Adventures In Car Camping

NOTE: This saved draft is something I wrote just as I was settling in.  My enthusiasm for the new adventure had not waned at that point, obviously!  No angsty reflections had risen to the surface, lol. My vision of how things would go was similar, but not equal, to how it’s actually playing out.  It’s still a nice bit to pin to my timeline of experiences.  So here it is:


I quit my jobs, pulled up stakes and set off on the open road to Virginia from Texas two weeks ago!  My Chevy Spark (affectionately known as “the blueberry”) is such a great travel buddy.  Over the summer I drove twice to Georgia where my youngest son was in basic training.  When it also became evident this summer that my aging parents should have some of my attention (as I hadn’t seen them in over 3 years!) I took a look at my 5 yrs of remaining alimony and thought, “I can do this!”

I began to crunch the numbers, researched a bit on car camping, consolidated my debt, resigned from my two part-time jobs and the rest is mileage on my odometer.  As of now, I am referring to myself as retired.  That sounds so good!  I’m definitely cash poor, but it’s enough to get creative and still have a cup of hot tea at Starbuck’s while using the wifi:)

In Virginia I have two adult children, three grandchildren, and my father and step-mother.  Winchester is where my daughter and grandkids live, Richmond is where my parents are, and Harrisonburg (my hometown!) is where my son lives.  It makes a tidy little travel triangle.

My first week was spent in Winchester because my youngest grandson was a micro-preemie who has a rigorous schedule of appointments at 6 months of age and it’s great to finally be able to help out. (He was born 1 lb 12 oz and is so strong and healthy now!!)

Next I went to Richmond over the weekend to help my dad stir the big pot of Brunswick Stew the Methodist church lovingly prepares each year.  That was yummy fun!!  I went to church with them and played a game of Monopoly with dad before returning to help in Winchester again for three days last week.  (I also had a chance to listen as my dad began to tell the story of their challenging situation, so hopefully I can be of help in some way.)

On my way to Winchester I traveled via Harrisonburg and dropped in on my son for lunch and dinner.  He bought me a new laptop (he’s an IT guy who took a gander at my sad little computer and realized its days are numbered) and loaned me a movie to watch, and a peach cobbler milk shake!  We can’t forget the milkshake!  The laptop was a precious surprise because I know it was a sacrificial gift.  I am loved.

I found out that afternoon that my oldest son (the one in Germany) just happened to be in Reston, Virginia for a class and he would be spending some vacation time in the area this coming week!  So cool!!  (I’m on my way to meet them in just a few more minutes.)

Then I went on to Winchester to help again with appointments a few days before returning to Harrisonburg.  During all of that time I had been sleeping on my daughter’s couch or on the guest bed at at my parent’s.  Thursday night was my first full night in my car at a truck stop!

I had a little time earlier in the week the first time I swung through Harrisonburg on the way to Winchester to map out a few places to hang out.  The Liberty Truck Stop is so great.  It has laundry facilities just off the comfortable lounge area, nice showers (full private bathrooms), and even outlets with ample counter space in the women’s room to do hair and makeup.  It’s clean and the parking lot is safe and watched over.  By the time I leave for Richmond Sunday morning I will have three nights under my belt there.

There’s a large beautiful park close by as well,  Hillandale Park is on the perimeter of town just a couple of minutes from the historic area.  I have spent wonderful restorative hours there reading and walking and reorganizing my car (it’s small and gets messy quickly managing a wardrobe, blankets, food, and my various occupations.

I’ve used some of my favorite baskets to hold books and papers, sewing projects and a collection of sundries.  I brought the Cheshire Cat mug (that reminds me of my oldest son in Germany) containing hard candy, the small carved wooden boxes, given me by that same son, which I cherish, and a stuffed cloth bird ornament that used to hang from a rack in my kitchen.

I’m trying to make it through December into January like this.  I return to Texas for a Christmas visit.  When I return in January I believe that I will find a place to rent in Harrisonburg.  I would be so very happy with any little room in an old house downtown.  That’s actually my prayer.  I missed out on living like an artist in my early twenties because I got married young and started a family.  This is my shot before someone has to take care of me, lol.

One delight I discovered, in addition to the library,  when I found the free public parking garage in downtown Harrisonburg was Downtown Books, which is a used book shop, pleasantly stacked high with volumes of intriguing titles.  I found vintage post cards and a book titled 84, Charing Cross Road   by Helene Hanff.  It’s a collection of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used book dealer in London.  The San Francisco Examiner reviewed it as “A Unique, Throat-Lumping, Side-Splitting Treasure”.  They did not lie!  In 1949, Miss Hanff lived quite modestly in an old brownstone apartment.  The way she describes her sparse apartment, adorned by treasured used books and a cherished tablecloth given to her by her friends in London, provides imagery for what I would like to find in an apartment.  I have it fancifully romanticized, but I want it.

…to be continued

(off to see my sons:)

After Note:

I must have spent a total of about a week, off and on, in my car.  I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and to know a little of the experience of not having a stable place to stay.  A family member recently faced a short bout of homelessness and I was too far away and without resources to “fix it”.  My musician son has also mused about living out of his car while on the road with his music.  I guess I just needed to process the thoughts of it by doing it.

May I just say that, for myself, I am not a fan.

An RV would be delightful.  A Chevy Spark is not in that regard;)

One Comment Add yours

  1. It sounds like you had an experience of a life time and a beautiful family to match! I loved the way you wrote this excerpt about your reasons, your feelings, your goals, and your honesty. I’m not one to really camp, and though you stated it wasn’t for you, this makes me want to try. Happy new year!


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