Impractical Notes On Glamping

July 16, 2023

This is a collection of thoughts, random musings, and brainfarts I had and wrote down while on the road. There’s lots more from our trip, including some practical info, and here’s the place to start. By the way, we call it glamping because if you know Maureen and I, and let’s be honest here, we’re way to bougie for a tent. Our kids nicknamed our RV The Glamper and it stuck the whole way.

  • We are WAY outside of our comfort zone! This is not our normal environment or our normal schedule and there’s some things you just can’t change. It’s been a good thing, but it’s been important to actively remind each other to give ourselves some grace and some space. We all handle things differently and we need to learn what that means.
  • We’ve had both really great behavior and bad behavior from the kids, and it’s been really important to remember that they’re out of their comfort zone too. Each has been touched by homesickness at some point.
  • There are so many little moments in between the big moments. The National Parks are great and the monuments are amazing. But just as good are the funny chats while brushing teeth or cleaning up dinner or random hugs for no reason at all. This is a really constructive way to maximize good family time.
  • Kids learn experientially. They’re building more mental muscles on this trip than I expected, and on all sorts of things I didn’t expect right down to the types of people they interact with (and how).
  • Glamping packs a lot of experience into a short amount of time. You’re always doing something and you can see many sites over hundreds of miles in just a few days. Even when you’re driving you get to watch the landscape change in front of you. Campsites are new and exciting. Every meal is different. We’ve been talking about other trips we want to take and places we want to see and it’s fun to combine a lot of different places into a longer trip.
  • When you fly, you usually pick your destination a priori. But when you drive and take your house and your stuff along, you can switch vectors midstream and go to many more places. This is obviously constrained by time and oceans, but if you have the time and your goal is to see lots of stuff in North America - RVing is the way.
  • This has re-sparked a wanderlust that I haven’t really felt since we started having kids. You learn so much about the world and yourself when you travel.. it’s one of the best things you can do to both solidify and question your worldview. If you’re afraid of getting too fixated on your routine and way of doing things, then travel is a solution.
  • Traveling is an easy way to lose your undeserved sense of self-importance.
  • You don’t need much fancy stuff to have a great time. A small room, a book to read, a fridge for food, a picnic table for a desk, an iPad for a TV, and a couch to lay on. But most important: a big blue sky and a bright sun.
  • Having less makes you need less. This is freeing, surprising, and a little frustrating when you realize how much stuff you need at home.
  • We did a really good job (and got really lucky) selecting our RV for this trip. Watching the CruiseAmerica and El Monte E450 rentals lumber around has made me super thankful for the Mercedes diesel setup. It gets better gas mileage, feels very maneuverable, and can cruise at 75-80 no problem. Really impressed.
  • Let’s talk about parking. This RV is The Right Size. We’ve been able to park it pretty much anywhere we need, including busier grocery parking lots. Backing it into a normal parking spot with an island behind is usually the trick. The back overhang is long enough that you don’t stick out more than a big truck if you can get it all the way to the rear wheels. Anything bigger would be significantly harder. I get why people flat-tow a car.
  • I can’t decide which would be better for retirement: a truck with a 5th wheel travel trailer or a diesel Class A with a flat-tow car behind. We have discussed this a lot now.
  • Wind really moves a big box on wheels around. The primary drama of the drive has been wind movement.
  • Keeping things organized is critical. It’s a condensed amount of space so spending 5-10 minutes each day making sure everything is back in each cabinet goes a long way. Maureen did a tremendous job laying everything out and making sure we had what we need.
  • Along with that, the small fridge and cabinets we have really pack a punch. I can’t decide if they’re bigger than we realize or if, when you get down to it, we need less than we think! But we have everything we need.
  • A friend said of his workplace that the important things there are REALLY important, and they don’t worry much about the rest. Traveling in an RV feels like that.
  • The RV really is your home away from home. Trying to take a break from it and switching into a house for a few nights and lugging clothes and everything back and forth is more trouble than it’s worth. We are actually very comfortable in here - I’ve slept better in the RV than in the cabins or Airbnbs!
  • Dry 90-100 degree heat feels GOOD. The difference between sun and shade is at least 10 degrees. Humidity really is the thing that makes heat unbearable.
  • Weather can make or break a day. We avoided significant thunderstorms one day simply by stopping for dinner and letting them pass. The rest of the evening was wonderful.
  • Our country is BIG. You see these things on a map or fly over them occasionally and you forget just how much space is really there.
  • There really isn’t that much to endear me to Kansas. Now Utah, on the other hand, is fantastic.
  • It’s pretty easy to break up some of the driving days with places to hit along the way. For example, when we drove to the Tetons we stopped first in Jackson Hole about 45 minutes closer. This made a 5 hour drive feel more like 4 followed by the scenic road up to the Tetons lodge itself.
  • A 5 hour drive out west is way different than a 5 hour drive back east. It’s almost therapeutic in how relaxing and calm it can be. I wish we could go over 80 though.
  • The west really does feel different. It’s all wide open land with pockets of towns scattered about. The east coast just has more layers. West of the Mississippi is mostly a couple hundred years behind the east coast in terms of civilizational development and you can still lightly feel the echo of that.
  • As soon as we crossed back over the Mississippi the level of driving ability seemed to change for the worse. Sudden lane changes, driving slow in the fast lane, texting while driving. Anecdotal, but definitely true.
  • Double check the routes you get from your maps app. The fastest route isn’t always RV friendly. Checking RV forums based on route numbers helped and let us avoid a couple of 10% grade encounters that would not have been good for brakes or transmission.
  • You can segregate the places you visit by the type of people that mostly visit them. Utah and most of the National Parks have had earnest and excited explorers. Tahoe, on the other hand, had entitled vacationers attracted to the “glamour” of Tahoe. You can guess which we prefer.
  • There are way too many beautiful and outrageous places to live to stay somewhere boring or ugly. Happiness corresponds to place more than we care to admit.
  • That being said, we all get used to the places we live and think of them as pedestrian and normal. With fresh eyes the forests and streams and water and green of Maryland pops again.
  • Utilities are the Atlas holding up our civilization and RV parks remind you of the burden on those shoulders. We don’t think too much about flushing toilets, electricity sources, clean water and sewage these days, but out here you smell it, you drain it, and you power it. If you get the basics right, you can have a really good time with not much else.
  • The middle America RV park crowd is a different cross-section of humanity. They’re congenial, humble, and generally really fun to talk with. There’s also more tattoos per inch of skin than we’re used to.
  • There’s a big difference between the traveling RV park and the semi-permanent RV camp. We haven’t totally figured out the difference but buyer beware and make sure you know what you’re getting with one-off private campgrounds.
  • There is a fence lining every mile of every interstate and state road out west. Some of this is to protect the roads from open range land (you cross cattle gates when you exit), but it’s amazing to think of the amount of hours people have spent putting up fences.
  • It’s not just the fences either, the amount of infrastructure in general is wild to think about. Well done Mr. Eisenhower.
  • Doing this kind of trip just 15 years ago - before smartphones and ubiquitous internet - would have been so much more laborious. We made many in-flight changes or booked reservations on the way. Almost every gas stop I found 5-50 miles ahead of time.
  • Now rewind 150 years. Wow.
  • I haven’t thought much about anything except family, experiences, and the pleasure of travel for almost three weeks. For a good while, I didn’t know what day of the month it was. Incredible.
  • I could do this for a lot longer. And I definitely didn’t expect that.

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