By Gerry Bruder
When I was a new RVer, I rushed from campground to campground like a shopper scurrying through the aisles at a department store on half-price Saturday. So much to see, so little time! Rarely did I spend more than a day in one place. I’d pull into a campground in the afternoon, sample the attractions, hike some of the trails, and be on my way to another campground by noon the next day.
Then I got married. At first, Suzanne tolerated my whirlwind RV pace. But she’s a laid-back, spiritual person who prefers strolling to striding, and soon she began to protest what she dubbed our “one-night stands.” We ought to stay a week, she said, to relax and properly explore a destination. I maintained that with so many interesting places to visit, we should keep moving to squeeze in all we could in the allotted vacation time.
So we compromised: at least three days everywhere, unless a long distance between destinations, or bad weather or mechanical trouble en route, necessitated an overnight stop. We could stay longer than three days, if each of us agreed.
While Suzanne reveled in the extra time, I felt shackled at first. After the usual post-arrival sightseeing at a particular campground, I’d find myself inside our fifth-wheel, reviewing the route to the next destination on the road atlas, oppressed with another day or two until the three-day rule permitted a departure. To occupy myself, I began revisiting the local attractions. I also started spending more time there initially, knowing I had three days to fill. (With Suzanne holding my hand to slow me down, it was impossible to rush around, anyway.)
Now I studied museum exhibits tucked into corners I would have hurried by before. I read informational placards I would have previously ignored, and attended educational talks by rangers I would have avoided in a one-day visit. Soon, I found myself admitting that the additional attention enriched each experience, just as reading a book is more meaningful than merely skimming it. We were stopping at fewer campgrounds but enjoying each one more.
LINGERING AT DESTINATIONS also created opportunities for day trips that added further spice. On a recent RV outing we stayed at Three-Island Crossing State Park in southwestern Idaho. My one-day habit would have restricted us to sights within the park. Because of the three-day rule, we had the freedom to hike a whole afternoon in Little City of Rocks 30 miles away, a BLM-administered valley of wondrous gargoyle-like rock formations.
On the same vacation our three days at Massacre Rocks State Park, in south central Idaho, allowed a 60-mile drive to the original site of old Fort Hall, a major trading post and Oregon Trail refuge built on the Snake River in 1832. The site lies in a remote section of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, and we had to obtain written permission from the Tribal Business Council to enter the area. Without a commitment to stay at least three days at the state park, we might have left before taking the time to savor the sense of history that radiates from this quiet place.
But for the three-day rule, in fact, we might not have learned about Little City of Rocks or the old Fort Hall site at all. On my own, I had done only minimal research for a trip. Instead, I would choose a general region — southern Utah, say — and plan on making spontaneous stops at campgrounds within it as I came to them. If a particular spot seemed especially interesting, I would linger. If not — another one-night stand. Now, under the three-day rule, we research extensively not only the region but specific campgrounds and their surrounding areas to select those that promise to best justify three days of our time. That’s how we discovered these two highlights.