And not just any campground — one that was "clothing optional."
It's not that I'm ashamed of my middle-aged body. Well, yes I am.
I'm also shallow enough to admit that it might be disconcerting to spend the better part of a weekend among nude bodies that did not exactly step out of the International Male or Victoria's Secret catalogs.
My friends and I stayed there two months ago because I was on a budget, and the restaurant is expensive. It's also very much the opposite of clothing optional; the dress code requests that men wear a sports coat. No jeans, tennis shoes or shorts.
Which is how four guys ended up, a couple of hours before dinner, running between the community showers and our campsite, getting cleaned up and putting on suits (real, not birthday).
I had been in charge of getting the French Laundry reservations, which are extremely difficult to come by. Normally you have to call the restaurant's reservation line exactly two months ahead. For example, if you want to eat there Dec. 30, you phone Oct. 30 beginning at 10 a.m. The French Laundry has just 17 tables, and competition is fierce.
The first time I tried, I didn't get through until 11:15 a.m. and was told that all seatings were taken.
Then I found a restaurant Web site, opentable.com, that offers two French Laundry reservations per evening. They also must be made two months in advance, starting at midnight.
I got ready at 11:30 p.m. by going to the Web site and filling out the online forms. The instant my clock flashed midnight, I clicked through to grab a Saturday night reservation.
(Hold on to this advice for a few weeks. French Laundry will close Jan. 1 for three to four months while the kitchen is expanded. Meanwhile, you can hope for a rare cancellation. Call  944-2380 to get on a waiting list.)
I left the accommodations for Friday and Saturday nights up to Northern California friends Dan and Ron. They live in Sausalito and planned to bring their friend Tim to complete our table.
The problem was that all the nearby places were booked. Besides, most of them wanted $250 or more per night.
Ron suggested camping at Harbin Hot Springs, about an hour north of the restaurant. The price was right: $35 apiece per day, including a membership fee that allowed access to mineral pools fed by hot springs, a large swimming pool, hot showers and drop-in classes, including three yoga sessions daily.
Massages and other spa treatments were extra. I booked the Ultimate Spa Package, a relatively inexpensive 2 1/2-hour blowout that included massage, scrub, body wrap, facial and hot-oil scalp treatment for $155.
Ron had been to Harbin years ago and said it was in a beautiful canyon setting. He recalled that the place was a bit New Agey but otherwise innocuous.
Ron insisted that he had warned me about the "clothing optional" part, but either he was mistaken or I had thought he said something like "boating optional." Anyway, by the time I found out, it was too late to make other plans.
Exercising their option
I rode my motorcycle north Friday night to meet the group. The last 17 miles to Middletown are on twisty, two-lane California 29, which has steep, unprotected drop-offs.