Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rocks, a pop-up camper, a mini-van, three kids and two countries in three weeks

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.

Click to enlarge. 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!


  1. Oh my!...I have to admit I was laughing my head off all the way through...Nothing like a great road trip!

  2. Great memories, love those road trips. We take one every year and I have collected rocks from each National Park we have visited:)

  3. This was an awesome tale and I love how you made the photo work with it! Very funny! Kuddos to you, you ARE a real trooper.

  4. What a great story! I read it a couple of times and laughed both times!


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