Join Our Mailing List
I live adjacent to the Carpinteria State Beach in California, which is home to any number of campers pretty much year ’round. This little slice of heaven is one of those places everyone wishes they could live — and for several months each year, it feels like they’ve succeeded. Don’t get me wrong, I love our tourists. Without their dollars, Carpinteria would probably have to roll up the sidewalks and drift away since the farming for which it was once known has all but disappeared.
Having said that, I can’t help but comment on how amused I am by what some people seem to feel is necessary when they are trying to get away from it all! Since I take walks in this setting four or five days each week, I’ve seen exactly how excessive some people’s “can’t leave home without it” can be. There are the Spartan few who appear to arrive with the clothes on their backs and a pup tent – all the way to the people who come with everything including the kitchen sink.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for some reason my head is always filled with stories about the people I see and the places I go. It’s not enough to simply do my early morning walk; I have to fabricate elaborate tales about the things I observe along the way. Sometimes I comment to my dog Lulu about what I’m thinking, but even she tends to look puzzled, so quite often I simply daydream about what another person’s life is like and keep it to myself.
First, I’m usually trying to figure out what this person does for a living that allows them the luxury of being off work. Not only off work, but off work with the added bonus of having time to travel. I can definitely empathize with the guy or gal sleeping in the pup tent. That, I could afford, and I’ve had the bruises and sore back to prove it.
No, what I’m talking about are the people who have these amazing motor homes that often require more than one parking space at the campsite. When I first began my early morning walks a couple of years ago, I would simply marvel at all the bells and whistles these seem to come with. There were pop out panels and drop down doo-dads just about everywhere I looked. What was already a spacious traveling home-away-from-home could become a mini-mansion simply by pushing and pulling here and there. And, yes, I have to admit, I am a bit jealous when I see an RV that appears to be larger than my house.
What I began to realize over time is that there are some people who apparently think traveling in this style is roughing it. While I do see the men doing the initial grunt work of backing these monsters into their assigned spaces and then making sure things are level and secure, it’s the women I notice doing the majority of the work from that point on. And when I say work, I mean it! There are fences to construct, dog pens to assemble, fires to build, lounge chairs to unpack and unfold, and picnic tables to move.
But wait, there’s more. There are meals to cook, children to tend, clothes to hang, and it bears repeating, because it appears camping takes us back to our caveman roots, more fires to build.
On many a morning I’ve felt I should be wearing a smoke mask during my quest for a healthy walk to ensure I wasn’t inhaling harmful fumes. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you are sleeping in the lap of a luxurious entertainment coach complete with sauna, hot tub and chilled bubbly, all you need to prove you are roughing it is to build a fire. Since the last time most of these folks rubbed two sticks together was in grade school, their fires often leave much to be desired. More often than not, they are sort of smoky, sputtering, trash cans filled with embers.
But, God, they are proud of their accomplishment. Whole families hover around these stinky fire pits looking pleased as punch. Because, really, what’s better than something cooked over an open flame? Well, for one, something cooked so it’s not charred beyond recognition, if you ask me. This probably explains why I see so many boxes of cereal and empty beer bottles during my walks. Everyone needs a back-up plan!
So while I was pondering what someone has to do for a living to afford an entertainment coach (because that’s definitely what I want to do!)…and while I was sort of shaking my head at just how silly some of these people seem to those of us without wheels under our houses… I happened upon Phil Webber. Phil, his wife, and his wife’s sister spend four months each year tending to the camping areas at our local State Parks. Phil worked hard all of his life, and now he enjoys spending his retirement camping.
Phil doesn’t have one of the luxurious coaches – but there’s nothing wrong with his Winnebago (I’m pretty sure he would make an off color joke right about now, but I’ll leave that to your imagination)! Anyway, Phil noticed that I walk past the park nearly every day so he began saying good morning to me quite a while back.
Eventually our good mornings turned into a bit more conversation. He asked me about Lulu and I asked him where he was from. When he said Indiana, I was quick to tell him that’s where I was born too. From that point on he started calling me Hoosier. In this setting, I don’t try to distance myself from my roots. Hoosier sounds homey and familiar. It doesn’t surprise me that Phil hails from Indiana. He’s that cut of cloth. Hard working (even in his retirement) and friendly to everyone he meets.
The opulence of some of the camper’s rigs doesn’t seem to faze him. I can tell that in his eyes, we are all the same. I really admire that in people and wish I was more that way. Much too often I have to remind myself of this fundamental reality. It’s not that I think I’m better, it’s just that I think too much. I’m always comparing, examining and tallying – when all I really should be doing is accepting.
And talk about accepting. Phil is already on his way to teaching me a thing or two. Last week he asked me if I had time for a cup of coffee. I was a bit hesitant because I could easily see that the pot was being brewed on one of those smoldering stinky fires I’m so fond of. And then I thought, oh, what the heck, live a little!
Well, I wish I could tell you some wonderful tale about that being the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. I can’t lie to you. It was awful. But it had nothing to do with the campfire, Phil just happens to make coffee that’s strong enough to grow hair on a bear! Of course, it wasn’t actually about the campfire at all; it was about the sense of community and friendship this sort of activity evokes. For a moment I thought I had some smoke in my eyes, and then I realized they were tears of joy. I had taken the time to appreciate one of life’s moments that I might have missed otherwise. I’m glad that breast cancer (and Phil Webber) slowed me down enough to notice.