“What was I thinking?” I asked myself as I checked the forecast. With preschool closed for two weeks and indoor visits with family and friends off-limits over the holidays, I had booked a camper van for the last three days of December. Of course, there was a weather system coming in that would cover the entire state with either rain or snow for most of our trip. There was no escaping it, even with a tiny home on wheels.
We’re a one-car family with a short-range electric vehicle. That means going out of town requires not just booking lodging, but also renting a car. With a Eurovan Camper, we got transportation plus a kitchen, heat, and two beds. It was still expensive, but the pure delight on my 3-year-old son’s face when we picked up the van was priceless. “I’m going to sleep up there!” he squealed as they demonstrated how to open the pop-top.
Day One of the trip, the weather was pretty good. We headed to Mt. Hood for sledding at White River West Sno Park. There were beautiful views and plenty of snow, as well as tons of people and traffic. After an hour of blissing out in the white powder, while trying to keep distance from others, my son was wet, cold, and, well, crying. Back in the parking lot, we made hot chocolate with the kettle in the warm van and he got his joy back in an instant.
With most of the federal campgrounds on Mt. Hood closed, we camped at Mt. Hood Village RV Resort. We had a quiet site by a creek and access to clean, warm bathrooms. Cooking dinner in the van was more difficult than anticipated, and while my husband and I had a tough time sleeping on the small, firm beds, our son slept well (to our great relief).
Day Two we came home to avoid the winter storms, get a good night’s sleep, and shower.
On Day Three, with no intentions of sleeping or cooking in the van again, we took a day trip to wine country, where it was least likely to rain. We had a delicious takeout lunch from Pura Vida Cocina in McMinnville. With restaurants closed for dining-in, having the van to eat in, even on a day trip, was quite handy, and again it thrilled my kiddo.
After lunch, we took a walk in Miller Woods. The hike was serene and magical, with gorgeous trees and streams. We had the place to ourselves and stopped to examine every mushroom, rock, and fern without having to mask up or constantly navigate around other hikers.
We made a spontaneous stop on the way home at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The museum is closed, but there are plenty of planes outside. My son gave us a giggle by standing in front of a huge passenger aircraft and waving his arm, pretending to direct traffic.
Day Three was a sweet end to our kind of wonky and sometimes stressful three-day adventure. While we won’t be winter camping (even in a van) again anytime soon, we did learn that surviving COVID for us means giving up the electric car lifestyle. We have to be able to get away, even just for a day, without the hassle of renting a vehicle. The Miller Woods (and churros from Pura Vida) are calling to us already.
Katharine Quince is a parent, writer and Social Justice Consultant who lives and works in Southeast Portland. Visit her website Quince Consulting or follow her on Instagram.
- A Preschooler, a Camper Van & COVID Winter - January 13, 2021