I began this summer with a mission to find a used tent trailer and become a happy camper. I even chopped down a pine tree in my front yard to create a space for it.
But after two months of fishing for a pop up light enough for my small SUV to pull, I was twitchy. Craigslist flooded my inbox with false positives. I snapped up my phone every time it buzzed, only to be disappointed. This tent trailer was too heavy, that tent trailer looked moldy. The perfect light-weight pop up remained elusive.
Then in late June, a 1996 Coleman Taos with a brand new canvas got away from me right before I could buy it. I was adrift in bad luck.
Finally, on a still and peaceful Sunday afternoon in July, a 2000 Coleman Taos went on the market at Valley RV Supercenter in Kent. I called the dealership, grabbed my stash of cash and loaded my family in the car. “This is it!” I told my husband. “I’m sure of it.”
When we arrived in Kent, it was a million degrees. Our saleswoman, Kristi Tivnan, gave us icy bottles of water to keep us cool as we looked inside the massive warehouse where the tent trailers were kept. The Taos was already popped up, and one glance showed it was in good condition.
It was also old, because let’s face it, 2000 was a long time ago. In 2000 I got married, taught third grade in California and Bill Clinton was president. In 2000, all I needed to go camping was a two-man tent, a sleeping bag and a foam pad. My body hadn’t birthed two children yet, and sleeping on the ground was no problem.
“New mattresses, new curtains, a coat of paint, and it will be fine,” I whispered to my husband as we deliberated.
“Don’t forget new tires.” He added up a column of numbers on scratch paper until we came to a price that sounded reasonable — what we would pay to the dealership, and what we would spend afterward to fix the Taos up.
“You know,” said Kristi after she saw our numbers, “The 2016 Coachman Clipper for sale isn’t much more than that. It’s priced below the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) recommendations.”
She was right, and when I did the math, I had to tamp down my excitement. For an extra $1,800 we could buy a practically brand new tent trailer, complete with electric brakes and air conditioning. The layout was better, too, because in the Taos the dinette folded down into a bed that blocked the aisle, but the dinette in the Clipper was off to the side.
“OK,” my husband said, partly because he wanted to make me happy, but also because he didn’t want to spend the rest of summer refurbishing a pop up, “let’s buy the Clipper.”
Whoo-hoo! I landed the perfect catch, and I’ve got the whale of a beast in my driveway to prove it. Summer isn’t over yet, and camping adventures beckon on the horizon.
Clear the roads, people. I’m still learning to drive this thing.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.