Pages

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are you crazy? Three weeks in a pop-up camper and a mini-van with three kids!!!

In 1988, my husband and I had the crazy notion to hop into our mini-van with a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 6-year-old, pull a pop-up camper across the middle of Canada and back across the biggest part of the United States for three weeks. It was the best trip we've ever taken, but it had its moments.

The rocks came from around Thunder Bay.

1. We left home on the third week of July. Home was Ironton, Ohio.

2. We had a flat tire on the camper. Luckily it came with a spare.

3. Spent the night in a provincial campground on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. Shortly before we got into our comfy slideout beds, an intense thunderstorm began. It rolled in and out of the lake all night long. Husband and I didn't sleep a wink...the kids never heard a thing.

4. Our second son contracted an intestinal virus from drinking unsafe water. That was unpleasant.

Between 4 and 5 we saw wheat fields....lots of wheat fields.

5. One of the most beautiful sights in the United States....Glacier National Park. If you've never been there, put it on your bucket list. I was scared to death of running into a grizzly bear, but we didn't see even one. We did see mountain goats and a badger. It wasn't without incident though. Unbeknownst to us, my niece had been trying to locate me since the day after we left home. The nice $3,000 check from our credit union that I had cashed for the trip? I had signed it for my husband (don't tell me you haven't done it before!) and the credit union had refused to honor it because of the hinky way I signed it! My niece just happened to be in the bank and one of our friends who worked there asked her if she knew how to get hold of me. How in heavens name she ever tracked us down at the campground where we were staying, I have no clue! But Husband got it all straightened out and it was all good. Thank goodness we lived in a small town!

6. 1988 was the year of the big burn in Yellowstone National Park, but we enjoyed every moment we spent there even though the air was smoky and near the south entrance you could see the fires burning in the distance. That entrance was closed, so we had to change our plans to see the Grand Tetons.

7. So we headed up to the Battle of Little Bighorn National Historic Site. A more desolate place you will never see unless you're on the moon. It was hotter than Hades and there were signs everywhere warning not to veer from the paths unless you wanted to encounter rattlesnakes. Uhhh, you don't need to tell me twice!

We were fortunate to have a Native American tour guide who gave their side of the story. Why the United States ever wanted control of this godforsaken part of the country is beyond me.

8. Greybull, Wyoming...nice little town...nice private campground. The kids were getting on my nerves while I was trying to cook supper, so I told them to take a little walk. Two hours later, after we frantically had searched the entire town, they ride up to the campsite in a police car! Aimee (the 6-year-old) hopped right out of the squad car and started telling us that "she wanted to go to someone's door and ask how to get back to the campground, but that the boys were being stupid and didn't want to because they were embarassed"! Thank God, the police officer had spotted them after we reported them missing! You have to remember this was 1988 and it was a very small town. We were very trusting then.

9. We camped one night in Rapid City, but there were forest fires there, too, and it was so smoky that it was hard to breathe. So we moved on.

10. Fort Robinson, Nebraska was the last U.S. Cavalry outpost in operation. It was really interesting and at that time you could actually stay in the officer's quarters, but it required reservations. The best part was the rodeo. Normally, there are real cowboys putting on the show, but they were all off fighting forest fires in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. So, they turned it into a little kids' rodeo....and I do mean little! Some of the little cowpokes were only 3 or 4 years old! It was soooo cute!

11. Grand Island, Nebraska...our first sight of green grass since we left home (it was a very hot summer). Unfortunately, along with the nice green grass were swarms of mosquitoes! We stayed inside the camper until we left the next day!

12. By day seventeen we were getting a little road weary and the campground we had booked was one of those places where on the weekend all the locals go to camp and drink and play cards and music and drink. I said unh-uh, no way! So off we went to find a hotel and a restaurant. The only time we stayed anywhere but the camper and only the third time we had eaten out in 17 days. I'm a trooper.

We called home to make sure everything was okay and found out that Husband's 93-year-old grandfather had passed away the day before. So we headed for home right away.

13. We only got as far as Evansville, Indiana when the camper's spare tire went flat while we were driving. So the tire was ruined as well as the rim. Luckily we had AAA, but it was Sunday and no RV stores were open. We had the tow truck pull the camper to a service station and made arrangements to leave it there until Husband could come back and get it.

14. We made it home in time for the funeral the next day, with everyone intact and a smidgin of our sanity still within reach. Would I do it again? You betcha! But this time with grandchildren instead of children and a full-size camper with a bathroom!

(This is a duplicate post from Lens.Us.Together)

53 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

OMG this brought back the memories! We did something similar when I was 8 and my sister was 4. We loaded into my dad's pickup with a camper top (and an after-market Sears brand air conditioner that didn't work), and tent camped from Indiana up through the S. Dakota, down through Wyoming, as far south as New Mexico, and back to Indiana. 3 weeks of hell and fond memories. A few years ago my parents, my kids and I drove from IN to Utah (where my husband met us)and wondered if we had lost our minds. Never again.

