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Trailer of Tears

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Billy Joel sang, “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.” Although I’m pretty sure he wasn’t singing about my dilapidated trailer — the one that had traveled with me from beaches to deserts to mountains, providing me with humble companionship and a mighty comfortable place to write — Mr. Joel and his apropos lyrics popped into my head as I said goodbye to my running partner in the Las Vegas gloaming. The trailer and my Explorer proved to be like oil and water, anchovies and ice cream, warmongers and me — incompatible. I’d limped the 13-foot Shasta along Interstate 15 to St. George, Utah, the scenery and the anticipation of playing some fine golf courses dampened somewhat by the white knuckles and fishtailing. The three RV and/or trailer dealers I sobbed my story to — after they stopped laughing at a trailer so dented and pockmarked that it looked like the surface of the moon — suggested a series of fixes that would have cost me a third of what the trailer was worth, or what I thought it was worth.

I played some decent golf on some great courses, decided to put new tires on the trailer (shelling out $100 total) and then figured I’d carefully drive my ugly duckling to Vegas, where I’d certainly be able to get nearly what it was worth. Apparently it was worth $300. With the brand-new tires I’d sprung for that morning, I netted about $200, if you don’t count the miscellaneous items I left in the trailer because I couldn’t stuff anything else into my Explorer or strap it to the roof. My trailer, wouldn’t you know it, was fully stocked, even decorated a bit (the magic of my roadtrip-in-a-box was that the inside was quite nice, cozy bordering on cool — I liked to think of the ghastly exterior as an anti-theft device), and it took me a couple hours to decide what to keep, how to cart the salvageable stuff home and to clean the rig. Since there were no witnesses on that Las Vegas side street, I can say that I did not become teary-eyed. Of course, I can also say I’m Ghengis Khan.

Instead of marauding through China, I sold the trailer to a woman who planned to live in it (my circumstances suddenly felt less dire), then headed home through rain and a windstorm so fierce that I took it as an omen that the trailer and I were meant to part. We would not have made it home safely. Unfortunately, safety was not my foremost concern as I attempted to convert a motorcycle trailer into a teardrop a week later. The large, heavy, sharp board that nearly guillotined my left big toe reminded me that the steel-toe boots I own probably should have been on my feet while working with materials that could — and did — shatter my toe. My shrieks of pain shattered the morning quiet, and I soon elected to put my building spree on hold, grudgingly accepting my hobbling existence for the next month and a half.

Backpacking, I’m told, is not generally prescribed as a curative for bone fractures in the foot. But when I was given an assignment to put together a story on Point Reyes National Seashore in central California, I had little choice but to sign the contract, then step gingerly, since Point Reyes allows no car-camping (though boat-camping is permitted). To reach any of the four campgrounds, visitors must hike in, I learned as I made my phone reservation. “Then I’d like the campground that requires the shortest hike, please.” Booked into Sky Camp, I dug my backpack out from under the bed and started packing. As I drove north, I thought about what kind of trailer I should get. Since I can’t afford a different
tow vehicle, my options are limited, especially since I haven’t received a raise in the more than three years I’ve been writing this column (feel free to write the editors on my behalf). I’d need, therefore, something inexpensive, lightweight and with a low profile, like a pop-up. But I grew up car-camping, then moved to backpacking — and still enjoy both
— and I can’t justify the expense of a pop-up and of its storage, since I already own too many tents.

Yes, pop-ups are more than elevated tents, but — after ruling out stealing a Class A and hightailing to Bolivia -I decided on an A-frame, such as a Chalet or an A-liner. I just have to win the lottery first. A visit to point Reyes National Seashore, I learned upon my arrival, is like hitting nature’s jackpot. RVers who have never schlepped a backpack and never will should, at the very least, swing through this park on a day trip. The vast majority of the more than 2 million annual visitors to this mostly untrammeled area about an hour north of San Francisco do not stay within the park. About 100
bed-and-breakfast establishments are within striking distance, and RVers can stay just outside the park in the large Olema Ranch Campground or in the rustic, redwood-bedecked Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about seven miles from Point Reyes’ Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Travelers to Point Reyes need not be hikers, but if they are, they will have countless options. Trails arc this way and that around the park’s 10 square miles, wending past lagoons, around marshes, up and down mountains, along beaches and across pastoral lands. Birders will likely add many species to their life lists, since 45 percent of North America’s species have been spotted in the park. Equestrians and fans of gorgeous, wind-swept views will find Point Reyes to their liking. I found it to my loving. I managed to make it to and from my Sky Camp campsite (one of only 12) without incident. I reveled in the silence, in the early morning chill, in the wind lullabying through the trees at night. The only place I’ve ever slept better was in my trailer.

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