Saturday, July 6, 2024

A Beginner's Experience of Camping in a Little Trailer

Rainy Day Getaway
"Look at this!" my wife's son says on Facetime from his campsite an hour's drive from our home. What we see is a plastic storage bin at the rear door of our Airstream Basecamp travel trailer, water dripping steadily from the top of the door seal. That drip-drip-drip is one more lesson in a beginning camper's experience of being on the road alone--in this case during a driving rainstorm. 

My reply via Facetime was to say, "Yes, that happened to me once. How's the bin catching the drip?" Since it was raining hard but the plastic bin was catching the drips, that was the end to my part of the crisis. The next morning I called Thomas and suggested that he should check the rubber seal. Sometimes in the heat it pulls loose when the door is opened. After checking the seal, the evidence was that there was a wrinkle in the seal, and Thomas said he would readjust the seal and wipe down the closure area. Problem solved . . . we hope.

For anyone who has gone camping, we know that things come up--and that there is a learning curve. Experience and knowledge are good things and can ease the bite when chance reaches out and nips us. I've been enjoying teaching Thomas and helping him enter his first year of small trailer camping. He's doing a great job, and interacting with him during this camping season has been a great walk down memory lane plus a good venue for us to get to know one another better.

The first step in teaching Thomas how to tiny trailer camp was towing. I already had a hitch and ball, so we mounted that on his Tacoma pick-up and then had the electric brake controller installed. In order to learn how to back the trailer, Thomas followed the same steps I had used: hitching up from my driveway and then rounding the block and backing in; then pulling out in the opposite direction, rounding the block, and backing in again, thus backing in from both directions. After about three mornings of practice, I told Thomas he was ready to hit the road. To be perfectly honest, he was a much faster learner than I was. 

Memorial Day Campsite
His first camping experience in the Basecamp was at our local county park, about five miles from our house. Thomas didn't have towing set up on his Tacoma yet, so since he was going to camp with his sister and her family, they towed his trailer out to the campground after setting theirs up. It was a great experience for Thomas, seeing how the campground is peaceful on weekdays and more lively on the weekends. He also learned a bit about planning--packing bread and mustard for sandwiches, but forgetting the other ingredients! We've all done that, right? On his current trip, he came back to visit us the next day because he had forgotten something vital--coffee! And so the beginner's experience of camping grows, becoming more adept and rich. We dream, then plan, and then learn through trial and error. 

Belva Deer Campground
On his second camping experience towing, Thomas was a little late getting ready, and his sister and company showed up early for their trip to Lake Belva Deer Park campground. They caravaned together to the campground, and the early departure meant a few items were left behind; however, he was more philosophical about his lapses, realizing that he had the basics--a place to stay, food, clothing, and good company. 

At an Older "Retro" Campground
On Thomas's current trip, he has towed the camper himself for the second time, set it up, and is enjoying his first solo camping experience. Yes, he burned his leg on our Solo stove, but he is happy, taking 45-minute walks around the lake, riding his bike, or just lying back in the chaise lounge at camp and reading. The Basecamp provides him with a self-sufficient, safe haven, a true "basecamp" for him to explore and relax. 

I am reminded of my little learning lessons, such as when a raccoon opened my ice box and stole a baked potato I was going to cook as home fries the next morning. Or the time during a big rainstorm when a limb fell and bashed a hole in my first trailer, the Green Goddess (link to article). I also remember the time my wife and I traveled to Carlsbad, California, to visit her parents. When backing the trailer into their driveway, having to be very precise so there was room for the parents' car to still get into the garage, I had to finally tell everyone, "I can get the trailer exactly where we want it. Just be patient and let me do it with twenty tries instead of two." My retired major Marine Recon father-in-law graciously listened to me, and by-golly I finally got the rig where we wanted it! I could go on and on, and I know that many reading this article could add their own stories, ones we fondly look back on now but which were a bit tense at the time they were happening. 

We learn as we go, and it has been my joy to see Thomas successfully negotiate his learning curve from beginning camper to Old Man on the Mountain. Even though there are no real mountains in Iowa, you get the idea: one more experienced camper is now enjoying the great outdoors. 

Bambi, the Apache, Mickey, Minnie, and their pet Godzilla
You may ask, What about my camping? What about our camping, my wife and I? The short answer to that is that after coming out of retirement and teaching full-time for one year, it's just plain nice to kick back at home and to spend time together with Sandy. Also, Sandy and I have a little visual aid in the house to keep our dreams alive and our curiosity lively!

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  1. Thanks for sharing your, and your son’s, experiences. Sounds like he has a great teacher.

  2. He's a lucky guy to have you AND your trailer to try out camping. Now that he knows he enjoys it, will he buy a tiny trailer himself?

    1. We're not sure. I'm certain all will be more clear by the end of this camping season. Thanks for asking and wishing you good times!