Low concept camping

It is the blogger’s curse:  When things are uninteresting it is difficult to inspire oneself to write, and when things are too interesting, you often can’t tell the full story.  So it has been for me lately, and thus I hope you will forgive me for telling a highly edited version of recent life.

Suffice to say that TBM is no more.  “Kryptonite” Eleanor flew into Phoenix and my alternate identity evaporated while I was standing at the security checkpoint waiting for her to arrive.  (Still, TBM will be back in a couple of weeks when she departs again.) Because Eleanor was scheduled to arrive late in the evening, we took advantage of the off-season and booked a very nice resort hotel in Scottsdale for the weekend.  In June and July you can pretty much have those places to yourself, at bargain prices.  We snagged a 4-star hotel for about $70 per night, and trust me, it was posh.

I don’t know why people are so afraid of the desert heat.  Everything is air conditioned, and even the outdoor bars and restaurants have misting systems cooling the air all the time.  Sure, it was 110 degrees in the afternoon, but we didn’t notice most of the time.  (Did I mention that we haven’t seen each other for three weeks?)

Besides, you can beat the heat by getting up early.  Imagine if the Great White North were like that:  a frigid 10 degrees F during most of the day, but every morning it warmed up to 70 degrees for a few hours, and the sun was always shining.  How could you complain?

Even the pool was virtually vacant, with just a smattering of like-minded cheapskates taking advantage of the bargain rates.  We stood in the shallows and talked for two hours while our fingers wrinkled up from the 90 degree water.  (It would have been perfect except for that crazy wasp that landed on my neck.  I brushed it off and the dumb thing stung my index finger. Fortunately, I’m not allergic.)

To keep the weekend exceptionally cheap, I brought a huge collapsible cooler along with snacks and drinks.  We had to make daily trips to the hotel ice maker to fill gallon-sized ziplock plastic bags with ice, but that was a minor price to pay.  I was hoping that someone would come along during one of my ice runs and ask what I was doing with three gallons of ice in plastic bags.  Had an answer all ready to go:  “We need it for the ice chest.  Just took out someone’s kidney.”  But again, there was hardly anyone in the hotel to ask me.

In a way, that cheap, low-concept weekend in the hotel was a warm-up for the travel we plan to do.  There’s a two-week period between issues of the magazine in which my workload is traditionally light.  Having just about wrapped up the Fall issue, I’m about to enter that period now (no coincidence with Eleanor’s travel plans) and we are going to take full advantage by traveling around Arizona as much as we can.  We have no tow vehicle for the Caravel, so our trips will all involve tent camping. The living room floor is covered with all of the gear:  tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stove, lantern, Arizona Gazetteer, guide books, cooking equipment, headlamps, water purifier, etc.   We just need to get the food organized and we’ll be ready to go.

Go where?  We’re not really sure.  We’ve got lots of ideas but no specific plans.  The general plan is to wander into Arizona’s White Mountains region where there are several large national forests, and see what looks interesting.  One advantage of tenting over RV’ing is that you can pitch it in a lot more places, particularly in the mountainous national forest lands of Arizona where many campgrounds are tiny and inaccessible to large vehicles.  This is our chance to see the places that we wouldn’t go with either of the Airstreams, and the high-altitude spots that we would have to skip in the winter.

But most of all, this is a chance to get back to our travel roots, the type of footloose and utterly basic travel that we did in our first nine years together. Everything in a backpack, $24 worth of gas in the car, and no itinerary whatsoever.  It won’t matter if it rains or shines, whether we see the Mogollon Rim or just the inside of a local deli, whether we come home on Sunday or Monday.  We’re pretty much guaranteed a good time (or at least an adventure!) just by taking the effort to pack the bags and head out.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine