When Laura and I met 18 years ago our lives were very different. I was working at a small local convenience store and she was working in an office and raising 2 kids. To say money was tight would be an understatement, however we both had a love of the outdoors. What do you do when money is tight but you want to get out of the house? You go camping. Yes, tent camping. I owned a small 2 person dome tent and Laura borrowed 2 sleeping bags. . The kids spent most Saturday nights with their grandmother. There was a beautiful state park about 15 minutes out of town, and they only charged about 7 dollars a night.
Now anyone that knows North Dakotan’s can vouch for the fact we treat summer like it is the last one we will ever see. Winter is a harsh evil beast that seems to last forever if you like to be outdoors. The only reason I bring this up is when I say we camped, I mean WE CAMPED A LOT! We must have spent at least 40 nights in the campground that summer. This continued the next year with a bigger tent we received for Christmas. A core group of friends began coming with us as well. If the temps were going to be over 50 degrees, most everyone knew where to find us as we very rarely went to a different park.
We kept this up for a large number of years. Sometimes the frequency slowed down due to work, however we always found some time to spend in a tent. We loved hanging by the fire, tromping through the small river that went through the park. Some of my best memories are of the kids playing there.
As the years went by though we realized we weren’t going as often simply because the ground kept getting harder and harder each year. This is a phenomenon I have yet to understand as it still looked the same, but my back told me it was definitely different. We tried to combat this with air mattresses, but they only helped somewhat. We pushed through the discomfort as much as possible, but the trips got less and less frequent, and we looked for options for staying in cabins and other locations more often.
Fast forward to early 2014.
A message comes to our work e-mail for sale list. A couple that works for the same company as us wanted to sell a 1988 Prowler fifth wheel camper. This was perfect! It was already on a lake spot, had a deck, and just imagine, a bed and a bathroom built right in! The price was decent as it was coming with the spot and there was a waiting list to get into the park otherwise. (We had no way to pull a 5th wheel.) The camper did need some work, but we have always been willing to take on a challenge. We jumped on it.
That first summer was an experience. We met every possible type of personality at the lake. They ranged from the people that thought our old camper should be replaced simply because it was old to great neighbors that simply wanted to hang out by the fire. One thing we did learn though is that a seasonal spot at an RV park was not the same as camping in a tent. During the week it is exceptionally quiet and peaceful, but come Friday afternoon the electric air pump and lawnmower is the closest sound to nature you will hear until Sunday afternoon. We also realized our camper was too small for our family. Our children seem to think they need to pack everything they own when going anywhere longer than one day. They would walk into the camper loaded down with bags and drop them right after entering the room. Then we would spend the weekend trying to navigate around their mess. We also had no hot water that first year as the hot water heater did not work and I did not know how to fix it (needed replaced). We struggled through with that camper for 2 summers.
While Laura was finding out about these issues I was doing the opposite. I was busy meeting the neighbors and making friends. This led me to meet the couple next to us and they soon became some of my closest friends. While the lake was not the same as camping it had some of the things I really enjoyed such as the fires and the hanging with people.
Because I loved the lake, in the winter of 2015/2016 we began looking for a new camper. We started going into every one we could find and ended up in a dealership an hour from home. We landed on a 2015 Keystone Residence 406FB.
This had everything we needed and wanted. A second bedroom so the kids could leave their stuff out of site and a second bathroom too. It had 3 slides and was huge compared to the old fifth wheel. We purchased it in February with an agreement for it to be delivered in May. This left us with an issue. We still had a 1988 fifth wheel in the spot with a deck and attached shed. With 2 weeks to spare we were able to sell our fifth wheel camper, and tear apart the existing deck and shed. We saved all of the lumber possible as well as added some other pre-built items to create the new deck once the new camper was delivered. As a side note during this time it was decided we needed a truck. I had borrowed a truck from my brother for 5 consecutive weekends so we began looking at them as well.
Well this brings us to the summer of 2017. At this time I had my new camper and a new truck and was feeling pretty good about life in general. Laura however was really missing camping like we used to do. She was also feeling pressure to start getting toys for the lake as that seems to be part of lake life. A boat, maybe a jet ski, something like that. We even went so far as to go look at some pontoon boats and such. However the camping thing was really what she missed. She decided (not incorrectly) the last 2 big purchases were for me and she got to decide the next one. After lots of thought she decided to get a second camper… but which one? She knew it needed to be big enough for the 2 of us, and still be towable by our half ton truck. We might want to bring a guest every now and then. She found the dream camper in a 2017 Micro-Lite, but the only one around was new and financially out of our reach at the time. We went to the same dealer several times as they did have some campers in our price range that would work, but still really wanted the dream. In July of 2107 we stopped in one last time and they had a 2015 Micro-Lite in the exact same floor plan, even upgraded from the new one in some areas we wanted like a porcelain toilet. We were able to make a deal for just over half the price of the new one.
Now did we really need 2 campers? NO. Some see it as excessive. I think when 2 people who have different likes are willing to compromise with their time, and spend what it takes to make both of their dreams a reality it is a wonderful thing.
All it takes is a love for camping in all of it’s forms.