Monday, August 21, 2017

Ode to the Chateau Graphite

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Author's Note: Pronounciation of Chateau Graphite:  Shat-OH Gra-FEET (like the French, right?  Hush, it's TOTALLY LIKE THE FRENCH.)

This weekend, we said goodbye to a friend.  As the friend slowly moved out of the driveway, I felt a wave of emotion wash over me.  We had done so much...seen so much...weathered so much, really.  But the friend was destined for new things and different experiences with new friends. And so, we parted ways.

Obviously, I'm not referring to a real, flesh-and-blood person but the Fleetwood Graphite Pop-up Travel Trailer.  That pop-up has been there for so many of my face-aching-from-smiling, side-splitting happy moments over the last several years.

  • It was there for a tequila-laden day that bled into night when we listened to music, swapped stories and waited for our chicken to fry in the howling wind.  We took a magical wintry walk through the snow-covered forest and returned to the warmth of the cozy pop-up.  That weekend, we were the only (foolish?) campers to brave the weather in the Grayson Highlands.
  • We spent that one weekend just...sleeping.  We were so exhausted from just living our lives that we slipped away to Stone Mountain State Park and slept.  We didn't even hike that weekend...we just took a short walk and returned to the pop-up for another nap.  It was a welcome relief from the demands that reality forced on us at that time.
  • There was the time when we hosted our non-camping friends in Hot Springs.  We shared wine and laughter but, we found out later, did not share the love of the camping experience.  One of our crew found the entire thing distasteful with cold showers and dreary weather.  But she later decided to give us a second chance anyway in more hospitable conditions...and without the pop-up.  She is one of the people we love best in the world now.
  • Then there was the time when we saw other people heading out early from the campground.  We shrugged and proceeded with our dinner. The next morning, with tent poles collapsed and easy-up shelters along with our dishes blown askew and a mix of snow/sleet coming out of the sky, we realized our mistake.  We gathered up the shrapnel as quickly as we could, ushered the kids into the warmth of the pop-up and had bagels before making our getaway with our gear a little worse for wear.
  • The pop-up was a central figure as base camp for our wedding this April.  We gathered a few close friends and family members into a camping circle and said our vows.  Appropriately enough, we retired to our little pop-up, exhausted but happy and certain we'd taken the right step for our future.
  • We traveled cross-country with Things 1 and 2 in the pop-up.  By the end of two weeks, we were a well-oiled machine of handle-cranking, window-zipping, slideout-pulling, bed-making people.  We slept in that pop-up in Tennessee, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.  It was a great place to rest our weary heads in the city, in the plains, on a high mesa and near the Grand Canyon.  

It's funny how much an inanimate object can become a part of your personal lore and even, perhaps just a little, become enmeshed with who you your core.  This pop-up was a part of our falling-in-love story.  And it showed us how much we share the love of the Great Adventure and how much we want to carry that impetus on into our future.  I'm an emotional creature.  I had a little hitch in my chest as that little home-on-wheels eased away.  But I also had a smile on my face because, now, the pop-up is off to Great Adventures with a couple of grandparents with three active grandsons.  We know that the new memories made with the Chateau Graphite will last a lifetime for those little boys whose future surely holds s'more-sticky giggles.  Our collective lifetimes have certainly been made richer by it. Roll on, little pop-up.

For now, we're prepping the Minnie Winnie for new memories of our own...for we are camping people and the wilderness always calls to us.  And there are Great Adventures around every corner on every day.  There are still face-aching-smiles, belly laughs and coffee-and-wine-drenched weekends to be had. And, instead of my usual hashtag of #StillWinning, it has become filled with the promise of #StillWinnie.

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