My dad built the ultimate camping trailer when we were kids. It had compartments for every item from the tent and coffeepot to the Coleman stove. It was a rolling shadow box of camping gear that pulled behind our family station wagon.
We would travel each summer to a different destination mapped out on our free Shell gasoline station map and handy camper guide. Mom had the check-off list for everything we needed. We travelled to the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Yellow Stone. It was there in these national treasures we had our National Lampoon moments.
There was the time we were camping when, in the middle of the night, my sister needed to go to the bathroom. I was charged with walking her to the public restroom. Just as we began to leave, out of our camping spot a large black bear walked in front of us. She screamed and we both ran back into the tent scared. We watched out the tent window as the bear moved from camping area to camping area, destroying ice chests and picnic baskets. On another night, in the middle of the night, a bear chased a small squirrel up and over our tent. My mom used hairspray to coat the bear paw prints that went up the side of the tent just above where my brothers, sisters and I slept.
Other wacky, crazy events from my childhood summer vacations include once, while horseback riding in the mountains, my horse spooked, broke from the pack and bolted across a field, stopping at a fence and launching me from the saddle. Another adventure ended in disaster when I tried a shortcut down a steep cliff face where I lost my footing, slid and rolled to the bottom. My hands were cut up and my body bruised. I remember camping up on a mountain side once and watching a tornado in the valley below. I was frightened and kept asking my parents what we would do if it came after us. They explained we would just lay in a ditch, but that it would not come up the mountain. It didn’t. I did, however, become mindful of ditches at every camping area thereafter.
My kids are creating their own vacation memories. Jon–Michael remembers when we were passing through north Texas and entered the town of Dumas, Texas. He thinks “Dumas” is funny. He also tells of the time we were driving along a highway in Colorado when we passed two guys in Ninja suits with a sign that read “Free Ninja Hugs.” My daughter on the other hand remembers horses and young cowboy wranglers at the dude ranch and surf camp instructors -- uggg.
Jesus had a wacky vacation when He was young. His family went to celebrate the Passover, a must back then, and when his family was leaving, that nutty, crazy kid Jesus, then 12, slipped off and his parents left without Him. They each thought the other one knew where He was -- that He was with His buddies chasing camels or something. When they realized He was not with them, they had to go all the way back to town. They finally tracked Him down inside a temple teaching the adults.
That, for Joseph and Mary, was the moment they realized Jesus was going to be leaving their care soon. They realized that their time parenting Him was coming to a close and the intimate childhood moments and time together was to be savored.
The memories of time together, be it summer vacations or family night at home watching a movie, are precious moments etched in our hearts and, in many ways, make us who we are. I am sure those camping adventures as a young boy are a big part of why I am an outdoor writer and love outdoor adventure.
A favorite quote from “Vacation” -- Clark: “Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”
This summer I am taking my family somewhere special. I haven’t got all the details worked out yet, but I have ordered a really good first aid kit, emergency radio, topographical map showing all the ditches in the area and a large bottle of Tylenol. You need to be prepared.
God bless, TJ
God bless, TJ