The good: We've met some wonderful people while camping. In Sequoia, the couple next to us confided that they were at first charmed when we drove in, a couple tent camping in a Prius with a top on the car. Then a kid got out. OK, still reasonable. Then another. Then another. They said it was like watching a dozen clowns climb out of a VW. "Where did you put all the camping gear?" they asked.
In Yosemite we pulled in late and Ian had a meltdown when Nic and Devin took off for the petting zoo without him (of course, he *said* he didn't want to go, but no matter). I started to carry him down as he cried, "No, I want Nicky. Nicky take me to the petting zoo." There was a big family reunion camped all around us and one of the men came running over with a huge bag full of bags of chips. "You want one?" Ian just cried. He ran back to the picnic table and brought over soda. "Make it complete?" Then his wife ran over with popsicles. Ian immediately fell silent and a sheepish grin broke over his face. He took a popsicle and all of us were very happy. After thanking them, I turned to Ian "Is that what you wanted, a popsicle?" "No, I wanted my brother, but I like the popsicle."
Devin also met a friend at Yosemite pines. A little girl of about 10 chatted away to us, saying she was so excited--she was having a shower that night. She explained, "I haven't had a shower in four days. We've been seeing the world!"
I'm also enjoying this control we have over the weather. Usually weather, in my experience, is a function of time, as in "It's a hot day." One endures and checks the forecast for the next day. Not so in the west. Too hot for you? Hike at a higher elevation. Rainy? Move away from the mountains. Weather is a function of place here. We've transcended time.
I also love our outdoor breakfasts when it's cool and quiet outside. I wrap Ian in a blanket and cuddle over coffee and eggs.
We have lots of time for conversation and reading (see Devin in picture above). Aside from the "Don't lay on me! She touched me!" spats we have in the car, we have some lovely moments. Ian: "Mommy your wife, Daddy? You dance with her?" (Such a romantic. Another Ian moment: "Brian my uncle? I like him. He's happy." (A very apt description of Jim's brother." Devin to our friend Brian: "I'm the funny one with my friends. Not the one who tells jokes, but the goofy one." Nic teaching me technology like the GPS and how to take advantage of others' WiFi.
The Bad: There are minor inconveniences--air mattresses and sleeping bags without sheets among them. (I can't believe these aren't supposed to be washed after every seven nights...) Staying passably clean is a real challenge. How does one explain to kids why playing in the sand is OK but digging in the dirt beside the tent is not?
Even the kids sense this challenge. We stayed in a cabin one night at Yosemite and the kids walked through it as if they'd never seen indoor plumbing before.
Ian: "A bunk bed!" Devin: "A shower and a toilet!" Nic: "TV! Dishes!" Devin: "Extra toilet paper!"
The ugly: Public showers at campgrounds. Ewww... Once a day is not enought to clean these places. And it is a bait and switch if you say showers are "available" and the only shower stall open to all of the tent campers in Zion is the single stall ten miles away at the local mountain bike rental place. (My everlasting gratitude to the guy that runs that place and hosed it out for Devin and I.)