VioletSky said...

There are some totally amazing RVs that are possibly - no, definitely - more comfortable than my home.
My retirement dream used to be to own one of them and just go everywhere on a whim...

word verification: ingusto

Tattered and Lost said...

Lots of good memories brought back by your post.

My family did a lot of traveling when I was young and we did a lot of cross country driving. I have fond memories and wild stories. My father laughs and says "You sure do have some strange childhood memories."

They bought an RV in the late 70s and used to come down to Los Angeles to pick me up and we'd head out on adventures. Not one without mishaps and fun stories. To this day, since my mother's passing, I try to go on a trip each year with my father in his RV, his third. Always a grand time.

Yes, get those grandkids rounded up and out on the road. Go see Glacier again before the glaciers are gone. It is a stunning park.

Alaine said...

Hello Susan, a lovely story and I'm sure everyone will never forget it; a pity you had to cut it short. I remember a holiday where my uncle died and my parents had to go back for the funeral. They left us three kids in the care of people they'd only known a few days! Unheard of today. xa

My word verification: tacytoe

CottageGirl said...

What a memorable trip, Susan ... and you WERE a trooper!!!! How fun to travel so far and to see so many things!
We were not into the camping. I am not such a trooper as you! We'd go to state parks with little cabins and a BATHROOM!!!!!! Always enjoyed it!


Ha ...
#12 ... that's my territory! I wonder what campground you are talking about ... we have several in our immediate vicinity! Where did you spend the night? Do you remember?

Ruth said...

Amazing trip, amazing plan and perseverance, but I couldn't get over that cool thing you did with the map image and it's all I could think about all the way through your post!

How'd you do that??

Oliag said...

My parents never took us anywhere and Mr O and I always took our kids to the same place every year...no road trips ...but Mr O and I traveled around the US in a van when we were young and we hope to do it again in retirement...now we will have cell phones ...

Your trip made me smile and laugh!

stacybuckeye said...

Wow! 3 weeks is a LONG road trip! Aren't the most stressful trips sometimes the most rewarding? Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

dutchbaby said...

I'm with Ruth, couldn't stop thinkin' about the graphics on your map. Tutorial please!

I also loved the format of one paragraph per day. Must steal idea. Nah, I'll never have the discipline.

My family had a similar road trip across the US when we first arrived in 1966. It was filled with many conflicting emotions and lots of adventures.

ver word: "horib" :-D
you can't convince me these are computer-generated...

Susan said...

Sandy, doncha know that's why National Lampoon's Vacation makes me laugh sooooo hard!!! And we didn't have the Wagon Queen Family Truckster! Or Aunt Edna, thank god! Our minivan was Chevy's first venture into it and it was bare bones, but it did have A/C. We wouldn't have made it through Wyoming and Montana without it. When we were driving back from Little Bighorn, it was so damned hot that we couldn't even get out of the car to eat lunch. We just kept driving and I handed David his sandwich to eat with one hand.

I wouldn't trade those memories for the world.

Susan said...

Sanna, we just went to the big boat/RV show a couple of weeks ago. We get the wanderlust every year about this time! Someday we're actually going to get one!

Susan said...

Tattered, yes Glacier is my favorite of all the ones we've visited. Yosemite is a very close second. We did make a second trip out west in 1999 with my inlaws, but we didn't make it all the way to Glacier, but we did go to Rocky Mtn. N.P. and saw the Grand Tetons. That's number 3 on my list.

That is so great that you go with your dad every year! We would like to take my inlaws out west again before they get too old. They're in their early 80s now. Maybe when we get that camper!

Susan said...

Alaine! I didn't know you were blogging again! I never check my Google reader. I'll be over soon!

It's hard to believe what our parents did, not realizing that those nice people that they left their vulnerable children with could have been molesters or serial killers! How trusting they, and we, were! It was an innocent time. My mom used to let me go all over town on my bike when I was only 8 or 9 years old. We would all pack lunches and not come back until supper! Most parents won't even let their kids ride around the block unsupervised these days, and with good reason!

Susan said...

CG, believe me, this was only half the stories I could have told about this trip! I've probably forgotten some of them! Losing the kids was the most memorable thing, as you can imagine!

We love the state park cabins, too! Although the mattresses can be kinda iffy sometimes!

I have no idea what the name of the campground was...I probably forgot it five minutes after we pulled out! lol I know it was in W. St. Louis and it was right off the interstate. It's probably not the worst one we've ever been in though. I was just tired.

Susan said...

