Of wheels and plumbing

By Mir
January 28, 2008

Yesterday, we packed up the whole family and went to a big RV and camper show. It was An Event. Apparently this is some sort of rite of passage in Otto’s family, as they spent many summers camping and went to every RV show that came to town. I cannot be certain, of course, because Otto and I are not having any (more) kids, but I doubt that he would’ve been more excited to watch his first child being born than he was to sweep us all into the expo center and watch as we took in the rows and rows of shiny campers.

(Actually, strike that. This was significantly less messy than childbirth, even when you factor in Monkey eating fried chicken for lunch. So I’m gonna have to say that this was definitely MORE exciting for Otto than even a whole new human would be.)

Believe you me, it was a Very Exciting Day.

We were ostensibly getting an idea of the available features on various models, and sorting out what we might like to “someday” buy. The fantasy, of course, is that we go to the show, figure out what we want, and then go buy that at some point. The REALITY, on the other hand, is that we will talk about it for years, and right around the time that the kids are old enough that they would rather swallow their own faces than be forced to go camping with their parents, we will buy someone’s nasty old pop-up off of Craigslist for $15 and three chickens and then spend our vacation trying to repair the crank handle that falls off upon first usage with a stick, three drinking straws, and a pair of dirty socks.

Otto is well aware of this, by the way. Not that it dampened his spirits any. We’d been inside the show for about thirty seconds when he turned to me with a HUGE grin and swept me up in a crushing hug. “I am SO HAPPY right now,” he whispered with emotion.

“You’re a very simple man, darling,” I responded with a kiss and a pat.

The children, of course, quickly realized that this was better than Disneyworld. They charged into camper after camper, checking out the amenities (the bathrooms were FASCINATING to them), climbing on the beds, and each time in apparent disbelief that the owners would smile and indulge their romping, and no one told them to stop, even though they were putting their shoes on everything and my head didn’t explode even once.

Chickadee favored any model which featured bunk beds, especially the kind where there was any sort of loft high enough to require a ladder. “I can sleep up here,” she announced, over and over, as if we were there to select our new home and once she approved a location for the laying down of her royal head we had her blessing to fork over the cash.

Monkey quickly discovered two things which delighted him to no end: One, that most of the mid-size models had a little closet space suitable for hiding in, and two, that there was often a space on either side of the main bed intended to be sort of a nightstand area, but with a cabinet above it—exactly the right size for a small boy to fold himself into like a cat.

All day long, he kept running ahead of us and locating and darting into closets. All day long, we would call out, “Monkey! Come out of the closet, Monkey! We love you no matter what!” It NEVER STOPPED BEING FUNNY. Watching other people’s reactions was pretty priceless, too. (Why yes, we ARE easily amused.)

I do not come from a camping family, so this was all new to me. Otto went on and on about various hitches and tow vehicles and I tried to absorb all of this information while setting aside the fact that many of the pop-ups had toilets but no separate bathroom.

Did you know this? The trailers and RVs had proper bathrooms, you know, with a door and everything. Sure, most of them were teeny, but at least they were bathROOMs. The “nicer” pop-ups often had a commode just… sitting there. Say, right next to the kitchen table.

“What the hell is THIS?” I screeched, the first time we saw one.

“It’s a toilet…?” answered Otto, obviously concerned that perhaps I’d hit my head coming out of the last camper. “I thought you said you WANTED one with a toilet.”

“Sure, yes, but not where you’re the breakfast entertainment when you sit down to pee!”

“Well, this is just for EMERGENCIES,” he tried to explain.

“I have never had the sort of emergency where I needed to PEE IN THE KITCHEN,” I maintained.

In some cases, those exposed toilets had an available little curtain to pull around it. Because THAT totally makes it private and stench-free.

There were also quite a lot of models where the bathroom was one sort of multi-purpose stall, with a shower that CONTAINED a commode. Dude, I am all for saving space and everything, but WHAT THE HELL?? That was only slightly preferable to the fully exposed toilet in the kitchen.

(Oh, the things I learned yesterday.)

