DURHAM, N.C. — In Krzyzewskiville, the rules are many, the accommodations are barebones and the fans are … dedicated. Some might even call them crazy.
Duke students, the Cameron Crazies, camp out in tents in the lawn area right by Cameron Indoor Stadium — sometimes for months in advance, depending on how hardcore the "tenters" are — just for the right to get the best seats for the North Carolina-Duke game each year.
And yes, at least one or two tenters in each group (depending on the level of tenting, of course) have to spend the night out there, only getting exceptions in the case of extreme weather. There are bathrooms, but they are port-a-potties. There are electrical outlets, but they are on the other side of the sidewalk.
Shortly after what will likely be the final grace period (this one due to weather) ended before Saturday’s UNC-Duke matchup in Cameron, tenters trickled back in to Krzyzewskiville. They shook the remaining snow and ice from Monday night’s storm off the tops of their tents and took anything wet and cold out to dry. Many removed chairs to sit outside, where the air was still chilly but the sun was streaming down, waiting for tent checks.
One tent sticks out from the group.
It’s not a huge tent, and it’s not one of the first in line. This one’s in White Tenting, which basically means that the group didn’t have to start camping out until late February. But it is powered by a solar panel that is mounted outside the tent on a pole and stabilized with an empty beer case. Asking the surrounding Krzyzewskiville residents about said tent, none of them seemed to know whose it was.
"I wish it were my tent," one female student sitting outside an adjacent tent said.
Finally, up walked one of the residents — Ian Zhang, a senior at Duke who’s taken part in the Krzyzewskiville tradition since he was a freshman.
It had to be asked: what’s the deal with the solar panels?
Duke students avoid using public outlets in Krzyzewskiville by setting by utilizing solar power in their tent.
"So, we have a really genius kid named Jawad, he’s in the Pratt School of Engineering here. He just had a random solar panel lying around and he was like, ‘Let me just bring this.’ We have that," Zhang said. "It hooks up to a solar cell down there (he pointed to the bottom of the tent) and it charges. We have a couple outlet plugs. It’s great. We have light in there at night. We can charge our stuff. It’s great."
There are 12 occupants in the tent, which won’t matter until Thursday and Friday. Then there are the P-Checks, or Personal Checks. Basically, everyone has to be there for at least three of the five daily checks between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. There’s room for a dozen in Zhang’s solar-powered camp, but barely. And certainly not any room for sleeping.
But there is room for them to plug in a lamp or an air-mattress — and, yes, to charge their smart phones and laptops.
"If it’s freezing outside or snowing or whatever, that’s the last thing you want to do," Zhang said of the walk across the campgrounds to use the outlets. "So we got this sweet thing hooked up."
Oddly enough, their creation is not yet in high demand around K-Ville.
"We haven’t had any borrowers so far, because there’s an outlet down there," Zhang said, pointing to one across the sidewalk. "We’re just lazy and we have an engineer, so he figured why not? … In my four years here, I think this is the first solar panel I’ve ever experienced in K-Ville. It’s been very useful."
Camping out like that day and night, it’s the little things that make the difference. Leave it to Duke students to continue to figure out ways to make their lives just a bit easier in a roughing-it experience.