This summer was our second summer that was overflowing with activities. It’s a miracle we got the right boy to the right field at the right time with the right uniform, and the girl to the show with all the parts to the hoity-toity English show stuff. Our calender was filled to the brim with weekend-long baseball and soccer tournaments and horse shows. Some of these events required a night or two away; all of them involved a lot of waiting and hanging out in between classes or games. It left my husband and I wondering: should we get a camper?
Some friends of ours have one. A little blue vanagon. We’d grow a little green when they’d call out, “We’re going to go hang out in our camper!” while we baked in the sun in Port Townsend between games this past August. Their VW had that classic pop-up sleeping area perfect for napping. I heard there were a couple of adult beverages in the kitchenette. That thing was so stinking cute, and it seemed so stinking practical.
So, recently, we thought we’d give it a try. We rented one from a local and very cool company, Peace Vans Rental.
I picked our chosen camper up about a week ago and got the 30 minute run down of how it worked–how the key was required to open the gas cap, how the awning pulled out to basically make a front porch, how the front passenger seat swiveled around in the coolest way. I learned how to pull the table out, make the bench seat a bed and how to pop up the top to take a nap. Luckily the camper came with its own guidebook in case I forgot anything. The Peace Van lady dropped the key in my hand and, with a smile, said, “Have fun!”
We had no grand plans. There was no spot reserved at Deception Pass, nor did we plan on road tripping to Mount Rainier. A normal packed schedule of soccer games, horseback riding lessons, after school activities, and playdates lay before us. These usually-fine things were just a little more fun with our camper rental.
It turns out that my favorite things about the 1988 full Westfalia we got–named the Chilliwack–were the little things.
I loved the retro touches: The fact that the windows had to be cranked open and shut with more muscle than it takes to press the button on our regular, automatic windows. The kids howled when they tried this, grinning with delight! “It’s so hard!” “How funny!” they said to each other, taking turns in the front passenger seat when they first hopped in.
I had no idea how to work the radio, and I didn’t try very hard. Instead, I usually listened to nothing. Nothing! My boys decided they’d make their own songs up–some were funny, some were a little frightening, and some weren’t so bad at all!
I loved the archaic heating/cooling system. There were no dials, just a bunch of levers that you push to the left for cool and the right for heat. It was so far from the exact temperature of our modern SUVs. Instead, we were living in an “ISH” state–we aimed for warm-ish or cool-ish. Nothing spot-on, just ballpark temperatures which required patience, trial-and-error, and a little humor.
But my favorite part about it was what the Peace Vans Rental lady warned me about with a knowing smile: the Chilliwack doesn’t go very fast. It could get up to 55 or 60 mph on the highway, but if there were hills, well, all bets were off. As I putt-putted back north on I-5 that first day, and on highways to and from my children’s sporting events in later days, I felt relief. I was surprised to feel relieved that I couldn’t go very fast, that it was best if I just stayed with the slow folks on the right and went my own pace, not paying attention to the speed of anyone else. I felt an undeniable spark of joy in just doing my own thing, going my own speed, in my borrowed camper.
I returned the Chilliwack this morning. I traded the VW keys back for my modern SUV keys with its safer seatbelts and captain’s chairs that separate my boys a little more than a bench seat can. But as I dropped the key back in the Peace Vans Rental lady’s hand, I made a little promise to myself to remember what it felt like to putt-putt along, listening only to the motor, that a little muscle can make things happen, sometimes “enoughISH” is enough, and that going my own speed is what I should be doing from now on.