We bought a top of the range tent, with the intention of luring visitors with deluxe guest accommodation. It is tall enough that Daniel, who’s 6’3, can stand comfortably in either of its two rooms. In fact, the tent may even be larger than the Airstream trailer. It boasts bay windows, screen doors, stowage areas and cupholders. I don’t know what it is about cupholders in America, but they seem to be very important and are prominently mentioned as key features of many products such as camp chairs and cars – my sister Annie says her car has 16 of them. Sophia loves the two that fold out of her new booster seat and likes to put all kinds of things in them. We use the two we’ve got, both in the front seat, for coffee and tea when we buy them on the road. What we notice is that cupholders make it harder to throw cups away. Anyway, here’s the tent: http://www.amazon.com/Columbia-Cougar-15-Foot-10-Foot-Person/dp/B00170JZE4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1253248054&sr=8-1 We ourselves also plan to use the tent, despite the fact that I’ve only slept in one on a handful of Girl Scout trips and then again on the Inca Trail, while Daniel says camping makes him feel sick. Sophia, though, has been asking if we can start sleeping in the tent ever since it arrived in the mail. Daniel managed to follow the included instruction pack and set up the tent at my aunt Jean’s farm in Iowa, with help from my cousin Vince, his wife Amy and two of their three kids, Leah and Daniel. Vince, who’s always taken his role as Eldest Cousin very seriously, drove everyone down from their home in Mankato, Minnesota, especially to see us. He greeted us with his trademark bear hug, made sure we were all happy and healthy, charmed Lulu when she screamed, and then took us on a ride in the huge John Deere tractor he uses when helping my uncle, Richard, out with the farming. Minutes after the tent went up, Daniel ran over in a panic: “There are millions of bugs in the tent, it’s Bug City!”, he cried, searching all our faces for an explanation. There was none. Does anyone know whether tents are supposed to attract bugs? There was no mention of this phenomenon in the many customer reviews on Amazon. A few hours later, there was carnage in the tent, where all the bugs had met their end. Ladybugs, gnats, flies, sweatbugs (they look like small bees, but don’t sting), strewn all over the tent floor, in between the mesh screens and zip-up windows and lining the seams. To say say they numbered in the thousands and were measured in half-inches is not an exaggeration. So the tent remained erect from Sunday afternoon until Thursday evening, when Sophia and I went in with a Shop Vac, trying not to hoover up the couple dozen or so daddy long-legs feasting on the carcasses. Of course, then a bunch more bugs flew in. And then the poles for the bay windows got bent out of shape. We have to call Columbia and figure out the tent thing.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.