Aspen Princess: This Sherwood Forest a bit different than Aspen’s forest
The Aspen Princess
“Do you hear that?” my brother-in-law Aaron asks each time the ice machine automatically drops ice into the bucket.
Aaron is very proud of his ice machine, which is conveniently located in the outdoor wet bar. It’s just one of many luxuries that come with his brand-new Gray Wolf camper. This thing is more like a small condo with every luxury imaginable and let me tell you, if it were parked in the Aspen trailer park, it would be worth millions.
We’re at Shades of Sherwood, a campground on the Zumbrata River an hour south of Minneapolis. I keep calling it “The Sherwood Forest” because this campground truly feels like another dimension. It’s sort of part summer camp, part resort and part parking lot.
Aaron thinks it’s hilarious that I’m this princess at the RV park and makes it his personal mission to educate me in the ways of the redneck (his words, not mine). It’s as if I’m Goldie Hawn in the movie “Overboard” who has fallen off her yacht, hit her head and ended up in a trailer park, like literally. He encourages me to drink beer during the day, to let my stomach hang out, to swear at my husband, to play with fire (like literally, with the blow torch he brought to start the campfire) and to burp and fart with reckless abandon. His refrain all weekend is, “Now that’s redneck.”
It’s the Fourth of July weekend, and the place is sold out. Our campsite is sandwiched on both sides by people and all the crap they dragged here with them, including golf carts, inflatable pool toys, huge screened tents, chairs, tables, rugs, lights, flat screen TVs, additional vehicles, bikes, outdoor fans and (no joke) tiki bars. People who rent sites for the whole summer build decks, landscape, furnish their lawns with outdoor patio furniture and lighting and signs to proudly display their family name. These RVs are insanely tricked out with sliding glass doors, bay windows, and LED lighting, and so are the golf carts they use to cruise the paved loop that circles the premises, cocktails in hand, entire families packed onto these things with limbs flopped every which way.
Every night, Aaron lugs this giant flatscreen TV outside and mounts it onto the side of the camper so we can watch movies outside where I sit happily and eat a bag of Skinny Pop that’s bigger than my head. There’s an outdoor shower where I can rinse off after swimming and condition my hair. Levi can take a two-hour afternoon nap in the full-size sleeper with air conditioning while Ryan watches “The Lorax” for the 500th time.
We spend our days at “the pond,” a man-made water feature that’s part small lake and part swimming pool. It’s surrounded by sand that is soft as velvet and raked every night. The water is an alarming shade of green that is either reminiscent of the Caribbean or radioactive, depending on how you look at it. There are like, 6 million other people here, the chorus of shrieks, giggles and music coming from 10 different speakers the kind of background noise that always makes me feel pleasantly disoriented and a little bit drowsy.
There are many other amenities and activities in the Sherwood Forest, including a swimming pool (wall-to-wall with shrieking children and their parents); a huge bouncy thing with 50 kids hurtling and flipping around, arms and legs flying through the air like little live weapons; an arcade, store and snack bar where we get soft serve ice cream on wafer cones that bring me right back to the late 1970s. I try not to think about the fact that every flavor comes out of the same machine, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in years. I can tell Aaron is pleased that I’m not subscribing to my usual dietary restrictions but indulging in processed sugar, red meat, dairy and gluten with reckless abandon — and loving every minute of it.
There are lots of activities, from the kiddie train and evening wagon rides to rock painting and tubing down the river. Aaron informs me that the river flooded a week ago and drowned a bunch of cows — something about mad cow disease? We abstain from tubing even though it’s probably the one thing that’s sort of familiar. He also informs me someone pooped in the pond a week ago and they had to drain the whole thing and clean it, which might explain the lovely sign hanging on the fence at the entrance that reads: “Do not swim if you have diarrhea.”
Aaron provides everything we need for long days at the pond from a giant awning and comfortable seating to a cooler packed with snacks and beer. I swim all day, giggle with my favorite niece and ogle cute boys, and spend hours either playing in the water with my little boy or watching in horror as he is hurtled into the air in a wide variety of ways, screaming “redneck” at the top of his lungs like his uncle taught him and showing no fear whatsoever. He even slides down The Wibit, a terrifying 30-foot inflatable yellow and green monstrosity that floats in the middle of the pond and is teeming with teenagers who have no fear of killing themselves as they hurtle off the top of this thing, flipping every which way into the water.
There’s no yoga, no lattes or smoothies or vegan, gluten-free food. No blow outs or make up or shoes with heels, just bathing suits, flip-flops and cover ups.
There’s also no hassle, no stress and no worries. Just spending time with family, laughing uncontrollably (as I often do around my brother-in-law) and watching my beautiful boy have fun. The Sherwood Forest might not be fit for a queen, but it made for one very relaxed and very happy princess.
The Princess is very, very tan. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.