August 2014

Is bigger better?

By David Feela

I drove all the way to Colorado Springs to check out a lightly used camping trailer, and it’s not as if I needed one. I own a sturdy 13-foot lightweight molded-fiberglass outfit that I’ve been dragging behind me for 12 years. It suits me fine, but six years of retirement made me wonder if maybe we deserve a few luxuries, like a bathroom and a bed where two people can sleep side by side.

I reasoned with myself: I’m not getting any younger.

At a coffee shop in Colorado Springs I apped up the directions. The route to the seller’s house seemed clear, but the street names made me queasy: turn left onto Carefree Circle, then follow a plethora of feel-good street signs that included Splendid Circle, Hopeful Drive, Sedate Lane, Neat Place, and Blissful Circle, all before I reached my destination on Cheerful Road. I nearly turned around and headed home. Then I reasoned, everything happens for a reason – the kind of platitude upon which this kind of neighborhood was built.

I saw the trailer parked in a driveway and tried to picture myself towing it up Wolf Creek Pass to one of those summer RV resorts like Happy Valley where waxed and buffed RVers line up like dominos in a highly organized acre or two, with feeding tubes for water and electricity, the strategically placed picnic table beside a gravel pad, and free wifi streaming out of the trees.

The gentleman who showed me his 17-foot trailer qualified as one of those rarified fellows that go to extraordinary lengths caring for his property. Though it was six years old, the trailer was immaculate, except for the air-conditioner housing from which he’d knocked a few fins loose backing into a tree limb.

Still, what surprised me the most was that he, like me, wanted something bigger.

After a thorough inspection of the interior, which included taking down the dinette table where I reclined in the space that transformed into a bed, we stepped outside to circle the unit, perhaps to kick a tire or two.

But no, we stopped, stooped, and opened every notable latch that accessed the trailer’s inner workings. Here, for instance, is the refrigeration, and above it the condenser, and here is the panel for the furnace’s electronic ignition. And here’s where the clean water goes in, and here shoved like a snake into the bumper is the sewer tube for emptying the trailer’s bowels, including a nifty magic sprayer wand to stick down the toilet in case any toilet paper remains plastered to the holding-tank walls.

By the time I reached the panel that housed the electric water heater element and switch, and an anode tube in the shape of a hot dog that inserts like a uranium rod into a nuclear reactor, my gray matter started to ferment.

I should have been taking notes, because I’d given up trying to memorize his instructions. I just hoped a Trailering for Dummies edition had been published by someone with more desire who finally figured these things out.

Briefly, I entertained the notion of owning this wheel estate, at least until we rounded a corner and confronted the propane tanks.

“How much time does it take to use up two tanks of propane?” I asked.

“It depends. Which is why I leave the second tank disconnected.”

“I see, so you’ll always have a spare.”

“Not exactly. The trailer automatically switches to the second tank when both are connected. Difficult to figure out how much fuel is left that way.”

“So how do you know when the first tank is empty?”

“The furnace quits, or the water heater, unless I’m hooked up with electricity.”

“I see” I said, and walked back to kick a tire.

My trailer has a propane tank, only one, and it lasts the entire summer. My two-burner stovetop functions as both furnace and water heater: while I boil water in my teapot, the flame warms the interior.

The refrigerator operates on a couple frozen water bottles I place inside it before leaving home. It’s well insulated. And I only plug into the electrical grid when I store it away for the winter in my barn, so I can see well enough to clean it up.

I could go on with a list of what my trailer lacks, but what’s the use? Someone’s bound to have a bigger list.

David Feela, an award-winning poet, essayist and author, writes from Montezuma County, Colo. See more of his works at