Camping – Then and Now…


Most of our stories have been about travel with accommodations like hotels or condos. But one of the first “real vacations” I remember from my childhood (separate from visiting relatives) was going camping. We didn’t do it very often – I don’t think my mom liked it much… Anyway, we’d load up the car and head to the mountains in North Georgia, usually for a day or two.

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Before my dad became a family man, he’d been a part-owner in a cabin on a lake up there – the first time-shares, I guess. He and my mom continued their joint ownership until my arrival – and the teenage years of the children of the other owners. Something about not being able to go when they/we were available.

For whatever reason, the cabin went by the wayside, but we’d still have to make these pilgrimages to the old cabin – and look at it from afar and sometimes walk around it, down to the dock.

It was evidently the site of many happy – or at least recalled and retold – memories, including the one of my parents on their honeymoon, when they’d returned to find some guys in a car, stuck in the driveway.

Like the good citizens they were, my parents helped them get out – and then discovered when they went inside that they’d been robbed. My dad’s “wedding shoes” and lots of fishing equipment is all I remember from the stories. Obviously, there weren’t any electronics…it was 1944 after all!

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But on with our camping – it was always in a tent that was gradually upgraded, along with the addition of sleeping bags, a Coleman lantern and finally, a cook stove – great Father’s Day gifts!

Probably my fondest memory of these times is the wood smoke…and the clean, crisp mountain air. I still love those smells…

When my husband and I first married, we took a trip camping – tent, sleeping bags, etc. When our older son was a year old, we tent camped in the infield at a race – I think it was 24 Hours at Daytona. That was really fun.

And we talked about it, but I don’t think we ever camped again until we bought a pop-up camper. That lasted one trip, although it was to Walt Disney World, the king of all camping spots!

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Whether because of our schedules or the fact that we discovered condos, I don’t think the pop-up got used for anything more but backyard play for our boys.

Ever the optimist, I’d continue to buy camping equipment – tents, camp stools, new lanterns that didn’t depend on that mantle-thing that would shatter if you touched the lantern…

We did visit a relative’s camper – it was twenty-something feet long and much more comfortable than a tent or pop-up.

And we dreamed of someday driving across country in a large RV. There are magnificent options now, true homes on wheels and totally out of our price-range. Used is always a possibility, but then another relative bought one of those, and had the transmission go out on one of their first trips…so we reconsidered – maybe that wasn’t such a great idea either.

We talked about renting one, but the cost seems astronomical…and then you have to add gas. So our camping days seemed to have passed us by.

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Still, the idea of camping lingers in my mind. There’s a romance about the old Airstreams and VW buses, and I’ve heard there’s a huge renaissance of vintage campers – people who travel from one site to another with restored cars, trucks, and trailers.

Perhaps as a part of this vintage resurrection, there’s an interesting camping addition (or maybe we’ve just become aware of it). It’s new small camping trailers – Runaway Campers and Little Guy Teardrop Camping Trailers are a couple of the brand names.

These are small trailers that can be customized to your particular needs and desires. You can get the bare-bones basic shell, or go for the full luxury models with kitchens and wine storage and air conditioning.

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Of course, there are a number of choices in-between. And if you’re especially handy, you can even buy the building plans for less than $40! Some of them are so light you can tow them with a motorcycle…and the stripped-down versions are so cheap you can put them on a credit card…

I don’t know if we’ll ever get around to buying one, but it’s definitely appealing. And they make most “tiny houses” (another appealing idea) seem enormous! I do think there’s some magic in being able to leave on a moment’s notice, stopping where the mood takes you, lingering by a rushing stream or crashing waves. And smelling that wood smoke…

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