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My first trip since Covid started with a camper and a dog and ended before the first night was out!


My Christmas Eve trip, made in my new Bushwhacker camper, was a total fiasco: no electricity, my camper battery ran out, and the fierce wind blew down the unlit Christmas lights I had carefully hung on the camper. 

It was too cold to do anything but crawl under the four covers I brought, cuddle up next to my dog, and sigh when I looked over at the cords of the heated mattress topper that was ice cold. It was 4 o’clock p.m. and pitch dark. Just then, a little tapping came against my door.  

It was the park ranger asking me for my ticket. I told him no one was at the front gate when I arrived, and asked him if I could please do it tomorrow morning. 

At this time, the battery on my camper was working intermittently, turning the heater on for a minute, then off for five minutes – just long enough to leave us frozen to the bone before tempting us with a minute of reprieve. I tried desperately to sleep, and got up to walk the dog before the night came. Her water was outside, frozen in the dish. It was 16°F (-8°C).

We heated up in the bathroom across the road for a minute. Then, we tried desperately to sleep inside the pitch dark capsule. 

It was 10 o’clock p.m. when the battery completely gave out, and we said goodbye to heat. I so wished I could go outside and start a fire, light my candles, take a walk with the flashlight… But even the battery-operated appliances wouldn’t work. 

A dog called Dubai

Surrounded by books I had been waiting to read, and a pad of paper that I wanted to pontificate in about the New Year, I huddled even deeper under the useless assortment of blankets. Refusing to take her eye off the door after Ranger Rick made his impromptu visit, my German Shepherd Dubai refused to get under the covers, and just kept getting colder and colder to the touch. My sweet protector.

At midnight, I peeked outside the window and looked at the moon of Christmas. It looked cold. At this time, the inside of the camper lit up with clicking and tapping and whirring sounds. I imagined it was – well, I didn’t really know what it was, but I didn’t care, because there was nothing I could do about it, anyway. It was about 3/4 of an hour later that we realized we weren’t going to be able to make it through the night, and made a beeline straight to the only heated bathroom in the whole park.

“an hour later that we realized we weren’t going to be able to make it through the night..”

After about 10 minutes of delicious warmth, we next found shelter in the car, which it took the battery a good 15 minutes to heat up. Dubai’s confirming glance in the dark agreed that it was worth every second of the wait.  

Once the car got good and heated, I started making trips outside to pack up camp. Dubai’s water container was now frozen to the ground, hurling devilish laughter up in my face as I kicked and kicked at it.  

The table-top Christmas tree had taken flight, spewing its ornaments all over the campsite for me to find one at time, nestled in the frozen leaves, with my dimming phone light.  

I picked up the three different-sized red, battery-operated candles, kicked aside the tangled wad of useless electric cords, and threw the back of my car open. If it fit in the back of my car, it was slung there. It had taken me three days to carefully and perfectly organize and pack everything I needed for this trip, and it wasn’t going back in the car in the same way it came. That full, I flipped open the camper door and started throwing everything from everywhere into the camper, on top of the bed (which is all that’s inside). I even packed three cords of healthy, dry firewood that I had just bought on the way there, to make delicious apple pie sandwiches with, gaze into, and cook my meals out of the new mess kit my sister had bought me for such an occasion. (I am such a tightwad!) 

Flying gravel could probably be heard as we pulled out of that place in Zion, Illinois, and drove the hour-and-a-half or two home.  

The radio said it was 8°F (-13°C). out. But most of all, I had heat! We had heat! And I brought all of my Christmas presents home to unwrap while the dog and the cat nestled on my bed!  

We slept for about two days, hesitating to get out of the bed because we couldn’t get warm.  

“We slept for about two days, hesitating to get out of the bed because we couldn’t get warm.”

What did I learn?

That maybe, just maybe, if I had checked into that place in the first place, they would have TURNED ON my electricity. Someone suggested that to me after I got home. What do you think? Is that the way campgrounds operate?

Of COURSE I will go on many many, many more trips!  I am a bit unstoppable. Tenacious, driven, and an eternal optimist! I have a lifetime of trips planned with my pup, in my little teardrop trailer!  (At least until Covid is over; then I am headed overseas to as many places as I can afford on a retired teacher’s income).

I bought everything you can imagine in case I couldn’t get a fire to start: a mini microwave, a 1-cup coffee maker (essential), and a portable toilet (which has nothing to do with the fire! Lol!). Shoot, in case I was boondocking it, or I couldn’t camp next to the bathroom, I even bought a mini tent for the Porta potty.  

I just watched two lovely deer wander gracefully across my backyard; symbols of a new day, and a new, peaceful year – despite what is happening at the Capitol building right now. 

My advice for other women

My advice for other women who are planning mini trips around the weekends is to pick the days when the weather is 30°F (-1°C) or above, and ask the campsite, via a phone call ahead, to make sure that you get electricity.

I also learned that there is a camper-specific Facebook group out there for almost every type of RV or camping set-up one could buy. I joined the Braxton Creek Bushwhacker Owners group.  Because, believe it or not, there is no manual for the Bushwhacker, the guys and gals in this group offer lots and lots and lots of great advice and tips. 

Through them, I learned that I need to charge my camper battery up before I go! Lol (I was under the mistaken belief that it charged while I was driving). So, I bought a 220 to 120 converting charger cord so I could plug the Bushwhacker into my garage outlet. I am also buying a Battery Tender Junior 12 V trickle-down charger for a back-up.  Despite advice to buy a US$1000 generator, and some other excessive devices, I have found a lot of solid help addressing issues from this Facebook Bushwhacker group. 

Although I had a dream vacation in mind, I had the experience of a lifetime; one to write home about – one my parents and family jokingly said they were never going to let me let me live down! Lol!

All‘s well that ends well, and I cannot wait until my next trip!