Car Crowding

“I don’t know if I want to be good at car camping,” Truman said on our tenth day on the road, and our fifth night in a tent.

And fair enough: car camping is neither luxurious nor outdoorsy. There are conveniences, like access to showers that take quarters and having bear-attracting odors locked safely in the car. But the fact is, you’re sleeping in a tent and cooking food on a glorified bunson burner. On our third night in Yellowstone, Truman said, “We haven’t had vegetables in four days.” We had even gone through the carrots we had brought as emergency roughage.

But after driving more than 4000 miles over three weeks, and camping in Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and now Colorado, we know how to do it. Some tips: you can’t have too many reusable bags and bottles filled with water. Small treats, like chocolate and wine, go a long way. Buy firewood when the opportunity presents itself.

Yesterday was the last night we will spend out of a car. We knew where to stay: we found a site by a small tributary to the Colorado River. We knew how to be friendly: we ran out of fuel for our stove, but asked around and were able to borrow another camper’s spare. And we knew how to cook: we made brown rice with herring and avocado with a side of steamed broccoli.

But the pleasantness of last night was in part because we were in Rifle, CO, a small town 100 miles north of a national park I had never heard of. We’re here because Truman’s grandmother grew up here.

There isn’t much tourist industry in Rifle. The mountains aren’t too tall and the rivers aren’t too wide. But that’s what I like about modest beauty. It’s still beautiful, but there are no crowds.