You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?
I’m sure when David Byrne wrote those lyrics, he was considering much headier subjects than camping. But I think they apply to any transitional period of life, and our transition from tent-camping non-parents to RV-owning parents was just as crazy as any.
I can remember the days when I thought RV’s were just for rednecks. I remember my mom scoffing with indignation at my dad’s proposal that they might buy an RV when he retired. And I can remember that first trip when our friends Dylan and Ann brought their camper up to Vedauwoo, and I loved it so much.
A few years later, and Mark and I were camped for a weekend in the desert in January. We both realized we were facing a choice. Once we had a baby on board, we would either have to give up these clear, cold nights in the desert or upgrade to a camper. Neither one of us thought it was a good idea to try to keep a little kid warm in a tent on one of those long, frigid Shelf Road nights. But we weren’t sure what we wanted to do instead.
We talked about camper vans, as we had seen some really great Eurovans at climbing areas around the country. But these had a few problems for us. One was the price; we would have to sell one car to buy the camper van, which meant that Mark would be driving it daily to work. The second was seating; most of these vans have only one bench in the far back (if they have a kitchen), and this would make road trips with a kiddo (or two) tricky. And finally, we knew climbing areas often have camping distant from the trailhead. So a camper van would have to be packed up each morning and driven to the climbing.
A trailer just made more sense for us. We could tow it with Mark’s truck, which had plenty of seating, and we could leave it at the campsite when we went climbing. But even once we decided on a trailer, there were lots of choices. Should we buy a pop-up? They are often the least expensive, but we felt that the wild winds of Wyoming would make any trailer with tent sides an uncomfortable place. So, we needed the smallest trailer we could find, that would sleep at least three, and had all hard sides. And wouldn’t break the bank.
We found it on my first trip out, of course. I presented my long list of criteria to a salesperson who looked at me incredulously and then showed me a brand-new Jay Feather Sport. While JayCo doesn’t seem to make this particular model anymore, we think it’s perfect for us. At only 18ft long, we can fit into almost any tent site. It is light enough to tow with a V6, and sleeps 3 people separately from the dining area.
There have been plenty of learning experiences since this purchase, but I love our camper. We learned that you can finance any RV with a long-term loan. So an inexpensive trailer like this one, and a 12 year loan, well, it works out to less than what we were spending on fancy tents and sleeping bags each year. And, these “mortgage” payments are actually tax deductible as a second home.
There have been unexpected expenses, of course. We pay to store the trailer ($25 a month) and we pay to have it winterized and de-winterized each year. We have been lucky with maintenance, and so far only bought a new battery and a new propane tank (after the old one fell off on the interstate – exciting!) So it is more expensive than a tent, and it is harder to get to some of those off-road free campsites we used to frequent.
But we have gotten out camping with our kiddo so much. We have taken him to all of our favorite local places, and on a week-long road trip with the Grandparents in this trailer. We have played inside during monsoon rainstorms, and spent chilly mornings with the furnace roaring and coffee on the stove. I nursed the baby on hot desert afternoons in that trailer, bounced him around to get him back to sleep on clear mountain nights, and snuggled up to read Dr Seus books with him over and over again.
It may not be everybody’s style, but it’s definitely our style of camping… for now!
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
For more thoughts on styles of family camping, check out these other great posts:
- Learning to love camping: It’s all about style at Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies.
- From Tent to Trailer, what did we do? at KidProject.org
- My camping style: no fees, no toilets, no people at OutsideMom.com
- A Tent On Your Roof? What? at Adventure Tykes
- Camping Styles and Public Use Cabins at Wilderness for Kids
- Secrets Revealed- Outdoor Moms Share Their Camping Styles at A Little Campy