Actually camping in the camper van has turned out to be problematic. First, the weather was too hot. Then I mistakenly reserved a campsite that had no electrical hookup, which made it impossible for Ann to work. Then it was way too windy. (The Great Plains should be called the Great Winds.) Then we were just too tired after a day of unanticipated traffic and slow going.
Discouraging conditions were magnified by having so much gear that it was necessary to put up the nifty tent we imported from England. It attaches to the side of the van to create extra living space about the size of a New York apartment. But so far, setting it up has seemed less appealing than La Quinta.
A week or so ago, when friend Dick asked somewhat insensitively if we’d done any camping yet, I temporized, and we resolved to change our ways. That’s when the rain started.
Highway 101 along the Oregon coast is famous for the grandeur of its Pacific vistas. They were spectacular even in sheeting rain and high wind and even when caught in what seemed to be a funeral procession of RVs. We could hardly focus on the views, though, for anticipation of having to put up the tent at the end of the day. I’d made reservations at a KOA, and we were determined to do it no matter how hard it rained. Along the way, Ann cheerily came up with ideas about how we could stow our gear in nooks and crannies and on the front seat, sleep in the van, not put up the tent, and avoid getting wet, chilled, and dispirited.
As we turned into the KOA, she was fairly chanting the litany of pleasures that awaited us when we were sleeping in the van and the rain pounded on the roof and the wind howled. I interrupted her to note that spending the night squeezed between two Winnebagos didn’t seem much like “camping,” and there were “lodges” available at the facility. We can bicker with the best of married couples, but not this time.
Unexpectedly, there was a vacancy. Several, in fact.
Did I want a first or a second tier “lodge?” I opted for First since it had a view of the water, even though it was raining so hard we wouldn’t be able to see it. But our original reservation had been for two nights, and the Tier One lodge was available for only one. Tier Two it was.
My, it was interesting: a small square cell lined with knotty pine in a structure that resembled a Quonset hut with faux log siding. No linens. No bathroom. Rainy trips across the so-called campground to the communal toilets didn’t sound much better than sleeping in the van.
I went back to the registration desk to negotiate. How about we stay in a Tier One the first night and move to some other place the next? I assumed that since Tier One came at a higher price it would have a bathroom. It didn’t. I said we’d stick with Tier Two and save the money. I mentioned what a nuisance it is to have an aged prostate and asked if I could borrow an umbrella.
That prompted the clerk to reveal that they had a “deluxe cabin,” and it did have a bathroom. I suppose I just hadn’t looked like deluxe cabin material when I had first presented myself.
The deluxe cabin differed from the basic stripped-down Tier Two lodge in that it did have a bathroom (tiny) plus a tiny microwave and tiny fridge and tiny tv. I’m sure it is much in demand by travelling Hobbits. Also, instead of faux log siding, it had cedar shakes.
Relief at having avoided once again the disagreeableness of hard camping in the rain and coming to grips with the English tent alternated with the growing sense that we were being sissies. Then it occurred to me that we were not looking at the situation in the Chesterton way we had left Austin with. The cabin, deluxe though it was, had no sheets, blankets, or towels, an inconvenience that cried out to be an adventure, though admittedly a modest one. We would deploy the as-yet unopened double sleeping bag from REI and the quick-drying light-weight microfiber bath towels. That would constitute a gradual introduction to full-on camping, which would somewhat allay our growing embarrassment, and we would be a little less pusillanimous when we finally confront the real thing.
Meanwhile, it’s still raining and windy and the forecast is for several more days of the same and we’re holed up in another motel. But recalling a lesson we learned years ago when we lived in England – that if you wait for good weather before taking a hike or otherwise being outdoors, you’ll not get out much – we’re checking trail maps and putting on our boots.