We have a winner. Of all the stories submitted for the contest, this one wins hands down! Please enjoy this story submitted by an alert, inexperienced camper:
It was the last summer before my twin daughters left to go to college. It was going to be my first experience with my children leaving home to live hours away. Being a man, I figured the best way to deal with it wasn’t to get in touch with my inner feelings but instead take the family on an exciting vacation instead. My family and I hadn’t been on vacation for a long time, well they had, but me being a workaholic, I couldn’t find the time. I was indeed the inexperienced camper. Luckily, my father and sister were the vacation, camper experts of the family. All I had to do was to rely on their vast reserves of camping knowledge and their meticulous hours of preparation and my family and I would experience the ultimate outdoor adventure. We would have one of those times that as a family we could always look back upon and treasure together. Little did I know but my family and I were indeed destine for such an experience.
The plans quickly came together. White water rafting was going to be the adventure of the summer. Yup, we were headed to West Virginia. We were going to spend our days with the good people at New River Gorge, home of the “Riverman” Whitewater Extravaganza. I couldn’t think of a more fitting vacation. The families started all the detailed planning for the trip, my family, relying on the experience and foresight of those real campers my sister and father. My wife Amy, her two children and I would be in my father’s old camper (that’s all the room that was available in the old camper). My children would be spread out between my sister’s and father fancier and more roomy new campers. Everything was set to go. Amy and I jammed our dog Grizz into the old camper and met the other veteran campers early in morning to start our trek to West Virginia.
The convoy started heading south. We figured the trip would take about 5 to 6 hours, tops. We passed through Pennsylvania and were on a major highway in West Virginia when things started happening. I was following my sister and her husband Scott in their exquisite camper and my father was bring up the back, that way the old camper was in the middle kind of hidden from anyone who may notice the age and lower class status of such a rig. Suddenly one of the passenger side tires on my sister’s camper blew out. There was a big puff of smoke and the camper started swaying. Thank God, Scott got the camper pulled to the side of the road without any further incident. It ended up parked about a foot from the guard rail along this major highway in West Virginia. The convoy pulled in behind the embarrassing looking camper. I immediately jumped from my seat to save the day. I craftily exited the camper from the back door unintentionally allowing my faithful dog Grizz to escape from the camper. Grizz of course took the opportunity to run directly into the middle of the highway. How Grizz escaped certain death by an 18 wheeler is beyond me, but we did eventually corral him back into the camper. I approached the stricken camper and met with Scott to assess the situation. We quickly decided that it would probably be best to change the tire. Again thank God I was camping with such a seasoned camper type person as Scott. It was only in the middle of the process that Scott realized he somehow in all his preparation neglected to have the proper wrench to lower the spare tire. Being the king of adaptation I quickly invented a device made of a wrench, screwdriver combination to lower the tire. In a short amount of time and a little missing skin the convoy was again on our way.
Forty five minutes later on the same super highway the process repented itself. That’s right, unbelievably, another blown tire. The good part about this one was that somehow Scott had forgotten to pack that second spare tire. On a whim Scott and I decided to jump into that old camper that was still idling along side the road to try to “find” some tires that might get us to our destination. Why was the old camper idling you may ask, somehow that seasoned camper, my father overlooked the dead battery in his backup camper. If you turned the camper off, you would have to jump start it to get it going again. Once again I thanked God for his foresight in placing me in a group of experienced campers like he had. Scott and I headed down the interstate getting off the next exit praying for a miracle that somehow we would “find” some tires that fit. We pulled into a convenience store and were instructed to follow a path to a garage that might still be open. Indeed it was. I pulled the camper in front of the garage being careful not to turn the engine off. We quickly struck up a conversation with the locals and miracles of miracles the locals didn’t kill us and they did indeed have two tires that matched the tires in question. While I was there I had a new battery put in my old camper. We returned to the embarrassing sight and again changed a tire. At this point Scott in his ultimate camper knowledge and wisdom noticed that all the tires on his exquisite camper appeared to be dry rotted. God in his goodness has blessed me with all this camper experience, knowledge, wisdom and preparation. We changed the worst of the dry rotted tires and decided we were going to try to make it to our campsite like that. Well miracles of miracles we made it. Once at the campsite and upon further review Scott decided that the following day he would purchase 4 more new tires and we would change them also, just incase. That would bring the total of changed tires on this one camping trip to seven.
Later that night, around the campfire we all were talking about the events of the day. For my part I was praising everyone for all their knowledge, experience and preparation for such a great day of travel. Our 6 hour trip somehow had doubled in length, but what do I know I’m not a camper guy. Somehow the events of the day as outlined by me and others turned kind of funny. They turned funny however at somebody else’s expense. And those some bodies were indeed paying and paying and paying. Yea, I was letting them have it. We laughed and laughed at Dunlap Boy Scott. Just when things started to wind down, my father, that other experienced camper guy closed down the evening with his story of the day.
Turns out Dad had his own issue through out the day. At the beginning of the trip Dad had somehow discovered that he was setting on a treble hook he had left in his pants pocket. Dad being the kind of guy who doesn’t want to bother people decided it wasn’t so bad so he continued to set on the treble hook for the entire 12 hour trip. Only when we arrived at our campsite did he bother to ask my daughter Danielle to get a pair of pointy nose pliers and pull the hook from his pants so it wouldn’t stick him anymore. Being an inexperience camper guy, being a guy who knows so little as compared to the seasoned outdoorsman around me, it was the last straw. I simply could not stop laughing. I laughed until it hurt. I couldn’t even comment on it, I didn’t have time in between laughter. What could I say anyway? It was simply a perfect ending to such a day.
As I look back on that time with my experienced camping friends I can’t help but to be thankful for being taught by some of the best.
I can draw so much from all the little tricks of the trade I was shown on that trip. Experience is indeed the best teacher and I can only hope that such experience will help me with any future camping or outdoor adventures I may try. I only hope I never embarrass my sister, her husband Scott and my father with my inexperienced attempts at outdoor adventure. I hope and pray that somehow I can approach their level of experience, knowledge and preparation. Someday, way in the future I can indeed, if I buckle down and pay attention to my own outdoor issues, envision myself asking someone. “ Hey if ya have some time do ya think you could pull this treble hook out of my butt?”
Enjoy your copy of Fool’s Paradise, and try to keep the treble hooks away from your Dad!
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