If you had told me 10 years ago that I would fall in love with camping, I would have said you were crazy. But then, the recession of 2008 happened.
I have always loved the excitement and adventure of travel, and nothing was going stop me from continuing to explore the world. With limited finances and a shaky economy, I pulled out one of my son’s tents and a couple of sleeping bags. “This could work … let’s go!” I told my husband, Ron, who is used to my occasional wackiness and agreed to my suggestion.
Off we went to visit some Utah national parks. The sightseeing was great, but I instantly hated tent camping. Sleeping head-to-toe on air mattresses in a small space, with only a thin sheet of fabric separating us from the elements, was not going to work. Luckily, we had recently visited a local RV show, and then, a dealer. The salesman called us up and said he had a great deal on a used Trailmanor hard-sided pop-up camper. We were hooked.
And so began a decade of happy travels in our little house on wheels. I call it “sissy camping” because we have a bathroom, kitchen, heat, and air conditioning. On our first camping trip to Spruce Grove Campground near Tarryall Creek, we immediately knew we had found our niche. We smugly gazed out our windows at the tent campers as it poured rain for hours. Now this was living!
We now can travel anywhere our wheels will take us, at a fraction of the cost of hotels and airline travel. It has definitely been a learning curve, and we have made some mistakes: such as setting up and realizing we were too far from the sewer drain, or oops — we forgot to fill the tank with water when dry camping. And how about the time it was snowing at Mueller State Park and we ran out of propane. Brr!
We have found that our fellow campers are almost always ready and willing to help out in a pinch. It’s just the way camping culture is. We have encountered a variety of angels when we have had mishaps on the road. We had a blowout on the camper one evening on a lonely road outside Socorro, N.M. As it was getting dark, a helpful conservation area employee stopped to loan us needed tools and park behind us with his flashing lights on. Another blowout happened on an isolated road outside Big Bend National Park in Texas. As Ron struggled to change the flat, a pickup pulled up behind us, four burly guys jumped out and they changed the tire in five minutes. They said they were paying it forward as they had been helped the day before. Thanks, guys — we won’t forget you!
Here are a few more reasons I love camping:
1. You always know who slept in your bed the night before and how clean your accommodations will be.
2. There is always someone to talk to if you are so inclined — campers are notoriously friendly and love to share their experiences. It’s a great way to discover hidden gems.
3. Our country is drop-dead gorgeous, and camping is a great way to see it up close. Think blazing desert sunsets; colorful wildflowers; scenic lakes, rivers, and even the ocean right outside your door.
4. We can camp for a month for about the cost of a few nights at a luxury hotel.
5. There are no issues with taking your furry friend along. Our Bichon Frise, Gracie, started camping with us when she was just 10 weeks old.
Ron, Gracie and I always have the best time on our camping trips, and oh the places we have been. We have traveled to both the East and West coasts, at times having camping sites right on the ocean.
In January we sold our life-changing little Trailmanor as the time was right for us to upgrade to a bigger trailer. Seeing it go was bittersweet, and we reminisced about all the good times we had. Time to get back on the road again!
Libby Kinder is a freelance writer and retired clinical mental health counselor. Send your guest column submissions to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.