Saturday, April 21, 2012

What is "Camping"?

This is a strictly "thoughtful" post about how the "face" of camping has changed over the past 30 years, and what we are observing now.  It may just be that our OWN view of camping has changed, but the campgrounds are changing, too, so I don't think that's the case.  

I wish I was home and could scan and include some photos for this blog entry, as this has been a very fun (even if a bit nostalgic) post for me to write.  I'll try to remember to add some pictures later.

I'm not shy about stating my age, I'm 55 years old (I think, LOL), and started camping a long time ago, with my Dad's parents.  They started out with a camper mounted on a truck bed and moved to a smallish trailer, but it always seemed plenty big to us grand kids.  They took us with them and seemed to enjoy their time with us, letting us catch and bring home frogs, rocks, etc.  My grandparents were big rock hounds, so many of MY memories of "camping" or taking trips with them involve rock hunting etc.  

Then, as always happens, my "own life" took precedence as I became a "self important" teen (I don't think I was as bad as some others I knew, but I'm sure I thought, and acted like, I was the most important thing in the world at times).  Then I married and had kids of my own, it didn't work out and I became a single parent to two toddlers.  My sister, G, in the meantime, had her own experiences and divorce and so we were two single sisters with my 2 kids.  I was so incredibly poor in those days, money wise (but so rich in other ways, in family and love).  G happened to have a fairly good paying job.  We both wanted to take some trips, but she "couldn't/wouldn't" go alone and there was no way I could afford to go with the kids, so we joined forces, so to speak.  We decided we could afford to camp, we all enjoyed nature and the outdoors and had good experiences of camping with the grandparents, so camping was our decision, and we went out and bought a tent (and all the paraphernalia to go along with it).  

We took short trips and one VERY long trip to Montana.  Along the way we camped (yes, in the tent), although we stayed with a friend in Montana.  The kids were 3-6 when we started our tent camping days.  We had a lot of fun, laughs, and scares.  Back then, camping was a tent, an open fire, no electricity, no water and only out houses, LOL.  

Eventually, G got in with a group she volunteered with and found that they went camping to the Black River in Missouri, where they tubed, canoed (that's supposed to be boating in a canoe, but the word looks very wrong, LOL), and rafted the Black River.  The first 2 trips G took B and N with the group, although I was unable to make either trip (as stated previously in another post, I'm not much of a partier).  Eventually she talked me into going there with her and the kids and it was a lot of fun.  The water was COLD (around 75*) but the air temps were in the 100s and we were young and invincible, LOL.  It took awhile, but we always got used to the temps eventually and had a heck of a good time.  Sometime during this time period, one of the families G camped with got a new pop-up trailer, so we "bought" their OLD one very very inexpensively (thanks M & D).  We thought we were really living it up, real "beds", not on the ground.  I think there was one outlet, the table etc.  It was the height of "roughing" it, at that time, for us, anyway.  

Back then, camping still meant campfires, no matter what the temperatures were, you had to have a campfire to eat, LOL and peanut butter gets old after awhile.  Camping also meant people sitting outside at the tables or in lawn chairs, there wasn't really room to "hang out" inside a pop-up or tent and there was still very little electricity.  This poor old pop-up was truly on its last legs, we gutted it to make it work for us and I patched and sewed and patched until it looked like a patchwork quilt (of course I had to use brightly colored/striped or whatever pretty canvas I could find, it's one of my "GIFTS", ROTFLOL).  It was quite a sight to see.  Of course, the facilities were still either the woods or a public bath house/shower/restroom/outhouse.  No need for sewer hookups or water/electric hook ups.  

