Each day on the road we learn a lesson or two. Here are a few of the highlights.
The Key Hunt. If it seems like I’ve misplaced my van key, I should ask Joe to check all of the pockets in all of his coats just in case he borrowed it, before I dive into the campground dumpster for yesterday’s trash, retrace my steps up to the shower house—even though it’s almost a mile away, or remove and shake every single item in my three shelf closet. It might save both of us time and anxiety.
Camp Towel. Always, always, always, double check your shower bag for a towel before stepping under the water. Even if your wife has already climbed in bed before she notices it on the galley counter and takes the time to get up, find her shoes and dash down to the shower house, chances are she won’t have the courage to burst through the men’s room door and call out your name. Joe reports that a tee shirt lacks the needed absorbency to get the job done.
One-Pot Wonders. Before leaving Michigan we had visions of soup simmering on our camp stove and plans to fix rice or lentils as side dishes. Those dreams died when the temperatures dipped below freezing. Now we are the king and queen of the one pot wonder — a cooking technique that limits dishes and outdoor stove time. Our favorite is egg hash. It’s an entree whipped up by sautéing any available fresh veggies and then adding any type of potatoes. We finish the dish by creating an open space in the pan and frying eggs. We sometimes have it for breakfast and dinner. Once in a while we fold the mixture into a tortilla, add salsa and call it a breakfast burrito. Perhaps our cooking will evolve as the temperatures warm up.
Creating our Cocoon. If an RV Park is our only camping option for the night, we can pull down our window shades, put up our front cabin curtains and then pipe Amazon’s “Cool Jazz” playlist through the van’s stereo speakers. In cocoon mode, the rest of the world fades away. So, it doesn’t matter that we are squeezed between two 40-foot RVs and are parked only minutes from the I-40 interstate.
The Shower Report. As van campers, we learned not to underestimate the revitalizing power of a hot shower, but in the Southwest water is a valuable resource. Not all campgrounds are equipped with shower facilities. We’ve learned to ask rangers at park visitor centers for directions to the nearest shower house — a luxury we gladly pay for, even when it’s doled out in five to eight minute increments. The first of us to venture in to a particular venue returns with what we refer to as the “Shower Report.”
At Zion Outfitters Joe declared, “Best shower of the trip. Clean, good water pressure and I was the only one there.” The shower was included with the camping fee at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah but each blast of water lasted only for 8 seconds. Joe noted, “If you remember to push the water button every 6 seconds, the water will stay on.” My favorite report was from Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, Joe said, “No bench for your stuff. Cement floor. Cement walls. Steel door - that clanks shut when you slide the bolt to lock it. Feels like a prison cell. Warm enough for a shower but not warm enough for you.” I opted out that evening.
Water. If my daypack is light and feels empty, then I forgot to refill my water bottles. I’ve learned that it’s better to go back for water than hike without hydration. This is a lesson best learned on a short, shady hike when your four-legged friend is not depending on you for liquid refreshment.
Dogs and Dirt. Multi-use trails tend to be dog-friendly, but they’re often also open to horseback riders. Dogs love to stick their noses and drag their bellies through everything from mud puddles to equine feces. We’re still working on strategies to mange our dog’s dirt level. After some hikes both her belly and her paws are covered in mud, while her back is covered in dirt and dust from rolling in interesting odors and she smells like a horse stall. We might have snuck her into a shower stall once or twice for much needed mud and horse manure removal.