Giving Thanks — RV Camping Style
By Paula Loehr, R.N.
‘Home is where the heart is,’ or so the age-old saying goes. Thankful hearts famously gathered together in 1621 to honor the concept of home when English pilgrims and Native American Wampanoag held a harvest festival in Plymouth, Massachusetts. More than 200 years later in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving an American holiday. Since then, Thanksgiving has reigned supreme as a time to ponder blessings and share a sense of home with special people we hold close to our hearts. While many Thanksgiving participants think of a specific house in a certain town as “home,” those of us who live an RV lifestyle realize that wherever our hearts travel, a sense of ‘home’ naturally tags along.
Mixing up the Memories
My family’s celebrations of home and thankful hearts tend to change locations from year to year — wherever we happen to go RV camping. From Florida’s swamps and Carolina’s breezy Outer Banks to California’s redwood forests and Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, we’ve experienced all kinds of Thanksgiving getaways.
Our Thanksgiving tables (whether inside our galley or outdoors on RV park patios) have contained everything from full-fledged turkey feasts to campfire-grilled turkey burgers to savory turkey salads topped with walnuts and cranberries.
One year long ago when our three boys were young and our motorhome malfunctioned, we ate our pre-cooked turkey dinner at an interstate highway’s rest area — while we waited a short time for a Good Sam Emergency Road Service rep to arrive at the scene. The boys tossed a football around the lawn while my husband Dennis and I set up the meal in our galley, and no one was flustered by our unfortunate location. Thanks to the kind-hearted ERS-approved RV technician who volunteered to leave his family’s turkey party to assist us, we pulled our motorhome into our intended campsite in time to slice the pumpkin pie, add dollops of whipped cream, and watch the sun go down.
Forging Family Connections
When Liberta Scotto’s son Michael was a teenager, he and his mom liked to spend Thanksgiving weekends RV camping together at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida. The pair paused to celebrate Michael’s November birthday, and to consider the previous year’s blessings. They toured museums and a rustic fort near St. Augustine’s colorful Spanish Quarter, walked the scenic waterfront, visited the lighthouse, and strolled across the city’s legendary Bridge of Lions at nightfall. “The view of St. Augustine, with twinkling white lights outlining the rooftops and trees, was breathtaking,” recalls Scotto, “And the trip to St. Augustine always made us look forward to Christmas.”
Richard and Sue Daniels’ most memorable Thanksgiving occurred unexpectedly one year when Sue’s father’s home was flooded just before the holiday. Since Sue and Richard always visited her dad and stayed at his house each Thanksgiving weekend, they decided to tow their RV to his property and serve a festive dinner in their galley. Their surprising plan was a big boost for Sue’s father and his wife, who wound up reminiscing about their own former days as RVing snowbirds. “Both of Sue’s parents are gone now, but the memories of that Thanksgiving live on as we relive those precious moments that are so sweetly buried in our hearts,” Richard said. “By the way, I can still see Levi, our beloved Australian shepherd, sitting around the table waiting for his turn at the turkey.”
Expanding Your Family Circle
According to Rosemary Bates, “Your family grows in the RV camping world.” And Rosemary is undoubtedly an expert on the subject. As a RV snowbird from Maine who winters apart from her northern relatives, she spends Thanksgiving holidays in the company of RVing friends. To express heartfelt thanks for one another, Rosemary and her camping pals collaborate on Thanksgiving Day galley duties, preparing favorite dishes that reflect a delicious variety of cultures and ethnic persuasions. “No matter where you come from, this day is special and you want to share food and fellowship with those you care about,” she says.
Sharing (or Skipping) the Joy of Cooking
Five years ago, in an effort to downsize the difficulties of producing an elaborate Thanksgiving meal, Elizabeth Oreo established an easy November camping routine with her husband and their three daughters. The Oreos go RVing for several days surrounding every Thanksgiving. Three other families accompany them, and everyone pitches in to prepare a big, traditional turkey dinner. After enjoying their outdoor banquet, the entire crew commemorates the day by staging an annual group portrait. Next comes a lazy evening of fun around a campfire. “It is very relaxing and laid back, not as stressful as it usually is when doing it at home or in a formal way. That’s what I love best about it — no stress!” said Oreo. “We usually pick a campground that is a bit north, so we get a little cooler air, and it really feels like the holiday season.”
In step with the Oreo Family, John and Staci Dunn and their two sons have a longstanding tradition of dividing Thanksgiving cooking duties with RVing friends. Back in the days when they celebrated traditional Thanksgivings, Staci trudged through a chaotic week beforehand — shopping, cooking and cleaning.
Nowadays, the Dunns smoke a large turkey in an outdoor fire pit while deep frying a couple smaller birds. Fellow campers contribute side dishes and desserts. “When we celebrate Thanksgiving RV style, it is so relaxed … No worries!” said Staci. “The fact that it is slowed down and we can actually enjoy it makes it the most memorable. I have always felt closer to God in nature, so when we celebrate Thanksgiving while camping, I seem to remember all the blessings I have been given and how much we really have to be thankful for.”
Tom and Lee Stirrat harbor sweet recollections of a carefree (and cooking-free) Thanksgiving weekend in the balmy Florida Keys. “The campground was beautiful, and they served a full Thanksgiving meal,” Lee recalls with apparent glee. “The other campers were all in the Thanksgiving spirit — really friendly and talkative. We enjoyed it, and the weather was great!” Not surprisingly, the Stirrats will be RVcamping on Thanksgiving again this year.
Steering Hearts toward Home
Shared family adventures and good times with old (and new) friends are the hallmarks of a meaningful, memorable Thanksgiving Day, whether you choose a traditional or RV-style celebration. When you’re lucky enough to travel together in a recreational vehicle, almost every day on the road feels like a “home is where the heart is” kind of holiday.
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