RACHEL SHENK: ‘Travel Bug’ takes maiden voyage | News

More than a year ago on a cold end of December night, we spoke with friends at a crowded and bustling Goshen Brewing Co. When they described their travels in the southwest, Jim mentioned his dream of building a teardrop camper to some day take across the country. Little did he know that our friend, Elva, knew the ins and outs of teardrops from his work in the RV industry. His knowledge and willingness to lend a hand got Jim’s project off the ground.

During the long no-travel summer of the pandemic, Jim slowly created in his spare time what he started calling “our escape pod,” a very small teardrop camper that would fit us just right. He researched, designed, researched some more, built, painted, sanded until our escape pod was about ready to go.

Now renamed “Travel Bug,” this teardrop camper is a very simple affair: big enough for a mattress that will contain us and our dog and small enough to easily pull behind our car. It also houses a small functional kitchen area under the back hatch where our camping stove and essential dishes and dry goods can be stored. As fortune would have it, our son-in-law provided us with a solar panel to charge the battery which we need to activate the small ceiling fan which keeps the air fresh and helps with condensation in the snug as a bug sleeping quarters.

As Jim finished the last details on the camper, adding storage shelves and window panes and door handles, the season turned to fall. We started planning for our maiden voyage but the cold weather moved in and our plans were put on hold indefinitely.

As last week arrived, sunny and warm, we decided it might be time. We gathered food and drink, bedding and wood, camp chairs and clothes. Jim took the teardrop camper out for a drive to make sure it was ready to go. As it turned out, we left immediately after our second COVID vaccine shots, on a warm and sunny day and traveled to Pokagon State Park.

The campground was mostly empty and we found a lovely spot under the trees. Jim easily maneuvered the camper into the site. And the “glamping” began.

After a sunset hike, we enjoyed Negronis by the campfire then put the kitchen area to its first test by cooking some healthy vegetarian spaghetti. As darkness fell fast, we ate supper with a glass of wine and sat by the fire until the logs burned down to embers. Now we could test the camper. Stella, the golden retriever, easily followed us into our room for the night. With a duvet and flannel sheets, we were warm and dry.

After an uneventful night of sleep, we woke to the crows cawing overhead and suffused light coming in the window. Stella eagerly jumped out for her morning walk that took us on a trail around the campground. When we returned to the campsite, Jim had a morning fire going. We made and ate pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and our best coffee. Then we just sat by the fire, easing into the day, talking and sipping coffee.

We slowly packed up then took a final hike along the lake then drove home. As we reflected on our test run, we decided that it all went quite well. What a perfect way to usher in the spring sunshine. And now, we can anticipate many more adventures with “Travel Bug.”

If we can’t go across the ocean, we can go across the country.

La Bonne Vie’s Rachel Shenk has been an artisan baker for 30 years. Born and raised in Belgium, she has lived in Goshen since 1973. She has been writing about food, traveling and the good life for about 10 years. You can connect with her on her Facebook page, La Bonne Vie, or at her cheese shop in Goshen, The Wedge.

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