I never saw myself as having a camper. In fact I was certain I would never own one. Growing up taking all our vacations in a camper I just wanted to stay in a hotel like normal people. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a fan of hotels for some trips. I’m not going to be visiting a big city & staying in the camper, but I found that it has great uses and opens up opportunities you might not have otherwise.
It all started in July of 2016 with Bella.
After being able to buy a house with a yard, close enough to work I was able to go home at lunch. I was also finally at a place in my career where I didn’t need to kill myself working or hustling on the side for extra income or free stuff and was able to make some life changes to have more free time. So I decided to get a dog. I went to look at the BARC Houston website and knew right away she was the one for me.
She was a Corgi/Dachshund mix approximately 6 years old. I called and found out she was an owner surrender. I went in to meet her & found out she had actually been at BARC 3 years earlier when she had puppies and then was adopted out. The person who adopted her brought her back saying they couldn’t take care of her. She was very quiet and reserved in her kennel and seemed to be scared to death of all the barking and chaos. When I took her out to walk her she went right with me & cried when I had to leave her in the kennel again. After completing the adoption, when they brought her out to me she came right to me, trotted right out with me and jumped up in my SUV as soon as I opened the door, before I had a chance to put her in the kennel I brought. Like she knew who I was and why I was there.
She was instantly attached to me. Which was good, except that we had to do a lot of work on trust and deal with her abandonment and codependence issues. For months she would cry when I left her anywhere. Even though she got attached to my family very quickly she still cried when I left her with them and there was no consoling her.
We came a long way in her first 6 months and many things got better. I think mostly from me giving in and letting her sleep with me. A lot of her fears and behavior made it clear she had probably been abused or at the very least over punished. Over time, as she started trusting people she started to become very social and I also discovered she loves to go and ride in the car. On our first trip to my parents in Louisiana she stayed awake and watched out the window the whole time.
Because of all this, when I started looking vacation ideas for 2017 I decided to try to go somewhere I could take her. I had been at my job long enough to get a good amount of vacation time so I decided to drive wherever I went and make it a road trip. Of the places in the US I wanted to see The Grand Canyon was near the top of my list so I started making plans for a trip across the Southwest for the spring.
The first problem was of course finding a place to stay. There aren’t any places closer than a couple hours from the Grand Canyon and places that will let you have a dog are even fewer. I ended up booking all Airbnbs so I could take her but was still 2 hours from the Grand Canyon.
The second problem was food. I have no desire to eat fast food every meal and not everywhere is dog friendly. I didn’t want to leave her in the car to eat or eat every meal sitting in the car. Also, there’s only so many choices for food with just an ice chest. I want to eat well in vacation and sandwiches get old.
Despite those issues we did still have a great trip. We hiked 8 miles around the rim of the Grand Canyon, hiked in the Forrest in Flagstaff, visited the petrified Forrest and painted dessert and took a large portion of Route 66 coming home. But it became clear that the best, most beautiful places were miles from civilization and the whole time I felt rushed to leave in time to drive back to where we are staying. I would have loved to spend more time at the Grand Canyon but the 4 hours round trip was too much for multiple days.
On the trip home I started thinking “this would be so much easier with a camper.” First because there were campgrounds at almost every exit but hotels not that close to the biggest attractions. Also, I enjoyed the driving and site seeing but it was such a hassle every night to unpack all my stuff and her stuff, essentially to take a shower and sleep and repack in the morning. Since I was more focused on the trip I didn’t care about the amenities at the Airbnb location and sometimes got in and left while the host was still asleep. There were also many places I would have liked to stop but they did not allow dogs and I had no place to leave her.
Although I thought a camper was a good idea I didn’t want to put myself in a lot of debt. That included having to buy a new vehicle or rent a place to store something. I also didn’t want something so big that it was stressful to pull and limited places I could go, like in mountain areas.
While on the way home I started looking at used pop up campers but they didn’t have the best reviews, most people saying they were like trying to heat and cool a tent, were still super expensive, didn’t have a bathroom and weren’t that light. For just me an Bella I didn’t need a lot of sleeping space and most seemed aimed at fitting the max number of sleeping spaces.
I mentioned to my mom my thoughts and she told me to check out teardrop campers. That was a whole new world. They seemed to be exactly what I needed. Something I could easily pull with just the essentials. After looking at many brands I really liked the T@G and T@B best. I was initially drawn to the T@B because of the bathroom but after doing more research I decided the T@G was best for me for a couple reasons. It would be light enough to pull with the vehicle I already had and I shouldn’t have a problem taking it anywhere. I had no desire to get a new vehicle since my 2008 Ford Escape had been fairly problem free and was getting 26-28 mpg on our road trip. It would still provide me a climate controlled, safe sleeping area with a comfortable mattress and a full kitchen. However, ultimately the deciding factor was that it would fit in my garage so I did not need to pay storage.
After looking at a few in Houston I confirmed they were right for me. From there it was just a matter of finding the best deal. After a lot of research online I found that Princess Craft in Round Rock Texas had the best prices and reviews. I waited until the 2017 models were being cleared out and got a great deal and me and Bella drove to Round Rock to pick it up.
And thus began our journey.