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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Road Trips, Rigs and Roughing It

Old-timey map

When my husband Mark and I met we were fresh out of college and just starting our first "real" jobs. Among the many things we had in common: we both moved back from college and were (temporarily) living with our parents; we both owned ancient VW bugs which were only sort of reliable; and we had both grown up camping with our families. Oh, and we were both broke.

It seemed like a match made in heaven.

Since we both had roommates that happened to be our parents, we naturally wanted to spend a little time away from home on the weekends. Our vehicles and our money situation made it impossible to travel far or stylishly, so we would throw a tent and a cooler in the back of whichever bug was running and take off for the closest campground. It was a cheap, fun way to get to know each other. Mark had a little Coleman dome tent he had picked up at Big 5 years before and we both had sleeping bags we had owned since we were little. I borrowed a cooler from my Dad, filled it with stuff I thought no one would notice was missing from the fridge and it was a date. Did I mention it was cheap?

When you're in your twenties it's nothing to throw a blanket on the ground, roll out your sleeping bag and fall asleep. Maybe your arm would be numb in the morning, but shake it a little and you're good to go. We would make a campfire and sit around it drinking hot chocolate with extraordinary amounts of peppermint schnapps and laugh and laugh. I knew Mark was for me when one night he got up to tend the fire and when he sat back down, missed the stool a little, tottered and caught his fall on the side of the fire ring. The grill marks burned into his hand were all I needed to know he was a hard core outdoorsman. My turn came when we went in for the night and the flashlight we had strapped to the ceiling of the tent fell and knocked me on the head.

Good times.

We've gotten softer in our old age. We no longer use a tent (unless we're backpacking) and our truck is less than 15 years old; it actually has air conditioning and leather seats. We bought a Four Wheel pop-up camper and have a queen sized bed inside with foam cushions. We don't have "facilities" and we still like to cook outdoors so it's not exactly luxury, but if the weather is bad there's nothing like being able to sit inside and listen to the rain. We carry a lot more stuff along with us now including an array of camera equipment and, often, 18 year old Scotch--just a few of the many perks of being older and having better jobs. But the idea behind our vacations has always stayed the same: it has to involve a road trip, a campfire and our trusty "rig." Nothing is more exciting than opening up a map (yes, an actual paper map! GPS does not have the same thrill factor for me) and plotting a course toward one of those green areas with the little tree marks.

Our present rig and us, decidedly not hardcore