My wife and I started enjoying the outdoors about 1981, when our two sons still had training wheels on their bikes and they still had affection for the old plastic, red and yellow, low seating “Big Wheel” riding toy. My Chevy LUV pickup and camper shell had already made for some easy sleeping accmidations for the two boys when we would go to a drive-in movie theater on a Saturday nights. When the hour got late and the kids started falling asleep, we’d put them down in the back of the pickup and open the sliding glass window to keep an eye on them.
We had made 2 or 3 camping weekends in the pickup before we decided to move up to a tent. I remember one weekend we planned a trip to Chain-of-Lakes near Rye Texas. We had the camping gear loaded, all of the boys’ bikes, tikes and sand pile toys. It took about an hour and a quarter to make the drive. We arrived, began setting up and darn if I realized I had forgotten the tent poles! I finished unpacking everything else in the pickup and left my family at the campsite to enjoy the outdoors and explore while I hurriedly drove back home to get the tent poles out of the storage shed. I finally made it back and we quickly threw up the tent in the dim Friday evening dusk light, using our Coleman lantern to see by.
On Saturday, the boys got in a little fishing and a whole lot of exploring along the banks of the gravel pit lakes. It was just great time to be outdoors with the ones you love. Later in the afternoon, the weather changed and the possibility of rain was hanging over our heads. I was trying to grill some steaks on our Old Smokey when the rain hit. I became frustrated, perturb with the conditions and angry with myself for not checking on the weather forecast and anticipating our typical summertime weather conditions. The rain fell; I experienced camp chef embarrassment when the steak weren’t cooking up like I wanted; my charcoal fire was drowning in the drenching rainfall. Then suddenly my wife called to my attention that the tent was filing up with water.
Though we were pretty much on flat ground, I had inadvertently set the tent up right over an ever so shallow depression that was now the demise of my weekend retreat. The water level inside the tent had reached at least one inch. Sleeping bags, clothing bags, paper sacks of grocery, all became wet and saturated. My frustration reached a pinnacle. I lost my cool.
We scrambled to “break camp”! I put my sons in the pickup to get them out of the rain, as my wife and I gathered up everything. I immediately dumped what smoldering charcoal hadn’t drowned by this point, scooped up all of the bedding in a great big wad and tossed it into the back of the pickup. I dropped the tent and literally wadded it up like the bedding and threw it into the bed of the pickup. Our sons’ toys were thrown in on top. It took us about 10 minutes to vacate the campsite. As we drove out of the campground, I watch the view of our campsite slip farther and farther away in my rearview mirror. My family was wet, cold and hungry and it was at least 30 miles before we drove into a fast food stop.
My wife and I can laugh about this today, but that was the day that nudged me into RVing. Soon afterwards we bought a used pop-up camper with a swing out kitchen by Star Craft. We had so many great times in it and we traveled from Houston to Wyoming and back in it before evolving into a 20‘ Comfort lite trailer, then to a 31’ Terry bunkhouse trailer; today my wife and I drive a motor home with lots of bells and whistles. Our sons are grown and have families of their own. They don’t go with us anymore, though our youngest son has taken up camping through the YMCA and a program called Princess Guide; our grand-daughter now explores the wonders of the great outdoors with her dad. On off weekends when the fathers and daughters are not scheduled for a campout, our son takes his whole family to exciting new nature experiences.
Submitted by John Martine of Bellville, TX as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
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