We were on tour in Florida with our old band, Before Dawn, which was just us at that point. We we were a duo. It was October of 2009. It was hot and humid, surprisingly so for Halloween. We had played several shows. It was our thinking that October should be a good, comfortable month for camping. Instead of paying for hotels on our drive back to Texas, we decided to tent camp at a State Park.
As you might imagine, tent camping when you have hundreds of pounds of guitar amps, monitor speakers and instruments in your car is a little different than say having a cooler with food and an extra sleeping bag. We went very minimal with our camping gear. After all, it was only going to be an overnight…We had our tent, our air mattress, a sleeping bag and a quilt.
It was actually turning out to be a really beautiful evening. We had driven as far as the panhandle of Florida and it was quite a bit cooler, pleasant really. We were staying at, Falling Waters State Park. Yay, a waterfall! After spending late nights playing loud rock music in dirty bars, and days on end driving, despite being rather exhausted, we were excited to go on a little hike and try our damnedest to change mindsets, relax and enjoy camping?
We really wanted to hike to see the waterfall for which the park is named, but it was getting dark fast and we only made it halfway there before we disappointedly decided we better turn around and go back to camp. We still needed to set up our tent and bed, get firewood and make some sort of dinner from the items we were able to find at the only store that was around for miles. It was a very weird old Walmart… If you spend time traveling the country via interstate, you know exactly what I am talking about.
We were trying so hard to enjoy ourselves! We were trying so hard to accomplish these normally fun camping tasks with enthusiasm. We were trying not to be the tired, cranky babies that we really wanted to be. And, ”jeeze, the temperature really is dropping now that the sun went down.”
We ate our dinner. I don’t remember what it was. We went on our requisite “camper walk” whereby we walk around the campground and voyeuristically observe others enjoying the conveniences of motor homes and travel trailers. We sat by the warm fire and fantasized a bit about what kind of camper we might want some day. Then we turned in for the night.
From the screen window on our tent we had a clear view of a travel trailer at a campsite across the way from us. We could make out the outlines of comfortable, warm, cozy people watching television. We had camper envy. We were really jealous. Also, we were VERY cold.
After nodding off, we both woke up around 3:30 am absolutely freezing. There was no going back to sleep at this point. This was Florida! What the hell? We put on pretty much every single piece of clothing that we had with us. We were getting cold from the ground up, so we let air out of the air mattress thinking that the air in the mattress was keeping us cold. We took the quilt that was covering us and put it underneath us. Now we were cold on top. We tried to both cram into the only sleeping bag we had with us. We were miserable and I was pretty sure I was starting to get a sore throat.
Even though, at this point we were probably more tired than we have ever been, at first light we got up and started packing our stuff. There was no point in staying. We were in no mood to hike and all we wanted to do was get home. When we got up, we realized that there was frost on everything! How cold was it??? I looked at the thermometer I had recently added to our camping gear. It was 35 degrees and all we had had with us to keep warm was a summer quilt!
Thirty five degrees! That was the last straw! We were now officially in the market for a camper. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, we drove 13 hours from the panhandle of Florida back to Austin, Texas and spoke almost exclusively of our necessity for a camper. We were going to somehow make it happen! This was now more important to us than the vague social concept that one must buy a traditional home first.
Because of my parents RV, the concept of RVing was now on our radar, though it would be at least ten years before we would entertain the idea of getting one ourselves. Rob and I started to take notice of them everywhere we went. We started to realize that the different kinds of RV’s that exist is vast! We noticed them on the road, we noticed dealerships on the side of the road that for some reason had been completely invisible in the past, and we noticed them in campgrounds, now with some curiosity rather than scorn.
We went on a few overnight trips and did various fund raising events with my parents in their RV for their dearest cause, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We had a ton of fun! We met other RVrs. They are some of the most friendly and warm people you will ever encounter. They are also extremely enthusiastic about their rigs and will gladly answer any questions you might have. We started to amass a bit of experience and jargon to go with it…. Despite being somewhat fascinated, it still seemed like something other people did, not us.
