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Lifestyle Stories

Karin LaPointe: Don’t Wait

After surviving cancer, Karin LaPointe discovered truck camping and the open road.  Today she’s a new woman, hungry for adventure.  Welcome to Ladies’ Week 2011. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … ..

For all of the freedom we pride ourselves on having, we are often held hostage by our own habits and fears.  It’s easy to wake up, go through our usual routine, and then go to bed.  Another day has been spent from our lifetime day bank, and there’s often little, if anything, to distinguish this day from other days.

We all fall into this pattern.  Some of us call it life.  Others just don’t know how to stop, or don’t believe they can.  But then, hopefully, then something happens to wake us up from our life coma.  In this moment, we finally find the courage to go after our life long dreams.

After more than twenty years as a psychotherapist and focusing on other peoples’ needs, for Karin LaPointe, surviving cancer was that moment-the wake up call.  No more would she be satisfied with life as usual.  She was going to change course and do whatever it took to live her life to the fullest.  Her story is a testament to how important it is to seize these life opportunities and take brave steps forward, even if you’re not brave.  

We hope Karin’s story inspires you as it did for us.  Go Karin, go!


Cadillac row near Amarillo, Texas, old Route 66

ABOVE: Karin LaPointe at Cadillac Row near Amarillo, Texas off the old Route 66

TCM: How did you get into truck camping?

Karin: I’ve been a cancer survivor for two years now.  After my recovery, I was at a point in my life where I wanted to retire, but I didn’t want to sit at home.  I went to a life coach and she recommended the book, “The Coming of Aging” by Jean Deitch Shula.  Jean writes about her adventures cross country in a Class C.  I loved the book and said, “That’s what I want to do”.  I wanted to get a RV rig and go.  At that time, the most experience I had with camping was in Brownies.  I was a camper virgin.  But I didn’t want to sit home and do nothing.  I wanted to travel.

I Googled “RVing” and I looked at all the different types of RVs.  Go RVing’s website shows the different types of RVs.  I saw the truck camper category and zeroed in on that.  Then I found your magazine and it was very helpful.  After I read your articles, truck campers felt like a good fit.

Then I met you and Gordon at the 2010 Springfield RV show that February.  At the show, I talked to you and Bill Penney, Owner of Truck Camper Warehouse, about which truck camper would be right for me.  Bill is a real cheerleader for truck camping.  Throughout my decision making process, he encouraged me that I could take on the task.  He usual line was “no sweat”.   He’s right on target when I have a question and helped me to choose my Northstar at the show.  Before signing the paperwork, I sat in my camper for over an hour.  That was exciting.

After the show, I went truck shopping.  As I looked at trucks on dealer lots, I called Bill and asked, “Will this truck handle my camper?”.  He helped me to learn what I needed to know.  I think that’s why my truck and camper work so well together.


First day of Karin's trip to Henalopen State Park in Lewes,  Maryland

ABOVE: First day of Karin’s trip, Henalopen State Park in Lewes, Maryland

TCM: How did you come to the conclusion that a truck camper the best vehicle for you?

Karin: I looked at Class As, Class Bs, and Class Cs, but they looked complicated.  I felt overwhelmed.  I had rented a Class C and that was fine, but I wiped out the door the first time I drove it.  I thought I could maneuver a truck camper better.

I also wanted to be able to have additional transportation by separating the truck and camper.  I would watch motorhome owners go by with a dingy behind them, but I didn’t want to tow anything.  That also ruled out trailers and fifth wheels.

It also came down to expense.  Did I want RV insurance, car insurance, and dingy insurance?  That would be very expensive.  I had a budget and was able to purchase my truck, camper, and other things I needed for just about $30,000.  That even included the insurance.  The cost was a key factor.

Another important part of my decision was that I would be RVing by myself.  I had to be able to handle loading and unloading the camper by myself.  Plus, I thought a truck camper was best for maneuverability and had the easiest systems to learn.

TCM: Tell us about choosing your truck.

Karin: I bought a single rear wheel truck because my Northstar Adventurer isn’t that heavy.  The two wheel drive is fine, even though I had to get pulled out once on the beach.  But, on Cascade Mountain, which is the highest point on East Coast, the truck was fine.  I’ve traveled the plains and the mountains near San Diego.  I’ve been very pleased with the truck.  I sold my Pontiac Vibe so the truck is also my only vehicle.

TCM: What did you like about the Northstar Adventurer?

Karin: I just liked the layout of the Northstar.  I met Rex Willett, Vice President of Northstar Campers, at the Springfield show and he pointed out the good points of the Northstar.  This camper felt like a good fit.  I sat in the other Northstar models, but I felt a little claustrophobic.  Then, I sat in the Northstar Adventurer for an hour and felt like it was home.  It has a stove, bathroom, shower, and refrigerator.  It’s simple, but I don’t need a whole lot of stuff.  My camper is perfect for one person and a dog.

I had a few luxury options added to the camper before I picked it up including an air conditioner, an awning, and a solar panel.  I also have a television so I can watch the Today Show and get the local weather.  I boondocked in my Northstar in Quartzite for two weeks in a row.  I had to dump my cassette toilet now and then, but I have everything I want and need in the camper.

