“Campfire Calamity” … How Not to Build a Campfire



You know how sometimes you never really know how great you can be how much you suck at something until you try? Well, I had that experience over the weekend. It involved an escapade with a crumpled up old manuscript, a glass of Wild Turkey, cotton balls, and Vaseline. (Don’t worry, this is a PG rated story.)

I thought I would surprise The Boss with a nice roaring campfire when he got home from work on Friday night. Time to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and each other’s company. (awwww) Sounds simple enough. Right? I mean I’ve built fires in wood stoves and indoor fireplaces before. I got this… I thought.

I started the little project an hour and a half before he get’s home.

4:00 p.m. – With some wood already split all I had to do was split a little kindling to get going.

4:10 p.m. – Prudently, I wore a pair of leather work gloves (Safety First!) because I managed to catch the knuckle of my left hand with the hatchet. Thankfully, I swing the hatchet like a snail on Thorazine and I didn’t break the skin or leave a bruise.

4:15 p.m. – Go back inside and look for a little bit of paper to scrunch up under my little tee-pee of kindling. A few pages from that old manuscript looks good. Scrunch up about 25 pages stuff it in my hoodie sweatshirt pocket and go back outside.

4:20 p.m. – Pile up crumpled paper then place kindling in the tee-pee fashion to allow adequate air circulation. Grab the handy-dandy lighter form outdoor kitchen box. Check for wind. All is good. Light paper.

4:25 p.m. – Decent flame. Looks like kindling is catching fire. Watch it for a few minutes. Looks good. Add larger pieces of split and dry wood.

4:30 p.m. – Watch fire die out… and smoke plumes dance like gypsies up into the sky. Check to see if neighbors are home. Nope, good. Well, that didn’t go  as planned. I must need more paper. I’ll just get a few more pages of manuscript. Go back inside.

4:35 p.m. – Crumple another 25 pages. Stuff it into the pocket up my sweatshirt. Go back outside and try again. Move things around a bit, stuffing paper balls strategically around the now log cabin looking pile of wood in the pit. Use the handy-dandy lighter. Watch as the flame comes to life.

4:45 pm. – Get a little excited. I think this is it!

4:48 p.m. – Watch as the flame dies out and the smokes starts to billow once again… this time more toward the neighbor’s camper. Hmmm, at least no one is home to be bothered by my incompetence…or watch my pathetic attempts at what I thought would be such an easy task.

4:49 p.m. – I need an accelerant, but we don’t use charcoal so there’s no lighter fluid around. How about more flame? Yes, that’s it! There must be a blow torch in one of these tool boxes.

4:50 p.m. – Nope. Can’t find a blow torch. Okay, how about something inside for some sort of accelerant. Maybe Tequila? Nope, precious resource. Vodka? Ditto. Hey, there’s an old bottle of Wild Turkey. I hate that stuff, that will  work.

4:55 p.m. –  I’m not sure if the bourbon will act like gasoline or not. Don’t want that! Maybe I should just wet a few paper towels with it and once the flame gets going (from another 25 pages of manuscript)  I can throw the soaked paper towels on the fire. Yes, I really did this. Don’t judge. 😉

4:56 p.m. – Stuff the pages in and around what’s left of the kindling and burnt pages. Click the handy-dandy lighter. Watch the flames come to life. Find some old dried-up twigs and fern leaves and add them to the little blaze. Nice! Looking good. Toss on the bourbon soaked paper towels. Watch them land like the wet blankets they are… and smother out the flame. M*@*&*r F@*%*r!!!

5:03 p.m. – Less than a half an hour to sink or swim here. I need a sure-fire way (hee hee hee) to get this thing going. Wait, didn’t I read in one of the survival blogs that one should always keep cotton balls smeared with Vaseline on hand for quick fire starters? Yes, I’m sure that’s what it said.

5:05 p.m. –  Rush back into the house and ransack the storage draws under the clothes closet for cotton balls. Got them! Now, Vaseline …. Crap. Wait! Didn’t I once get a little tiny sample of it attached to a bottle of body lotion? Yes, I did! It must be in the medicine cabinet somewhere. Viola! there it is. It’s about the size of my thumb but it’s the only chance I have left. I grab the last 30 pages of manuscript, the cotton balls, the Vaseline and my gloves and head back to my make my final attempt.

5:10 p.m. – Pull apart the charred remains of the kindling and larger pieces of wood from the pit. Think about sucking the Wild Turkey from the still dripping paper towels. Nah… maybe if I had used the Tequila. Smooth out the ashes from the burned paper. Carefully build a pyramid with what’s left of the crumpled up pages of manuscript.

Wait… what???

Picture the light bulb going off over my head here …

“WTF, if I can’t even start a fire with these pages using a flipping lighter how will I ever ignite enough passion in others to want them to read them?!?!  

Okay, hold on. Deep Breath. Shake it off. Don’t. Go. There. Now. 

5:12 p.m. – Grab some cotton balls from the bag. Slide them through the minuscule plastic container to smear with Vaseline. Set them strategically around the pile of paper. Re-stack the charred kindling into that fabulous tee-pee formation. Put a swipe of Vaseline here and there on kindling. Get more kindling to make the tee-pee bigger. Add a few more swipes of Vaseline.

5:16 p.m. – Okay it’s show time. Grab the handy-dandy lighter and light one of the Vaseline smeared cotton balls. Wow, look at that sucker go! Make my way around the tee-pee lighting the balls as I go. It’s working! It’s actually working!

5:20 p.m. – Watch in amazement as the kindling really starts to burn in earnest. Woo Hoo! Grab what’s left of the bigger pieces of charred wood, place a swipe of what little bit of Vaseline remains in the mini tub on them. Add them to the fire. They’re burning! They are actually burning!!

