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As I drive north on I-25 I realize that I have been scratching incessantly several areas on my leg . The next time I pull over to walk Tango, I check it out and I definitely have some small patches of poison oak on my ankles and a few spots up my shins. No worry, as I always take anti-itch cream. It takes care of the itch for an hour before I apply more. It’s like this the rest of the way home. Annoying but not awful, and certainly not as bad it might have been. I must have been obsessing over the rock formations and bears and walked right into some Poison Oak. I am klutzy like that. Tango is okay, despite the fact that dogs CAN get poison oak. I learn that their fur insulates the skin from contact with the leaves and their toxic oils.

I am still thinking a great deal about my camper upgrade. I go over my needs in my head as I drive north, through Denver. I must have the following or I will give up for now and finish out the year in the van:

  • Affordable price
  • Preferably new with a warranty so I don’t end up stuck out in the boonies with an old lemon
  • Something I can tow with the van that I already have, which makes economic sense
  • Something I can tow that is light and low profile because of winds here and also because I am nervous about pulling something big.
  • Heater, potty, refrigerator, sink, stove
  • Sitting area and eating area
  • Awning
  • Easy to use
  • Room for friends and family
  • Decent storage
  • Not stuffy and claustrophobic, something where I can hear birds, smell the forests, and feel like I am outdoors, especially as I drift off to sleep.

I already learned that the first need, “affordable” does not align with some of the others, like “new”. I realize once again that I have champagne taste and a beer budget, which is why this is taking so long. So, for the first time I consider a new pop-up tent camper which would suit me and Tango fine for now. A pop-up is low profile, affordable, airy, and light. However, I camped in one decades ago and did not think it was easy to use. Rather than rule it out, though, I consider whether I can find my “must-have” list in a pop-up. Would I buy a pop-up if I could get everything on my list? I stop at two more dealers. At the first one, I can not find anything close to my list. Discouraged for the second time today, I drive away.

At the second dealer, my search comes to an end at last. I find a beautiful, new, pop-up camper with everything I need. It has lots of options already installed, including an awning and an electric switch that sends the camper roof up (no cranking it up like in the old days). The door swings down from the ceiling. It has two large beds that slide out, and all of the other features I need. I especially like all the screened windows (which zip up in rain). Modern fabrics are highly water proof and durable. In the front there is a long storage compartment the width of the camper and accessible from the outside. I can winter camp in this pop-up thanks to the heater and zip up windows.

This Flagstaff Mac camper (by Forest River) also has some things not on my list, like both a 3-burner stove inside and a BBQ grill that attaches to the outside and runs off the propane tank. The mattresses are heated, with controls like an electric blanket. The kitchen table can be moved for eating outside, which I love. I wanted to jump up and down and clap my hands, but I can’t let on because it can ruin my negotiating edge.

We dicker over price and come to an agreement. They need time to prep the camper for delivery and I need time to get a hitch and brake controller installed. We agree that I will pick it up next Monday or Tuesday, when I am off again.

I drive home (2.5 hours north) a happy camper. I also think about things that never occurred to me about towing a camper. I will have all that van space that I won’t be using anymore for camping. Woo hoo! I can fulfill some of my other wishes, like getting an inflatable boat or kayak, which will be easy to store in the van. I can keep extra clothes and jackets hanging on the clothing rack already installed there. I can store extra food and water too. I can pack more books.  And I can still sleep in the van when I am travelling for several days and don’t want to set up the camper for just a quick overnight. I order a twin air mattress for that purpose, which I will only inflate as needed, leaving lots of empty space in the van.

I am happy about the reduced operating costs with a pop-up camper. Insurance is a few bucks a month. My gas mileage will still be decent (unlike Class Cs) and energy needs when the camper is set up are low. All I need is a little electricity for lights and the refrigerator. I need propane for the heater, stove, and grill. Both a battery and propane tank are already installed. I can use my small solar devices to charge personal electronics when not driving (then I use a 12 V outlet in the van). And, converting to solar will be a snap in a pop-up considering the low energy needs. I guess this is a more minimalist/closer to nature way of camping, which fits with my other minimalist lifestyle changes. Most important: I can easily afford this camper, which comes in under budget!

So in the end, I find something that will work great until I retire and travel more extensively. It is not at all what I expected when I started looking months ago, but it is going to be great. I hope all the logistics with the hitch and everything all work out. I fall asleep, finally at home in Wyoming, dreaming about future adventures. I am hoping for something big for my 60th birthday next summer.

The following is my floor plan. The port-a-potty is actually hidden from view under a seat cushion. Tango and I will sleep in the large bed on the right. The extra is available for friends (and that mattress is heated too).

camper

camper 2Photo from manufacturer

camper 3

Photo from manufacturer, shows large door to storage (lower right side) that runs entire width of camper. Mine also has an long awning installed above the door

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