RV nation

Two weeks of camping has opened my eyes as to the whole RV thing that grips America’s retirees.

At the campsites I’ve stayed at, most people have been in RVs or been towing massive caravans that require special truck hook ups. After home ownership, I think an RV is the great American dream. Or maybe it’s just that Americans work so hard during their life that when they reach retirement, they want to see their country from the comfort of a plush, fully fitted out mobile home. I’m yet to be invited inside one, but I hope to achieve that before my trip is out.

Here are a few random observations followed by one big tip.

  • There are different categories of RV. There are the shorter ones, the truck mounted ones all the way through to the deluxe pop out coaches
  • Hiring an RV is also popular with El Monte RV and Cruise America the two dominant companies
  • 90% of the luxury bus ones are towing a car, often a four wheel drive
  • Many of them have bikes, which I guess leads to all those Metamucil and insurance stereotype ads of retirees riding bikes
  • Some also carry motorbikes or boats. Sometimes they have the full gamut of recreational vehicle options with car, motorbike, bikes, ATV AND canoe.
  • They like to wear merchandise from the sights they’ve visited, bringing greater meaning to the saying “been there, bought the t-shirt/cap/entire gift shop up”

And finally, my hot tip comes after I saw a couple spend about 15 minutes hooking their big GMC four wheel drive to the back of their bus. It was the type of hookup that pulls the car along on four rolling wheels. After going over everything, the couple jumped into their luxury coach and took off down the road. As they started off, it became clear that the car was still in park and the rear wheels protested and squealed and jumped and bounced burning rubber and creating big flat spots in the tyres. It drew quite the crowd of tent campers and took the driver about 150m to realise there was a problem and stop to inspect.  So when you are towing a car, always do one final check to make sure you’re in neutral and have released the handbrake.

Today’s photo

Today was a rest day, so I only took one photo.

This photo still puzzles me. I have no idea how those two eggs got on the ground like that. They must have somehow jumped out of the egg carton that was sitting on top of the table. Yet they are nestled so closely and aren’t cracked. If I catch the chicken that did it, I may have to eat it.

Corn chips – essential travel companions

Corn chips, I’ve found, are a great way to meet other campers.

After a wander around Kanab, Utah where I popped in to a documentary screening during a local festival (incidentally where I was asked very seriously by one lady if we have popcorn in Australia) I came back to my campsite to find I had neighbours.

The guy running the campground intercepted me on the way back and said “You have some neighbours, I thought they might be able to entertain you.” He’d said something similar to them when allocating their site that he’d put them next to the Australian girl.

Anyways, the three Swiss guys next door turned out to be great company, something that was cemented as we were sitting around having a drink and I pulled out a bag of corn chips. As one thing leads to another, so the corn chips led to us cooking chicken curry and rice together for dinner and then pancakes in the morning.

Food is meant to be shared and I’ve learned that corn chips are made for sharing. So now every shopping list starts with a bag of corn chips.

The day after camping

Today began that tedious chore of unpacking, washing and storing after a camping trip.

We had to unpack our bags and put away food and other items and then we had to wash our clothes that smelled strongly of the scent Eau de Campfire. I think this is better left for the day after. Arriving home after a camping trip, all you want to do is have a shower and get some sleep in a comfy bed. I certainly ticked all those boxes before even thinking about the tidy up.

And I have to admit, I also fired up the computer and my phone before my post camp shower. It’s nice being disconnected while out in the middle of nowhere, but then it feels great to come home and be reconnected. Is that sad?

Snow in Sequoia

Making a snowman
J preparing the base for a snowman - but then the light turned green so we had to abandon him

When friends Ricardo, Astra and Jolena invited J and I camping for the weekend, I had no idea how cold it would be.

They did say to pack warmly because we were going to the mountains, but my April weather radar is way out of whack. I am still thinking Mildura weather, lovely days in the 20’s, with cool nights, but still easy camping weather. I guess because April brings with it Easter and that is one the busiest time of year for campers in Mildura along the Murray River. In my wildest dreams I would never have believed that I would be seeing snow fall on my tent, but it is the Rockies after all.

Sequoia trees
A stand of sequoia trees

Upon entering Sequoia National Park in California (about 4 hours drive from Los Angeles) we were told by the ranger that the campsite we wanted to go to was for snow camping only and we’d have to camp in the carpark. So we opted for a lower campsite at Buckeye Flat instead. I certainly wasn’t prepared for snow camping and I’m sure my $30 tent I’d picked up at Walmart on the way would agree with me.

Snowed in
Not sure how you get inside

The campsite at Buckeye Flat was beautiful and we were met by the roar of the rapids on the river below. Being late in the afternoon, we made a fire and set up the tent for J and I as Ricardo, Astra and Jolena were sleeping in their van. As we were sitting around toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, it started snowing. Snowflakes fluttered by the fire and whilst this could be pretty, it was just pretty scary. J and I hooked up the tarp we’d also bought at Walmart as an extra barrier to the snow. After a little bit of patchy snow, it stopped, but I’m glad we used the tarp.

Icy scenery

The next day we drove up to the sequoia trees. As we climbed higher there were signs about chains for tyres, and we passed snow drifts on the verges. While we were pulled up at a traffic light due to roadworks up ahead, we got out and started having a snowball fight. It was lots of fun and we encouraged those in the car behind us to also get out and have some snowplay.

White maze
The snow maze

Driving higher, I had my face pressed against the window at the magical snow scenery. It was just like a Christmas card, with the pine forest dusted in white frosting. The only thing steering away from this image were the big, rough, red trunks of the sequoias interspersed throughout. I was overwhelmed and lost for words.

Getting out to admire the 2,200 year old General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world when measured by mass, I romped about in the snow, eating mouthfuls of fresh snow, making snowballs and crunching in the winter wonderland.

I have never seen so much snow in my life. There was six feet of snow, higher than the car, so it felt like we were driving around in a white walled maze. Buildings had only their roofs showing, and even then they were covered in a blanket of white. In some places, big icicles jagged across porches. It was all so foreign feeling, yet wondrous and I looked upon the whole scene with amazed, innocent eyes.

Magical snow scene
Magical snow scene that blew my mind

I don’t think snow will ever cease to amaze me. Unless of course I live somewhere where I have to shovel my driveway every day in winter.