Hot Springs in Ouray Co

DAY 3 — Erica and Daniel Mueller loved to camp. Then they tried it with their two young kids.

“It took so much time to pack and unpack and we were spending all of our time doing that instead of relaxing,” said Erica Mueller, a Denver engineer.

“You could never clean up the tent,” added Daniel, also an engineer.

So this year, the Denver couple bought a small RV. They were happily parked next to us at the KOA campground outside of Ouray, Co. next to a bubbling brook. Daniel Mueller was swinging in a hammock; Erica reading a magazine while four year old Sam and six year old Bella played.”

“I like having a place for everything,” said Erica. “It seemed like when we were tent camping we were always repacking and we could never seem to get organized.”

Certainly tent camping was cheaper and many suggest that RVing is cheaper than other vacations but the Muellers aren’t so sure. That wasn’t why they did it anyway—it was a lifestyle thing, to get outdoors with the kids.

Jamie and Heather Shambarger, traveling with four kids aged 15 to 2, certainly agree. They can well afford hotels and resorts but “in a hotel you take them from a house to another room. What fun is that?” said Heather Shambarger.

Just as important, Jamie Shambarger said, pointing at his kids happily playing in the playground at the Ouray KOA Kampground (, are the instant friends they make. From all over and while the kids play, the parents socialize too. That never happens in a hotel, the Shambergers say.  “And I’m not apologizing 400 times in a restaurant for their behavior.” Not that they are bad, he stresses, they are just kids.

“They have to interact,” says Janelle Maland, from Missouri here with her parents, siblings kids and nieces and nephews—13 of them in all to celebrate her parents 50th anniversary in a combination of tents, RV and campers. They’ve gathered from Iowa, Missouri and Colorado. “At a hotel, instead of being together, the kids are glued to the TV,” adds her sister Jody Schreck who is from Jefferson Iowa “This is full frontal togetherness.” She added it was much easier to keep all the kids entertained in the RV too. “You can’t do a time out in a car,” she laughed.

Asked if an RV is easier, they just laugh. “No camping without running water, especially when you have kids in diapers. That’s my rule,” said Janae Hauser who has three kids including a two year old and is from Colorado.

The Schweizers, who are farmers from Kansas, insist there is no better family time than the trips in their camper. “ Sitting around the campfire is the best part,” says 12-year-old Allie Schweizer.

“The close quarters bring you closer together,” believes Dan Schweizer. “At home we are all going in separate directions and here we are together.”

“How can you experience the outdoors from a hotel room? Heather Shambarger asks.  


With kids who have allergies and asthma, adds Erica Mueller, having a stove and electricity is no small thing either. And then there’s the luxury of a shower. “Sun showers with cold water didn’t do it for little kids,” she laughed. Bathrooms too. It’s no fun to stumble out of the tent in the middle of  the night looking for the bathroom for kids who have to go “NOW!”

Even the trip from Denver was an adventure. They could sit across from each other at the table playing games. “Definitely annoying   each other less than in the car.”

And when they wanted to go to Ouray’s famous hot springs pool, they simply took their home with them so they could have a healthy lunch, and four year old Sam could nap while his Dad and Bella continued to play at the pool.

“Everything we needed was right there,” said Erica Mueller.  “True camping with kids was more work than it was worth,” she said. “This is a compromise. It gets the kids away from TV and the computer and outdoors with a lot less work for us.”

That’s what we’re finding on our RV trip with my cousins and their two young kids in a Winnebago ( Everything is an adventure for seven year old Ethan and five year old Hannah—the bunks with curtains they can close (and individual DVD players), the table where they can sit while we drive—albeit buckled into a seatbelt—that they can get themselves a snack or go to the bathroom, the campgrounds where they can play on the playground or tool around on their scooters.

We checked out the dinosaur exhibits in Fruita, CO at the Museum of Western Colorado ( .where they loved the dino “dig.”  The Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway is a 512-mile route that winds through eastern Utah and Western Colorado with fossils, state and national parks. We   drove through the 23 mile loop road of the Colorado National Monument looking for faces and shapes in the astounding multi colored rock formations that preserves a grand landscape of the American West with red, yellow and purple looking towering masses of rock that seem as if someone must have sculpted them. It rises over 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River.  Too bad we didn’t have time for a hike!  We saw Balanced Rock—a 600 ton boulder perched on top of a pedestal and Coke Ovens a series of rock domes created simply by wind, water and ice. There are arches, windows, stone pedestals and sheer walled canyons. Even the kids were impressed!

When everyone got hungry, we pulled over and had a picnic. “So much easier than taking them to a restaurant,” said their mom Jayme. Healthier than fast food and cheaper too.  After a couple of hours at the Ouray pool with water so warm it felt like a bath, we settled in to our home for the night, where we made burgers and brats for the family traveling in tandem—some in tents at the same camp ground, some at a hotel in town. We ended the night with smores—making one after another until the chocolate ran out.

Call me a wus but when it was time for bed, I was glad for the AC.