We arrived in Truckee around dusk, they boys cracked out on movie watching; Eddie and I exhausted. I offered to test out our campervan’s kitchen since I had just spent a gazillion bucks at Berkeley Bowl (one of the best grocery stores on the planet). But Eddie, a food snob of the best kind, wanted to try out something in Truckee, while we were still “in civilization.”
The kids tolerated their burgers and fries at Burger Me, and then we motored up to Northstar to meet Tony from Tahoe Star Tours. I have been reading the Greek Myths to the boys and we all wanted to know where Hercules and the lion, Orion and the scorpion were when we looked up into the sky.
Out of the mountains, our guide arrived. Tony was a cowboy poet with a penchant for astronomy. He offered us s’mores, coffee and hot cocoa before sitting us around firepits and giving a poetry-filled lecture on the stars (video included). His son, Ryan, showed us glimpses of the moon, Saturn, and distant galaxies through the massive telescopes, carefully answering Kai’s queries about planets and stars. We all saw our astrological signs in the stars, with the planets in their centers. Mine a world away from theirs.
As the temperature dropped, and the night sky enveloped us, the kids started whining about being cold and wanting to go to sleep. Tony and Ryan continued their lectures and I apologized that we had to get our boys to bed, as much as we wanted to stay and watch the stars appear.
Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at our campsite at Meeks Bay, a sweet speck of wooded beach on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Road crews were clearing off debris and constructing ways to avoid run off into the lake…all night. Giant lights streamed into our campsite as Eddie and I piled into the downstairs double bed with the boys to share blankets, neither of us quite comfortable with popping up the “Penthouse” yet.
You see, Eddie and I are far from campers. I can count on one hand the number of times he has camped. And I have camped probably double that amount, but have always been with an avid camper enthusiast. I have put up a tent myself once, maybe twice. I’ve never owned a stove and have never actually said outloud, “Let’s go camping.”
In fact after the time we camped in Yosemite and Eddie thought our 4’11 friend Ali was a bear and hollered so loudly that he woke up the campsite, we had a sort of agreement that our camping days were over.
But one of the perks of being a travel writer is that the story comes from the part of the trip that is not the obvious. Editors love a story about a family of four who only camped one other time. For a night. Right after a rafting trip and a fancy farm dinner. Oh and did I mention that it took Eddie and I about an hour to put up that tent together?
Comfort in the outdoors has never really been either of our strong points. That’s part of why Topanga was so rough. We were out of our element. Growing up, I never went camping. My mom’s idea of camping was a night at the Holiday Inn. My first time sleeping in a tent was in college.
Suffice to say, that first night, between the road workers, four of us in a double bed, Nikko’s snuffy nose and cough, my fear at not having put all our food into the bear box before getting into the van and throwing my head under the covers, all led to a sleepless night.