so I don't think that counts. But I still have the tent and want to use it. However, that cabin looks sooo comfy and cute! Happy belated to Mrs. and happiest of days to all of you, always.

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    1. I did camp out at some Dead shows in the '90s in Michigan and Indiana. It sucked. This was MUCH better. You should check it out. Buckeye Lake is a KOA, I was surprised to learn.

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  34. Glamping is my new favorite word. And I need to try it. So, are you convinced about camping now? Love the joker face too!

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    1. Kim, I'm not sure if they have glamping in Kenya. Perhaps you should introduce it :)

      And yes, I'm convinced that I would never go camping, but glamping is definitely an option for the future.

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  35. This was the funniest glamping review I have ever read.
    Also quite possibly the only one. But please don't let that dissuade you from being really highly proud.
    Came from #FindingtheFunny. WIll now stalk you on FB.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with being #1! Glad to have you, Kim.

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  36. Love the glamping concept--and now I want to go!

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  37. AT LAST! Someone who has been there and done that! Looks tolerable...there's hope for me yet!

    -Sue from thespincycleblog.com

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