When my husband was a kid, he and his family went camping for family vacations. My family did not. First of all, we didn’t take vacations. We lived on a dairy farm and had cows to milk. And second, even if we would have been a vacationing family, my dad’s philosophy was, and I quote, “I have a house. Why the hell would I want to sleep in a tent?” I agree with that sentiment.
When I was young and foolish, I let my husband talk me into tent camping a time or two. He enjoyed it and so did our two children. But there was nothing about tent camping that seemed much fun to me.
In 1999 as we began planning a family camping trip to South Dakota, I also began dreading a week in a tent at various campsites, so I started looking for other options. That’s when I discovered KOA, Kampgrounds of America. Turns out KOAs were strategically placed all along our planned South Dakota route, convenient to the Interstate and with many amenities: clean bathrooms with showers, swimming pools, playgrounds, mini golf, and most important, the cutest little one-room cabins you ever did see.
Each camping cabin offered a sturdy floor, a rainproof roof, and solid log walls with windows and a door that locked. A welcoming front porch featured a swing or bench. The cabin’s just-big-enough one room boasted a double bed on one side and bunk beds on the other, a small shelf along the front wall, and electricity. Yes, these cabins had lights, outlets, and either a fan or an air conditioner. Finally, my kind of camping.
That South Dakota trip was awesome. From Sioux Falls to Rapid City, we visited ghost towns and tourist traps, the Corn Palace and the Badlands, Wall Drug and the Mammoth Site, and of course, Mount Rushmore. And after each day’s adventures, we’d head to another KOA cabin along the way.
Over the years we’ve taken other camping trips — to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and again to South Dakota, staying at KOA cabins each time. I have fond memories of camping, thanks to KOA cabins. They served my family well, providing fine accommodations without breaking our budget. But I’m content with KOA memories. At this stage of my life, I’ve moved on to hotels.
P.S. This photo is from a KOA trip somewhere in Wyoming.