A tent camper tries out RVing for the first time and has a revelation

Testing out the RV life at Pinewood Reservoir in Larimer County.

LOVELAND — As a mostly tent and car camper who never paid much attention to the RV crowd — except when stuck behind them on mountain roads, or cursing their generators early in the morning — I felt a little in over my head as I stood in the parking lot, staring at the 31-foot, seven-ton Winnebago motorhome I was about to take out for a spin for a few days.

The rental manager at Lazydays RV explained that between its hallway bunks, queen-sized master bed, convertible dinette, sofa and over-cab bed, this Minnie Winnie can sleep up to 10. Plus it had big storage compartments, a toilet, shower, kitchen, slide-outs (which create extra space inside once parked) and electric awning.

That sounded “larger” to me. I’d been nervous when I read the warning on the Larimer County campground page: “SITE SIZE ALERT: Pinewood Reservoir is only accessible by a narrow 4-mile paved road with extreme, 8-10% grades. Most sites are small. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR LARGER RVs AND MOTORHOMES!” I called the Larimer County campground specialist who assured me I would be fine, and gave me some specific recommendations. Site No. 9, he said, was wide and long, and I’d have no trouble backing in.

Feeling better about our destination, I drove to Denver, picked up our rig, buckled my kids in, and we were off. We headed into the hills — with a long line of drivers behind me, of course. The Minnie Winnie, which was built around a Ford E450 chassis, felt solid and secure as I drove, even as we flew along at just below the speed limit. It felt less boaty-floaty than I thought it would, and my children were staring intently through the big side windows at passing farms and ranches.

Backing into Site No. 9 was indeed no problem, even in the pouring rain. Then, instead of spending the next 30 minutes stringing the perfect kitchen tarp between the trees, I pressed a button and watched the awning extend from over the door. The kids spilled out, and I plugged into the electric and set up some chairs. My wife and I threw out a blanket with toys on it, grabbed two beers from the fridge, and voila, camp was made!

As the rain began to lighten, a light bulb went off as I thought about this RV thing: It was all about time. Instead of spending our first few hours at camp in stressed-out, rain-chilled, set-up mode, we’d just slipped straight into the good stuff — sitting down for a welcome beverage, then smiling as my family wandered off into the woods together, looking for rainbows and kindling.

Lazydays RV Rental has locations in Denver and Loveland (lazydays.com, 855-980-7101). They have a range of campers for rent, from pop-up teardrop trailers to massive motorhomes.

Larimer County Department of Natural Resources runs a number of lovely campgrounds under an hour’s drive from many Front Range cities. Call 970-679-4570 or go to larimercamping.com to find and reserve a site.



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