Old Pilot’s Camper Journal #4

A “tent only” neighborhood, devoid of campers and generators.

A fly-in airshow’s campground is a little city, filled with different neighborhoods, various stores and vendors and even a few entertainment and gathering venues. I live in a “tent only” neighborhood, close to the shower house and, as I sadly discovered, too close to the dumpsters. The tenters have a different vibe than other campers. Our camp chair circles are more open and inviting, lending themselves to cross pollination from passers by and other camp chair circles. There are no open camp fires, but the lively and sometimes raucous conversation keeps people warm.

Then there are the trailer folks, who pull their vacation homes to the site and promptly set up outdoor living rooms, complete with rugs and awnings. Although they are certainly welcoming, they cannot compete with the poorer relation tenters on the gregarious scale. Like tenters, however, their abode is detachable from their transportation, so they use their tow trucks for any trips into the big city.

The upscale trailer class.

At the top of the camping caste system are the motor home folks. These captains of industry purchase mobile aircraft carrier sized vehicles, which contain several bedrooms, a full bathroom and a plush living room. Since these homes are self propelled, they tow a dinghy vehicle, usually a Jeep that costs more than my daily driver. These camper mansions come with gigawatt generators sufficient to air condition the entire home with enough power left over to run a MIG welder on the side. Don’t conclude that the relative wealth of the motorhome folks makes them aloof. They are warm and generous folks. It is just harder for them to socialize because they are inside their homes tending to all of the systems so much of the time.

A few years ago I rented a motorhome for SNF to see if it would be an experience that would suit me. Before I left, I was briefed on all of the systems I needed to manage; electrical, HVAC, plumbing and sewage. Driving this beast to Lakeland was a real adventure. I felt more like I was herding it down the road instead of driving it. Parking it in a tight camping space, without the aid of tug boats, was almost impossible.

Motorhome mansions, complete with towable auxiliary vehicles.

When I finally got everything established, it was certainly a comfortable experience. I especially enjoyed air conditioning at night. My Waterloo came after three days of camping. I took a shower and the water started to pool around my ankles. Clearly the “gray water” tank was full and needed to be emptied. I opened the barn sized panel on the side of the motorhome to contemplate both the gray water tank and the dreaded “black water” tank, which contained, well, you know. Like an idiot, I reasoned that I could simply drain some of the gray water into the grass (which I now know is an unforgivable motorhome infraction). Trying to remember my initial briefing, I attempted to identify which valve controlled the gray water and which valve controlled the water whose name cannot be spoken out loud. There were no labels. I had a 50-50 shot at turning the correct valve. I did not risk it. I drove with gray water sloshing in the back, all the way home to Atlanta.

Each year at Sun ‘n Fun there are so many great things to do. I have concluded that managing my own personal sewer system is not one of them. I guess I will be a part of the tenting class forever.


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