I did recently make one change after buying the camper.  I originally thought I could handle taking the camper off with manual jacks, but it was a real pain.  So I had Bill put on remote control electric jacks for me and they are invaluable.  I just took the camper off myself and I didn’t feel like I was sweating bullets.

I’ve had my Northstar for one year and I’m totally hooked!  It’s become a different lifestyle that I am totally used to.  I love it.


Tortuga Blanca in White Sands National Monument

ABOVE: Tortuga Blanca and Karin in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

TCM: And you named your camper Tortuga Blanca?

Karin: A turtle keeps it’s house on it’s back.  My camper is white and my truck is white.  I was just driving it one day, and I felt like a turtle.  Tortuaga Blanca took me cross country for seven months.

TCM: What have you learned on the road?

Karin: Before I left, I was worried about my safety as a single woman.  That worry went out the window the first week because the other RVers were so friendly and helped me not to panic.

Whenever I told people I was going camping by myself they thought I was nuts.  Some people said, “Aren’t you brave?”.  I’m not brave.  I just want to go.  It took me a year to figure it out.  Then, I met you at Springfield, and you were very helpful in making this truck camping decision.  

A friend later asked if I was going to get lonely, and I said, “You have to like your own company”.  You also have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and meet people or ask questions.  Ask where the local supermarket is, the best restaurant is, or local events.  If you don’t know the answer, just ask.  I don’t have a problem asking.


Karin in Shenandoah National Park

ABOVE: Karin in Shenandoah National Park

People have been very kind.  I spent the night in Shenandoah National Park.  I arrived there late, and the ranger station was closed.  I found my spot, but it was pitch black.  Two guys were standing there, and they helped me back up.  They said good-bye and then five minutes later knocked on door, and said, “My mother wants you to come to dinner”.  We had jambalaya for dinner and I met some new friends.

Then I was in a Key West campground hooking up water.  I was feeling very happy that I was going to have cable television for my stay, but my cable television connection was ten feet too short.  So a guy walked up and said, “Looks like you’re having problems.  I have a fifty foot cord.  When you’re done, just drop it off”.

Winston Churchill said, “The only you have to fear is fear itself”.  What’s the worst that can happen?  You can have a grand old time.  That’s been my philosophy.  I can’t get into too much trouble.  I have a cell phone, computer, and know 911, plus people in campgrounds are friendly.

I’ve also learned that I don’t need as much as I think I do.  I just cleaned out my camper last week and I re-evaluated my inventory of what I need and don’t need.  I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff to make the camper lighter and less cluttered.  For example, I didn’t need as many clothes as I thought I did.

TCM: I heard through the grapevine (Anne Brown) that you just attended a North-East Jamboree up in Massachusetts.  How was that?

Karin: Anne is such a peach!  I love her.  A bazillion men were trying to help me load my camper.  She said, “Shoo them away, shoo them away!”.  She was the voice of reason and made me feel confident.  The whole crew was so nice.  The flavor of the Northeast Jamboree was comfortable and welcoming.  It was also informative and fun.  I am also planning to go in two weeks up to Boothbay, Maine for the RVing Women’s rally which is only one of a number of events planned by this group.  The goal is to have an event every month.  Also, in July in Rhode Island, there is a balloon fest in Wakefield, Rhode Island which the North-East chapter of truck campers is attending.  I plan to be camping every month this summer.   

LaPointe-19-Pima-Arizona_ LaPointe-20-Pima-Arizona LaPointe-21-Pima-Arizona

ABOVE: Pima Air and Space Museum outside of Tucson, Arizona

TCM: What was the RVing Women’s Convention?

Karin: That’s one of the things that I found through Google.  I searched for, “women RVing camping” and the RVing Women website came up.  It is an organization for women who like to RV.  Oftentimes, women were left alone because their spouse or partner either died or there was a divorce and didn’t want to stop traveling because there no partner in the picture.  These women like to RV and don’t want to stop RVing.  Each year there is a convention and this past year it was held in Mesa, Arizona.  

In May of 2009, I went to their local Northeast network jamboree.  I arrived in the dark at Danielson Farm in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  They were very helpful when I got there and helped me set up my camp.  So, I made the trip out to Mesa to their convention.  

The whole convention was attended by women who RV.  There was a slew of them there, like 3,000 or more who swooped down on Mesa.  We had workshops on fire safety, personal safety, and where to point television antennae.  I was renewing friendships and meeting new friends.  I was also finding out that I’m not the only woman who is doing this alone.  Single women go RVing.  I learned a lot.  That’s when I sent you guys a tip on propane safety that I learned there.


Beaching Camping in Port Aransas, Texas

ABOVE: Tortuga Blanca on the beach in Port Arnasas, Texas

TCM: What was it like to go beach camping?  We haven’t been able to do that yet.

Karin: I was in San Padre in Texas, and Port Arnasas.  I had a met a couple in San Antonio at a bus stop across from a RV camp.  They had a Northern Lite truck camper. So we hung out for almost the whole time in San Antonio.  They said, “We’re going to head down to San Padre”, and I said, “That sounds like fun!”.  We went out on the beach.  He had four wheel drive and I didn’t, so when I got stuck he pulled me out.  I wouldn’t have gone out myself; no way, no how.  They had been on the beach before and found another portion of that beach to camp where the sand was hard.