Then I had the audacity to meet Mr. C and we got married, which changed things somewhat, although we tried to keep them as close to the same as possible.  We still tried to be sure G was included in as many of our vacations as possible and tried to get down to the Black River at least yearly.  We purchased a new pop-up that was large enough for the 5 of us (more or less, there's still only so much room in a trailer, LOL).  Mr. C happens to hate humidity, so he insisted on having an air conditioner, which was the first real change to our camping style.  We had a built in ice box, a real stove top, and electricity.  But it also meant keeping it closed up and we lost some of the smell and sounds of real camping (crickets and frogs aren't nearly as loud when an air conditioner is running).  It also made us stay inside more, as we "felt the heat more" when we could choose air over 100 + humidity.  But some things stayed the same, every campground still had fire rings, fires no matter the outside temps, cooking over your fire etc.  We also took some more distant trips that G wasn't comfortable with (she's always been a home body, more than 4-5 days away from home and she's had it).  Although we tried so hard to make her feel welcome and wanted (and she was) I know G often felt like an "extra" especially as the kids got to the teen years and took off to play with new friends and fellow campers.  G took the kids with her a couple times without us parents along too, until they reached their OWN. . . hmmm, how did I put that up above?  "Then, as always happens, their "own lives" took precedence as they became "self important" teens".  We knew our times of "family" trips and camping were nearly at an end and so were G's, unfortunately, just because that's the way life happens sometimes.  

We asked the kids, for one last family vacation, what do you want to do?  Anything you choose, other than go to Australia or something equally impossible.  For one time in their teen age lives, they agreed they both wanted to learn to scuba dive.  Camping and Scuba don't go together too well, but we took Scuba classes (Mr. C had been a previous diver) and went to the Keys and finished off the classes and got advanced certifications and had a pretty great vacation (even B knows she was a royal PITA that year as she had a steady boyfriend and didn't want to be anywhere without him, LOL).  We tried camping and scuba in the Black and Current Rivers (once or twice) but by then Mr. C and I had gotten used to warm water (85+*) diving and couldn't stand the cold, cold rivers.  We embarrassed the daylights out of the teens, who thought their own self worth was involved in how their parents "looked and acted", LOL.  So, that was the end of camping for that time in our lives and Mr. C and I went on some marvelous diving adventures, until my health put an end to that.  But we still had the idea that camping was the same and wouldn't change.  

But it did.  So, fast forward (where on earth does the time go?) to roughly 2004, give or take 2 years.  Mr. C and I started trying to figure out some things to do for trips and vacations that didn't involve diving, but we still enjoyed the outdoors and nature, etc.  We both felt we needed to get more active (we have become much too attached to our computers--duh, here I am on vacation, in Gulf Shores, Alabama and I'm writing my blog, LOL).  So we started checking out camping options to get back into camping and the outdoors and some hiking etc.  We also wanted to be able to visit the kids and Mr. C's parents (without motel costs and flying).  As we researched, we found a group of people from all walks of life who had taken to "full time RVing".  Yes, some still destination camp, but many actually live in their RVs full time.  Notice, I didn't say "camp", I said RV.  The face of camping has changed dramatically in the past 10 years.  We started noticing the camping paraphernalia on the roads, no longer so many little trailers and pop-ups, but class C and class A motor homes, and fifth wheels and big trailers.  EVERYTHING has super sized (not just "us", LOL).  We were heading towards retirement age ourselves, and the idea of traveling to see the US really appealed to us.  So we changed our focus from just "camping" to "living" the RV lifestyle.  Could we do it?  Was it for us?  So many choices and decisions. We knew we were not in a financial position to do anything at that time and were still 7-8 years out from retirement considerations, so we kept researching.  We finally settled on what we wanted and how we wanted to do it, and that YES, indeed, we DID want to try this out.  Mr. C's grandparents had traveled back and forth living between Reno (in the summer) and Las Vegas (in the winter) for many years in a trailer, so he had some good feelings about it being possible.  

We decided we wanted a fifth wheel with a truck (that way, if our motor crapped out, we'd still have the trailer and only have to replace the truck) and we wouldn't have to tow an extra vehicle.  Now that we've been doing this for 6 years, we might have made a different decision, as we've found our huge truck is hard to deal with some places (parking garages, if we go somewhere while camped).  Also, as we get older, we find it harder to get in and out of the back of the truck to hitch and unhitch, so the Class A Motor homes are looking a bit better to us, LOL, but I get ahead of myself.  