5:22  p.m. – Take a picture because I’m still afraid it’s going to stop burning… because… well that’s what keeps happening. (see pic above)

5:23 p.m. – Finally start to believe it’s going to keep burning and the same time realize I am a crazy sweaty sooty mess from trying to build this flipping fire!

5:24 p.m. – Rush inside pulling down my head/ear muff and rubberband from my hair. Run my fingers through my hair just enough to get the tangles out. Pull hair back up into a pony tail and pull head/ear muff back up to hide my wild bangs… sort of. Grab a wash cloth do a quick swipe with cold water. No time to get changed. Oh hell… good enough.

5:26 p.m. –  Pour a glass of Pinot Grigio and take three big gulps. Top off the glass again. (It only counts as one glass that way 😉 ) Pour two fingers of Rumplemintz and put a beer in a coozy. Head back outside.

5:28 p.m. – Make it outside just in time to meet The Boss with cocktails in hand, a smile on my face and a roaring fire in the pit. Fweww!

The Boss – “Wow babe, this is awesome! What a great idea. Did you have any problems?”

Me – “Of course not. It was a piece of cake!”

You can't really see it, but that's my 2nd official glass of celebratory wine ;-)

You can’t really see it, but that’s my 2nd “official” glass of celebratory wine ;-)

So there you have it. How Not To build a campfire. I will say though that if you’re stuck, or heck just looking for a quick starter, try the Vaseline. It really works! I’ve got it on my shopping list.

Seriously. See…


If you have any tips or tricks on building the perfect campfire feel free to leave them in the comments below. (please… lol) 🙂


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This entry was posted in Ramblings from the Road, Writing on Eight Wheels and tagged , , , , , by Wendy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Wendy

I am a full-time RVer living a nomadic life with my husband as he travels throughout the United States for his career. Our mobile castle is a 38 foot 5th wheel with all the comforts of home and office. I do a little freelance writing here and there. Maybe someday I'll finish that novel. In addition to writing, I've developed a passion for health and fitness. It's taken my nearly 50 years to really nurture this passion, (eeeek!) but now that I'm on board I'm loving the journey. As a matter of fact, I love it so much I decided to become a full-time Team Beachbody Coach. Contact me today if you'd like to be a part of one of my private Motivation and Accountability Groups on Facebook or if you're interested in the Team Beachbody Coaching opportunity.

15 thoughts on ““Campfire Calamity” … How Not to Build a Campfire

  1. You’re brilliant! I didn’t know Vaseline would work as a fire-starter. I’ll never actually have Vaseline with me when I’m trying to start a fire, but still…

    • LoL I’m sure brilliant isn’t the word anyone who saw me running back and forth like a fool would have used. But, thanks! I’ll take it. 🙂

  2. Love those little propane campfires. Ya turn ‘da valve, lite the sucker ‘an turn off the valve when you’re done. No smell, no smoke, no mess. Of course, we wouldn’t get to read the wonderful “how to” essay! Thanks for a bit of delight while waiting for an oil change to be completed!


    • Thanks Michael! I’m glad I could help pass the time and maybe put a smile on your face. 🙂 Believe it or not we actually do have one of the Camco – Little Red Campfires, and I should probably admit that it’s right out on the picnic table.

      But, after the first couple of failed attempts at getting the campfire of wood going, I was determined I wasn’t going to give up… until I ran out of things from the house to burn I guess… LoL Yikes 😉

      Thanks so much for reading along and taking the time to comment! 🙂

      • Well, hey: we writers have to stick together, right?


        • Yes indeedy! 🙂 Have fun out there on the open road… March is just a couple of short weeks away!! Woo Hoo!

  3. Great story! Incidences like that make the wine taste that much better when you are done. We are just starting our full time adventure and will add those items to my list….wine, vodka, wild turkey, tequila….and oh ya fire starters!

    • Hi there,

      Thank you so much! Yes, that wine was very good indeed on that particular evening. 🙂

      Welcome to the wonderful world of full-timing. I wish you many many happy & healthy miles!! Yes, by all means make sure you have all of those items on your list. Yes, even the fire starters. LoL

      Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to comment! 🙂

  4. Hello Wendy
    I am thinking about going on the road after my divorce, am planning to by RV to travel all over full time, I have no clue about the anything regard, how everything’s work inside or outside the RV, give some advice, how to, and how to stay save on the road and also, how you leave the RV unattended, while going on the town, I heard the other day some body broke into RV and stole $19,000 worth of equipment. how you live hostage to your RV?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hello Nabil,

      Living as full-time RVers has been a wonderful experience for us. Usually everywhere we stop people have been friendly and accommodating. There’s a sort of kinship RVers share and for the most part we tend to look out for one another.

      With that said, there is always apt to be one bad apple in the group, but thankfully, we haven’t found one yet! LoL

      We’ve never had any issue with theft or damage. But, just like in a brick and stick home, we never really rule it out. When we’re away from our rig we lock the doors and don’t worry too much about it. Most parks are very well supervised.

      As far as learning the ropes, I would say the best thing to do would be to read as many RV blogs as you can. Luckily for us are so many out there! That’s what we did before we actually hit the road.

      If you’re interested, there are some fantastic blogs listed on my “Great RV Blog” page. Once you get to those individual blogs, look for some of the blogs they recommend as well. Lots of information out there.

      Also, Hitch Itch is a good resource as well. There’s a link to that site on the right-hand side of my homepage.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Best of luck to you in your new adventure!

    • LoL… if I had written it as many times as I actually said it that night I’d get kicked off WordPress! I was a crazed woman on a mission. Maybe I should get out more… hmmm. 😉

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