Happy Campers

Kyra and Shantal in VanessaMy husband and I purchased a 20+-year-old camper van with the name Vanessa stencilled on both sides. I had never named a vehicle before but since this one came with a name I thought I should use it. For that reason, I always refer to her as Vanessa.

Our plan is to do some travelling in a compact vehicle with enough creature comforts for us to live in it for weeks at a time. We have a small fridge, a two burner stove, dinette benches that can be used as two single beds or folded together for one large one plus indoor plumbing. Who could ask for more!

Our first trip was to be to a three day Gospel Music Celebration. In preparation, we drove her to a lake an hour from home, where we have a larger RV parked. This way we could make sure everything was in working order and have the larger unit to fall back on if needed.

We arrived in the evening so slept in the 5th wheel. The next morning, our 9-year-old triplet granddaughters came over for a visit. My son and his family have an RV in the same park and we enjoy frequent visits from the girls.

They had seen inside Vanessa once before, but it had been months ago and they wanted another look. Once inside, the girls took their time exploring and were fascinated with everything they saw. One even said she’d be very happy if she could have Vanessa for her house!

They went back to their trailer for lunch and a short while later one returned with her dad. It seems she told grandad she’d like to sleep in Vanessa and he had said maybe she and I could have a girl’s sleepover sometime.  She had taken him at his word and packed a couple of bags to bring back!

My son wanted to check with me to make sure this was OK. Although it was news to me, I agreed and soon she was back with everything she’d need for the night.  I’m thinking she wanted to bring her belongings over before I had a chance to change my mind!

Miss K put her bags in Vanessa and went off to find her sisters. I put a chair in the sunshine and sat down to start reading a new book. Before long there were two girls standing before me. Miss S also wanted to sleep in Vanessa. I thought, “This will work if I convert the twin beds into one big one.”  The first night sleeping in Vanessa was supposed to be with my husband but I couldn’t refuse these two excited girls. Their sister showed no interest in this sleepover so there should be room for all three of us. My husband was fine with having the big trailer all to himself!

The girls each chose the single bed they wanted. This was not how it was supposed to go.  I told them we’d all sleep together on the big bed. They responded by telling me they both kicked and I wouldn’t want to be with them!

To show them how much room we would have, my husband, transformed the beds as they excitedly watched.  The three of us lay down and I thought this was a positive sign. Then one said, “Have you made a decision, because I have?” The other quickly said, “Me, too.” Just like that, I was voted out of my own van!

I texted my daughter-in-law, certain she would say I needed to be with them. They would have to agree if their mom said so. Imagine my surprise when their mom said she didn’t see a problem with it.

We were in a gated, secure family RV park so safety shouldn’t be an issue. Still, shouldn’t they have someone to protect them or comfort them if they became afraid? It was hours before bed time so plenty of time for them to change their minds.

The remaining sister headed off for a sleepover with a cousin and these girls asked me what was for supper. They played in Vanessa and referred to us as their neighbours who had invited them for dinner. After dinner, they invited us to come over for a visit and to play Snakes & Ladders. We were told, “Just knock on the door and we’ll let you in.”  After two games it was time for lights out and the neighbours were sent home.

We left Vanessa’s outside light on as well as the one for the big trailer. The girls knew they could come and get us any time during the night. They were very brave and didn’t think this would be necessary. To them, this was an exciting adventure and there was nothing to fear.

After a long night for my husband and me, we heard the happy chatter of the girls as they approached our door just after 7 am. They told us they’d had the best sleep ever. I wish we could have said the same.

What we did have was the knowledge we’d created some very special memories for our granddaughters. They had tried something new and loved every minute of it. Instead of letting our fears squash their experience we trusted (and prayed a lot) and ended up with very happy campers.


Vanessa’s Trial Run

day 1Last week I introduced you to Vanessa, our twenty plus-year-old camper van and told you of the joy our granddaughters had in making this their home for a night.

