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Front Page » August 1, 2013 » Opinion » Staff Column
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Staff Column

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Camp calling: The Preserver of the Ice

Over the years I have come to realize that long camping trips require a lot of work, especially when you are taking a lot of people with you.

These duties require certain people to do certain things at prescribed times, or the whole trip can be thrown off. In recent years I have found there are some key positions that need to be filled. Camp Chef is one and my wife fills that bill because I can hardly roast hot dogs over a fire right or even cook a can of chili without burning it.

Domestic Goddess is another position she fills well. She makes sure things stay straight in the trailer, plans games and crafts for the kids, organizes all the activities within the camp and generally keeps the place cleaned up. I help but she is the driving force in this area.

I am the facilities manager. I make sure all the machines are working (both those that drive and those that do other things) and keep the place in repair.

I also hold the most high position of being the Preserver of the Ice.

There is no higher calling on a camping trip. Without ice food goes bad and beer gets warm, the later being the most important of all.

Basically everything else can go to hell, and life is survivable. Without cold stuff, it gets unbearable. Tired and sometimes grumpy people that return from long ATV rides want cold drinks. Some want them with ice in them. While I have not experienced it, Diet Coke without ice is apparently like living in the dark ages.

If the Preserver of the Ice does his job properly, the masses will be happy and content. If not he could well be tarred and feathered late one night after some friends have consumed warmer than normal adult beverages.

So over the years I have come up  with various plans and methods for ice preservation. I have read and I have studied the situation. I have come to the conclusion It all has to do with bulk and air pockets. Bulk means a lot of ice, some of it stored only with other ice so you have something left for later in the week. I have crammed many a cooler full of ice blocks to get us through. This hasn't always worked though. A lot depends on daytime temperatures, and how many grandkids look in that cooler during any 24 hour period to see what is in there when it is 96 degrees outside.

That cramming idea has worked for me too. I call it tight pack. The more frozen food and bottles you can cram in a 2X3 cooler, without any space between it, the longer it will stay frozen. Just ask my wife how this works. She calls for pork chops for dinner three days into the trip and I pull them out totally frozen, which means defrost time. Okay, so the system isn't perfect, but it keeps us from eating chips and canned soup the whole time.

On one camping trip a few years ago we had enough people that we had 10 coolers full of food, beverages and worms (fishermen always need lots of worms). It was a full time job just trying to keep those coolers out of the hot sun and keep little fingers from lifting the lids looking for goodies.

But regardless of what I have found works best there is one thing that will always happen. Someone else in camp will run out of ice. Ice runs are common place and it seems to be my job to always find ice somewhere even if we are 30 miles from the nearest paved road much less one that has a store on it.

The Ice Preserver must have a good memory for where the last place before reaching the camp spot is that sells ice. He must also know the kinds of ice that people want and what they demand when they ask for an ice run to be made. Disappointment of others upon his return could turn ugly. There is crushed, pelleted (someone always asks for this even though the nearest Sonic might be 100 miles away) and block.

There is a Murphy's Law that applies here too. If you go to get crushed ice all the store you have gone to to purchase said ice will have on hand is block ice. On the other hand if someone wants block ice the store is bound to not sell anything but crushed. Block lasts longer in a cooler, but crushed is what people want in drinks. Knowing the disappointed faces I will find in camp upon my return without the proper ice I often throw a block out the window of the truck on the pavement driving just under 30 miles per hour, creating crushed ice. I stop, and walk back and hope the plastic bag hasn't split open. I guess you couldn't call the ice from that maneuver crushed; it is more like splintered.

As for turning crushed into block, well I haven't found a good process for that, but I am working on it.

When you return with the ice you are either a hero or a heel, depending on what you were able to find. One time I brought back some ice cream from the stores freezer thinking this would make up for the fact I was unable to find block ice. When I left the store the cartons were frozen solid. Upon arrival they were soup. The natives got restless over that one.

Anyway, all I can say is that happiness is having enough ice to go around, which allows me the exalted job of Ice Preserver.

I just can't imagine what these people would be like if they had to really camp.

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