Southsider Voice correspondent
Last summer Don Cummings planned a campout.
His time was spent inside the tent to avoid a four-day downpour.
He spent even more days drying 10 pieces of nylon in his Greenwood garage.
After 25 years of being an avid tent camper, Cummings said the soggy experience changed his mind forever about tents.
His girlfriend, Toni Traylor of Whiteland, never shared her beau’s enthusiasm for slumbering on the ground, so she researched online options and found the perfect solution, a 4-by-8-foot hiker trailer.
With enough space inside to stretch out on a twin-sized mattress, every built-in nook and cranny is utilized for storage. A couple of kayaks and paddles, along with the poles for a canopy, are secured on top of the trailer.
Other models are available through the Noblesville company where Cummings made his purchase. Some models allow a lot more space, such as food preparation and cooking.
But that was not his interest, Cummings said.
“At campsites our purpose is to be outside,” he said of excursions. “This trailer is basically just a place to sleep and store gear.”
Like Cummings, Verna Schultz of the Southside enjoys a frequent change of pace and scenery.
After 39 years of employment at AT&T she celebrated retirement a few years ago by hitting the road in a T&B camper, more commonly known as a teardrop camper.
“I traveled 7,000 miles and 14 states in three weeks,” she said with a laugh.
Her only companion for that scenic tour was her dog, Sunny Day. “She goes everywhere with me.”
While Cummings is a fan of cold-weather camping, especially a November getaway with buddies, Schultz loads up to leave Indiana by December.
“I’m actually healthier by going to Arizona and camping all winter,” Schultz said. “If I stayed around here I would be cooped up all winter.”
Last winter she made the 2,000-mile trek to Arizona to baby-sit Cindy Lou, a friend’s emu. She also did some hiking and joined another group of teardrop camper enthusiasts “in the middle of the desert.”
Because her camper is equipped with solar panels and golf cart batteries, she can camp wherever she chooses. If she isn’t in the mood to settle in a crowded campground, she continues to drive until she finds a place that suits her. If that place happens to be in the middle of nowhere, away from all the other snow birds, that’s even better.
“My one big luxury that many of my friends laugh at is my satellite dish,” Schultz said. “I usually have the smallest camper in the park, but last year I only missed one men’s basketball game. I even catch March Madness on my way back to Indiana.”
Make no mistake, she is a die-hard Indiana University fan with a purposefully red and white camper that she calls Hoosier.
By spring time, Schultz and Sunny Day return to Indiana. But she plans a monthly getaway for the rest of the calendar.
“This fall I’m going to the coast of South Carolina for a few days. Somehow I have missed that state.”
As most of us would guess, campgrounds are fairly empty during chilly or downright brutal months in Indiana. But that is exactly the time when Cummings prefers to head for the hills and woods.
To appease his much more cold-natured girlfriend, he does occasionally pack up for camping in warmer temperatures.
Cummings did not pitch a tent until a 1991 camping trip with friends.
He is a few years past 50 now and much more adventurous than he imagined himself to be at this age.
“I am a dabbler in human-powered transport,” he said with a grin. “I ride my bicycle to work. I hike and kayak. I also cross-country ski.”
After logging 25,000 miles on her last camper, Schultz is confident that she and Sunny Day will make just as many memories in Hoosier. Like Cummings, Schultz also located an Indiana-based company. She bought her new T&B camper in Mount Vernon.
“We have such a beautiful country. I am always amazed at what I see,” she said. “Camping gives me such a freedom that I can’t find anywhere else.”