LOL,Ruthie!! Okay, I'll walk you and Dutchbaby through it. It took me forever to figure it out, because you know, I would never want to read a tutorial or anything! lol

In Photoscape choose a photo and then, click on the Object tab. In the second column, top left, click on the squiggly line. Choose full Opacity, #4 thickness, #32 Round, and check the Fill box (or adjust to your preference). Then hold down the left cursor button as you guide it in the direction you want it to go. Make sure you click Save when you're finished with this step.

It took me 20 minutes to figure out to stop every inch or so and then continue, so if you wanted to Undo part of it, you wouldn't have to go all the way back to the beginning! Dummy!

As for the numbers:

In Object tab, in the first column, click on the single T. A screen will pop up where you choose the font and size which is the only thing I did. (There's a bunch of other stuff on there that are probably cool effects, but that would have taken me another week to figure out!)

On your picture, there will be a symbol with 4 characters. In the middle, left-click on the boxes and drag to increase the size of the number. Then just click on it and drag it to where you want it. This was the most frustrating part, until the light bulb went on! Again....dummy! Click Save again and you're done!

It is a really cool tool and I can't wait to experiment more with it! Have fun!

Susan said...

Oliag, I never went anywhere as a child either. My parents barely scraped by, so there was no money for such luxuries. That's why we were determined to drag our kids around the country, whether they wanted to go or not! Just kidding, they loved the trips and were really good travelers, especially once they could read to themselves.

How wonderful it would have been to have cell phones, laptops, video games! But, you know, I think it would have ruined some of the excitement. It was always an adventure, to be sure!

Susan said...

Stacy, yes it was very long and a lot of miles we covered, but what wonderful memories we made! Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Susan said...

Okay, dutchbaby, I laid it out for you up there in my answer to Ruth's comment! :) You girls!

As I said above, if I had put ALL the stories in, you all would have been here for an hour reading! :) Road trips were much more interesting in those days, if you ask me. No technology, just a wing and a prayer to get you there and back!

Yeah, the veri words crack me up sometimes! I'm with you on the not-so-randomness of them!

ds said...

What a trip! How about eight people (nine, until St. Louis) aged seventy-something to nine, going cross-country in an early Winnebago for three weeks? I have lived Robin Williams' "RV."

Now my parents make an annual trek to Florida in a vehicle three times the size of the original & my dad complains if he can't find WiFi! Oy!

culdesacchronicles said...

We talk all the time about taking a trip like this. So glad you shared it with us.

My favorite part was how Aimee wanted to stop for directions when they got lost. So typical!

Ruth said...

Thank you SO much for the detailed instructions, Susie! I wonder how you even discovered that! I cut and pasted your steps into my "blog tricks" Word doc.

I know there is oh so much I have not begun to use in PhotoScape. I did use the Screen Capture feature for my current post. I was so proud.

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

It sounds wonderful -- in that way that only a road trip with your kids can sound 10-20 years after the fact! Thanks for the ride!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Oh my, the bathroom would be priority #1 for me!
What a great trip.
We dream of going from Toronto to the Atlantic and back through the States. With pups, not children!
You are a very brave lady. :)

Carol said...

What a wonderful story. That's one of those you never forget...and all the bad spots become the laughs when you tell it.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

California Girl said...

You either have an incredible memory or you kept a diary. The mapped out trip says it all: a long, interesting, unforgettable vacation complete with flat tires, cranky kids, heat, bugs, snakes, and whatnot.

dutchbaby said...

Thanks so much, Susan. Call it what you want but I call that a tutorial - a good one too! I use Photoshop; I'm sure it has similar features. I will keep these tools in mind. Thanks for sharing the fruits of your hard labor.

Susan said...

Sandy aka, you're absolutely right! It's a much more charming story in retrospect! But I would do it all again.

Susan said...

Oops, ds, I got ahead of myself!

I can't even imagine your trip! You will have to relate that story to us someday! I laughed at your dad having to have WiFi! I'm gonna be just like that...how else will I keep up with all of my bloggy friends!

Susan said...

Bella, you are so right about the directions part! I never thought of it that way! lol

You owe it yourself to drive cross-country at least once in your life. There are so many amazing things to see out there in our huge land.

Susan said...

You're welcome, Ruthie! Now you will have to tell me how to do the awesome screen capture! Tit for tat!

Susan said...

Natashya, yes most definitely a bathroom these days! That was not fun having to get up in the middle of the night and traipse over to the public restroom. Or having to shower in one. Let's just say, we didn't shower every night!

You should do that trip! And stop and visit me in Ohio on your way west!

Susan said...

Thank you, Carol! It's easy to laugh about it in hindsight and it gives me great stories to tell the grandchildren about their parents!

Susan said...