The children quickly picked out a $300,000 RV as their vehicle of choice. It had buttery leather couches and FOUR TELEVISION SETS. We pointed out that this camper was worth more than our house. And our pool. And our land. And our cars. COMBINED. But they maintained that this was the way to go. I told them that as soon as they coughed up 300 grand I would go right out and buy them one.

“No fair,” grumped Chickadee.

“Indeed,” I agreed.

Still, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a day.


  1. Otto

    FWIW, I’m still grinning.

    And, after talking to my mother, who barely tolerated my dad’s obsession (yes, it was, as we routinely spent 8-10 weeks on the road at a time) with camping, she sighed with that knowing sound of resignation. I am my father’s son.

    And, no, dear, I don’t want a fifth wheel trailer. But a nice 26 footer with dual bunk beds in back and a good Uno playing table will work just fine. And I’m thinking maybe we could get a Honda Ridgeline to tow it, but they’re new and pricey. So maybe a four-door Ford F150, enough grunt to haul and plenty of room for growth in backseat squatters.

    looking for a KOA membership kit …

  2. tori

    I dream of owning one of those expensive campers that your kids want. It would be so much fun…you know, in my dream life where I am worth millions and all.

  3. dad

    “I have never had the sort of emergency where I needed to PEE IN THE KITCHEN.” You’re still young. Oh, I forgot, you don’t have a prostate gland.

    Sounds like a great day.

  4. prophet

    some of my favorite memories were from the one [and only] camping trip we took when I was about Chickadee’s age. . . . Toilets were always a concern. But sleeping accommodations involved an air mattress and pup tent. Unless it rained, in which case, we piled back into the car.

    Ah – the ‘good old days’! [grin]

    Seriously, I still count one lakeside campfire breakfast when my father cooked eggs in an iron skillet as the finest meal of my life.

    And then there was something about sitting around a campfire at night, with twinkling lanterns off in the distance. Somehow, the effect is not quite the same in a motorized, air-conditioned, coach with 4 televisions. . . . Funny how that works, eh?

    Perhaps the high price tag is a better guardian than we know. But the coach still sounds simply splendid! (and the outing a major hoot)

  5. KS Grandma

    You think a Ridgeline would tow it? I’m looking at them now (while waiting for them to come down in price), and I’m thinking it’s wimpier (word!) than that. I’m looking to replace both a small pick-up and a mid-sized grandma-mobile. Love the Ridgeline for that. I live in the woods, so have no interest in camping. Am lucky that way.

  6. Em

    Dude. That is all kinds of wrong. I camp in a tent but still only in places that have a flushy bathroom someplace (as opposed to an outhouse). Its roughing it because there are spiders. I mean, even animals don’t poop where they eat. Is the department of public health aware of these recreational mobile petri dishes? I need to go shower again.

    Also, who buys a $300,000 camper? Paris Hilton? I’m just imagining them pulling this luxury vehicle into an RV park with plastic lanterns and fire pits and what, have the butler empty the honey wagon? I don’t get it.

  7. Rachel May

    BWAHAHAHA!! “…they would rather swallow their own faces….we will buy someone’s nasty old pop-up off of Craigslist for $15 and three chickens…. I have never had the sort of emergency where I needed to PEE IN THE KITCHEN…” These are the times when I have to remind myself NOT TO READ MIR when my students are taking tests!

    Oh, the pain of holding the laughter inside… The students don’t KNOW how much I sacrifice.

  8. Leandra

    Girl, it must be love. Me? I would rather pluck out my eyelashes one by one than have to do what you did yesterday.
    And I love to camp! But when I was growing up, we mostly tent camped until my mom bought this teensy little camper we pulled with our car. The best thing about it? The loft bed! Also, no bathroom at all, so you HAD to go the bathhouse, which really, is better for everyone!

  9. Silly Me

    “I have never had the sort of emergency where I needed to PEE IN THE KITCHEN,”

    Really? Not even once? You WERE pregnant 2 times right?
    good times.

  10. Chuck

    One night long ago when I was in the military I passed out in someone’s closet after a long night of partying. I had to put up with “coming out of the closet” jokes for the next few weeks after I was discovered there in the morning.