My husband and I got our turn in the van almost a week after the girls did. We were invited to an eighty-fifth birthday celebration for an aunt who lives six-hundred and fifty kilometres away. Our initial thought was to drive our fuel-efficient car, spend one night in a hotel and drive back home.

After talking about it, we came to the conclusion that it would be just as cost efficient to drive the van. That way we could take an extra day and have our food and sleeping accommodation right with us. What we saved on these expenses would easily offset the extra fuel cost. Not only that, it would be good preparation for our proposed longer trip later this summer.

A friend loaned us a generator and our son-in-law dropped off a hitch carrier so we could keep the generator, gas can and our portable barbeque outside the van.  We found appropriate bins to place these in and strapped them onto the carrier. Hours were spent loading Vanessa with everything we needed and might possibly need along the way. Items inside were rearranged to make the most efficient use of our limited space.

After adding a few last minute things on the Friday morning, I took a picture of Vanessa and we set off on our adventure. Brian and I were both excited and nervous about how our long weekend would unfold. This would be the first time not only driving the van this far – but sleeping in it.

Two hours into our trip we stopped at a rest area for a quick break and to stretch our legs. The line-up at the washrooms was very long and neither of us wanted to wait, so we headed back to the van and used the one there.  Score one for Vanessa! This form of travel definitely had its advantages.

A little later we stopped for lunch. Brian and I are no strangers to picnicking in our vehicle. Normally I rummage through the cooler in the backseat for the food, bring out the plastic plates and cutlery and we balance our meals on our laps.  Not this time!

We opened our little fridge, chose what we wanted, added accompaniments from our pantry before sitting comfortably at our dinette table to enjoy our meal.  I was even able to wash the dishes before we resumed our travel.

A decision had been made to stop for the night about one hundred kilometres from our final destination.  Brian searched online to find free overnight RV parking and two options were found. The first had signs on the property saying no overnight parking, so we crossed that one off of our list.

The second was in a mall parking lot. There were signs near the stores to let us know overnight parking was not allowed, but not near the perimeter of the lot. Before settling for a rest area another five minutes down the road, we decided to go into one of the larger stores in the mall and ask permission to stay in the parking lot.

We were told long-term parking was not acceptable but a night or two would be fine. In fact, they encouraged it as a means of deterring mischief or vandalism when the stores were closed.

We found an area and set up camp. A light drizzle had started so we decided to make dinner using our propane stove rather than set up a table with the barbeque. Afterwards, we wandered through the mall before settling down with a cup of tea and something to read.

We had chosen not to use the generator for electricity so as the natural light faded, so did we. The dinette was converted into a bed, the curtains were pulled and we settled in for the night. This was our first night boondocking.

Boondocking, isn’t that a funny word? It means ‘camping without services’. I’ve also heard it called dry camping, but that isn’t nearly as interesting as saying, boondocking! Just using the word makes me feel like an adventurer! Who knew I’d be so happy to spend the night sleeping in a parking lot!

The next day we drove to our destination city and parked overlooking a river for lunch. Kamloops viewpointIt was peaceful and Brian and I each stretched out on one of the dinette benches. He had a nap while I spent some time reading. We changed in the van for the birthday barbeque before joining the party.  I was appreciating this lifestyle more and more.

After the party, we set up camp in the host’s driveway, where we plugged in and had the convenience of lights to read by.

Our trip home was leisurely as we stopped at fruit stands and anywhere else that captured our interest. To maximize fuel economy we drove slower than we would have in our car. This turned out to be a benefit rather than a deterrent as we arrived home more relaxed than normal.

There are still some adjustments to be made before we will be ready for a longer trip.

I appreciate having a bathroom, but have to learn how to manoeuvre in one so tiny, the only way to lean over the little sink is to sit on the toilet! I also need to announce when I am opening the door to avoid hitting my husband with it. The compact space requires consideration for the other at all times. This is a skill I can always use more practice in.

All in all, I’d say that Vanessa’s trial run was a success.  So much so that I think we’ll do it again. We are heading to a Gospel Music Celebration next weekend and plan on taking Vanessa with us.