Confidence game, Part I: Top banana

by Wolf Pascoe on November 12, 2012

I am two with nature.
— Woody Allen

The Reserve America site rush was last week. For those not in the know, yours truly is the Assistant Director of the Fern Hill Spring Camping Trip. Actually, I’m top banana now; last year, our director, Don, bailed at the last minute and left me holding the bag.

Block that metaphor!

Last year’s experience was so traumatic that I needed blog therapy after it was over—it took me seven posts get the two-week nightmare out of my system. If camping literature isn’t your thing, I can distill the tale into one paragraph:

You have to reserve your campsites online if you expect to go. Once the sites become available, you have a couple of minutes to grab them.  Our reservation team of twenty parents came through and delivered the sites we needed. Just.




“Hey, Wolf,” someone asked, “Are you going to write about the camping trip this year?


What was to write about? All the drama took place last year. This year we knew what we were doing. You want to talk camping reservations? You’ve got the right guy. I’m the world’s expert in making reservations, a personal pal of Darko Dejanovic, the technology wallah at Reserve America.

Call me.




This year I picked a different state park, Leo Carrillo, for the trip, and scouted target sites far from traffic noise. I trolled the Fern Hill community for reservation team replacements. On the morning of the site rush, twenty-eight parents lined up at the starting blocks.

Instead of having families sign up for the trip at the school gate, we created an online form. (Our new assistant director, Shirley, is a Google Forms whiz.) Last year, apart from my other troubles, I’d set the reservation price too low and got stuck for a week’s wages. This year, the amount went up to a break-even number.

I needed a new instruction video for the reservation team. Last year I made four videos because I didn’t know how to edit. This year I got Pinnacle Studio (for the super-low introductory price of nothing) and put the whole thing together on an iPad.




I had one more ace up my sleeve. Last year, Sam scored the de Anza group site at El Capitan to put us over the top. I quizzed him at length to understand his technique—it was sheer genius. I added a description of it to the new video. This year, 28 people did what Sam did last year.

(Want to know the secret? Join next year’s team.)

Was I overconfident?



Sort of.

Setting myself up for a fall?

Read on, dear reader, read on.




“So you’re going to Leo Carrillo?” said James.

James had run the camping trip forever before Don took over last year, enlisting me as assistant.

“Yeah,” I said. “We got 165 signed up.”

“You’re going to need 21 sites,” he said. Each site holds eight campers.

“I’ve got 28 people on the team.”

“Those sites go pretty quick,” he said.

In James’ day, one person was allowed to reserve as many sites as he wanted, and far fewer families went on the trip.

“Well,” I said, “We got all the sites we needed at El Capitan last year.”

We’d scored those sites in half a minute.

“True. But Leo Carrillo is more popular than El Cap. It’s the most popular park in the state by far.”

I hadn’t considered this. It was too late to change parks.

For the first time I thought about the possibility that we’d succeeded last year not because of superior organization and grit, but because El Capitan was a minor league choice. Were we in the majors now?

I’d done everything I could, I reasoned. We were more experienced. We had more people. We had Sam’s technique.

“Those Leo Carrillo sites—how quick do you figure they go?” I said.

“Two seconds,” he said.



This is the first part of a two part post. Part 2 next time: The Small Pond

Last year’s seven post blog therapy, the agony and the ecstasy:
Assistant, Promotion, And now my troubles begin, Team, Sign-up, Rush, Slingshot




Reserve America website. For the masochist.




Enough on my masochism. Let’s talk about yours. Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below:

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitchell November 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

These posts convince me that I need to stay contented to be a mere worker bee of volunteerism at my girls’ school. I have a feeling I should thank you for that as the years tick by.


Wolf Pascoe November 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I’d like to take the credit for that but I didn’t volunteer. I was drafted.


Barbara November 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I just read your reply on the first comment and laughed. It always begins with getting drafted to do something – that’s how they hook you. I was first in charge of publicity for Cub Scouts and it turned into a huge unpaid career. Beware! (Not really ‘beware’ – I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!)


Wolf Pascoe November 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Worker bees! Worker bees! That’s all we are is worker bees!


Gregoire November 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Wolf, I’m stressing! It’s too early to reserve campsites for Memorial Day, isn’t it? I got completely shut out at Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod last summer. Am I already too late? Help!


Wolf Pascoe November 14, 2012 at 12:48 am

It’s not too early for Memorial Day, which is in May. But you’re still okay for June–if you know the Method. Send two Cocoa Puff box tops to this website for your secret instruction booklet.


The Exception November 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I am on pins and needles, sitting on the edge of my seat. Did you get the sites? Will you have a successful camping trip in that popular park? I will be tuned in tomorrow to find out… The rest of the story!


Wolf Pascoe November 19, 2012 at 1:08 am

I always knew this blog had a future as a radio serial.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: