Back in January, I made reference to something called Camptathalon, and said I would re-visit this phenomenon in April. Of course, April rolled around and there was no Camptathalon post. Part of that omission was due to teaching an AP class fourth quarter, which is a tad bit brutal. But the other reason was that Camptathalon itself was pushed back from its original April date to later in the summer.
You see, Camptathalon moves around the calendar each year, much like other hallowed holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas.
(Okay, I’m being told that Christmas falls on the same day every year, so strike that last reference.)
But whereas Easter takes place on the Sunday following the first full moon of Spring, Camptathalon falls on a much more logical weekend – whenever our wives let us out/want us out of the house for the whole weekend.
I imagine the original Easter weekend went the same way.
“Oh gosh, Jesus, you want to do the Last Supper this Thursday? I mean, I’d love to go, but if I don’t get this camel shit shoveled, the old lady’s gonna crucify me… Hey, where are you going, Jesus? Was it something I said?”
Camptathalon officially began three years ago. While there had always been camping trips, some were just the men, some included significant others and/or children. But three years ago, one of my friends had a baby on the way, and the showering of said baby seemed like a perfect time for just the malefolk to get the hell out of Dodge.
Unfortunately, the father-to-be was unable to attend that year, because his wife decided that the father should be attend the baby shower. I’m not sure on which planet someone with a penis should be playing any “guess the poopy” games. But I do know that on this planet, if your third-trimester pregnant wife tells you to come to the baby shower, you come to the fucking baby shower.
And your asshole friends go on the designated camping trip without you. Hey, at least we had the decency to “pour one out for our missing homey.” I’ve also had a friend cancel own his bachelor party in Reno once. Too bad. He missed a great time.
So three years ago, four city slickers met up at a Quick-E-Mart on the way to the foothills. We loaded up on the vital nutritional elements and four basic food groups of any camping trip. You know, chips, jerky, and beer. Wait, that’s only three? Okay, double the beer.
One guy, who swears he’s been camping since the sixties, showed up with only three items: a pillow, a bow and arrow, and a bottle of vodka.
And, lo, Camptathalon was born.
As the name implies, Camptathalon includes some competitive elements. A series of events, running the gamut from moderately athletic all the way to quasi-intellectual. Each year, there are between 3-7 events, depending on the amount of time or sobriety available. The lineup of events changes slightly from year to year, based on factors like who remembered to bring what sporting good or if the goddamn camp host will let us shoot the goddamn bow and arrow.
Some events take a year or two off, then return. Frisbee golf has made it in twice. The golf club was left at home one year, making chipping difficult. Same story with horseshoes. Totaling our gambling winnings requires the campsite to be within driving distance of Nevada (one Camptathalon was held on Kentucky Derby weekend, another during the Belmont Stakes). Whiffle Ball Home Run Derby almost missed a year, but fortunately, it was one of the years we had to go into Nevada to bet on horses, so we were able to buy a new bat (cheaper than a new golf club).
One event, the pine cone toss for distance, was tried once and will never see the light of Camptathalon day again, after we all tore our hands up. Turns out a pine cone isn’t as smooth and aerodynamic as a football. Did I mention we drink beer?
But a few staple events are always included, year in and year out. On Friday night, after making camp, we unravel the Camptathalon trophy and open and toast the honorary first beer (not the actual first beer, but the honorary one). After this, we engage in a $10 Texas Hold ‘em tournament. This is the Iowa Caucus of Camptathalon weekend. Unlike the Caucus, the loser of the poker tourney doesn’t have to remove himself from the Camptathalon running. However, we have implemented an even harsher punishment than giving up on your dreams of the White House. The loser must consume some horrific alcoholic libation. Last year it was pocket whiskey from a pouch. This year it will be a 40 oz. of Mickey’s left over from my 40th birthday party.
Home run derby has always been included, but as I referenced before, its run has been tenuous, what with the difficult requirement of us remembering both a bat and a ball.
But the one event that always must occur, the one requirement to make an officially sanctioned Camptathalon Trip, is the Butter Toss. What is the Butter Toss, you ask? Well, you see, we take some butter, and… follow me, now… we toss it. For accuracy, not distance, because tossing butter for distance would just be silly. Think of darts, except replace the darts with tablespoon slices of stick butter.
We’re not sure how melty the butter is supposed to be. The originator of the Butter Toss brought only a pillow and vodka to the trip. Much like The Greatest American Hero, he must’ve lost the Butter Toss instruction book. What we do know is that the first time we did it, we purchased the butter on the way to the casino. By the time the gambling was done and we were back at the campsite, the butter had been sitting in a car trunk under the beautiful Nevada summer sky for a few hours. What we removed from the trunk was effectively butter soup. We tried to solidify the slough in the icechest, but the globules we ended up heaving at the front cover of The Economist were still somewhere south of solid.
Ever since Year One, we have intentionally softened the butter. It’s never been as messy as the first time (the type of phrase that might pop up at a Camptathalon), but if a sizeable percentage of the butter isn’t still clinging to your hand and dripping between your fingers after the toss, you ain’t doin’ it right.
Points are awarded for placing in each event (5 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd, etc.) We keep a running total of the scores as the weekend progresses. Last year, we had a tie at the end, so we played a sudden death cribbage match. Yours truly came from behind with back-to-back 20+-point hands.
The trophy sits in front of the scoreboard for the entire weekend, then goes home with the winner. It is a pine cone that might or might not have been used in Year One’s ill-fated pine cone toss. The wives have bedazzled it a bit over the years, such that it now features ribbons with beer bottle caps that we can write our name on when we win it. Just like the Stanley Cup. When not on display, it now rests in a Wisconsin Lunchbox. Not the drink or the sexual position (look it up if you dare), but an actual lunchbox sporting the Wisconsin Badgers logo. That was my contribution.
My reign as Camptathalon is almost at an end. I bucked one trend by being the first champion to make it through the weekend without puking. Might I make history again by becoming the first repeat champion? And what will be the motto of this year’s Camptathalon?
In a few years, when this event is covered on ESPN and Network TV, this is the point where the sportscaster will say… “We’ll find out. That’s why they play the game.”