This past Memorial Day weekend we took our inaugural camping trip in the Airstream. After buying the Airstream last November, we had to store it indoors for the winter. It was so nice to finally be able to spend the weekend getting to know our new home. We hooked the Airstream up to our new tow vehicle, a 2015 Ram 1500 Big Horn, and headed out a few hours west of Chicago. We expected there would be some hiccups, and there were plenty, which I’ll get into. But overall, I deem the weekend a big, eye-opening success!!
We spent the weekend at the Timberlakes Camping Resort in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, about a half hour east of the Mississippi River. Given the hundred degree heat (yes, you read that right, one hundred degrees!), we spent most of the weekend in the pool with the five other families that joined us. The campground had a lot of great amenities, like a horseshoe pit, a bags tournament and a fairly nice bar. The highlight of the weekend was the Johnny Cash tribute band that played on the small stage on Saturday night. We love to hear live music, and June’s Got The Cash did an outstanding job, playing an over two hour set of all of Johnny’s greatest tunes. The banter between “Johnny” and “June” was really cute and the kids couldn’t get enough of it. I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance as they tour the Midwest often. We ended up listening to Johnny Cash songs for most of the ride home on Monday afternoon. We’ve decided our theme song for our upcoming journey is his song, “I’ve Been Everywhere”.
The other great highlight of the weekend was just hanging out with our friends. One of the best parts about camping is the memories and laughter you make with other people, usually while sharing stories and conversation around the campfire. A beer and a campfire is truly the best way to get to know someone. Of course I spent each evening coming up with scary stories for the kids, this time focusing on the legend of Bloody Mary, the Queen not the drink. (Though a LARGE amount of Bloodies were drunk on Saturday morning.)
I had mentioned some hiccups. Well certainly that is to be expected, considering we are tent campers and this is only our second trip towing a travel trailer behind us. So overall, I give our first real experience a solid B. Our trials began before we even left the block, realizing that our tow hitch was just too low to the ground. Our chains were nearly kissing the street and any speed bump would surely cause big problems. Luckily our cousin, who is quickly becoming our savior, teacher and camper guru (THANK YOU JIM!!!!), had a shorter hitch that we could use and after a ten minute swap-out, we were on our way. Safety needs to be priority #1 always, and we were so happy that what could have been a disastrous set-back was just a minor bump.
Upon arriving at the campsite, Justin did a great job backing the trailer onto our site. I think backing onto a site causes anxiety to even the most experienced driver, and I was really proud at how well he did. I know he’ll gain confidence too as time goes on and I won’t be so worried about directing him in.
So in the course of the first two hours setting up camp, we couldn’t figure out how the door closed properly, couldn’t figure out how to get the refrigerator to work and flooded the Airstream when we hooked up the water. So as the storm clouds started blowing in from the west, we felt defeated and stormy ourselves. At one point Justin turned to me, with a look of defeat on his face and said, “I wonder if we just bought the Money Pit”. But soon after, the fridge kicked in, we figured out the door, and Justin found the water leak, as well as a few other water related issues, all of which he is currently working to fix. So things did start to look much better!! Considering the Airstream is used, that we bought it pretty much sight unseen, and had no real “walk-through” with the former owner, I think we are very happy that the few problems we experienced are truly minor.
As I sat in bed that first night trying to fall asleep, I realized it’s a bit smaller than I remembered. Most of the pile of “stuff” that I thought we would take with us will be left behind. And I take great joy in that. After living in it for a few days, I did find some secret storage I hadn’t realized existed, and started getting used to how cozy it is. My favorite features are the large windows on either end of the Airstream which bring in a ton of light and make you feel like the outdoors is indoors. I can only imagine what incredible views we’ll be seeing in a few months, though I did enjoy the view of my cousin’s tent. I think it will not take us very long to adjust to this new home.
With a little more than two weeks to go before we head out to the American West, I have a renewed energy about the trip. I know things will be hard… anything worth doing always is. But I am extremely confident that the amazing times will far outnumber the hard ones. I’m confident that we’ll learn the right lessons along the way and we’ll grow as people and a family. But it will be sad some nights to only have the four of us sitting around a campfire, instead of the twenty friends we had around it this past weekend. I’m confident we’ll make new friends along the way and I hope we have a campfire that others find welcoming.