Camping with a Pop-Up: Day/Night One

Despite having owned our pop-up camper for five years, it took until now to finally get to use it. Life just kept getting in the way. This year, with all the social distancing, it seemed the perfect time to use it. Our first idea was to go to Assateague, which got nixed due to quarantine issues in New England. Instead, our first adventure is one of the reasons I wanted it in the first place. The last weekend in September, a group of geocachers gather in Eustis, Maine. They’ve been doing it for a number of years and wanted to go. We finally made it happen!

Our reservation was from Wednesday-Sunday. I asked my husband the prior weekend to close up the camper, which has been sitting open in our driveway for most of the summer. I wanted him to close it all up, clean the outside, and get it ready with the canoe and kayak we were going to bring.

Well, he did none of that.

We couldn’t check in until 1PM on Wednesday anyway, and we lived three hours away. This meant we had time. I began putting things together that had to go in our coolers. I’d bought a see-through bin for all of our food and been packing it in there. I had my clothes packed – it was just a matter of doing a few last-minute things. We were taking two cars since I wanted to geocache.

I got everything done that I needed to do, and I assumed my husband and son wouldn’t be far behind me since he was putting the dog in the truck when I left to go geocaching. I found a number of caches on my drive and stopped at a farm stand for some fresh tomatoes. I had lunch. I was in Rangeley, about a half-hour south of the campground when it was 2PM. I thought they would be ahead of me. I thought maybe I should stop geocaching and get to the campground to help out with setting up. I texted and asked where they were. No answer. I thought maybe they were setting up and hadn’t heard the text come through. I decided to stop geocaching and drive up.

I was about ten minutes away from the campground when I finally got a text back. They were still 45 minutes away. Okay then. As it turns out, not closing up and packing the camper over the weekend had been a mistake because nothing goes as planned. There were issues putting the canoe and kayak on the racks, plus issues getting the camper out of the driveway.

I checked in to our site with the campground office and waited by the gate for them to arrive. Once they did, I handed my husband the campground map with the line showing how to get to our site. I walked back to my Jeep and pulled in, following just signs since he had the map. I arrived at the site and no one was there. Even with the map, he had gotten lost.

Now, we were here and we were ready to set up. He backed it in with no trouble. We had never had the awning and screen room up and as I understood it from him, that was something you did as you were cranking it up. I watched him crank up the top without putting out the awning or attempting to attach the screen room. I held my tongue.

We were just going to have burgers for dinner, so I grabbed them out of the cooler. It was then I discovered that when he made his trip to the local store for four bags of ice that morning, he didn’t put the ice in the cooler. Let me re-phrase that: he didn’t put the ice in all of the coolers. When I camped alone with the kids, I would have one cooler for freezer things that we generally didn’t open all that much except for things like burgers for dinner. I had a second cooler for refrigerated things. That wasn’t as much of a concern since we have a mini-fridge in the camper. Finally, I’d have a third cooler for drinks and anything the kids went for more often. When things worked right, that was the only cooler I ever had to worry about refilling. Well, he bought the ice and stuck it on one cooler, with all of the items that needed ice in the other. It was a relatively short drive and everything was fine, but I don’t understand the train of thought that went on here. If I say anything then I’m nagging and he does nothing right.

So we kind of repacked things. None of the drinks were cold, so I put them in with ice now to cool down. Later on, he was all hot to go get more ice. Why? Because the drinks weren’t cold. I told him it wasn’t an issue of more ice – it was time and you couldn’t make them get cold in a half-hour no matter how much ice you put in there.

The camper got hooked to the water and electricity. It was then I realized we had an issue with no gray water tank. All we have is a small sink for washing dishes in the camper, but we should have a portable gray water tank for the runoff. On the list now!

I have a nice chuck box I got 15 years ago from Cabelas. I also used to have plastic tubs with all of our gear in them. Whenever it was time to go camping, just load up the tubs and the chuck box, and everything was together. No trying to figure out what we needed to pack from the house. Well, one of those tubs is missing. The chuck box had plates and I’d gotten some plastic utensils. We had bowls and a few pots. We were missing so many other things. One of them was a colander. We managed to make macaroni and cheese without it, but I should have had one. We have travel mugs for our coffee, but all other cups are missing.

Getting a fire going was the next challenge. Unfortunately, as you see in the picture above, the grate on the fireplace is very high. I hadn’t planned on that. I started early getting charcoal hot to grill burgers, but the heat wasn’t reaching the grate, so we added wood. It still took until almost 7PM for the burgers to cook.

As we were cleaning up, it started to drizzle. I was alone at the campsite (except for the dog) so I started to rush to get everything undercover. My husband did not want to move the picnic table over close to the camper and extend the awning. Everything had to be put away.

Speaking of the dog, I have to say I’m impressed. Up until now, I’d really liked how she was behaving. She’s a hound and is very vocal at home. So far she’d been quiet. We had her hooked to a tree with a 25-foot lead and she just wandered all over the site. Every dog she saw she was eager to meet. Not one bark at anyone going by. At home, she barks at everyone who walks by our house.

It was dark and it had been a long day. I went into the camper and made the bed on my side of it. My husband was sleeping on the other side. He had a sleeping bag. I was using sheets and blankets. My son was sleeping on what was the table folded down. We brought Sansa (the dog) in to see how she’d do. It was only 8PM, but everyone was tired.

The first thing she did was climb up by me. We weren’t sure who she was going to sleep with but it looked like me. After a few minutes, she got down and looked like she was going over by my husband. She turned back to me and promptly got sick right into my sneakers. My husband took her outside and sat with her for a while in front of the embers.

At some point, while we were putting things away, my iPhone fell to the ground. It has an Otterbox on it because I have broken numerous phones over the years (including one that bounced out of my pocket on a roller coaster, hit the track, and smashed to pieces – someone behind me saw it happen). It looked fine at first, but now I noticed a nice crack going right across the screen. Of course, it would be paid off in December.

At this point, I wished we had tried an overnight close to home or even in our driveway. Why? Because I found out the first night that sleeping on those mattresses in the pop-ups was like sleeping on a board. I had a hard time getting comfortable to fall asleep. I’m normally a side-sleeper, but every time I was on my side I would eventually get a lot of pain in my hips from my bursitis. I hate sleeping on my back. Also (my own fault) I normally have two pillows at home and only brought one. I didn’t think it would be that big of an issue, but it is. One good thing is the camper has heat. I asked my husband to turn it on when we went to bed and I’m glad he did. It was chilly that night.

Still, it’s been nice so far. It’s quiet and peaceful with beautiful views and no bugs! Despite getting sick, Sansa seems to be really enjoying camping. And the leaves are just beautiful here right now.

5 replies »

  1. I’m planning a geo-jaunt to AR. I’ve got a ton of caches mapped out. Which ones we attempt will depend on the weather. My husband wants to get a campervan. I’m holding the line and saying “NO!” Camping is not my idea of fun.

    • I enjoy camping. It’s just I’m usually a lot more organized and on top of things. Unless I plan to follow him around fixing everything he does (while he takes the credit for having done it) I get frustrated. As my therapist said – let it go. I did just go around and clean up the site a bit this morning.