TCM: Tell us about the trip you took to San Diego and back.

Karin: It was a seven month trip.  I did take a break for Christmas to fly home.  I left my truck camper at the airport in secure parking.  I flew Dozer home on one flight and I flew home on another.  I stayed home for fourteen days.  Then, I came back on January 4th to Phoenix, Arizona and started driving back East.  From October to December, I just went westward and went as far as San Diego.

I saw the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway aircraft carrier, and Bob Hope park.  You know, the sailor’s quarters were much smaller than my camper.  After seeing their quarters, I was thinking that I was in a palace with my camper.


LaPointe-6-Grand-Canyon-cg lapointe-7-grand-canyon LaPointe-5-Arizona

LEFT TO RIGHT: The Grand Canyon campground, Karin and Dozer at the Grand Canyon Overlook, and Tortuga Blanca at a rest stop in Arizona

The Grand Canyon was my favorite place on the trip.  It was awesome!  It was indescribable.  When I first saw it, it made me dizzy.  I was awe struck, as I’ve never seen anything that big.

At the beginning of my trip last June, I went to Acadia National Park.  I never knew there were so many big mountains in Maine.  I also liked Tucson and the Sonoma Desert Museum.  Bisbee, Arizona is a quaint, artist community, and an old copper town.  I met the former mayor, an eighty six year old woman.  It was interesting to hear her tell the story of the town. 


LaPointe-17-Jackson_Square LaPointe-15-Beach-Big-Lagoon LaPointe-14-Beach-Big-Lagoon

ABOVE LEFT TO RIGHT: Jackson Square in New Orleans, and The Northstar Adventurer and Karin at the beach near Big Lagoon State Park in Florida

I also loved New Orleans.  I ate at Carlo and Roscoe’s restaurant and had the the best local food.  Key West is so beautiful and watching all the roosters and the cockadoodle-dooing and seeing Earnest Hemingway’s home was fun!  I also went to the Everglades before traveling to Key West.  The highlight of the stay was seeing dolphins jump out of the water and come right next to the excursion boat on the Bay side of the Everglades.

Quartzsite, Arizona was great because I like being out in the desert, serenaded by the coyotes.  It was also fun to boondock for two weeks.  Everything was interesting, but the Grand Canyon really blew my socks off.


TCM: How is it traveling with your dog, Dozer?

Karin: He didn’t go back for the second half of the trip.  I love him, but he just added another element of concern for me.  He’s not a big dog.  There was always the concern if he yaps too much that I wouldn’t be able to stay at a RV park.  I couldn’t take him on the trails of the National Parks.  I wanted to become less encumbered, so he stayed with my sister and became fat.  

He was a good companion and he’ll be going with me on some future truck camping trips.  He’s a little pug and he likes to ride in the truck.  I got him a booster seat.  He could tell when I was nervous driving.  He would look at me, but once we were on the road and going straight, he would go to sleep.

TCM: Is truck camping all that you hoped it would be?

Karin: More so.  It really is.  I enjoy meeting different people at the rallies and going to different sights.  Truck camping allows me to do what I want to do.  I have met people who have extended an invitation to visit them.  I’m going to visit Anne Brown in Freeport.  I thought it would be a one year adventure and then I would go back to work part time.  Now, I don’t want to go back to work.  I want to write.  Truck camping has afforded me a different lifestyle.  It has shown me how big this country is.  Like I said, I’m hooked.

Northstar Adventurer 8.5 in Acadia National Park

ABOVE: Karin’s Northstar 8.5 Adventurer in Acadia National Park

TCM: What’s next?

Karin: The next big trip will be to head south to miss the winter up north.  I’ve set up an itinerary to go to Florida and then west to the Gulf Coast.  I also want to get to Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park.  

Next Summer I want to go up towards Michigan, Montana, and then to Mt. Rushmore.  I like traveling to the National Parks and having a senior pass has made it very affordable.  Because I’m over 62, it allows me to camp for half price.  

The big trip will be going to Alaska.  I will not do that trip alone.  I will probably go with a group.

TCM: I really enjoyed your story Karin.  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Karin: Don’t wait.  Just go for it!  This year showed me that I can do almost everything and I had the good fortune doing what I wanted to do.  Gordon wrote an article about the gas prices.  His main point was right on target.  I learned that you become resourceful and creative, and sometimes live out of your comfort zone.  It was a great experience and I learned something about what’s important.  The truck camping bug has bit me.  After a month of being home, I want to get out of here and go truck camping again.

TCM: I can relate to that.  Thank you Karin.

Karin: You’re welcome.

Truck: 2003 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD, extended cab, single rear wheel, short bed, 4×2, diesel
Camper: 2010 Northstar Adventurer 8.5
Tie-downs and Turnbuckles: Happijac
Suspension Enhancements: N/A
Gear: N/A
Truck Camper Information
American RV Dealership Grand Rapids, Michigan

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