When we had our first child, we started tent camping. By 1998, we had three little girls and no longer fit in a tent, so we upgraded to a pop-up camper. In 2001 we added a fourth child and somehow managed to continue squeezing our family of six into that tight space.It’s been cozy and fun, however, and our family does not regret these 14 years of pop-up camper vacations. It’s been an affordable way to travel, and when we’re stretched out on our beds under those tent-like extensions, we settle in, surrounded by the nighttime sounds of crickets and tree frogs and the occasional owl or whippoorwill.One criticism? Set-up. It’s a bit of a hassle. While we wrestled with leveling the pop-up, cranking up the roof, installing the door, pulling out the beds, hoisting the kitchen section to its upright position, setting up an awning and unfolding an unwieldy tarp to create a dry place for dirty shoes, we would often glance at our RV neighbors with envy. Minutes after their arrival, they’d already be settled in, enjoying life at the campground. As I shoved the plastic kitchen tote under the picnic table, I’d smile and nod at the RV lady sitting in a folding chair with her feet propped up, contentedly sipping hot cocoa.Someday, I thought, I’ll be the lady of leisure, hopping out of an RV, sipping hot cocoa within minutes after arrival.I’d snap out of my brief reverie, stake the awning, make the beds, and then organize the rest of our bins and bags. The RV lifestyle seemed like a far-off dream.But two weeks ago, in an uncharacteristic move, the Belgian Wonder and I suddenly decided to purchase a used RV. The opportunity sort of fell into our laps, and we snatched it up.We bought it on a Friday, packed it that night, and left the next morning for a week at the Gulf of Mexico.The Gulf, by the way, is about a thousand miles away.Buying a used RV and immediately driving it across the country may not be the most cautious, conservative thing we’ve ever done. But it sure was fun.When we camp in the pop-up, we cook outside on a portable Coleman stove. In the RV, we have a tiny stove and oven and microwave. When we camp in the pop-up, we wash dishes by the water spigot, hunched over plastic tubs in the dark.In the RV, we have a sink with running water. Inside.The RV dinette is big enough to accommodate us comfortably if the weather is uncooperative.The Belgian Wonder and I can sleep on the queen bed in the bedroom…or a 10-year-old boy can lounge on it to read a book or play a game.The RV’s giant windows offer a spacious view to admire passing scenery.One challenge was finding a place to park when heading in town for dinner and shopping.But we discovered that it can be done.En route, we faced the mystery of a nonexistent campground. A few days before we headed out, I’d spoken with the manager and discussed how close they were to the interstate. But when we plugged the address into the GPS program of three different phones—an iPhone, Droid, and BlackBerry—each one led us to the same spot: an empty, grassy area where someone had tossed an old mattress and box spring.We never did find the campground.So we drove to a nearby state park and camped there, instead.Since then, I phoned the nonexistent campground’s owner and he confirmed that it can happen. “I tell people ‘Don’t rely on those GPS things.'” I told him I learned my lesson to always get directions from a human. He said he always gives people verbal directions. I told him I spoke with a lady, who didn’t give me directions. He made a “Hmmm” sound, so I may have gotten someone in trouble. But I may have also saved a future camper from being misdirected.Our first night in the RV: Oak Mountain State Park. Once we entered the main entrance of this sprawling park, we still had to drive an additional five miles to the campground. The bath houses left much to be desired, but the park served its purpose as an inexpensive overnight stop. Besides, I really can’t complain much because unlike the other campground, Oak Mountain State Park actually existed. We awoke the next morning to wind our way back five miles to the park entrance and five miles more to the interstate, continuing to the Gulf.Several hours of driving led us to our main destination: Gulf State Park, an outstanding park with top-notch facilities. A hurricane wiped out the campground several years ago, so they rebuilt, constructing quality bath houses, a wonderful pool, and an impressive beach pavilion with bathrooms and showers. We rode our bikes around the campground and to the beach.The Gulf visit was too short. After a few days, we packed up the bikes and headed home, with a quick stop at Rickwood Caverns State Park overnight. A spectral mist drifted over the road surface as we moved slowly toward the gate. “Feels like the beginning of the ‘Thriller’ video,'” the Belgian Wonder whispered.”If this were a movie scene,” I replied, “the audience would be shouting, ‘Don’t go in there! Turn back!'”But we continued forward. Using the combination provided by the ranger, we unlocked the gate and pushed it open, carefully rolling into the eerie, silent campground. We dropped into our beds and awoke the next morning to a sunny morning, happy with birdsong. One would never believe we entered that place hours earlier with fear and trembling.The maiden voyage was complete when we parked the RV in our driveway, marveling again at its size. As I carried in a bag of clothes from the RV, I peered into the back yard where our pop-up is parked. It looks so small and humble. How did we ever fit inside?I headed back into the RV for another load, opening one of the kitchen storage cabinets. I pulled out the olive oil and Crystal Light lemonade packets to take inside the house, but spotted a ziplock bag full of cocoa mixes tucked in the corner of that cabinet. I grinned and left the packets right there, a promise to make myself a mug on our next trip. It’ll be the first thing I do after setting up.I’ll sip it with my feet propped up.