Camping Happy… How It All Began! Our First Pop-Up Camper.

We’ve always had camping fever. No matter the weather, we found time to load up the truck and head out for another camping adventure. Our family always seemed to travel in true Beverly Hillbilly-style with: coolers full of food, totes stacked high full of supplies, topped with bikes. Then finish by cramming all the last-minute crap we forgot into any nook and cranny left in the bed of the pickup. Just throw it in, strap it down and let’s move out. Oh…. I failed to mention the cab of the truck. It was just as bad. The family would be squashed in between all the sleeping bags, duffels bags of clothes, and the pillows from our beds. It was always nice to have at least a few comforts from home.

Over the years we accumulated an entire garage full of tents, tools, and accessories. We would break out our gear and head to a nearby campground to meet up with friends or family. Our tent city was never too far from home, however. The kids had school and parents had to be back at work on Monday morning.

Our trips generally were Friday through Sunday. Not a lot of time to relax, but we managed. I remember the mad rush getting finished up with work on Friday, the kids coming home from school, packing up the truck, getting on the road and finally pulling into the campground around 8 or 9 in the evening. We were always cutting it close making it to the campground before the check-in cut-off time. It wasn’t unusual for us to be finally sitting down to eat around 11 and getting to sleep around midnight. This was what our typical camping time looked like: one day to explore, try to relax, then pack it all up on Sunday and head home. More time always seemed to be spent in the actual prep/clean-up for the camping trips then in actual camping. But, when we look back now, we all have very fond memories of our time together outside — which not many families take the time to do. Why we spent so many years in tents, though, is beyond me.

It’s crazy how fast kids grow up. As time passed and the girls got older, our camping trips became a bit less frequent. We had spent the last 13 years packing, unpacking and storing all our gear which had then expanded into a storage unit. We were all a bit older now and we had a son who was a toddler now. Maybe it was time to bring a little more comfort and sophistication to our camping trips. The search for a camper had begun.

It was April 2018. Natalie’s annual family campout in Michigan was fast approaching. We didn’t have a lot of money so we started looking for a used pop-up. Trying to find the perfect Pop-up camper was exhausting. We quickly learned used pop-ups were in high demand. Just when we would find a camper we liked, it would be gone by the end of the day. By end of May, we were starting to get desperate. We had a campsite, but no camper. We hit Facebook Marketplace hard… expanding our search area and scouring the internet for any available pop-up camper.

We finally stumbled across a 98 Coleman Fleetwood Sun Ridge Pop-up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Based on the post, the camper looked to be in great condition. We didn’t waste any time. It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and we knew that if we didn’t act fast, we would lose this one too. We only had limited time that we could check it out with our work schedules. Natalie messaged the owner. They got back to us right away and we were off… A two hour drive north to buy our first camper. Little did we know where this one purchase would ultimately lead us.

When we pulled into the storage facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I could see the camper was in excellent shape. I noticed an older couple cleaning up a bit inside the camper. Apparently, they had owned the pop-up for many years. As we began talking about the camper, we learned they had raised their family in this pop-up. Whereas, we had spent all those years in tents, this couple, their children, and grandchildren had camped using the pop-up. He had bought it new in 98. Oh, if this camper could talk. Imagine the stories it would tell.

He admitted the pop-up was a little too much for him now. They were looking to upgrade to something that didn’t require as much work so set-up. He was older now. His arms just didn’t have the strength to turn the crank that lifted the roof. He showed me how it was done. He was right, it wasn’t easy. But the work didn’t bother me. We knew what we were getting into having rented a pop-up a few years earlier.

It was time to make the deal. This was the camper for us. The Sun Ridge had a large storage unit up front, two queen beds on each end, two propane tanks, a spare tire, extra space to sleep several more people at the kitchen table, and at the couch in front of one of the beds. There was easily space for 6 people. And we had 5 in our little family.

It was an easy decision. We felt confident buying this 20 year old, well-maintained camper from this sweet, old couple. The pop-up cost us $3000.00. I handed them the cash, hitched up, and we were off. It was a good thing that we found a camper when we did, because our first trip was just a few weekends away. The weekends stacked up nicely throughout the summer of 2018. And our camping trips took on a slightly more sophisticated look. Our little pop-up proved to be a good investment and a ton of fun.

Tim Graham

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