Camping: A Newbie’s Perspective

If you’ve been with me for a few years, you know I’m in good company on Thursdays. We’re a fantastic group of ladies,  giving insight on various topics.  Click on:

Froggie (Tracey): One frog’s distinct voice on the world around her.

Merry Land Girl (Melissa): Tales of a suburban mom who likes to talk about pop culture, books, Judaism, family, friendship and anything else that comes to mind.

Darwin Shrugged (Denise): Civilized Observations in an Uncivilized World

Last Thursday, I couldn’t partake in my weekly blog group, due to vacationing with my family. So this post is my catch-up post, conveniently so. It had been my turn last week for the topic, and I chose: What were you taught to believe, that you don’t believe anymore? Or, the flip side: What had you never believed to be true, and now you do?

The reason I feel this post is convenient, is due to the new revelations I encountered on my vacation, totally fitting in with the “what had you never believed to be true, and now you do” angle. While I’m no stranger to camping, having done it a lot in my youth, I was new to doing it on my own, with my own family.  Especially with an RV.

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For most of my childhood and teen years, I was ensconced with camping. Tents. Under a great big sky, tucked into a sleeping bag. Campers, Fifth wheels, and motor homes. My memories involve a drive that would feel never ending, followed up by a father who would pitch the tents for me, or grandparents who took care of the ins and outs with their camper.

I had no clue about the inner workings of a camper, or how to maintain it. My job was to be young, to enjoy the journey, to behave myself, and to explore my surroundings. Some of my best memories involve the many walks I’d take along the Oregon Coast, wind whipping desperately through me, my hair. Sometimes the ocean was brutal, choppy and forceful. Other times, peaceful, calm. That’s what I remember most about camping.

Fast forward nearly fifteen years. My husband’s mother bequeathed a very nice camper to our family, one that has sat unused on her property for a very long time. Our first step was getting it ready for travel, making sure everything worked. Our first mistake was taking it to Camping World, in Mesa AZ.

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We should have read the reviews on Yelp. There’s a reason they only have 1.5 stars. After dropping the camper off early April, we didn’t see it again until the end of May, and even then it was sketchy. Whenever we’d call to check on the status of things, no one would return our calls, or emails. Even when we’d go in, in person, we were brushed off and told that things would be done “soon”, and that wasn’t the case.

We went in asking for their head to toe inspection, and came out with an estimate of around $6000, which was far from accurate. They wanted to change a light bulb for $30, citing 1/2 an hour of “labor” in order to do so. There were other fixes like that one, ones we could do on our own, and we did. We left four items for Camping World to fix, the big ticket items, and they did. We received our camper two weeks later.

The camper hadn’t been cleaned in as many years as it sat, so I spent over four hours cleaning it, from the ceiling to the floors, and everywhere in between, getting it ready for the five hour trip (which took eight) to Santee Lakes in San Diego, to visit a good friend of ours. The drive felt long and weary, but we were in good spirits, filled with excitement. It felt as though our camping excursion was a long time coming.

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After arriving well after dark, my husband had to back the camper into its spot, not an easy task to do, even in daylight. Luckily, we had other campers to assist us, and everything went smoothly. Or so we thought.

After hooking up the water line, we discovered not one, not two, but FIVE leaks on our camper. What happened with that expensive inspection? Did it even happen? One leak came from the bathroom sink. Another, from the kitchen sink. The other three were all on the underside of the camper. My husband, being the awesome man that he is, managed to take care of all of them, save for the one in the bathroom, which wasn’t a huge deal. It still upsets me, though, that we had leaks.

I’m sure he felt like most of his vacation consisted of leaks. The kids, however, had an absolute blast. We went to Legoland, and Universal Studios, when we weren’t spending a ton of time with our friends. Santee Lakes is a beautiful camping resort, well worth our visit. We’d ride bikes, roast smores, grill out, and just enjoy the good company and the scenery around us.

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The day before we were to leave, we decided to hit up the coast, visiting La Jolla beach. It was interesting how a ninety degree day in Santee, quickly turned into a sixty degree day at La Jolla. Bright blue sunny skies made way for gray, cloudy ones, but none of us cared. It was fun just being there.

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The morning of our drive back to Arizona, we discovered a clogged toilet. A matter of contention, until a snake finally loosened it up. After talking with our neighbor next to us, who admitted they never throw toilet paper, even RV approved toilet paper, down the toilets for fear of clogs, I vaguely recalled a similar situation when I was a kid, camping. And how, you really have to watch how much you put down those tiny little toilets. A rookie move on our part, for sure.

On the drive home, we were all reflecting on the vacation we’d just experienced, and whether it’s worth it to camp with the camper. Although I’ve always considered camper camping as a huge step up from using a tent, this wasn’t in any way an “easy” vacation for us. There was still a lot of work going into it, the money, the time. The little steps you have to take in order to ensure a smooth experience.

We’re still new to it, learning as we go along. Some people live their lives in a camper, like my friend, and her family. They wouldn’t have it any other way, and even through our own struggles this past week, I can see why. It’s a whole other experience when you’re living within nature, somewhat off the grid. The great outdoors is their playground, full-time.

This wasn’t smooth sailing, it wasn’t at all how I remember it when I was a kid. But, my boys get to form their own memories from their RV experiences. This may mean they’ll do something similar with their own families, when they’re grown. They’re fourth generation campers, whether they know it yet or not, a tradition I intend to carry through on. And, I’m sure it’s going to get easier the more we do this. We’ll develop our routines, or patterns, we’ll know what the easiest route to go on, is, vs. the hardest (less toilet paper, perhaps?)

Or, the best places to take an RV, when it needs fixed. Camping World is not on that list.

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2 thoughts on “Camping: A Newbie’s Perspective”

  1. Thanks for taking us on your adventure. I went camping a few years ago and we stayed in a tent. Luckily, our cousins were nearby and helped us out a lot. We were so unprepared. We stayed in a tent and the air mattress deflated, which was so bad on my back. I was pregnant at the time with #3. We went to Jellystone Park, but we still were roughing it a lot.

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