Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wiener Stick Parking Lot

I needed to get out of town for a little bit yesterday, so I went to my thinking place.

Lawrence Lake is a little tiny campground about a half-hour north of Athabasca on Highway 2. I don't think I'm really revealing a big secret here, because it's right on the highway.

But when I was a kid, the province of Alberta was dotted with little roadside campgrounds like this. Most of my summer vacations were spent going from one of these campgrounds to the next, all across the province.

My mother was fond of quoting one MLA who sarcastically referred to these facilities as "wiener stick parking lots." Said the MLA, "People park their RV there, jump out, roast their wieners, then hop back in and drive away."

But then, we had to bow to progress. Ralph Klein came to power, and the Alberta government was "no longer in the business of making business." High on the list of things that the government wanted to sell off and privatize: campgrounds.

The wiener stick parking lots were a tough sell to a lot of private contractors. Firstly, a lot of them were free or on the honor system. Not a lot of profit in that. And, if they were free to begin with, the government wasn't going to let them march in and start charging. So, a lot of the ones that didn't sell were closed down. There was a large public outcry, causing the government to re-open some of those free ones almost immediatly. And then, they were quietly closed down with no fanfare (and thus, no outcry) about a year later.

I was reflecting on this as I wandered around the Lawrence Lake campground. When I was a kid, I was kind of mad at the government for selling off the campgrounds. "You're selling out our heritage!" and all that jazz. But then, I was thinking, that maybe it's just an idea whose time has passed. I chided my parents last year for their new trailer: a 50-foot monster unit complete with microwave, TV, and DVD player. "But Mark," the said. "This is considered a very basic model these days." I have relatives that consider the concept of an outhouse archaic and they refuse to go to any campground that doesn't have flush toilets and/or a shower building.

The entire concept of camping has changed. No one wants a wiener stick parking lot anymore. They just want a parking lot. Preferrably one with full hook-ups. How else can they have their hot showers and microwave popcorn?

Did you know that Wal-Mart allows free camping in all their parking lots? It's true. There are people who plan whole camping trips from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart. That may be your idea of camping, but I'll always prefer my wiener stick parking lots, where the views are a might better.

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