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.





5 thoughts on “TRYING

  1. sam graham

    One July I drove from AUS to Colo. to camp out for vacation. I believe my destination was the Winter Park side of Estes Park. I got to the camp grounds, pitched my tent, climbed in my sleeping bag and prepared for a restful night. It wasn’t. First, the woods weren’t quiet. Secondly, I was cold. Thirdly, (I think only lawyers say “thirdly”, I had to pee several times, which took a lot of navigation in and out of the sleeping bag, then the tent.
    I think I did last a second night but by the third I was in a nice motel.
    When I returned to AUS, I asked a doctor friend of mine why I was peeing all night long. She explained that my body had been generating warmth during the night thus creating urine which had to be eliminated.
    Do you think D’l Boone or Davey Crockett were always peeing?
    Enjoy your blog.

  2. robert van nortwick


    A beautiful weekend is nearly here. The leaves have started to change and a boat trip to the village is in store for my wife Sue and me.

    Looks like high in middle seventies for Saturday and Sunday and sunny.

    Miles Van Nortwick

  3. Claire M Osborn

    Congrats for getting out of hot old Texas where we still hitting triple digits and praying for rain. Sounds like you are having a grand adventure.

  4. Brenda Taylor

    Dear Paul, I am an old Saranac Lake girl, transplanted to the Boston area. Many years ago my husband and I took our two young children on a camping trip around the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada, crossing from Maine through New Brunswick on the way. Weather was ghastly. We pitched the tent (I pitched the tent), cooked spaghetti in a pot over a weak fire, and we retired in our sleeping bags to listen to the rain drip down on the tent. In the middle of the night my 4 year old son woke me up saying he was soaking wet. He had not wet the bed. The two of us retired to our tiny Saab, which had a front seat that folded way back. He curled up on the seat and I scrunched into they equally tiny back seat with my feet up on the window for the rest of the night. The next day we hung all of the clothes, bedding, whatever, over tree branches (the sun was out!), packed up the tent and moved on to Motel 6. I have never been camping again.
    On another note, this past weekend I went back to Saranac Lake — first time in 5 years — and my sister and I stayed at your old manse, Franklin Manor, now a b&b. It was a glorious Indian Summer weekend full of color. I grew up on the other end of Franklin Avenue and used to volunteer as a young Catholic School girl in the 1950’s at the Carmelite Monastery at the bottom of the hill. We would dust the altar in the Chapel and do little errands for the nuns. I was fascinated that they were behind a grill and you could talk to them but never see them . I was DYING to see what was behind that grill. This weekend I saw . What a beautiful house you and your wife, Ann, have created. It is truly a magnificent restoration. I understand that much of the furniture and decor was left behind by both of you, including some contents of the lovely library. The highlight of my stay was finding on the shelves of your Adirondack collection a copy of my late husband’s book, Saranac, America’s Magic Mountain. Bob would be thrilled to know his book is resting on a shelf in this historic jewel. I wish you and Ann happiness and health and joy in all of your adventures, wet and dry, which I continue to follow avidly through your blog.
    Brenda Taylor
    Marblehead, MA


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