The thought that we could be a part of this interesting little club had not occurred to us yet; though my mom every once in a while would subtly suggest it and point out small campers that might be appropriate for us… We just thought, “it is nice for you, but no, that’s not us.” I am certain that this block existed because we are absolutely NOT the typical demographic that the RV market appeals to and we never once saw people like ourselves with an RV. It is no secret that the largest population of RVrs is retired folks; we actually partied with a lot of retired people during this process… The second largest population is families with children. We are a very long way from being retired and we have no plans to have children.
We are artists, we are theater people, we are a fucking rock band! AND then, that is where this all started to make sense for us. Touring. Between 2005 and 2011, we had been doing a lot of it. There were certainly mornings that we woke up not knowing where we were geographically or whose house we had crashed at, not because of being intoxicated, but rather because we were working hard and constantly on the go. We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in the same bed every night?
We are not famous or on a record label, our tours are completely self-funded. We were crashing at the houses of generous friends and family, staying in really crappy hotels and every once in a while even tent camping while on the road and performing in clubs. We were often exhausted, getting very little quality sleep and eating poorly (especially bad for someone with Type 1 Diabetes).
The idea of getting an RV started to become a big fantasy. We would talk about it and imagine ourselves with our own mobile bed, kitchen and bathroom. Even though this fantasy was starting to bloom, it still seemed like it stopped there. We thought, one day, maybe we will be able to afford such a luxury. We also thought that it was important to buy a house before we bought something seemingly frivolous and of our fantasies like a Recreational Vehicle, even if it was for work………………………………….
Too be continued!
Update: 2/3/16 – We no longer perform as Before Dawn, from Austin, TX. We have an L.A. based rock band called JagLyonz, if you want to know more about us go to www.JagLyonz.com. Here are a few photos from the old Before Dawn days!
To most of our friends and family, it is no secret that Rob and I are in love with camping. It floats our respective boats! In fact, it goes beyond love, it is a deep passion. It is a lifestyle that we seek out! We are aware that there are a lot of different definitions of camping and that it means something different to different people. We are not snobbish about it, and really, we love all of it! Backpacking, car camping, RVing, overnights, extended trips, State Parks, National Parks and private campgrounds, they are all wonderful and serve their purpose. In my opinion camping is the best way to travel and see the country.
My exposure to camping came at a young age. In fact there is a distinct possibility that I may have been conceived while my parents were camping. When I was a baby, my parents took me tent camping, according to my mom, camping is a great activity to do with babies.
When I was a kid, from the time I was 7 until I was about 14, I went to summer-camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at Camp Nicolet for Girls in Eagle River. I spent the whole summer in the National Nicolet Forest. We stayed in cabins but went on hikes, cookouts and overnights, this served to enhance my love of camping as well as sharpen my skills in the realm of packing a backpack, making a fire and general outdoor survival.
When Rob and I met in college, I shared my love of camping with him. My sister gave us a tent for Christmas. Planning and going on camping trips quickly became one of our favorite pastimes. We got to see and experience places that we never would have gone to or even thought of going to otherwise.
Our first camping trip was a three day trip to Ocala, National Forest in FL. We went to Lake Eaton and Juniper Springs. They were both amazing. At Lake Eaton we heard something big in the woods at night and it scared us, branches were snapping under the feet of whatever creature was lurking. We imagined that it was some sort of large wildcat, it was probably just a raccoon…? We hiked the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, which was magnificent. It is about 80 feet deep and 450 feet wide. The flora and vegetation completely changed as you hiked deeper into it. It is similar to an Oak Hammock, featuring magnolias, live oak, dogwood, lobolly pine and sabal palm. The temperature and humidity even changed…It got a little cooler, but more humid. It was fascinating!
At Juniper Springs the water was so impossibly clear that it was almost invisible. We swam, we hiked and explored, we cooked our meals and ate outdoors. The scenery and the sense of relaxation that came from spending time outdoors was beautiful. Our love of camping as a couple grew. We knew this would be something that we continued to do together always…