Everywhere Once by the Numbers

Fire, fire, fire!

Months on the road: 31
Miles traveled: 46,197

Words written: 147,211
Photos posted: 1,046
Destinations visited: 185
National parks or monuments explored: 62
State capitol buildings toured: 15
People who started talking to us because they thought we were Texans: 42
People who lost interest upon learning we are really New Yorkers: 40
Sharks snorkeled with: 7
Countries visited: 4
Days spent scooping rabbit turds: 1

Museums frequented: 32
Plays seen: 5

Caves spelunked: 3
Planes jumped from: 1
People flipped off: 3
People who deserved it: 176
Campfires lit: 0

This last one is something that fascinates me. In the roughly 880 nights we’ve spent in campgrounds we never once lit a campfire. Moreover, we never felt the urge to light one. And yet almost everywhere we go someone nearby feels compelled to set something ablaze. I don’t quite understand it.

To be clear, we’re not talking about fires lit for cooking purposes. No, these are often set within a few meters of a fully functioning and completely ignored barbeque grill. These fires are lit purely for the sake of seeing something burn. What is it about campgrounds that brings out the pyromaniac in so many of us?

Lets face it, almost no one sits around a fire in their every day lives. Even those who own fireplaces mostly don’t use them – their owners preferring to spend evenings basking in the warm glow of a television set rather than in front of a roaring fire. But move these same people to a campground, even one smack in the middle of an urban environment that is nothing more than a parking lot for motor homes, and the blazes pop up like torches on an episode of Survivor.

You might say that there is something about camping that arouses a deep nostalgia for a more primitive way of life; one where a fire is an essential part the daily routine. And that might make sense if these fires were not normally set in front of massive motor homes complete with running water, endless electricity, and propane furnaces. Whatever allure there is to primitive living, it only runs so deep it seems.

More than that, though, I’d wager that the ubiquitous campground fire is simply an example of the ways in which stereotypes and expectations influence our actions. When we think about camping the first mental image we conjure is likely to be people sitting around a campfire. We build fires because, in some sense, we’re expected to build campfires. It’s what camping is – or at least what it is supposed to be.

It’s not that people love sitting around fires, although some may find it mildly enjoyable or, more probably, novel. If they truly loved sitting fireside they’d do it far more often. They certainly wouldn’t save all that fiery goodness for the few occasions when they travel to a designated campground. They’d set them elsewhere, too. Houses would come with fire pits instead of swimming pools. Town parks would have places for locals to burn things the way they have party pavilions. If we wanted fires, we’d make room for them in our lives and our communities. But mostly we don’t want them – except when we’re at a place called a campground and then we can’t seem to get enough of them. How strange.

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24 Comments on “Everywhere Once by the Numbers”

  1. heavenhappens December 3, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Fascinating x what’s next?

  2. Grass Oil by Molly Field December 3, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    There’s gotta be something about the smell. I love the initial scent of a lot cigar, but I can’t stand the rest of it. I am glad you never lit a fire. Smokey is too.

    • Brian December 3, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Yup. I always liked the smell of a wood fire on the first really cold morning of late autumn. But it loses its allure when everything starts smelling like smoke all the time.

  3. Pamela Goode December 3, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Love the stats! Makes me very wanderlust-y.

  4. Animalcouriers December 3, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Very impressive stats. We do look forward to your reports on the European leg!

    • Brian December 3, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Us too. :-)

  5. francisguenette December 3, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Well – I have to admit there is something magical about watching a fire burn – but then I do it all the time because we use a wood stove with beautiful glass doors to heat our home and we have a lovely chimney stove out on a deck that overlooks the lake – but interesting point – we would never light a fire anywhere else but here – home is where the fire burns, I guess

  6. Mazigrace December 3, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Love fires ….. have one every chance we can. Years ago, when my Dad was still living and we would visit, he would always have a fire in the fire place. The first thing I would do is say hi and then cozy up to the fire. It’s mesmerizing to watch the flames leaping and jumping to and fro. Oh, and love the stats …. especially the rabbit turds. Will that have its own blog or did I miss that one?

    • Brian December 3, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      A bit of a teaser, I guess. We’ll explain the rabbit turds in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

  7. Ron Scubadiver December 3, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    If someone started talking to me because they thought they I was a Texan, they would be right.

  8. Wingclipped December 3, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Ahhhh campfires! The excitement of creating that first spark so many millions of years ago has embedded itself in our genetic make up, and will remain with us for ever more. We all need to go back to our caveman roots sometimes. I was going to use the word “regress” but then I thought about some aspects of modern lives and decided against it! Long live the campfire!

  9. nikkiwynn December 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    You must have amazing self control…I think our people flipped off number is much higher.

    • Brian December 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      Too funny. You guys do such great videos you ought to consider documenting a year’s worth of birds.

      • Pat December 4, 2012 at 10:09 am #

        A friend was driving through Arkansas on the interstate and a bird flew into the windshield, died, and was caught in the window wiper. It obstructed her view and after a moments panic she turned on the window wiper and the bird flew over the roof. A few minutes later there were police lights behind her so she pulled over. When the officer came to her window she asked what was wrong because she hadn’t been speeding. He said, “Well, I’m sorry miss, but I’m going to have to issue you a ticket.” She was upset and asked why. “Well, you just flipped me the bird.” was his response.

  10. fulltimeusa December 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Nice post. We are fulltime RV travelers but don’t usually have a campfire. The only time we actually light a campfire is when our grandkids camp with us and they want to roast marshmellows. We certainly enjoy your blog. Be well and safe travels

  11. Arizona girl December 4, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    Fun stats! We never light a fire when camping, even though we are always sleeping in a tent. We’re big fans of going to bed and rising with the sun. I love the feeling of the sun warming your tent in the morning!

  12. kevinmayne December 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Fun post – enjoyed the stats.

    Confession of a fire lover – camp fires, garden fires and I am writing this sat beside a glowing log fire in the house. And here in Belgium wood fires are part of the culture, wood comes by the tonne not the bag!

  13. Evie December 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I think there’s something elementally human about a love of fire…the ability to build one and use it for light, heat, cooking, & protection is the only thing (other than opposible thumbs) that got humanity out of the caves and into modern life. The smell, warmth, and light of a fire is comforting to our primitive memories.

    Plus, it’s just plain fun to light stuff on fire.

    • Brian December 7, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      All of this is probably true. But I still don’t understand why, if we’re drawn to lighting fires for all of these reasons, do we mostly only do it in campgrounds?

      • Evie December 9, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        City laws. I mean, really, where else are we allowed to light them unless we live in the boonies?

        • Brian December 10, 2012 at 8:23 am #

          I’d say city laws preventing fires are more a symptom of our lack of desire to have them than a cause of why so few exist. This is a democracy, after all, where a majority of people get to decide what things like city laws permit. If a majority of people really wanted fires, we’d have them. As an example, open pits filled with water are tremendously dangerous things to have in our back yards and yet swimming pools seem to get built everywhere I look. Another example, city campgrounds that are decidedly not in the boonies often have fire pits where the neighboring houses and parks do not.

  14. badwalker December 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Fun by the numbers. As to fires, we choked once camping in Yosemite Valley, because everyone had to have a fire.

    • Brian December 7, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      Wood smoke does get a bit old after awhile.

  15. miriamtroxler December 11, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    I’ve nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. http://miriamtroxler.com/2012/12/11/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award/

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