My first Labor Day camping experience was…. well, let’s say… it was an experience I’d like to to never repeat. But two good things did come out of that weekend – it created a memory my kids will never forget, and these fantastic chicken, corn, and black bean burritos. So, in the end, it was worth it.
First Labor Day Camping Experience
Let’s back up. I bought my first pop up camper many years ago. Twelve years ago to be exact. I bought it so I could experience the great outdoors with my kids (then ages 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12). We would pack it up a couple times a month, full of games, food, and ice chests loaded with all their favorites and hit the road. That first summer in the pop up was awesome. We saw as many of Minnesota’s beautiful lakeside campgrounds as we could. Each trip was full of fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and general peacefulness.
Until that first Labor Day camping weekend. Wow, what an eye-opener that was. It started with the usual routine – packed up on a Friday mid-afternoon and cruised up I-35, singing our hearts out to Rob Thomas’s latest. The site was stunning when we pulled in. We noticed – but didn’t pay much attention to – the large number of folks already set up or in the process of setting up their sites. More people showed up as afternoon turned to dusk. And more people. And still more. It was packed! There wasn’t more than 2 feet between our pop up and the neighbors each side. The whole campground was this crowded. But everyone was having fun, so no biggie.
I cracked open a cold one; the kids speared their Capri Suns and headed down to the lake. There wasn’t one inch of shoreline space to stand on. It was literally shoulder to shoulder. Labor Day camping crowds. No dipping their toes in the water this time. They came back to the campsite, heads hung low. Suck it up I told them. So they grabbed the ladder ball game and started tossing to their hearts’ content. My dinner prep started – one of their favorites. Shredded chicken, corn, and black bean burritos. We were all starved and could hardly wait. (The wonderful thing about these burritos is that the prep is done mostly at home, so it’s a pretty basic meal to whip out at the campsite. And this homemade campsite guacamole would be awesome with it!)
Ingredients for the Labor Day Camping Burrito
Then the neighbor’s pit bull lunged into our site (probably chasing the ball the kids were using) and scared the bejesus out of them! The owner of the dog looked at us like we were nuts to be scared of this dog (bigger than at least 3 of my kids) baring his teeth at them. Again, I told the kids to suck it up, so they went into the pop up to play a card game. It was still a bit warm inside, so they unzipped all the windows. Just in time to smell the other neighbors’ pot wafting through the air, a smell none of my kids recognized, thankfully. (I didn’t tell them to suck it up on that one… just sayin’) My dinner prep was almost done, and by this time my mouth was watering with anticipation. Everyone LOVES these burritos!
As dusk faded to evening, I attempted to start a campfire (my favorite part of camping). To this day I have no idea why my attempts failed. All of them. I tried, and tried, and tried. Nothing but black smoke. It was almost suffocating, so I finally gave up. I doused the smoldering pile in the fire pit and went back to finishing the burritos. The noise level had grown significantly. Too many people in a too-small campground. Such as it is with Labor Day camping. I was tired. The kids were grumpy. And we were all anxiously awaiting that first delectable mouthful.
I wrapped the last burrito and handed them out to the kids sitting around our non-existent campfire. Finally! I grabbed another cold one and plopped my rear end in that camp chair. Opened my mouth wide for the awesomeness that awaited me. And wouldn’t you know it… before the burrito even touched my lips, our carbon monoxide detector in the pop up started blaring away. Talk about loud!! I calmly went inside, tapped the button to get it to stop. It did. For about two minutes. Just as I sat my butt back in that chair to finally eat my (now lukewarm) burrito, it went blasting again. The kids all looked at me. To this day, I know what they were thinking, even though they knew better than to say it…. suck it up, Mom!
I sat there – noisy neighbors, smoldering smoke (of all kinds), and the crazy loud carbon monoxide alarm blazing and took my first bite of that wonderful, tasty, filling chicken burrito. I wasn’t moving until it (and my beer) were gone. But I knew we couldn’t stay. I didn’t know enough about our relatively new pop up to know if the alarm was something I could simply disable and ignore, or whether the warning was “real.” I just couldn’t climb in there with my five young kids for the evening, hoping it was a false alarm. That could have had a really bad ending…
I finished the burrito and beer, packed up and hooked up the pop up and headed home. We crawled into our beds at midnight, and spent the rest of Labor Day weekend at home. And I slept like a baby – mind at ease and a belly full of burrito. I’m going Labor Day Camping this year for the first time since then. I can’t wait! I have no doubt it will be a different and much better experience! About the only thing that will be the same is the chicken, fresh corn, and black bean burritos! Yum!