This past November, Dave and I decided to follow up a Thanksgiving trip to visit my brother- and sister-in-law with a three-day camping trip. We’ve never been campers and weren’t convinced we wanted to become campers, but a VW camper car seemed to be the perfect way to give it a try. Here’s the full report…
Sunday, November 27—1:00 p.m
We arrive to pick up a 1988 Volkswagen Westfalia Vanagon camper car from Florida Old School Campers near St. Petersburg. The owner, Mike, introduces us to Skyler and gives us a tutorial on which dummy lights to ignore (basically all of them) and shows us how to fold down the bed and raise the pop up. Mike also explains how the AC works, which convinces us to instead drive with the windows open. Here’s a photo of Dave before he realizes Skyler’s upper speed limit is 55:
Sunday, November 27—1:10 p.m.
We realize we forgot the cassette tapes and will have to listen to the radio:
Sunday, November 27—3:00 p.m.
We finally arrive at our campsite at Little Manatee State Park. We traveled only thirty miles in two hours, but that included a stop at Publix for some groceries and ice. I spend a half hour brushing the tangles out of my hair while Dave gets Skylar unloaded and set up:
Sunday, November 27—6:00 p.m.
Now that it’s fully dark, we decide it’s time for dinner. Dave starts a fire with charcoal and lighter fluid, but once it gets going, he throws on logs so we look legit. I make a salad out of the vegetables I bought the day before at the Sarasota farmers market:
Sunday, November 27—7:00 p.m.
Our plan is to sit by the fire to cook our hotdogs, but we discover that one of our chairs is missing the back and the hot dog skewers we bought at Publix are too short. Fortunately, I’m so busy trying to balance in a chair with no back that I don’t notice the singed hair on my arms. Finally we sit down at the picnic table to enjoy our dinner:
Sunday, November 27—8:00 p.m.
After dinner, we decide to try sitting by the fire again and have another bottle of wine. My back starts to cramp up from sitting forward, so we decide to call it a night. We take turns walking to the restroom facilities to brush our teeth, and I think I hear an alligator in the brush.
Sunday, November 27—9:00 p.m.
I offer to take the top bunk. I figure out how to use the back of a chair and the kitchen counter to climb up and say a prayer of thanks that we didn’t finish that last bottle of wine. I also realize that the light from below doesn’t reach this far and that it’s pitch black. I check email and Facebook on my phone instead of reading the book I brought. When I look over the side of my bunk Dave looks pretty happy (of course, he has light):
Sunday, November 27—Midnight
I wake up to discover I’m freezing. I try to wrap the sleeping back around me but I keep getting tangled up so wake up Dave to get him to pass up the second sleeping bag. With one sleeping bag under and one on top, I snuggle in for a good night’s sleep.
Monday, November 28—8:00 a.m.
I wake up to the sun peeping in my mesh windows and the birds singing. I look over the side of my bunk to discover Dave shivering on the bunk below. At some point in the night he has put on all of his clothes:
Monday, November 28—9:00 a.m.
Dave makes lattes using the Biagletti on one burner of the camp stove and a pan with milk on the other. Here’s the barista at work:
Monday, November 28—10:00 a.m.
After a second round of lattes, I make breakfast tacos:
Monday, November 28—10:30 a.m.
We place all our Cyber Monday shopping orders. Dave finishes first and works on his crossword puzzle:
Monday, November 28—Noon
We load up the car and head for Walmart to get a replacement chair, longer skewers, battery-powered lantern, and all the other things we realize we need. We wheel our overflowing cart to the register and pay our $60.
Monday, November 28—2:00 p.m.
Back at the campsite, we unload the car and then take off down the road to find a geocache. Luckily I find this set of plastic beads that I can wear three days later when we get to New Orleans:
Monday, November 28—6 p.m.
We repeat our dinner from the first night although the salad is now made. Our cookout goes much better as I can lean back in my chair and the skewers are long enough we don’t burn our hands. We spend a long time enjoying our dinner.
Monday, November 28—9:00 p.m.
We take turns going to the shower. Because most of the other campers are in mobile homes, we have complete privacy in the restrooms.
Monday, November 28—10:00 p.m.
We each put a blanket on bottom and a sleeping bag on top, so no one will freeze the second night. Also I can now read my book with my battery-operated lantern. We get a great night’s sleep.
Tuesday, November 28—8 a.m.
We do a repeat of lattes and breakfast tacos, and then go looking for another geocache. This one we find near the river. We decide against swimming:
Tuesday, November 28—11 a.m.
We load up the camper car and head to St. Pete where we visit a brewery and look for murals before heading to the Ft. DeSoto county park. This one was my favorite:
Tuesday, November 28—3 p.m.
We arrive at Ft. DeSoto to discover lots of beautiful campsites with water views. Unfortunately we don’t have one of them. Because I chose a campsite close to the restroom, we find ourselves behind a windbreak of trees. Here’s our view:
Tuesday, November 28—5 p.m.
We drag our chairs to the beach to watch the sunset. We meet a local fisherman who shows up photos of the huge fish he caught and threw back. Here’s the beautiful view:
Tuesday, November 28—6 p.m.
This park doesn’t allow open fires, so we repeat the salad and hotdog meal, except the hotdogs have to be cooked on a grill.
Tuesday, November 28—6:30 p.m.
With dinner over and no fire to enjoy, we decide to play Yahtzee. Dave decides he doesn’t want to play anymore after I score 540 points (yes, that’s four Yahtzees) in one game:
Tuesday, November 28—7:30 p.m.
With nothing to do, we’re bored and decide to go to bed and read. Because of the tree break, we get no breeze, and the night is warm and muggy. Neither of us sleeps well.
Wednesday, November 29—7 a.m.
We pack up Skyler and head back towards St. Pete to find a Starbucks before returning him and driving on to New Orleans.