Here in California Spring is just making up its mind what it wants to be. Today it is sunny..but windy and cold. This afternoon later, it will heat up, but the night will be cold again. This is when I get the wanderlust. I want to be gone. I want to get lost in the desert, or stare into a lake, or explore a canyon. I don’t want anyone telling me when I have to get there or when I ought to leave. I want to go camping!
Way back in my younger days, when the idea of camping was just new in its appeal, I had no idea what I really needed. I camped with friends who taught me the ropes, but my own needs took over the planning for my future "perfect rig".
I started out with a quarter ton Mazda king cab truck in 1984. I bought a tent and a sleeping bag, then put a shell on the back. I thought I was all ready to go!
That arrangement actually met my needs for a while, but I was trying to keep up with people who had large RV's and towed cars. I discovered that it was all fun and carefree until I hit a streak of rainy weather and was either stuck in the truck, or folding up a soggy tent in pouring rain--to find it mildewing by the time I got it home- or imposing on my friends in their rig while my dogs were stuck in the truck.
I also discovered that unless one is young and very agile, crawling in and out of a closed camper shell is not appealing. And unless you are sitting around a campfire until you are actually ready to SLEEP, it isn't easy to find a comfortable reading position in a space with 10 inches of head room.
Really, the tent serves better for that. Unless it's raining a lot.
The point is, every style of camping has its own issues. The truck and tent were great as long as I could plan for the weather. But I knew I'd be moving on up before too long. I started making a list of the perfect features I'd need after I moved up to the mini-Winnie on the quarter ton Toyota chassis with the v-4 engine. And no generator. That was a really dumb purchase. I camp in the mountains! Occasionally I go to the ocean, but not usually. Ok, so that got traded for a v-6 with a generator. Better.
But now the issues revolved around longer trips and side and day trips. In order to go exploring for the day, wherever I was, I had to stow everything, unplug and disengage anything tethering me, and try to follow my friends on the backroads and byways. I apparently just was not "getting it". My needs were apparently not clear. I was a little limited by finances, but I was spending a fortune on gas doing this, and not really having any fun.
So, moving on, I upgraded to a 24 foot C class Tioga, bought a car I could tow, and took the plunge. Camping World hooked me up--literally--to the world of towing, and off I went.
I was getting a little older, and at this point, my family history of arthritis was rearing its head.
I was in that rig for several years, but after my knee locked on the ladder leading down from the overhead bed (for the third time) and I fell to the floor, I began searching in earnest for a better arrangement. All I knew was --I needed a bed downstairs!
Early in the year 2000 I attended an RV show in LA. That's where I fell in love. The object of my affection~~no..obsession...was a 26 foot class A, v-10 with two slideouts, hydraulic levelers, Onan generator, two tv's, computer table...oh it goes on. I moved heaven and earth and bank accounts to buy this thing.
It was a Georgie Boy--made by Coachmen--called The Suite. Now--Coachmen--and Georgie Boy--has been building RV's for years. This was the smallest rig they ever put slides in. These days, everything has a slide, but it was pretty unique back then. With all their experience, you would think they could get it right.
All I added to my new toy was solar panels..but that was much later. I drove it out of the lot and took it on a shakedown run to the nearby mountains. Tip....never get far out of civilization on a shakedown.
The first thing that should have tipped me off..the alarm for the levelers went off before I'd gone 2 miles. I called the dealer. They suggested I lower then raise them. Ok. That worked--for a minute.
Next--once in camp- the refrigerator conked out. Then the electric system blew a fuse when I put the slides out. THEN the bedroom slide cross arm broke and I couldn't get the slide IN.
I dealt with all this, thought I was good to go--but on a subsequent trip my generator broke first time I used it. They replaced it. By the end of the first year, EVERY system had been worked on or replaced. Then 2 days before the warranty was up, as I left a campground in Santa Fe, suddenly the oil indicator started swinging wildly and..yes..the engine blew. No one ever DID figure out why.
By this time I was shell shocked and constantly paranoid. I had that rig for almost 8 years, and the last several years it performed without problem--but only after I practically rebuilt it.
When gas prices soared, and I was travelling for weeks at a time, I began to re-think the wisdom of having two vehicles with engines, registrations, smog checks..and gas tanks.
I went over my options, figured out where I could compromise, and decided to try a truck and trailer. Granted, it is much less convenient to have to hitch up the two, back the trailer into tight spaces, manually level..but overall, for right now, I'm enjoying this. This particular little rig has living room slide and actually has more inside storage and sleeping space than the big rig did. I put solar panels on--haven't gotten a generator yet--and so far I am getting along very well with it.
The lessons I've learned over the years have been pretty valuable. The most important..figure out what you really NEED before you buy the pretty shiny thing, or the inconvenient thing, or the thing that is well above your technical ability to drive or maintain.
I am making plans now for my next three trips..all before the end of June. Then it is the heat of summer..and school is out. I do NOT camp where there are children or buzzing insects attracted to my sweating person!