Diane and I camped in a tent for 30 years before making the huge jump to a motorhome. There was no step in between.
Over the years, we talked about getting a trailer or a pop-up a few times. We had friends who purchased one, and then the discussion between the two of us would begin.
I was not interested. If it had to be towed, then it needed to be registered. And if it had to be registered, it would be taxed by some government somewhere. My tent cost me nothing and I liked it that way. Besides, I was proud of my ability to rough it. I thought I pitched a pretty good campsite. I had lots of experience at it, that was for sure.
A few weeks before Diane and I were married, we were discussing where we would be living. Would we rent a house or an apartment? Would we consider a house trailer? There were quite a few of those scattered around the mountains of North Carolina, the place where we were heading.
Just for the fun of it, we decided to visit an RV dealer in Virginia Beach. I knew something about small trailers and pop-ups. I sold them during the summer while working for a large hardware and lumber store. I assembled bicycles, lawnmowers and grills, and I demonstrated Apache travel trailers.
It was always fun when a new load of them would come in. We parked them in the front of the store and it was my job to set them up for display, show them to customers and, hopefully, sell one or two a week. I don’t remember what they cost in 1972 dollars, but they were not cheap.
Neither were the trailers and fifth-wheels at the RV dealer, either. They cost a lot more than a house trailer. I don’t know if you could finance them for up to 20 years back then, I never asked. I was impressed with the miniaturization of things inside, including the furniture, the bathroom and the kitchen. I was also impressed by the way a travel-trailer took advantage of all the space it had for storage and how it could be pretty self-supporting.
I was also impressed by the price ... way too much for two 19-year-olds to start a life together in.
Flash forward a couple of years. Diane and I were living in Charlotte, North Carolina. During that time President Ford started his “Whip Inflation Now” program, which included a substantial tax rebate. This was a real rebate, not a loan from one year to the next. The president encouraged people to spend this money, not save it or pay off bills. He wanted to keep the economy from going into a deeper recession -- go buy something nice for yourself and your family, was the idea.
It was a good amount of money, for us anyway. The question was, what to do with it?
Some days before the checks were due to arrive, some friends of ours whom we worked with at PTL suggested we buy camping gear. David and Brenda were active campers as well as being a fisherman and fisherlady.
They told us about the campsites along the Blue Ridge Parkway. They told us how beautiful it was up there and how you got to know the area so much more by staying there as opposed to driving through on your way to some hotel somewhere.
Diane and I were convinced, so with their help we shopped for a tent, sleeping bags, stove, mess kits and all the tons of little things that made camping more enjoyable.
We took to it like ducks to water. From then on if we had a weekend free, or a vacation, it was spent in a tent. As our family grew, we shopped and bought a bigger tent to hold everyone. We had some great times and adventures, including a bear attack, visits from skunks and food poisoning that put me in the hospital in Boone, North Carolina.
We have been caught in huge thunderstorms that blew our dining canopy down, subfreezing weather and unexpected snow storms. I don’t know if our kids learned to walk in the kitchen at home or on a trail in the mountains. They all spent a lot of time in a baby backpack on my or an older sibling’s back while hiking in the woods.
Things changed after our girls turned into teenagers, so we purchased a second tent for them. The day came, however, when a tent, cold showers and no blow dryer and no swimming pool, no longer appealed to the kids. We found ourselves taking the traditional hotel motel vacation.
When the kids spent the weekend with friends or family, Diane and I would once again hit the road with our camping gear and give the woods another try.
Like I said, I was proud of my double-walled tent, my dome dining canopy and my ability to pack all our equipment (most of which we still have) into our van. It could get pretty tight in there. Joel would be surrounded by sleeping bags with a large cooler under his feet.
Yes, sir, I was a rugged man who made fun of people who camped alongside of us in their fancy white rigs, some of which looked almost as big as our house.
We called Rvers "city slickers" and made up jokes about them. It was a play on Jeff Foxworthy’s red-neck jokes.
Ours went something like this:
If you have to call Terminex to kill the bugs at your campsite, you might be a city slicker.
If at 6 p.m. you have Chinese food delivered to your site, you might be a city slicker.
If the first thing you do after parking your big trailer or motorhome is to cover your site with lawn ornaments and plant your own flowers, you might be a city slicker.
If you have to use a hair dryer while on a camping trip, you might be a city slicker.
If you have to turn on a generator to use your hair dryer, you might be a city slicker.
If you go hiking in the woods on a strenuous trail wearing sun screen and flip-flops, you might be a city slicker.
If your charcoal grill is all-electric, you might be a city slicker.
If you have a screen room next to your rig with a TV, refrigerator, giant electric fan, big boom box, and a wine chiller, you might be a city slicker.
If you use designer luggage to carry your clothes into your rig, you might be a city slicker.
If you use a blow torch to start a campfire, you might be a city slicker.
If the sound of a smoke detector comes from your campsite, you might be a city slicker.
I think you get the picture.
Then came a back injury, followed by a pit bull attack, and our tent camping days came to an end.
As I said, I didn’t believe it when Diane said she wanted to look at RVs. I saw no possible way to buy one of those things, not a large one anyway, and I saw no real advantage to a pop-up over a tent.
One day, soon after Diane had recovered from her injuries, she asked me to walk with her. She took me to see a motorhome that was for sale in our neighborhood. She knew the owner, Doc. Doc, who would become our friend and traveling companion, took us on a tour of his Fleetwood Flair. Not many days after that, we went to an RV show, at Diane’s suggestion, and looked at trailers and coaches. You see where this is going, don’t you?
A few days later, I found myself at a dealer's lot signing the paperwork to purchase a gently-used 2004 Fleetwood Bounder. I took it home a few days later. I had never driven one in my life.
And that is how it started for us ... or should I say, how it started down the road for us. (Read my Rules for Owning a Motor Coach, Number 2 if you want to know more.)
Now I am thinking about full-timing .... If the day comes when Diane wants to do that, well, I think you can see what will happen. Then this city slicker will really will have something to blog about.