Consequently, the weekends are precious for getting caught up on housework, yard work, and crafting or reading (I could only wish.) The reality is that we often do extra activities on the weekend, which means that the housework and yard work get pushed back and I gather more inspiration for the artwork I’m not doing. Sometimes the special weekend activity, such as camping, creates its own prep and clean-up and laundry causing me to be further behind at the start of a new week. Truthfully, I’m always behind. But, you gotta make choices and, as the old ad says, “we go for the gusto!”
Last week, we went on a camping weekend with friends from church. We chose to go for the relationships’ sake, not because we needed another outing. The destination was South Central Oregon, down by Crater Lake, a five hour drive, supposedly: whoever makes these statistics doesn’t account for the human reality of coffee stops and pit stops and fabric store stops. Normally, Central Oregon is dry, being on the protected side of the mountain range which catches all the rain off the coast. In this case, thunderstorms were forecast but we didn’t hear from our friends who had gone down ahead that they were turning around, so off we went.
I was up at 4:30 packing food boxes and camp supplies. We headed for the shortest route only to learn that it was partially closed due to construction, so after our first coffee stop we chose another way.
Oregon is truly beautiful. The highway over the mountains, in this case the Santiam Pass, is one scenic beauty after another. The endless hills covered with fir trees, the rivers alongside the road…what a joy to be out in such beauty! We are indeed fortunate.
In the little western-style town of Sisters, there is a fabric store which specializes in quilting materials. (Every year Sisters sponsors a quilt show which draws thousands of people). The road to Central Oregon goes right past this store: How could we not stop?
After we got to the end of the paved road, we had a 12 mile gravel road to rattle and shake on before reaching our final destination, a forest service park at Digit Point on Miller Lake. We found our friends and chose a campsite with a wonderful view of the lake. I love having the tent windows open so I can wake up seeing the trees and water! (Only, as it turned out, it was rain water I woke up to, necessitating zipping up the tent windows in a hurry).
With our friends we walked, talked around the campfire, had a late potluck supper and pulled our chairs closer to the fire and to each other. It’s rare to have that open-ended time with church friends, the kind of talk where time doesn’t matter and there’s no particular agenda, just chatting and sitting side by side looking at the smoke curl out of the fire.
During the night we heard the whisper of rain on the tent, and had a good shower in the morning. But it soon passed. We joined our friends for breakfast and then Tech Guy decided to get our tent down while it was fairly dry. We were just pulling up stakes when the downpour came—the kind that sends you running for cover, or your car, unless you happen to be more interested in taking pictures than in staying dry.
We had learned that the route we avoided on the way down because of construction was open on the weekend so we headed back the “quicker way”. Right away we knew we were headed into a storm, but the lightning and thunder were terrific! Then it started to hail and the shoulders of the road turned white like snow. The window wipers were going as fast as they could and still we couldn’t see out. Some people were pulling off the road.
After a while we came to the construction zone. True, they were not working on the weekend but it was still limited to one way traffic so we stood in line for more than a half hour while waiting for our turn to go through. While we were idling there, suddenly our dashboard instruments started to go berserk. The gas gauge was flipping from one extreme to the other, the speedometer was going in circles, the RPM was gyrating wildly and even the temperature gauge was jerking up and down. It was either demon possession or lightning, I guessed, and we worried about the battery surviving this frantic activity. We didn’t dare turn the engine off while we were standing in line for fear that it wouldn’t start up again and we would need to be towed out of the mountains, not a small concern. So we kept it running for the next few hours, through coffee stops and rest stops. We drove directly to an automotive repair place near home and dropped our keys through their mailbox, leaving all the camping gear including wet tent behind.
The next day the repair bill was $800., mostly correcting things that our previous mechanic shop had misdiagnosed a month ago! The crazy gauge action was due to loose battery wires. We had had a new alternator put in last month and apparently they failed to reinstall the battery securely! It’s bad enough to pay car repairs once but to pay one shop for fixing the other shop’s mistakes is a NUISANCE! Anyway, we got home safely. Then 5 days later the “check engine” light came on again, and yesterday we took the car back out to the shop for that. Apparently they missed some small hose leaks last week.
So: Camping, is it worth it? I wouldn’t go that distance again for just one night, and I would carefully consider the need to go 12 miles on a washboard gravel road. On the plus side, we did have beautiful campsites without reservations in a campground that had flush toilets, so that’s a “big thumbs up” for getting an Oregon campground on short notice. We really went to be with our friends, and we know that “the road to a friend’s campsite is never long.” But the moral of this tale is 1) plan early 2) get reservations 3) go somewhere with running water and preferably showers 4) choose a place closer to home for a short stay 5)have a full tank of gas when you head over the mountains. We did, fortunately.
Several of our companions have campers or trailers. We talked on the way home about different kinds of RVs and how we would most like to continue camping as we age. In spite of its inconveniences, we still enjoy cooking and sleeping in the outdoors (as long as there are no bears!) But for traveling longer distances and changing locations every night, an RV would be awfully nice. Except for the gas mileage.
Which do you prefer, a tent, a tent trailer, a camper, a 5th wheel, a mini motorhome, or a motorhome?