I’m 53 years old, and I just went camping for the very first time.
It’s not that I didn’t have other chances; you can’t live on this planet for 53 years without being presented with the opportunity to camp. It’s that I was dead-set against it.
Sleeping on the ground holds no charms for me. I don’t want dinner to be whatever I can hold over a campfire, skewered on a stick. And I don’t care much for insects. All of which added up to 53 years’ worth of a no-camping policy.
I was fully convinced that camping wasn’t for me. At the same time, though, I am all in on the tiny house movement. Every time one of my friends posts one of those irresistible itty bitty homes on Facebook, I have to click through. I look at all the interior pictures. I show it to Kevin. “We could live in that, couldn’t we, honey?”
Kevin, as those of you who come here often will know, is nobody’s fool. And he likes to camp. Tents, bugs, and meals on sticks are OK with him, as long as he has an interesting destination and comfortable shoes. And, while he knew he probably wasn’t going to win me over on that kind of camping, there was another kind he thought he could work with.
And so he started showing me pictures of truck campers. Not that he called them “truck campers,” of course. He called them “tiny houses.” Portable tiny houses. Itty bitty spaces with everything you need. Just slide it on to your truck bed and go.
That is how we ended up with Yertle.
Yertle is our truck camper – named, for obvious reasons, after the Dr. Seuss turtle. I’m not yet sure whether the name will stick, so we’re not going to order the decal, but that’s what I think of it as. It’s about as small as truck campers get, and as inexpensive – we bought it from a lovely family who outgrew it when their two kids could no longer share the single bed that the dinette transforms into.
It consists of a platform bed (in the part of the camper that goes over the truck cab), the aforementioned dinette, and just enough in the way of appliances to get by. A 3-burner propane stove, a fridge about half the size of the one in your dorm room, a tiny sink with a faucet you have to pump, and a really good heater. For a bathroom, there’s just a little chemical toilet. (This has prompted a kind of low-level obsession with composting toilets, a subject for another day.)
We have big plans for Yertle, but we figured it was smart to try a shakedown cruise, close to home, to see how we liked truck camping. We made a one-night reservation at Nickerson State Park, about 30 miles up the Cape from us.
I was very surprised. My life-long no-camping policy had meant that I had, literally, zero exposure to campgrounds. When you said the word “camping,” all I saw was tents; when you said “campgrounds,” I pictured clearings in the woods. I had no idea that camping had infrastructure. Flat, cleared spots with numbers, picnic tables, and firepits, sometimes with electrical and water hook-up. There are schedules. And rules. And access to actual, genuine bathrooms. Showers, even! Park your tiny house on your numbered space, and the world’s your oyster! Camping isn’t so bad after all.
And so I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and my friends were quick to inform me that I wasn’t camping at all. Genuine camping involves, as I’d always suspected, tents and discomfort. The kind of camping that involves tiny houses and electrical hook-up is called “glamping,” a portmanteau word whose constituent parts are “glamour” and “camping.”
Before I plead guilty, allow me to point out that, if you’re looking for a word that evokes luxury and soft living, “glamping” isn’t it. It sounds more like a cross between “glamour” and “eclampisa,” which is very hard to imagine, but unpleasant nevertheless. So, those of you tent campers who are looking to sneer at people who prefer a roof over their heads – and you know who you are – I suggest you go back to the drawing board on that one.
And now I will plead guilty. I prefer a roof over my head. An actual mattress to sleep on. A way to make coffee that doesn’t involve firewood. Heat. All of which Yertle provided.
Check-in time (who knew?) was 1:00, and we arrived a bit early. It took us all of fifteen minutes to set up; Kevin leveled the camper and I unpacked the dishes and groceries. We spent the afternoon hiking around the park, and returned with enough daylight left to make dinner. We brought a little kettle grill, and Kevin smoked a chicken. I parboiled a couple of sweet potatoes and seasoned some asparagus before we left, and we threw those on the grill when the chicken came off. It was about as perfect a camp dinner as I can imagine.
Unless you count the fact that Kevin beat me at gin rummy, nothing went wrong on our shakedown cruise. This has emboldened us, and we’re scheduling a trip up the coast to Acadia National Park, in Maine, some time this summer. If that goes well, who knows? We could show up at your house any day.