Friday, October 27, 2006

We were tent campers for years. Of course, that was mostly before we had kids. And then we had one kid. Tent camping is not too hard when you have no kids, or even one once she gets a little older. And it helps that our older child is a really good sport.

About five years ago, with several long road trips on the horizon, we upgraded to a pickup camper. It was a great little camper, but the operative word here is little. There was no bathroom, and only one bed (the one over the cab of the pickup) was permanent. The other two beds, the ones our kids slept in, had to be folded down or out at bedtime. But first you had to clear out all the stuff that you had packed in front of the upper bed, and you had to make sure you wouldn't need the table anymore, because the table made into the lower bed. And once the beds were set up, you could barely move around until the next day when you put them away again. I used to tell people it was like one of those little tile puzzles with the 25 pieces that you move around to try and make a design. You couldn't do anything in that camper without moving everything around first.

We logged a lot of miles in that camper, though, and had some great times. And since it wasn't much bigger than the pickup, it would go anywhere the pickup would go, which made it pretty convenient for the area where we live. And it was hard-sided, which is a good thing for keeping bears out and heat in.

But eventually we decided it was time to upgrade, and this year we traded in our little pickup camper for a trailer. We had been looking for awhile, and had decided that 20' was our limit. But then we found a 23' one that was only a year old that was selling for way less than we had planned to spend, and we decided to take the plunge. The day we saw it, it was on a lot with about 40 other RVs, every single one of which was larger-- some by 6 or 8 feet. It doesn't have any slide-outs. So it seemed small, even puny, by comparison. But we got it home and put it in our driveway and it is HUGE. I mean, you get it hooked up to the pickup and it's like driving the Titanic. I'm not sure we're ready for this. We still have the tent camper mindset where you look down your nose at people in their big RVs with the cable antennas and the satellite dish out the back. We still would never even dream of bringing a generator. If the battery goes dead, we'll just do without power till we're at a power source again, thank you very much.

So we pull into our first campground on our first camping trip with the new trailer this past weekend. It wasn't a developed campground, just a state park with picnic tables and fire rings at each site, and a pit potty for general use off to one side. We backed, with some difficulty, into a space that was probably not meant for vehicles of our size, although we did fit. And our next door neighbors were a young couple, probably in their mid-20s, tent camping, and looking at us as snottily as you please. I felt bad. I wanted to tell them that it hasn't been that long since we were driving our little high-mpg car with the tent and stove stowed in the hatchback and camping wherever we could find a spot. But they wouldn't believe us, they think--as we did at that age-- that they would never stoop to having a bathroom IN their camper. I want to tell them to wait until their first trip in the rain with a baby that is still in diapers. But they will find out on their own. And maybe they will decided they still prefer to tent camp, who knows.

But the next morning when we rolled out of bed, we were able to take hot showers in our tiny but serviceable shower, and then sit at the table drinking coffee while the kids were still asleep in their bunks. It was pretty plush, maybe worth the compromises. It still seems weird. We may end up getting a small pop-up or something for road trips because this thing sends my husband's already abysmal mileage down another 3-4 mpg. But for the kind of camping trip where you're going to drive somewhere and park by a lake for a week, it is perfect, like camping at a Ritz Carlton. It felt like someone should show up for turndown service.

I'm spoiled rotten.Other highlights of the trip included: Graycliff Prairie Dog Town and the Headwaters of the Missouri River state park, both of which were great. Red Lodge, our eventual turnaround spot, was beautiful. All in all, a great inaugural voyage for the new camper.

Aunt BeaN
(a three-hour tour)(well, OK, it was four days)

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