By Robin Ray
contributing writer 

Obligation free, peace of mind


November 12, 2022

Photo provided.

Robin Ray at Brite Lake.

"I am not a camper" ... I heard myself say for over 25 years. When people would talk about their camping trips I would nod agreeably and remark how nice that was for them. To be honest, I was not interested! This did not mean I did not like nature. I absolutely enjoyed a beautiful view, going to the beach, walks in the park, biking and other nature infused trips on a small scale.

I had no interest in bug bites, bedrock sleeping in a tent, whether it was in a sleeping bag, or on a rickety cot. In addition, the last thing I wanted to worry about was the food. I did not relish the idea of having to haul a bunch of groceries with me to make my meals. Don't get me wrong, I like a barbecue like anyone, but the last thing I wanted worry about was loading a barbecue in my car, or even worse, cleaning a grill that is provided at some campsites. Even then you have to drag brickettes, wood or other items with you to cook with. Not to mention, the oversized ice chest you have to bring to keep all the food you brought cold enough. In the back of your mind, you hope the food stays the right temperature and is safe enough to eat. After all, the risk could be a bad case of ptomaine poisoning! No thank you! This did not seem relaxing, fun or stress free to me.

Fast forward a few years, I was in a funk in life. Truthfully, I was living a cliché... I was trying to find myself! I knew I had to make some changes and I wasn't sure how I was going to do that. I felt withered and dried up and I felt the need to connect with something different.

The thing I loved to do and felt comfortable doing was biking. For adventure I would take my bike with me to different locations. I had gotten a small SUV and I was able to put a bike rack on the back. When I got tired of biking in the same old places, I began taking my bike several miles away to enjoy somewhere new.

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Sometimes I would drive an hour away just to ride my bike and enjoy the surroundings. That is where I discovered that many of these places also had some small camp sites. The settings were beautiful ... birds and bees, flowers and trees, and did I mention an ocean breeze? I had discovered many peaceful and lovely places to encourage myself. Then it finally dawned on me, I should take a chance and just do it! So, I made the choice and I decided to go camping.

I thought about this, how would I do it? I knew I didn't want to have to cook, or have many things to clean, so I had pre-made sandwiches and brought some fruit and chips for my meals. I didn't want to have to make a fire so I drank canned coffee in the morning. I figured that I didn't want to put up a tent so I made a bed in the back of my car. With many layers of foam underneath and blankets it wasn't too bad for my one-night of camping! Yes, one night was my limit. I would bike around during the day. Sometimes I would take photos or paint a picture to fill my day. It was glorious and peaceful!

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Yes, I camped by myself. This worried many of my friends. I reassured them that I would lock the car doors at night and I would only go to the smaller, well-groomed campgrounds that had a 24-hour camp host living nearby.

Many people found it interesting that I would go camping by myself. A common question asked was, "Don't you ever get scared?" I always smiled and I would say, "Honestly, it just never occurred to me to be scared!" They would raise an eyebrow in contemplation. My explanation, the only thing I could think of was, I did not watch a lot of news and I am not a fan of scary books or movies. I am sure there are more psychological factors but that is my story and I am sticking to it.

What I especially liked about these camping trips were that they were obligation free. This meant, I had the freedom to go where I wanted to go, do what I wanted to do, talk to anyone I wanted to, or not talk at all. It turned out that I really enjoyed my one-night camping. As a matter of fact, one year I camped 10 times! The places I went were all in Southern California and included:

Brite Lake in Tehachapi

Crystal Cove in Newport Beach

Guajome Regional Park in Oceanside

Carlsbad State Park in Carlsbad

San Onofre State Park in San Clemente

Doheny State Beach in Dana Point

Many of these places I went to more than once. Besides the beautiful scenery, one of my favorite things were the interesting people I met. Mostly they were campers like myself. They were from all over: San Diego, Arizona, Los Angeles and even a young couple from Canada. In talking with them I realized we all had something in common. Whether we were camping for one night or many, in the end, we were all just trying to find some obligation-free peace of mind!


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