No country for campers

05.06.2011

 

Many US citizens consider their country the greatest place for living on our planet. They think so, even though many of them have not been abroad nor even outside their own state. Having visited quite a few places around the world I am sceptical about theUS as a living paradise. What I like though here is this national pride, which we, Poles, often lack. Coming across a Pole speaking proudly of our own country is extremely rare. I think that after all those additional experiences during our sabbatical we will appreciate even more the beauty and lifestyle in Poland.

After two weeks of camping in national parks of US and sometimes outside them (including outside designated campgrounds) one thing is clear for us. Camping in the US is a disaster!

Let me start with a couple of pros which in no way can compensate for the overall picture. As a rule each campground has a place for campfire, which often comes along with a grilling plate. The area designated for each tent or parking a camper is often huge, which gives some kind of intimacy. There is a drawback though inherent in the latter feature of US campgrounds. Such a spacious layout (especially in national parks) leaves very few camping places. The first night we visited 4 campgrounds before we found a free spot.

Now about less pleasing aspects. Water in campgrounds is a luxury, let alone warm one. The only “luxury” offered is a john, at times without a roof with a big hole. Electric hookups are another item hard to come by. What is also puzzling is often lack of trash containers in the campgrounds.

I mentioned before the places for starting campfire. Bear in mind that you have to invest around $5 for a bundle of firewood. Wood gathering is prohibited.

This is such a surprise in a country so developed as the US. In Central America, during the 3 months not a single day did we worry about basic needs such as water, electricity etc. Here it is a constant struggle. Now I understand why many Americans rent big, super equipped campers, called RVs, which remind us of a villa on wheels. Renting it costs way over $100 per day plus all te charges. For me it is far from a real camping experience and enjoying nature first hand, but …

We do not like this aspect of our trip around the US. The only upside here is stimulation of our creativity, often bordering on being ridiculous. Many a time we have heated up water in our small electric kettle in public toillets, restaurant power outlets, and other public places. I have even developed a habit of immediately searching for an unsealed power outlet every time I enter any room Uśmiech. It may sound a bit sick. In the latter places I could often hear from very serious people that charging stuff was not possible. Everything is Possible! In general all the local regulations turn people enforcing them into souless robots. We often feel that in the US rules and regulations, sometimes extremely dumb, are way more important than people. I think I will devote a seperate post on this subject. In contrast with that we visited a small Mexican bar run by an immigrant from Guatemala and immediately felt there like at home. Everything was possible, with a genuine smile etc.

Shaving myself in public toillets I sometimes feel like a homeless Uśmiech. Another quasi-funny moment was when we were, under the cover of the night, taking free wood from  a campground, where we could not find a free spot for us for camping and thus were camping a few kilometers away in a wild semi-desert. BTW, you may not camp outside designated camgrounds in national parks in the US. You can do that outside.

Getting food and other groceries in parks is a challenge too. It is best to get a big cooler, buy food in the nearest WalMart (sometimes 2 hours away), fill it with ice and pray that it does not melt quickly.

Now we are in a campground (the same poor basic amenities), which is close to a bigger city, Moab, UT. This offsets some of the discomforts. After 2,5 hours spent in a local aquapark we feel like newborns. While I am writing this post I am sitting in a public laundry and use … surprisingly … free internet here. Limited internet access in this world superpower is a topic for another seperate post.

Concluding I want to show you a purchase I made yesterday, making our camping a bit easier, i.e. a portable shower for a mere $10. It is a rubber tank with 5 gallons of water, a pipe and a little shower. With local heat reaching sometimes 100 F(37 C) the water inside gets warm in no time.

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