Welcome to the Recession Vacation Research Laboratory

Welcome to the Recession Vacation Research Laboratory

What is the Recession Vacation Research Lab? It's my backyard--the only vacation I could afford this Fourth of July weekend.

I'll be back here for 72 hours testing camping gear, blogging, and generally cavorting with all kinds of company: my pregnant wife, my two-year-old son, a public school teacher, a government employee, a fickle Greyhound, an elderly mutt, a chef--and a handful of my City Pages colleagues, family and friends.

Most Americans will be staying close to home this Fourth of July weekend--just like they'll likely be doing for the rest of the Summer or as long as the recession and gas prices hold out. Gone (for now, and for most of us) are the days of long road trips, spendy destination-travel and round-trip flights to New York City or further.

We were out there camping last night--listening for the bandits who robbed my neighbor's truck the night before and comforting our guard dogs--frightened by the fuse-lit and seasonal artillery of neighborhood hooligans.

Welcome to the Recession Vacation Research Laboratory

The view from Recession Vacation Research Laboratory Tent #1.

Camping is honorable. It takes courage and skill. Camping in your backyard? Not so much. Still, there will be adventure, food tastings, the testing of portable toilets, and much more. Stay tuned.

And its not too late to launch your own recession vacation. The state parks aren't full yet.

I called Pat Arndt, who does public relations and planning for the state parks. Here's what she had to say:

Me: With the economy in the tank and gas prices surging, are you seeing a bump in state park traffic?

Pat: We don't know yet. We're anticipating a good summer. The month of June was slow. We had a late spring with snow through April. People weren't even thinking about summer until mid to late-May.

Me: Are you worried you might be losing some business to backyard camping?

Pat: The thing is, there is a state park within 30 miles of almost every spot in the state. There's a state park in your backyard.

Me: Well played.

Pat: And it's not only camping we're expecting to go up. It's visitors staying elsewhere but on a budget vacation. They're at cabins or motels and they're coming into the parks during the day.

Me: When you get these surges in campers, do you worry about the less-than-savvy campers hurting themselves or others? I mean you've got fires, stoves, saws...

Pat: Well, we're doing these programs called I Can Camp--they're directed at people who haven't camped in 10 or 15 years. We show them how to put a tent together or how to build a fire without looking silly in front of their family.

Me: What's the toilet situation in the state parks?

Pat: We've got flush toilets, showers, staff to greet you, security. You're pretty well taken care of. There's a place to plug in your hair dryer, there are even small cabins. You don't have to leave a lot of creature comforts behind.

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