It's that time of year again when families across the nation are planning their vacations. Some are short jaunts to the beach and others involve several weeks of travel. Our family has always taken time to get away from the daily routine. However, in the spring of 1992, no one could have imagined or even written a script for National Lampoon that could have matched our vacation trip. This is a departure from my regular writing of devotions, but in reality, we all need a good dose of laughter, and I assure you, this was the incredible journey.
With four children ranging in age from three to 15, we knew we needed a new vehicle if we were going to take a two week camping trip. We had planned to return to Ohio for my husband's high school class reunion and then, journey on to Canada for a camping/fishing trip with his parents. Having a good deal of equipment to carry, plus luggage, we began looking for a window van. Without much trouble, we located a Dodge van and placed an order for one several months prior to our departure date. However, what seemed like a simple process turned into a nightmare.
One month before we were to leave, we received a call from the dealership telling us that they had stopped production for the color and model we wanted. After nearly a week of frantic phone calls all over the state of Florida, we finally located a gray Dodge window van in Jacksonville. It had all the features we wanted and could accommodate our crew plus all our supplies. The dealership picked up this van and we were finally going to be in business. Now all that remained was the camping equipment.
Knowing absolutely nothing about camping, we looked in the J.C. Penney catalog to find a good tent for the family within a reasonable price range. They had a sale going on so we stocked up on sleeping bags, foam mats to sleep on, a chargeable lantern, fans, and a cooking stove. This was going to be an adventure after all. The tent we selected indicated that it repelled rain which was a must for the Canadian wilderness where you can get socked in with rain for days. It also had a screened porch area and two rooms for sleeping so the children could be on one side and we could enjoy the other. Set up for the tent appeared easy and since my husband had been a Boy Scout, I figured it could not take us long once we reached a campsite.
Everyone awoke with anticipation of our trip on their minds. I had purchased a new dress to wear at my husband's reunion, so once we had all the camping gear, food, and luggage in, I put the dress on top so it would not get wrinkled during our long drive. When I say top, I mean the back end of our van was packed to the top of the back seat. Everything had been placed carefully by my meticulous husband so every inch of space was filled. Supposedly, the order in which things were packed would make it easy to unload for the night at a campsite without disturbing the things which we did not need until we arrived in Ohio. Of course, the summer had been blistering hot in the south. We were actually in the middle of a long drought. With temperatures in the 90's, we brought along mostly hot weather clothing with a pair of blue jeans and a sweatshirt for cooler weather "just in case".
With the van fully loaded, we took off on the great camping adventure. Even though we did not get an early start, we had hopes we could make up time the next day. Florida is a notoriously long state and getting into Georgia seemed to take forever. Arriving at the only campsite we could find for miles, in southern Georgia, we were happy to find a place for the night. We chose a nice spot to set up our tent,
and I began to prepare to cook a quick meal on my new camp stove...that is, if I could find it in the well packed van. My husband and the boys were attempting to set up the "easy to assemble" tent. Only one problem slowed the process down. The Georgia clay had also been drought stricken. Therefore, when my husband went to drive the tent pegs into the ground the plastic tent pegs turned right back up at him. This was a serious problem since we didn't carry any spare tent pegs with us. Somehow, he had enough equipment and "Boy Scout" know how to be able to pound a hole in the ground using other tools he brought along. We managed to get the tent up vowing to purchase metal tent pegs when we arrived in his home town of Defiance, Ohio.
After our tasty meal and clean up, we got ready to turn in for the night. Unfortunately, the blistering heat of summer did not let up that evening. Even though we had fans in the tent and all the screened windows were open, we were all suffocating. It wasn't so much the heat we minded, though, as much as the trucks on I 75 because the campground was only a short distance from the highway. We made a mental note to check out campgrounds a little more carefully in the future at least those that were located further from a major highway. All in all, we had a good first day on the road. Just...no sleep.
Oh but wait....there is more.....so much more ahead on this ill fated vacation trip. Stay tuned for Part II.