Insights from the Road: What Have I Done?

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Shelly Zavala’s new camper van

February 2021: Today is the day I possibly get my Airstream. I’m excited. And scared.

After a rough start to the morning, my friend and I leave at 7 a.m. to go hike Sugar Loaf Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. We made it about halfway up. So beautiful, the hills green with the ocean in the distance.  A single trail with moments that tested my fears to not slip off the trail as it slopes towards the edge.

I guess the winter rains not only left the hills beautifully full of lush greenery, but washed some of the trails down the slopes.

Before I realized it, it was time to turn around. Now rushing back down the trail, eager to get to the Airstream dealer in Temecula. Will they have the Basecamp version? Am I ready to buy?

I had put one on order in Orange Country but I can back out of that if they have one here and I like it.

Walking into the dealer, they had many on display. I was excited—I could see they have a 16-foot Basecamp. The shiny aluminum and large framed windows pulled me in. I can hardly contain myself, I’m so excited. I have been online watching YouTube videos and advertisements for this model but had never seen one in person.

However, once inside, my heart sank. It felt small and tight, with little room to move. I’m so disappointment. What now? They airstreams are amazing, but I just know I want more room.

I explored the 20-foot Basecamp which excited me more, but my car would not pull it. I kept going back into the 16-foot model, hoping it would feel better. In some ways it did.  Talking to the dealer he shared that to tow with my car I needed a tow hitch, a stabilizer, a ball, and two sorts of brakes.

Now I’m feeling anxious, overwhelmed and so disappointed. I really can’t think at this point.

I put the 16-footer on hold and said I needed to look at other dealers.

We went to another dealer but it was full of fifth wheels that were about the size of my house. They were fun to look at, but not what I wanted. You could live in them, but to me it would be way to much work and there would be housework to do. No thanks. I have enough of that in my own house, let alone driving around with one of these.

I have to laugh looking back as the next dealership had a variety of tent trailers, camper vans and fifth wheelers. We started with a small 10-footer with an outside kitchen. So cute, but just looking inside made me feel claustrophobic. I would not get in and look.  Loved the outdoor kitchen though.

Quickly moving on we looked at a beautiful tent trailer. It felt comfortable, warm and fun.  Lots of space and I liked that. But realistically I would find this too much work. When I was younger and my daughter was home that would have been perfect. Also after going over everything I would have to add to my car to tow, and towing scaring me.

By this time I was getting hungry, but knowing myself I had brought some chocolate kisses to tide me over. I love my chocolate. Thank goodness for my hiking. It is a great combination. When I first started hiking one of my first thoughts of why I liked it was because I now have a legitimate excuse to eat chocolate when I wanted. It is a staple food for many mountain hikers. Well, maybe it is not for everyone, but I tell myself it is.

While exploring more at this dealership I saw in the corner a camper van. I had always wanted one, but the prices are out of my range. But of course, I had to look. I can’t come all the way here and not look, right?

Shelly Zavala’s new camper van

What a beauty. Sleek, metallic charcoal color. The dealer slid the door open. I stepped in and I felt at home. It had my name written all over it. It has a shower and toilet, a kitchen that opens up to the outside so you can look at the view while cooking. A large fridge and freezer (perfect for storing my chocolate). The backdoors open up for another chance to enjoy great views. I could see myself lying in bed with the doors open while looking at the mountains. Of course, I’m not thinking about the bugs I could be letting in, or if the campsite even has a view. Just let me dream for a minute before I move on and get myself back to reality.

I was now trying to find issues with the van that would make me not want it. However, my mind kept wondering. I could see myself sitting by a river, sitting outside with a campfire. The awning protecting the area creating a warm feel as lights around the camper create a comforting feel.

Again, I say to myself, “Stop it. It’s out of my price range.” Then the child part of me came out and wanted to have a two-year-old temper tantrum, saying “this is always what I wanted.” I’m not really as bratty as I sound here. I had actually been looking at vans for about five years so it is something that I have wanted for a long time. Getting up close and personal with this one just made me want it more.

I decide to look at why I would not want this van. Obviously the first one was the price.  Then, this is a great one and know it will put me off, it won’t be easy to drive. It’s 21 feet long and it’s a van. I have only ever driven a car. So, let’s take it for a drive and this will make it an easy decision once I can’t drive it.

That didn’t work. It was ridiculously easy to drive. Well, maybe not easy but way easier than expected. I’m getting anxious now. Well, actually I’m really hungry. I’m one of those people that get “hangry” if not fed and my friend knows this about me so he quickly moves us along to go feed me. He can go all day without eating. How do you do that?

Before we left they asked what my bottom line would be price wise. Then my friend, being the bargainer and before I could actually say anything, said a price we both knew they would not take. I thought, that is great, it is out of my hands now as they won’t accept the price and I can’t afford it anyway. Now a little delirious for a few reasons, it is time to find some food.

Temecula is known for its wineries, so we thought it would be fun to sit outside and enjoy lunch and a glass of wine. By that time, it was 3:30 p.m. Even though we are in the middle of Covid, it was so busy that we ended up going back into town. Seeing all the beautiful vineyards I envisioned bringing the van up here to enjoy.

“Stop it, stop it” I argue with myself. No wonder I’m so hungry with all that brain activity going on in there.

A glass of champagne and a salmon salad filled the spot. Believe it or not, I’m actually not much of a drinker. It just sounded good. Then we discussed if the price was good, would I take it? We searched online and could see this would be a good price. I discussed the idea of maybe renting it out, and how much I would use it.

Driving back to the dealership, I looked at my friend to help with the decision. We finally agreed that if they accepted my offer, I would take it.

We walked into the dealership, so anxious as Jeromy, the sales associate, brings us the deal in hand. Placed down on the table, there was only a $300 difference.

I am now the owner of a Dodge Ram Promaster 3500 Roadtrek. What have I done?

Now it is time to plan some trips.

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