Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Griswolds hit the Road

I haven’t been camping in over twenty years. I have pictures of the kids, filthy from head to toe as proof that I did go camping at least once. But the experience was so traumatic—all that dirt and those bugs and stuff—I swore the next time I went camping it would be at the Marriott—and I’d live without room service.

But my son, who remembers our camping trips fondly—after all, he was only a kid and loved dirt and didn’t have to do any of the work—suggested we rent a couple of 30-foot RV for my husband’s 62nd birthday (on the 17th)/36th Father’s Day (on the 20th)/40th anniversary (on the 13th) and take a Family Road Trip. As much as I wanted my husband to have a nice triple celebration, I hesitated.

Camping just isn’t how I roll any more.

Then my son took us to the RV place to see the model he’d been planning to rent.
Wow. I had only been in an “RV” once before in my life, when I was a kid. My father rented a Teardrop Trailer, which is about the size of a Smart Car, but has two double beds—and that’s it. He and Mom packed their three kids in the back seat of their 1957 Buick and took off for a two-week cross-country trip to see relatives. My memories include dividing the back seat into thirds with invisible “Do Not Cross” lines, fighting with my brother and sister from Nevada to Ohio, and glancing at the Grand Canyon which looked like a big stupid hole to a ten-year-old kid like me.

The RV my son had his eye on was a palace compared to the Teardrop. It slept six, and was outfitted like a small apartment with cable TV, microwave, shower, refrigerator and freezer, stove and double sink, and more closet space than my bedroom.

“I could be happy here,” I said, sinking into the navigator’s bucket seat. I decided we’d rent one too, remembering that we’d be hauling two grandparents, four adult children and four grandchildren under the age of 6.

With the promise from my son that RV parks had come a long way since the Route 66 side-of-the-road pull-overs, we signed the contracts for two 30-footers and began planning the trip. My son wanted the Grand Canyon, my husband preferred the Oregon coast, so we settled for Monterey/Pismo Beach/Felton in the Santa Cruz mountains.

On departure day, we brought the giant condos-on-wheels home and began packing up. My husband packed everything from the espresso maker to the toaster—pots, pans, cooking utensils, plates, cups, paper towels—while I packed light—a handful of “Life is Good” t-shirts, some shorts, and my laptop, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and GPS.

It took us four hours just to get out of the driveway.

Our first stop was the San Ramon Lucky store to load up the RV with enough snacks to fill the Grand Canyon. It took us another hour to buy groceries, use the bathroom, get and eat made-to-order sandwiches, and repack everything.

We were on the road at last. . .

Next time: A road block, a lost sewer hose, a middle-of-the-night alarm, and more.

You can reach Penny Warner at


Blogger Camille Minichino said...

Other than how much fun it would be to travel with you -- I think I'd still hold out for the Marriott!

Can't wait to hear about the alarm! In the woods??

June 20, 2010 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Penny said...

There's nothing like room service!

June 22, 2010 at 8:06 AM  

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