If you enjoy the outdoors as single, fulltime-employed Ronda Riley does and a big camper isn’t in your budget, consider taking a lesson from this resourceful and courageous woman.
Levonne: How often do you camp?
Ronda: I usually get out about three or four times a year. Sometimes more. I go for a weekend or sometimes for a long trip.
Levonne: What kind of camping rig do you have?
Ronda: I have a Big Woody Campers – U-Finish Teardrop Trailer. Currently, I tow with a Jeep Compass. When I bought the Teardrop, I had a blue convertible PT Cruiser. Unfortunately, on my second trip out in my trailer, I was hit head on on a winding mountain road and my PT Cruiser was totaled. Luckily my trailer was unharmed. The Teardrop and the PT Cruiser were the perfect pair. But my Jeep Compass works well also.
My trailer is very cozy. I’ve made it so that I don’t feel lonely when I’m on the road. I have a TV and DVD player in the camper. I run it off electricity if the campground supplies it but I have a marine battery that I use otherwise. The marine battery runs the lights in my camper but can also run the TV, my hair dryer, charge my cell phone all through an inverter if I don’t have access to electricity. I’m set no matter where I go. My TV can be turned around so that it can be watched from inside the camper or from outside the camper.
Levonne: Please tell about your history of acquiring and building your trailer.
Ronda: I saw my first Teardrop trailer on Highway 101 up in the redwoods. When I saw it, I knew I wanted one. I researched for four months until I came across Big Woody Campers. My budget was limited so I picked up the phone and called the manufacturer and made arrangements. I purchased the “U-Finish.” I paid him one third up front, one third part way through and the last payment I sent to him before he delivered the trailer kit.
I was going through one of life’s difficult times and had moved into my sister’s house. I lived in just a bedroom after getting rid of my pets, furniture, house and all of my belongings. I needed a change but wasn’t sure exactly what.This was the perfect project for me while living at my sister’s. My brother-in-law does a lot of work with wood so he had every tool I could have possibly needed. When the trailer kit came home, my brother-in-law made me sit down and draw a plan. He was my coach and my project manager. He would go away and be a fireman for a couple of days then come home and ask me how I’d done. There were many times when he straightened out my crooked edges, checked my work, and kept me on track. I worked on the trailer every single weekend for two solid months…until it was finished.
Levonne: What do you enjoy about camping?
Ronda: I love the outdoors, the smell of the redwoods, the sound of streams and rivers running, cooking outdoors and getting away from the everyday grind. I love to find new places to camp. I’m always asking, researching and collecting information for my future camping trips.
Levonne: Where have you camped in with your trailer?
Ronda: I actually enjoy KOAs because they have everything I need. They are safe and my family appreciates me being safe. I’ve camped on Southern California beaches, in Arizona, other parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, from the coast to the dessert. I love to explore and if I find a place I like, I might stay a day or two. If I don’t care for the place, I’ll hook up and move on.
Levonne: What do your family and friends think about your choice to camp alone at times?
Ronda: Well, my sister was the first to speak up and tell me that she did not like it. As a single woman I had no business out on the roads alone. Thank goodness she has gotten used to it. My kids are fine with it because they were raised camping. As long as my sister has my itinerary and knows that I’m staying in campgrounds where there are other people around, she seems to be content.
Levonne: How long do you intend to camp in your rig?
Ronda: Right now I don’t plan to get rid of the camper. I have thought very seriously about selling it and buying an old camper and refinishing it. One with a bit more room. I have a grandson who is almost four and who loves to camp with me. I poured my heart and soul into building my Teardrop. I cried many tears both happy and angry during the process. It won’t be easy for me to let go of it if that day ever comes.
Levonne: Who or what is your social support/community when you are on the road?
Ronda: I usually have one friend or family member who keeps in very close contact with me while I’m on the road. That consists of a report of where I’m starting, where I’m ending and what route am I taking. I love to share photos along the way with my friends on Facebook but mostly I communicate with people I meet along the way. I always take my guitar and I have a huge passion for photography so my camera is always clicking. With my music on the radio and knowing I’m doing what I love, there really isn’t much need for support while I’m away.
Levonne: What is a typical travel day like for you?
Ronda: Get up in the morning and brew coffee. Breakfast and shower then review the map. Depending where I am and where I’m headed, I will plan my start time accordingly. I try to travel as light as possible so I don’t have so much to clean and pack up. Sometimes I will stay put for a couple days but then other times I will hop from camp to camp depending on what I want to see. I like to enjoy the places I land just as much as the beauty of getting there, so I make sure I arrive with plenty of time to get my camp set up and still have time to enjoy the surroundings. I always cook my own food and I eat healthily whether I’m on the road or at home. I usually end my day with a movie on the TV. I have to say that there are often times when I don’t deal with the campfire simply because I’m alone.
Levonne: What prepared you for camping on your own?
Ronda: I’ve been divorced for twenty-four years. I decided a long time ago that there were things I wanted to see and places I wanted to visit and just because I was single, that shouldn’t be the reason for me to miss out on life. I would pack a bag and throw it in my trunk on Friday mornings, work all day then leave from work. Most of the time I would have no clue where I was going. I would find cheap motels near where I ended up and eat out. I believe God created me to be independent so that I could explore without fear. It took some practice but in no time I was road warrior.
Levonne: Where do you plan to go and what fun things do you plan to do over the next year with your trailer?
Ronda: One of my biggest dreams is to visit British Columbia and different parts of Canada. I’m hoping that trip is in my near future. Until then, I will take my grandson camping as much as possible. Since he’s just turning four, I do try to stay pretty close to home in case he needs his parents.
Levonne: What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a camper on your own?
Ronda: Always know your surroundings – research the campgrounds and the area thoroughly. When in doubt I give a call to the closest police department or ranger station and let them know I’m traveling alone. I ask their opinion of certain places. I always keep my cell phone charged and take my heating pad along. As small as my Teardrop is, the heat pad can keep me very warm. I forgot the heatpad a couple years ago when I took a friend camping with me over New Year’s. It was thirty degrees and misty on the coast. A good thing for my girlfriend because our body heat kept heat in the trailer.
Levonne: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you and your camping lifestyle?
Ronda: If you enjoy the outdoors and a big camper isn’t in your budget, get a Teardrop or have one built for you. It’s simple amd the feeling of freedom is huge. I can go anywhere. I’m a single woman, I work forty-plus hours a week, have a mortgage and am responsible for all the chores and cooking around my house. My teardrop allows me to travel easily. I just pack the food, a few clothes, hook up and go. It’s very simple and I love simple.
Levonne: How can people get in touch with you?
Ronda: You’re welcome to email me at [email protected] if you have any questions about my camper, my experiences or places I’ve been.
Wow! Thank you Ronda. I’m ready for my own solitary road trip! How about you?