We just got home from five great nights of camping at Lake Pleasant. This location is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots to camp. The area has multiple campgrounds and sites that are quite different in their settings. You can camp right up to the water’s edge, in areas with million dollar views of the lake, on hilltops overlooking the rolling hills and mountains, and finally a combination of all of these views. On each of our camping adventures to Lake Pleasant, we have met some fascinating people and heard their story about how and why they camp. Not to disappoint, this trip yielded some more interesting stories.
Our first night in camp was in a convenient pull through spot since we arrived around 8:30 that evening. My wife had a concert commitment that kept us from leaving earlier in the day. The next morning we were enjoying our morning cup of coffee gazing at the unobstructed views of the mountains when we heard something being pulled on the street. We turned to look and notice a grandfather pulling three of the most adorable grandchildren in a wagon, designed with facing seats like an old time horse carriage. We said hello and chatted for a few minutes.
Later that morning we moved about six spaces up to another spot we had reserved for the next four nights. We settled in and began to unwind.
We walked every day and checked out different rigs at the campsites
I find if fascinating all the different brands, types, sizes, and configurations one can choose from for their camping experience. There are motor homes, trailers, and tents, to come up with some broad categories. Within each category there are nearly infinite possible set of combinations; all customized to the camper’s particular needs. For us, we went with the half-ton pickup pulling a tandem (double) axle trailer.
We made a point to walk on the trails along the lake and to stroll through each of the campsite areas. In general, the entire state park was one quarter full and very quiet. We were quite surprised how empty the campgrounds were with the weather in the 70’s to low 80’s each day. It was great “shorts and t-shirt” weather for us.
I wonder what each camper’s story is
I have a rather overactive imagination sometimes regarding the story of people at their campsites. Often we arrive at some basic theories based on things we observe. The size, age, and style of their rig, the state they are from based on their license plate, the outdoor setup of chairs and tables, various motorized toys, how active they are, any pets, and their age. Granted this is observational information that could be used to draw the complete wrong conclusion about their story. I try to engage in conversation when possible because I am genuinely interested in hearing about other people’s experiences.
Now back to the grandpa pulling his grandchildren in the wagon. I made multiple laps around the campground each day working on my 10,000 steps per day goal of walking. I struck up a conversation with Don. Over the next day, we talked on several occasions. He finally asked if we enjoyed red wine and invited us over to watch the sunset that evening with him and his wife Carol.
Don and Carol became full-timers 8 months ago
Once the conversation began to flow, after the first glass of wine, we learned that Don and Carol sold their home in Phoenix eight months ago and became full-timers. They had camped in prior years with a 26-foot trailer, so they had realistic expectations of how living in a smaller space would be. Their new rig is a 35 foot Class A diesel pusher with a Jeep Wrangler as their “toad”. This is a beautiful and comfortable setup for them that they are really enjoying. They recently returned from a road trip to Denver the week before, visiting their other grandchildren.
They have access to a townhome in Sun City that Carol’s mother owns and they use that as their home address. I told them about Steve’s recent post here discussing the options of owning or renting real estate and that they recently moved into their Airstream in Tucson.
Don works remotely with estimating and proposal work for a flooring company while Carol works at a part-time, flexible position selling appliances at Sears. She spent years working for an aerospace and high tech company as a project manager. She retired from the pressure and the expected 24 x 7 commitment to her employer.
They need to do some part time work that allows them to be location independent. Don mentioned several times that “we are not millionaires” and that they need a bit of extra income in addition to their other sources. They want to begin taking longer trips away from the Phoenix area once they have their additional income sources in place.
I wanted to share part of our story and early retirement dreams with them, but the conversation never moved back in that direction.
An elderly retired couple’s story
I noticed a nice Mercedes Class B camped in a handicap campsite near the public bathrooms and showers. The camper had Ohio plates and the couple appeared to be in their mid-70’s. Their labradoodle barked at me each of the 20 times I walked by their site.
The story of a retired couple from Ohio
The gentlemen wore compression stockings that led me to assume he may have DVT and the need for the handicap license plates. I thought it was great that they traveled all the way from Ohio and were taking advantage of their gorgeous rig and wonderful weather at the lake.
I never had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with this couple.
A mystery story that revealed no answers
A regular minivan with several noticeable dents pulled in late one night into a campsite. The next morning I walked by and noticed the van’s occupants spent the night in the vehicle. Certainly, they would be pitching a tent the next day. Nope!
Living in a van down by the river next to the lake?
This group appeared to be a three-generation family with grandma, the mother, two teen-age boys, and a cat. Both women required wheel chairs to move. The campsite showed that they had a reservation for 5 nights. It appeared that during most of the day they either stayed inside the van or lounged at the picnic table. A tent or campfire never did appear at their campsite.
I was intrigued to understand their story. Were they homeless? Perhaps they were moving across the country? If that is was the case why camp 5 nights in one spot? Were they hiding or in trouble with the law? Maybe they were simply taking a vacation?
This story really perplexed me. Unfortunately, I will never know.
The campsite of the young, athletic, and on the move couple
This campsite had a Toyota Forerunner pulling a small Casita trailer that was loaded with nice options. The gadgets included a solar panel, an AC unit, tinted windows, and an anemometer. They also had two nice mountain bikes chained to their trailer.
The young Colorado travelers?
Their vehicle and trailer displayed Colorado plates, making me believe this was not the first time they camped, since they were 500 miles from home. I never saw the people and I could only assume they were young based on the size of their rig and the mountain bikes. This is probably the wrong conclusion.
Who knows, another unsolved mystery.
I think that as people we tend to place labels and categories on others
Writing this post demonstrates to me how I label people and things in my attempt to understand and group. As I see and talk with people, I see these categories forming in my mind in an attempt to sort out what I am learning. Are they friend or foe, young or old, friendly or rude, quiet or loud, the list goes on.
I truly am interested in other people’s stories and hearing about their life experiences and dreams. I try to be open, smile and wave at people in their campsites when they appear open for the interaction. I do the same when they walk by our campsite.
I would never walk into a site without being invited. That is just plain rude!
It is fascinating for me when I see people camping with out of state license plates that appear to be at retirement age. I wonder for how long have they planned, if are they full-timers, if they enjoy the experience, and whether they are happy. What is their story? In most cases, we will never know.