  11. dabbler

    One of my earliest memories is of the day my mom sold our pop-up to a couple who had seen our ad in the classifieds. I hope they used it more than we did…never! I think I would rather risk poison ivy in unfortunate places than use a toilet in the kitchen…but that’s just me, all spoiled ‘n stuff.

  12. Otto

    @KS Granma: A Ridgeline is on the edge of being usable. It’s rated for 5,000 pounds, I believe, but the motor may have trouble keeping up speeds on long grades. A good ol’ V8 with lots of torque would be better. You get a better ride in the Honda, but there’s a tradeoff in capacity.

    @dad: Okay, when you’re here this week, remember we have FOUR BATHROOMS, one of which is less than 12 feet from the kitchen. Or just remember we’re in a drought and don’t drink as much …

  13. Andrea

    Oh, Mir, you CRACK me up! :) I can just picture the kids running ahead in their excitement and finding all the great hiding spots.

    My experiences with camping always just involved tents. If it rained, it was a mess and we went home early.

  14. carson

    Note to Otto: KOA has cabins. Fairly nice ones, as a matter of fact.

  15. Lori

    My husband won’t go with me to an RV show. I think it sounds like so much fun! He think it sounds like having one’s eyeballs pulled out. I’d be right there with the kids, trying everything out, hiding in the closets…but I’m strange like that. Could be why he doesn’t want to go…?

  16. All Adither

    Peeing in the kitchen is all well and good. But what of the other? Haven’t those pop up manufacturers heard of latrines? I’d sooner hastily dig one with a spoon than poop in the kitchen.

  17. Megan

    Oh honey, campers and RV’s aren’t camping! Trust me, it’s not really camping unless you backpack everything in several miles yourself, you argue with at least one soon-to-be-ex-friend about whether “leave nothing but footprints” really should include bodily wastes (answer for me: NO), and you wake up in the morning to discover that a bear wandered through in the night and ATE YOUR TOOTHPASTE SPIT. Weird… haven’t been really camping-camping since I had kids. Wonder why.

  18. Nic

    Hmm, the new guy and I watched one of these RV shows on t.v., I swear it was like porn to him. Glazed eyes, moans of approval, and a general panting were all in evidence. My breath was catching at times too, but only at the prices. I don’t know that I would want to take him to a show in person, I worry that we would get thrown out…

  19. Karen

    When dad retired and sold his house in NJ, he bought a lovely FL residence and a RV which he keeps in seasonal campground here in NJ. I guess he is slumming becuase he only has 2 full baths 3 TVs. LOL. And while the RV is in a “campground” it is by no means camping.

  20. Vanda

    I used to love going to the RV shows when we lived in the USA.

    My hubby and a single grandchild had great fun camping in our old truck with a camper shell on it at least twice a month. Two weeks in Big Bear, CA beside the lake, wood fire and marshmallows at night, hubby fishing alllll hours of the day and night and waking me up from a sound sleep to see the “big” one I’d give a lot to be there right now. Loved it and miss it a lot. We used to go proper camping before we got the camper. Thanks Mir for the memories.

  21. Flea

    We’re tent camp people, but my husband talks about a pop-up every time we camp. Thanks for the heads up on the kitchen potty. That’s just more ammo for keeping the tent and our hard earned cash. :)

  22. Karen

    We’ve taken this one step further and introduced our children to the horse trailer with live-in quarters. Nothing says family togetherness like cramped quarters smelling like the horse poop in the next room.

  23. jennielynn

    The similarities in our life scare me at times. Mr. Clairol brought up an RV show coming to our town and I told him he could have the Bug-O-Rama or the RV show. That was unwise.

    Guess who is going to an RV show in a few weeks? Yay!

  24. Chewie

    Can you RENT one and give this whole thing a try for a week this summer? I would LOVE to hear the blog from campingland adventures…


  25. The Mom Bomb

    I still have the psychic scars from driving cross-country in an RV with my parents, my grandparents, my brother, and two dogs . . . I think my brother and I ate off the floor with the dogs . . . Thanks for reviving my trauma. Must call therapist now.

  26. Jamie AZ

    Oh, that was hilarious! And I totally agree on the ickiness of the toilet placement!

