This isn’t camping

Our first RV as a young couple was a tent. It came with a gazillion interlocking poles that had to fit together just so.

Our first RV as a young couple was a tent. It came with a gazillion interlocking poles that had to fit together just so.

Setting it up was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

If we were late arriving at the campsite we had to put it together by flashlight. It was a good thing we were still starry eyed newlyweds or we would never have got through it.

Looking back, putting together a tent should be part of pre-marriage boot camp.

If you can get through it without casting wayward glances at the ax or jumping in the car and leaving your significant other stranded in a pile of canvas and poles, then chances are you have what it takes to stick it out together.

A few years later we started camping out in the bed of the truck.

We would unroll our sleeping bags, look up at the stars and think we had it made.

When we got a canopy for the truck we were spoiled. No more rushing for the cab during a downpour or waking up in the morning coated with dew—or frost. And best of all, no interlocking tent poles.

When the kids came along we bought our first genuine RV…a 10 foot bumper trailer that weighed as much as our house.

With the nose of our pickup truck sniffing the stars we would grind along the backcountry roads at a breakneck pace of 30 km an hour.

No matter how well we packed things or how slow we drove, when we arrived the trailer was in shambles. Cupboard doors had fallen open spilling contents from one end of the trailer to the other.

The trailer had an icebox fridge, which means it is was basically an upended cooler with a swing out door.

To get water from the holding tank into the sink you had to pump a lever ten hard pulls for every pathetic squirt.

The faucet was the size of a sipping straw. You didn’t waste water.

We had a propane stove, but only one burner worked and sometimes even that was iffy.

I’d flip on the burner and the clicking and hissing noise would go on and on while I frantically tried to light it with a match.

I can remember sending the kids outside for fear of the fumes or an imminent explosion.

Come nightfall you folded down the couch and the table to make beds.

We had a bathroom that measured two feet square. The toilet, sink and cupboard left approximately three square inches of floor space.

In other words, we had landed in the lap of luxury. No more sleeping under a canopy or cooking on the tailgate.

No more stumbling through the campground in the middle of the night in search of the toilet facilities. When it rained—and it always rained—we could ignite the singular propane light, gather around the table and play cards.

We could stand up without hitting our heads or accidentally dismantling the tent. It was bliss.

Unfortunately, after we moved to our current home camping kind of fizzled out.

“Why would we want to go camping when we live in the country?” Darcy would say. “We’re already camping every day, except we have hot water and a television set.”

“That’s precisely why it isn’t camping,” I would reply.

A couple weeks ago we found ourselves at a dealership checking out the latest in RV’s for some friends. I felt like a cavewoman stumbling out from behind a rock and suddenly finding herself in the suburbs.

“This unit has a hideaway television in the living room area,” the salesman said, casually pushing a button causing a huge screen to rise up out of a ledge like something out of Star Trek. I’m pretty sure I squealed.

“And of course there’s another television set in the master bedroom as well as in the kids bedroom in the back,” he added, tactfully ignoring my bulging eyes and gaping pie hole.

“Of course,” I stammered.

Master bedroom? Living room area? Kids’ bedroom…in the back? Then with a deft click of a remote control he lit up a propane fireplace under the island in the kitchen. I was speechless.

There were two bathrooms—one at either end–complete with showers, tubs and yes, hot water, all available with a twist of the tap. There was air conditioning and a heated floor.

When I discovered the closet in the master bedroom was bigger than the one we had at home I felt myself undergoing an Incredible Hulk-like metamorphosis.

In my case the transformation went from a friendly, supportive friend to a shirt tearing, enraged old geezer.

“You call this camping?” I yelled.

“This isn’t camping. When we were young, that was camping.

“We didn’t need three television sets and a fireplace neither. We slept in the box of the truck and we were grateful to be off the damp ground. And…and…when we drove to the lake it was uphill, both ways.”

When we returned home to our single television set, zero built in fireplaces and lack of closet space, I finally had to admit Darcy was right. We had been camping all along.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from northern B.C. You can catch up on past columns by visiting

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