Stick Miller: Past tents

Published 11:41 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

Here I sit, on a seawall overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Keys. If I walk across the street, I can look out over the Atlantic Ocean in much the same fashion.
It’s pretty down here. At dusk, the lobsters come out and head out to eat. We’re not allowed to harvest them for our own supper … some silly rule about lobster season or something. They sure look good to me and they sure would go good with that piece of key lime pie I’ve been saving for my last night in paradise.
Camping, for me anyway, just isn’t what it used to be. Where as a young Boy Scout we slept in pup tents made of canvas, my wife and I now sleep in a large over-the-road bus. In its day, it was the finest built. Thirty-two years later, it still holds its own in a world of “stick and staple” motor homes thrown together like matchboxes.
We sleep in comfortable beds under any one of three air conditioners. If we get cold, we turn on the heat. If we are thirsty, we turn on the faucet and if we need to go to the bathroom, it is just a short walk down the hall. There’s no roughing it in a Bluebird Wanderlodge.
I happen to think camping the way we do it is good for the body as well as the spirit. At the ripe old age of 69, I am sometimes the youngest member of our camping group. We have plenty of real seasoned citizens who maintain and drive their motor homes all over these United States with gusto.
I came to motor home camping late in life. My parents had the very first motor home I ever saw, but it was primitive. More bread truck than camper, it was square and boxy. It was underpowered by some sort of 1960s Ford engine that spewed exhaust and carbon monoxide into the coach with force.
Neither the heat nor the air conditioning worked very well while riding down the road. My daddy was far too cheap to run the generator so we relied on whatever the dash air conditioning would produce. Many things have improved in automobiles since the 1960s. Notable among these improvements is air conditioning. While those two lucky enough to be riding “shotgun” got a fair amount of cool air, those of us sprawled prostrate across the bed in the rear of my parents’ motor home got nothing but carbon monoxide and, in our case, smoke from my father’s pipe. I get nauseated just thinking about it.
Even though my old Bluebird is now almost 34 years old, things just work better on it than they did back in the day. It may be that I’m just not as cheap as my father, but I’m not going if I have to drive in discomfort. I don’t mind running the generator if it means we travel in cool comfort. In the winter, we are toasty warm thanks to three different heating systems.
It has served us well for the past few years. It was especially welcomed when our house sold quicker than we thought it would and we weren’t ready to move into the new/old house. Every night last winter it provided us with a warm, cozy place to sleep and live in our new back yard.
Now the old girl is getting her yearly physical at a very competent shop. She’ll have her oil changed, her brakes checked, and her radiator flushed out and she’ll have anything else that is not just so, repaired. I’ll spend a thousand dollars before all is said and done. Really, that’s not a big price to pay for an inanimate object that has done so much to improve our lives. Most importantly, owning her has gotten me out of sleeping on the ground.
In that sense, the Millers are creatures of comfort. We enjoy nature, but at the end of the day we are thankful that we don’t have to sleep under the stars.
I hope I’ve slept my last night tossing and turning on a bed of pinecones or a pile of rocks. I also hope that, when nature calls, I can go into a civilized bathroom to take care of business without worrying about snake bite.
And I am pleased to announce that I am officially “past tents.”

Boyce “Stick” Miller lives in Americus, Ga. Contact him at