Adventure Travel

My tiny town of sixteen thousand has three camper sales businesses. Seems like a lot of campers for such a small population. Ever since I got married I became fascinated by campers and camping. The basic camping lifestyle is learned in Boy Scouts, tent, backpack, wood fires, and sleeping bags. A more sensible or nonsensical camping style depending on how one wants to live is to put your six bedroom, eight bathroom, nine thousand square foot house on wheels and drive it to the edge of the woods. Maybe you would have a small fire to make samores with the kids.

When I got the bug my wife did not have a clue about camping nor did she want to learn. She was that way mostly because I tried talking her into back packing. That wasn’t going to happen and it never did. Instead I got my fill of the rough style by working with the Boy Scouts. That cured me.

Along the way I morphed into going camping in a pop-up trailer. It was the lightweight version of house trailer camping. I dreamed about getting one or better yet building a pop-up tailer. I drew plans for one but never got excited enough to begin building. Instead I began looking at camper trailers at the outdoor show. They made sense, but Barb still couldn’t be convinced that this was for us. Then I saw a used pop-up for sale near where we lived. I called and convinced Barb to come look at it with me. She grumbled and balked a bit but decided to come with me. In fact the whole family went. The seller had set up the unit in his driveway with the attached fly extending out from the tent. Under that fly he had a home-built portable kitchen set up ready to cook meals. The kitchen had pots and pans, dishes, utensils, a stove and wash tubs for cleaning dishes. All of it packed into two boxes that were neatly partitioned for all the goods. The sides of the boxes folded down to make a counter top.

The tiny trailer was a canvas tent set up on wheels. Inside, there was room to sleep six, we were five, and a table with seating for six. There was a tiny indoor kitchen with a sink and ice box for keeping food.

By the time Barb moved from the outdoor kitchen to the inside she was sold. We bought the trailer. It was the beginning of a new life for us. We named the trailer Gypsy II. The two was because our first gypsy vehicle was our tiny Ford Falcon in which we traveled.

Just prior to buying Gypsy II, I had bought a new family truck, a 1967 Dodge van. Vans were a new idea back then, and they became very popular, they still are to this day. I had intentions of converting it into a camper van. After buying the trailer that notion changed. I did build a section behind the rear seat to give the kids a place to play and to nap when we drove. Barb made curtains for all the windows in the back to keep the sun from burning the kid up. That van remained our faithful camping partner for five years. Then, I stepped up to another van, a larger one, with more power, and air-conditioning. We became a two-van family. I sold off my going to work car which was a Toyota Corolla wagon. It was a genuine pre-quality Japanese piece of shit. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it after only two years. I didn’t buy another Toyota until thirty seven years later. It happens to be the best most reliable car I ever owned, and I still have it.

With the new van I sold off Gypsy II and bought a new pop-up trailer with very firm side walls and solid top and a complete kitchen. We named it G3. Our camping trips became more frequent and we ventured much further from home. One summer, I took the trailer back to the manufacturer for warranty work. G3 was stolen from the manufacturing company in Indiana. Eventually G3 was replaced by G4. Five years later I bought a new GMC van with a super interior and a coral full of horses under the hood (~400 HP) it pulled that big trailer like it wasn’t even there. We took the adventure camping trip of our lives, a five week tour of National Parks extending from Chicago to Seattle, down to Los Angeles, and back to Chicago via the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The only regret I have about that trip is that it should have been ten weeks instead of five. As it turned out, that was the last time we had all three of our kids with us on a vacation at the same time. The next year the two older ones got jobs and we couldn’t travel long distances any more. Barb had totally adapted to the camping lifestyle and became a magnificent planner for meals along the way. She pre-cooked and froze many meals which we kept frozen until we needed them. She needed a vacation from cooking too, and this is how she accomplished that. We enjoyed her home cooking away from home.

A couple of years after that Barb was diagnosed with breast cancer. One way she used to beat the deadly beast was to dream about camping. I found a used almost new class C, mini-motorhome, and bought it. She and I used it to take respite trips to help her forget her battle with the disease. Our youngest was eleven, and he traveled with us as we explored Canada and the Eastern states. another five years later we used the MH to take respite trips when Barb was caring for her dying mother 24/7.

After our young son was in college I finally sold the motor home and Barb and I began taking trips using airplanes and staying in hotels. We often discussed camping, but never did again. Instead I wanted to show her the hotel lifestyle and to give her a complete vacations without cooking. She loved it and so did I.

Today, I watched a half a dozen short videos on people who live in their cars or who convert a van to live in. I loved it still, the juices are flowing again. I’m afraid however that I would not fare well sleeping in my Toyota while camping in the wilds of Wyoming and Montana. I’d need a more substantial living space and a more drivable vehicle. It would have to be a professional van conversion with total off the grid capabilities, and I’d have to stay in super-safe campgrounds away from the wilde-beastes.

My how times have changed as has my penchant for adventure.

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