  27. liz

    tee hee. Your dad makes me laugh as much as you do.

  28. Annie R

    Too funny that you wrote about this as my husband has been stricken with RV fever also. Last night I glanced over to see him checking out a few new models on his laptop. His favorite? 1.2 million. But he said he’d settle for one of the $300,000 ones.

  29. Amy S.

    Great post. Laughing at the RV and toilet ads in your Google ad box…

  30. Denise

    Monkey come out of the closet. Ha.

  31. Headless Mom

    My 6yo routinely pees in the kitchen (and the living room, and the computer room, and…)OH! You mean that’s not what you’re talking about? :-)

  32. Elleoz

    We frequently camp in our pop-up camper, but alas no potty’s in the kitchen for us. I love to camp with my little ones (they love it too) and we camped close to 20 nights last year. However, I refuse to camp anywhere what doesn’t have running water, a decent bathhouse, and electricity. A girl’s gotta have a few luxuries :)

    P.S.~ We go to the RV show every year :)

  33. Rebecca

    I’ve been in a few campers, but none with a can in the kitchen.

  34. Tootsie Farklepants

    If the campground doesn’t include a hotel, you won’t find Tootsie there.

  35. Cheryl

    An RV is just a hotel on wheels. Real camping is shower free. And forget about peeing in the kitchen – real campers use a tree. ;) (Of course, peeing on trees was great when potty training – it seriously motivated my middle son to leave the days of diapers behind him. I’m afraid peeing in the kitchen might have created an entirely different outcome.)

  36. M&Co.

    Our kids love the RV Show too. And they always fall in love with the ones that cost more than our house. But the BoyChild has a plan! He’s going to buy me one as soon as his Daddy wins the lottery. I tell him he’s a sweet boy for thinking of his mother.

  37. Kim

    I love camping, campers, and shows:o) My mom have a 27′ tow behind that I borrow when I camp, which is usually at dog shows. I dream of the day I can buy a big huge all-in one RV.

  38. Sheila

    Having borne three children, bladder control is, uh, not my strong suit. I actually have had the sort of emergency where I needed to pee in the kitchen. Do you think people would still come over if I set up my kitchen pop-up style?

  39. BooMom

    LMAO @ Sheila’s comment !!

  40. Momma Em

    Wow, I am surprised at how many people grew up camping in trailers. Only Megan and Cheryl did the tent thing.
    My dad’s motto was pretty much a combo of what Cheryl and Megan said. “A trailer/RV is just a motel on wheels.” & “Camping in a camp-ground (said with disdain)is NOT camping.”
    So, we grew up backpack-camping. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gone to the ‘bathroom’ outside. Gotta watch out for stinging nettles and getting your arse poked. The three point system works best; spread the feet wide and find something sturdy to brace yourself on. Good memories.

  41. beth

    Know what else is ALWAYS FUNNY? Riffs off of either the No Child Left Behind or the Left Behind book series. So whenever a kid is the last one out of somewhere, you shout “Kid — don’t get LEFT BEHIND” or intone “In this family, NO CHILD IS LEFT BEHIND”.

    Always funny. And you even get the funny looks.

  42. J from Ireland

    Your Dad and Otto make me laugh, nearly as much as you do!

  43. Amy-Go


    But a good boat show, baby, I’m THERE. ;)

  44. Wendy

    My idea of camping is the nearest Holiday Inn, so I am all for indoor plumbing. With that said there is no way I am peeing where it can double as a breakfast stool (and yes, I meant to use that word.) Gross!!!

  45. Katie

    We went to the big PA RV show last year and they are all very cool but we have sleeping issues (as in, none sleep 7). So we tent camp. Because we are cheap and too fertile.

  46. Carolyn

    We have a pop up where you CAN pee and shower in the kitchen. Right after we bought it I realized that if we used the toilet I would be the one emptying it because my husband’s so squeemish. Needless to say, the sucker hasn’t been used yet.
    My favorite state parks in Georgia are FDR park near Warm Springs and Cloudland Canyon(Rock City is near by).

