When I imagined my life in a van, one thing that I didn’t picture accurately — at all — was how much time I would spend looking at campground websites, campground reviews, and campground apps, trying to find places to stay that I would like. It seemed straightforward when I started — look for places that other people liked, right?
But we all have different tastes. People who are driving 40-foot long buses have very different needs than people in 20-foot camper vans. People on vacation with kids want very different things than a writer with a dog. Serious athletes appreciate different qualities than casual walkers. People who are planning to spend months in one place have different goals then people who are wandering through, hoping for some time in nature.
Those last parks have the word “seasonals” in their descriptions. Over the course of the last two-plus years, I’ve started avoiding them. In Florida, especially, they’re the campgrounds that are basically trailer parks — long rows of trailers stacked up one next to the other, with a view of your neighbor’s sewer hose. Parking spaces with lawn chairs. They curdle my soul.
On Monday, I had sort of an in-between day. I woke up in a Walmart parking lot, did my shopping when the Walmart opened, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with the rest of the day. I knew where I wanted to be on Tuesday, but I didn’t have a plan for Monday night. But it was going to be a hot day so unless I wanted to drive all day or run the (obnoxiously loud) generator all day, I was going to want electricity. (I can survive a 90-degree van, Zelda cannot. Traveling with a dog means running the air-conditioning when the temperature gets above 80.)
I spent a while considering my options, my energy level, and my goals, and finally decided to try out an inexpensive seasonal campground in Quebec City. It was just for a night and it had laundry facilities. Good enough. I drove by it, saw that it was a parking lot with lawn chairs, and decided to try my next option: a more expensive, but also seasonal campground in Quebec City.
Option #2, Camping Juneau, was adorable. Completely charming and beautiful in a campground sort of way. It wasn’t stylish. The buildings were a little run-down, the signs were hand-made (some of them, at least), the roads were narrow gravel and dirt, the washing machine had dead bugs on it, my fire pit was made of crumbling concrete. But a shack of a restaurant had a patio, maybe four tables with plastic tablecloths, overlooking the lake. There were trees between all the spaces, plants everywhere. It reminded me somehow of Maine and Greece mixed together, with a whole bunch of the resort in the Catskills from Dirty Dancing thrown in. There was sunshine and shade and pure essence of summer.
I didn’t wind up doing my laundry, but I did open the awning and get out my own lawn chair and read books sitting outside in the shade. It was a lovely afternoon.
I think the thing that I will look for in future campground descriptions, though, is “tents”. Juneau had tent spots and tent campers, and a place that appeals to tent campers probably can’t be a parking lot with lawn chairs. It certainly wasn’t. It was lovely! As is Quebec City, but somehow it’s almost 9AM and I’ve got to get moving. Today’s going to be a busy day. It might just include poutine!