Originally published November 2011
The genesis of this story goes back a long time. I’m not sure of the exact year when it happened but I know that it was at least a decade ago, maybe closer to two. The company, for which I was then working, added a new benefit to our package. The new benefit was the chance to purchase Cancer Insurance at a discount. It was set up so that my wife and I would both be covered. It was for a one-time payout if either of us was ever diagnosed with cancer. Because cancer has eaten away at both sides of our family, it seemed like a good idea to take the policy.
In 2003 Ella’s mammogram came back showing a spot. It was as tiny as a grain of salt. They performed a biopsy and found it was indeed breast cancer. The good news was that the biopsy had removed it all. However, to be double sure, she had a lumpectomy and radiation treatments in January 2004. The cancer is gone, thank God.
We sent the paperwork to the insurance company and received a check with which we paid the doctor. There was money left over. What to do?
With a new perspective of our own mortality, we resolved to start doing some of those things that were planned for our retirement. We loved camping and so determined to get away more often. We had been tent campers since early in our marriage. We would often spend two week stints several times a year living in our tents even while going to work every day.
If we camped where there was electricity, you might also find a mini-fridge and a microwave.
Now to understand us, it helps to understand ‘how’ we tent camped. First there was the tent. It was 12’x17’ and had 3 rooms with 2 ‘pop out’ closets. Then we had a screen room which was 15’x20’ which was butted up to the front door of the tent. Then there was the shower tent that butted up to the back door of the tent. Over the entire layout was a 20’x30’ silver, sun-blocking tarp. The tarp sat on a home-made frame. We also had a tarp as a water barrier under the entire set up. We then had a carpet scrap that covered the tent floor. We stacked two queen-size air mattresses for our bed.
In the screen room, we had a plywood counter top laid across a series of plastic stacking drawers in the kitchen area. Two of the drawers also acted as sinks for washing and rinsing dishes. We used a propane stove that had two burners, a grill, and a tiny oven about 4”x6”x10”. Folding tables and chairs sat in the dining area and camp chairs in the sitting room area. Both tents were well illuminated by Coleman lanterns powered by a couple of 20 pound LP tanks.
I mentioned the shower tent, well; we had a battery powered submersible pump that connected to a hand held shower wand. On the floor of the tent was a very small inflatable ‘kiddy’ pool.
With nearly 600 square feet of living space, we were far from ‘roughing it’. As a matter of fact we often pitied the people in their travel trailers and motor homes for having to live such ‘cramped’ lives.
We lived very well when we tent camped. However, as all good things do, there came a time when the set up, tear down and put away part of camping became too much for us. After you’ve rolled up all of that canvas and find yourself on your knees looking for something to help pull you back to your feet, which is when you begin to think about travel trailers. (to be continued)