  47. The Over-Thinker

    When I was a kid, I LOVED it when “The Campers Came to Town!” (Apparently, I thought the owners of campers were like Gypsies, traveling from mall to expo center to American Legion parking lot…selling their “wares”.) Seriously, I can even remember my favorite BRAND. Mallard. Cripes—I can’t believe I remembered that!?

    Please don’t tell me that the one with the kitchen-toilet was a Mallard.

  48. Lady M

    Our HOUSE doesn’t have buttery leather couches or four television sets. We just have lots of open space with a complete lack of furniture, convenient for small children who decide that it’s more fun to roll places than walk.

  49. Bri

    I (not so)fondly remember summers at the lake in the family camper. We had one of those mid-size ones with the bathroom that we never used. (Something about it being a pain to deal with?) My dad wouldn’t let us bring the tv that my grandparents used because “it’s not camping if you can watch tv”. My thinking? It’s not camping with air conditioning, either.

  50. wookie

    We have a 20 year old RV that works well for us, and we love taking the kids to RV shows. Fried food stands, getting to see how new and shiny and expensive new trailers are, having the kids oooh and aaah over every bathroom and bunk bed like they didn’t just see 8 just like it before. Some of them have boats on display too, and that is a whole new world of awsome oogling.

    Honestly, we’ve liked trailer camping with the kids. Tent camping seems to be a bit much for them to actually get a good nights sleep (and ALL OUR SANITY depends on them getting sleep so that we get sleep too). And with the trailer, our 90lb dog has a place to sleep too that isn’t on your face. And as a bonus, the 90lb dog cannot rocket through the walls of the trailer in pursuit of a squirrel the way he can with, say, a dome tent.

    Did you know a determined labrador retriever could pull up a tent, stakes and all, and drag it and a screaming toddler inside across seven campsites and almost to the treeline?

    I wish I didn’t.

  51. Jenny

    Pfft. RVs isn’t for camping. RVs is for TAILGATING. WOOOOOO!

    Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve RV’ed to an SEC football game. Preferably a crazy one, perhaps in Knoxville. We borrowed my in-laws RV for just this purpose last season, and I thought we were pretty hot stuff until we roll up and we are — NO JOKE — by far the baby camper in the lot. Our lot was FULL UP with those $300,000+ jobbies, with whole plasma-TV-encrusted living rooms that slide out from underneath.

    We had better food, though.

  52. Jenny

    (Or maybe you have lived. But seriously, it beats all other football game experiences I’ve had with a giant stick.)

  53. Therese

    Some of my best memories as a child are of camping vacations. Some of my children’s best memories are of camping vacations. We camped in an old RV (1966) for most of the kids’ lives. Recently we upgraded to a 2003 with a TV, microwave and AIR! Now the kids are too old to go with us (sniff!). But hubby and I still have fun and go without them.

  54. tammy

    Oh man… you should see the tent some friends of ours have. They have a two-room tent with a queen-sized air bed (not an air mattress, mind you, but an actual BED) and a ceiling fan and a kitchen.

    In a TENT.

  55. ImpostorMom

    Oh so very funny. Hard to contain my laughter which is not something you readily hear in my land of cubicles.

    I’m not big into camping but I have ridden in one of those halfway across the country. Let’s just say I slept a lot to escape my extended family.

  56. Katherine

    It’s not camping unless you’re spending most of your time OUTDOORS – cooking, eating, hanging out… We go tent camping and love it. As I’ve gotten older, I insist on an air mattress. I look hard for flush toilets and showers, but have done without both at times. What drives me nuts is the people who come out of their fancy camper, build a big huge fire, watch it for less than 5 minutes, then go back inside for the rest of the evening (and run the big noisy generator, instead of enjoying the cool night air and night sounds).

  57. kathy

    Otto – you might have a gander at the Open Road forums at rv.net. We’ve been living and traveling in our trailer (I’d love a 5er but with 4 kids that leaves the TV rather crowded as our only option is a truck) for going on 4 years now. You really want a TV that is not on the edge but more than you need for your trailer/5er/pop/toyhauler.

    Just sayin’ – as long as you’re dreaming, dream safe. :)

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