The humble happy hour is one of caravanning’s finest institutions. A time when nomads of a like mind can mingle around a campfire; under and awning; in a camp kitchen and relish the best things of a transient lifestyle. A time when ideas are shared, advice is sought and humble meals are distributed. Surely it’s the epitome of humanity.
But if you’re new to this caravanning and RV lifestyle, what you might not know is that each and every happy hour (and there are thousands going on each and every day in caravan parks and campsites across the country) is a competition – a subtle keeping-ahead-of-the-travelling-Joneses.
If you’ve never happy-houred before, or if you didn’t realise what was at stake, we’ve put together a handy list for both hosts and guests, so each of you know what’s expected, and what to expect, so everyone comes out unscathed.
WHAT TO BRING IF YOU’RE A GUEST
Your required to bring a number of things to a happy hour gathering, and these things aren’t negotiable. If you fail in this, you might not be invited back.
- A story. Preferably this is a tale of another caravanner you witnessed (it could have been you, but always say it was someone else) who had the biggest and flashiest caravan and tow car combo you’ve ever seen, but still took 17 goes to reverse their van onto a site, before giving up and asking for a drive-through one. Other acceptable stories include dump point disasters and awning failures.
- Some advice. Ideally you’ll spend a couple of moments assessing you’re host’s setup, then tell them how you’d do it better if it were yours.
- A bargain. The best bargain is a great free campsite that also offers power, an ensuite site and has a café, but failing that, just somewhere nice, next to a river. Other topics could include where to get the cheapest fuel or what night the meat raffle is on at the local RSL.
- A plate to share. This is the toughest part, as you’ve got to find the balance between best on show, but not quite better than what the host provided. Consider taking a Tafe course in soft cheeses beforehand.
- Drinks. Ideally this is something obscure that you really like so you can offer it around and seem really generous, but be pretty certain no one will want so you don’t have to share. Your own home brew is perfect for this.
- A chair. You’ll most definitely be there more than an hour. A torch to get home with might be useful, too.
WHAT TO PROVIDE IF YOU’RE THE HOST
Being host of a happy hour is one of the most important jobs in caravanning – right up there with offering hand-signals to someone reversing. Do a great or a poor job and people will be talking about you all across the country. Here’s what you’ll need to bring to make sure you’re talked about for the right reasons.
- Local produce. Ideally that produce was bought locally on the other side of the country so you can show off how far you’ve travelled. If the local produce is hard to come by, go to the supermarket but take everything out of its wrapper and dispose of them thoroughly so no one will know, then make up a back story about how you came across this quince made by a mother and young daughter who sell them at the local markets.
- A war tale. This is an opportunity to tell of the time you were struck by 65 knot winds while free camping on a remote peninsula in Tassie. Your awning was blown back to the mainland, but you miraculously found it after getting off the ferry back in Melbourne.
- Souvenir tea towels. Just like the local produce, these are used to best effect when they’re from somewhere far away and are mildly humorous or offensive. Don’t make them too obvious, though – use them under some plates, or to cover food from flies.
- Cork screws and bottle openers. Otherwise the occasion simply becomes ‘hour’.
- A clever, but ultimately useless gadget. We’ve all got one or two in our caravan, but for best effect, you should be using one of them as people arrive so you can tell everyone how useful it really is.
- An argument. The dignified kind, of course, like great thinkers of old. Ideal subjects include, ‘Which is better, the Weber Baby Q or Ziegler & Brown Portable Grill?’ or ‘XXXX or VB?’
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