After 32 years of marriage, you’d think you know someone. Then one day, out of the blue, he says he wants an RV.
“Why on Earth would we want an RV?” I asked. “We have a tent.”
The problem with the tent, he pointed out, is that it doesn’t have a toilet. With our own toilet, we’d no longer be limited to developed campgrounds. We could camp in undeveloped public lands. That did have appeal. I’d have a legitimate reason to use boondock as a verb, as in, “We boondocked in the Chattahoochee National Forest.” I could even brag about boondocking in a Walmart parking lot. Seriously. Walmart allows it.
Bob also talked about protection from rain. My mind went back to a June morning on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula when Bob, son Kevin and I woke up shivering in puddles. I spent the morning mopping the tent and drying sleeping bags at a Laundromat. Then Bob brought up wind protection. That reminded me of the night I spent in Utah with the side of the tent pressed against my face.
But that wasn’t enough to convince me. Without the tent, where would I come up with amusing anecdotes? Still, I tried to keep an open mind as we headed out camper shopping.
The first dealership was a revelation. Vehicles for exploring the great outdoors are showcased in warehouses air-conditioned to simulate the climate of Nome. Seeing nothing that looked like a tent, I gravitated toward the smallest camper on the floor. It had a two-burner stove, microwave oven, dorm-size refrigerator, toilet and queen-size bed. I might have put up with the faux wood counters and cupboards, but not with the postcard-size windows.
After three more showrooms of the same, I made up my mind. No efficiency on wheels for me. I wanted a VW bus – preferably turquoise and white, although any color will do — with solid wood furnishings and an outside kitchen behind the rear hatch. Unfortunately, Bob’s no carpenter. And, he said, a custom retrofit would cost more than a brand new, ready-to-roll RV.
That’s when he came up with the brilliant idea of spending the next couple months camping in the tent.
Our first night, I went to see the campground host in her trailer. She was sitting in a reclining chair watching an overhead flat-screen television cranked up so she could hear it over the air conditioner. Now I understood why RVers see no need for windows bigger than postcards. If this was RV life, I’d rather sleep in a tent at Times Beach.
I reconsidered a couple days later, when Bob and I were in a Rhode Island state park. The campground didn’t have a single garbage can. Every time I flossed my teeth, I had to stuff the used floss in my pocket or dispose of it in the dumpster a quarter mile away. Showers cost 75 cents for three minutes. Mine was scalding. I turned the dial as far as I dared. Nothing changed. If I pushed it farther, I just knew it would turn off when I was covered with soap and out of change.
The next two weeks on the road went off without a hitch. Showers were free and at least lukewarm. Trash cans were within the same zip code. I was almost convinced Bob and I could live happily ever after in our 8-by-8 tent until I took a shower in the campground on Cape Hatteras. The outside, wooden stalls are enclosed by walls and doors that barely conceal bathers from shoulders to knees. That would make for a refreshing experience if only the water weren’t ice cold. To top things off, my second time in the shower, I felt something heftier than a bug slap against my calf. I looked down to see a frog the size of an olive hopping away.
Was that enough to make me change my mind about an RV? Almost, until we went to a dealership and I realized the windows hadn’t grown an inch.
I took my search to the internet with a request for “small travel trailers with bathrooms.” That’s when I discovered that the smallest models have the biggest windows. I especially liked a shoebox of a trailer called Casita. Maybe I could live with an RV after all.
Bob liked the Casita’s price tag and towing ease. We learned that the next weekend, a group of Casita owners was camping together a couple hours away at a state park. We headed to the rally, where we met organizers Dave and wife Angel. The retired couple gushed over the joys of camping in a trailer the size of a roomy tent. Then Angel introduced us to a couple with the newest model. Bob and I were smitten. Finally, a camper we both loved was in sight, at least for a few seconds before the owners told us the wait for a new Casita is 13 months. So much for boondocking next summer. If we still wanted a new Casita, we’d have to wait until 2022.
I suppose I should be grateful for the inspiration that’s bound to come from another summer in the tent, especially if it’s rainy, windy and the campground showers are unfit for anything but frogs. But I’m not.