We decided we wanted a fifth wheel and began researching all the different sizes, floor plans, models, etc.  and to make a long story short, finally decided on what we wanted when the time came.  Unfortunately, the time came much sooner than we had planned, with the totally unexpected death of Mr. C's mother.  However, it happened and we found we had the money for the trailer THEN, rather than later.  We decided to go ahead and get it while we had the money rather than let the money fritter away from us (as money has a habit of doing).  We knew we would use the trailer for destination camping and to visit kids etc. until we were able to retire and that is what we have done.  Which brings us to today, and the way camping has changed.

In the past 3 years, we have only been to about 6 campgrounds that actually have campfire rings and/or allow fires at all.  For this current trip, we will be in a total of 6 campgrounds and not one of them has had campfire rings.  One of them had them in a few specific campsites, but none of them had them at every campsite.  They nearly ALL had electricity and water available at the campsite and the majority had sewer hook-ups.  We still see a few (very few) tents set up, a pop-up here and there, and some of the new "tear drop" basically sleep in only trailers.  The majority of the "camping" we see now involves a major sized trailer or motor home with full hook-ups (sewer, electricity--50 amp--and running water).  The big State Park we are at right now has pedestal camp grills at every site, but doesn't allow "ground fires" at all.  You can have wood or charcoal in your grill, but not on the ground.  

Nearly every trailer has air conditioning and very few if any windows and the only people who seem to sit outside are the ones who camp in groups (several trailers together) or the few who have tents or the smaller trailers or are visiting people in the area (you can tell from the license plates etc.).  

I'm feeling kind of sad/nostalgic about all this, and am sure I'm part of the "problem" (although it's not truly a problem, more just a state of being).  I enjoy being able to get out of the humidity and into our air conditioning.  I mention to people (who don't camp) and they obviously still have the "old idea of camping" as they say, camping, I can't stand camping, sitting out in the weather with the bugs etc.  I start laughing as I state that our "camper" is the "NICEST HOUSE WE'VE EVER OWNED" and explain that we have a full shower, toilet, bathroom sink, king sized bed, full size closet, built in dressers, full kitchen with actual oven, 3 burner stove, combination microwave convection oven, 4 door refrigerator/freezer, double sink, front loading washer and dryer, TV/DVD in the bedroom and surround sound TV/DVD/CD set up in the Living Room, along with a built in Fireplace, Desktop computer for Verle as well as my lap top, a full mini studio for my polymer clay work, a sofa sleeper and 2 recliners, 2 air conditioners, a furnace, hot water heater, decorative/glass fronted cabinets, and a built in pantry.  All the comforts of home and we can take it anywhere we want to, LOL.

AND, right this minute, it is absolutely pouring outside, I'm so glad to be safely inside my condo on wheels and not in the tent across the street from us, LOL.  

AND THAT, folks is how the face of camping has changed.  I honestly don't know if the small "river" type (party) campgrounds are still there (we won't fit and they don't/didn't have the type of hook-ups we've come to want and expect).  I know there was a camping club down here for 5 days near us with about 6 trailers that the families ran back and forth and sat out etc. but no fires, I think we're the only ones who have bothered to do marshmallows at all (in fact, I've had a horrible time finding the "big" marshmallows down here and where I have found them, the check-out clerks are just amazed at never having seen such a thing before).  

I can't wait to find some pictures, when I get home, to go with this blog entry and I hope you've found it entertaining at the very least.  

Next, is the blog about things we've done down here (although it hasn't been much due to my health problem).  The last two days have been lots of fun.  Smiles

1 comment:

  1. MEMORIES....ALL ALONE IN THE MOOOOONLIGHT....that was a very sweet post. It brought back a lot of memories-on the way to Montana, setting up in the rain, didn't put up the rain's squishy over here. And despite the fact that I was pining and wasting away from no M contact, I LOVED our dive trip to the keys. :-)