Cali Girl, I wish I had been smart enough to have kept a diary! That would have been awesome! And I've forgotten as much as I remember, I'm sure. I need to collaborate with the rest of the family and add their memories to the story.

Susan said...

You're welcome, dutchbaby! I use Picasa for most of my editing, but it doesn't have as many cool features as Photoscape. I'm too cheap to buy Photoshop!

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Reading your post gives me wander lust....I need a vacation so desperately.

Thanks for the bread pudding recipe below! I've been dying to try it. I made one from a box mix (yes, it's lame but true- Tastefully Simple mix, cost was over $6 for stale bread)
and it was yucky

The Bumbles said...

Your post would have made John Muir proud. Just watched one of the Ken Burns Ntl. Parks installment on PBS the other night. What a terrific adventure. I'm sure your kids loved it to bits too. Close quarters can't help but bring a family closer together!

William Manson © 2010 said...

wow hi there, came over from cottage girls blog, very nice post enjoyed it take care :)

Cindy said...

Susan, What an adventure!

Your post brought back so many road trip memories. One very memorable one was driving from Oregon to Georgia with my best childhood friend when she decided to move south. That one involved a Datsun B210 (with no air conditioning in the middle of summer), gallons of gatorade, a guitar, and various funky motels.

I love Glacier National Park! The first time I was there, we slept in a tent for a whole week. I didn't sleep too well, constantly imagining a grizzly bear visit in the dark of night.

I now prefer a soft bed and warm shower, much to my husband's dismay.

Deborah said...

What a brave woman you were! Had to laugh at the way you just skipped through Canada, and I see that you didn't make it to my hometown either. Oh well, there's always the next time. #8 was great, and I enjoyed all the rest of it too.
Here's to not having to outside in the middle of the night!

Deborah said...

...er...here's to not having to GO outside in the middle of the night...

Cora said...

YOu are a brave trooper! I can't believe you would do it again, but I guess amenities have changed over the years! Your write up was fun and funny at times....a pleasure to read...again:)

Blasé said...

That WAS "crazy notion"

Susan said...

Jackee, I didn't even know there WAS a bread pudding mix! Well, now you don't have to buy the yucky stuff anymore!

We've had wanderlust lately, too. We haven't been on a real vacation in almost 5 years. Unbelievable!

Susan said...

Why thank you, Molly! I don't know about John Muir, but maybe Clark Griswold! ;)

"Close quarters can't help but bring a family closer together" or drive them insane! Maybe a little of both! LOL

I've had the National Parks series on my DVR since it ran on PBS and we just watched the first installment the other night. It was wonderful and I can't wait to watch the rest of them.

Susan said...

William, thank you! I'm glad you visited my blog.

Susan said...

Cindy, it sounds as if you have some pretty exciting adventures to relate as well! I would like to hear about that trip with your friend!

We actually stayed in a campground owned by Native Americans and not right in Glacier's campgrounds. Those were already all booked. I can't imagine sleeping in a tent there! I wouldn't have slept a wink either!

Susan said...

Deborah, now come on, we had two big adventures in Canada, but you have to admit there's a lot of unexciting plains traveling there! ;) I did love driving into Winnipeg. It was interesting seeing that city just surrounded by wheat fields right up to the city limits. At that time there didn't seem to be any suburbs or sprawl. I don't know if that has changed in 22 years.

Yes, having my own bathroom is a definite requirement for me these days!

Susan said...

Thank you, Cora! I can't believe you read it twice! lol

I had fun writing it!

Susan said...

Blase, thanks for visiting my blog! And crazy is as crazy does! :)

Jenny said...

How fun....crazy or not! What memories you must have from this trip! I love it!

Susan said...

Jenny, lots of wonderful memories...thank you!

VaNeSsA said...

Oh Suse, how you make me laugh! The pop-up trailer - oh the memories.We were poor growing up and camping is relatively cheap, so we did a lot of it. I hated it as a kid and hate it now, but I promise to take Baby Girl someday in case she loves it. But you are so right - the main reason I hated/stil hate it is the whole bathroom issue! Not to be crass, but when I have to pee, I have to pee, and getting to the outhouse is torture, especially at 6 in the morning!!

Susan said...

Vanessa, you're right on the money about your daughter! That's one of the reasons we're considering buying a camper, so that our grandkids can have the experience that their parents did. The other main reason for me is the restaurant eating for that long. I can't stand it! More than a couple of days and I'm so done with it. I would rather eat green beans straight out of the can than taste another generic restaurant meal. Bleh!

And then there are the campfires...the best thing about camping, IMO. There's just something about going to bed smelling like wood smoke that makes you sleep like a baby.

But I will definitely have my own bathroom this time! Middle age and outhouses are not a good combination! ;)