Some of my fondest memories… are those of our boisterous family van. My favourite childhood memories, in particular, are our family camping trips. Picture this: a small Okanagan town, filled with the brawny scent of cow dung and stretched-out grasslands. Six small children, two surprisingly prepared parents and one makeshift van, a tent off to the side.
I remember driving out to some forgotten campground (where most people wouldn’t choose to vacation.) I remember the perfect way it was set up: my sister and I stationed on the back bench, folded down into a jerry-rigged bed; my brothers each with their own small seat that lay back just enough for them to sleep. And of course, my parents in a tent that was somehow attached to the side door.
This van was our only means of transportation for most of my younger years. My father put his heart into designing our family vehicle – a spot for a small wooden table, old cassette tapes and a small TV and VHS player (for special occasions like van slumber parties or long road trips.) It was a home away from home, a fort to hide in. We loved sticking our heads out the windows and letting the wind blow in our faces; it made us feel free.
Yelling “Happy Birthday!” at strangers, hiding behind the van’s thin, nylon curtains… exhilarating. The van was more than just a vehicle – it was a thousand stories, part of the history of a family of eight.
I think back to the peanut pool, trips down the train tracks and chasing some poor kid up a tree with a fat, dangling worm. After dinner, sitting around a campfire and stuffing our cheeks with marshmallows before getting ready for a good night’s sleep. Getting into our pyjamas and crawling into our cozy van beds, accompanied by an hour of laughing and pushing each other off the seats. Over and over again, my mother would yell from the tent, “go to sleep!” Then she would tell us a story.
These were happy days. Maybe because we just didn’t care back then, it was so simple. Maybe, though, it’s because of that o’l van and the wonderful feeling of family inside.
I remember having a bad dream, tossing and turning in my sleep. Waking up afraid – but then, seeing my family so close together, all sleeping soundly in the comfort of the van’s walls. It made me feel safe. Our van camping trips weren’t extravagant, they weren’t in a fancy R.V. or at the Grand Canyon but I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Together, Justin and I have always been backpackers – spending days at sub-alpine lakes and enjoying extreme simplicity. Occasionally we would take our truck for a climbing trip and sleep in our make-shift canopy bed.
Justin remembers camping as a child very fondly as well. His favourite times were spent with family and enjoying the marvel of a pop-up tent trailer; A 2-wheeled automobile-drawn trailer having a canvas shelter that can be opened up above the body to provide compact camping facilities.
I never imagined having something as luxurious as a “tent trailer” until an opportunity arose last week. A quirky, Canadian trailer from the late 70’s called a Bonair was offered up to us at a price we couldn’t really say no to…
We wanted a tent trailer so we could keep the illusion of camping and have a bit of fun renovating and creating a home on wheels. With summer quickly approaching and the openness of future trips in front of us, we made the purchase. Even though we are trail trekkers at heart, we plan to spend a bit of time away from the indoors but still keep a bit of a home base.
As May long weekend approached we planned a trip with some friends up to Birkenhead Lake – near Pemberton B.C.
As our friends are experienced pop-top campers, we figured we could learn the ropes having a weekend away with them. We hitched up, packed our bags and hit the road.
The first night the park was closed and we decided to stay near the boat launch area until the morning. Dusk had fallen and we had little light to set up in. Justin began the magical procedure of creating our vintage home with the turn of a crank. If you’re like me and never knew how these things worked, the mechanics of the system are pretty fascinating.
As he yanked the crank towards its final turn, a large cracking sound was heard through the park. All I could say to calm myself was: “okay this thing is several decades old…It remembers things like Ben and Jerry opening their first ice cream parlour in Vermont and Messner and Habeler making it to the top of Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen…” Yes things are bound to break.
Turns out a cable from 1 of 4 supports had snapped from being lifted just slightly too high. We had a laugh, relaxed and came up with a solution until we could properly repair it.
The rest of the weekend went smoothly as we managed to work out the kinks. My favourite thing about the trailer was how relaxed our dog, Doc, was inside. He would lounge after a long day of hiking and running on one of the pull-out side beds or seats.
Inside the tent trailer really feels like a palace. Lighting the old propane stove and heating water for tea while watching my little family rest is a beautiful thing.
Having a bit more space to cook really opens up dining options and gets me excited for new recipes and meal times!
After a long day of exploring, cooking, visiting and sitting around the fire, settling in was much needed and always very cozy.
Home can be anywhere for us as long as we are together. One day, down the road, we’ll share our love for the outdoors with an expanding family in our awesome poptop home-away-from-home