This week, we took the camper out on it’s maiden voyage.
As my friend, Dixie, called it – “The Shakedown Cruise”.
In a season where everything feels exciting, a little crazy, and brand new – this was a HUGE First. If you’re like me, anytime you do something for the very first time you worry & stress & fret & feel as insecure as a 13 year old at their first middle school dance. And friends, to be honest, I haven’t felt that unsure of myself in a really long time. (I’m just speaking for myself here – Jeff really came off like a total stud!)
Before we left the driveway, my husband rolled up his sleeves & tackled learning how to run all of the mechanical systems for the first time. He de-winterized, filled the water tanks, and got everything in working order, while I made my lists of what we needed to bring, and meal planned, and made sure everything was in place & secure. We worked together to get the camper hooked up to “Big Mama”, our new-to-us diesel pick-up truck.
(for the record, the rest of the family hates that name, and I don’t care. She’s big, she’s tough, and she has to take care of us – so Big Mama is what I’m going to call her).
We put her in drive, took a deep breath, and made giant leap into our future by leaving our driveway, narrowly missing the ditch on our way out!
It was the first time we had hauled the camper with Big Mama and she pulled that camper like it was nothing. The process of prepping & getting everything hitched up was a little stressful, again – think acne, braces, glasses, sweaty palms, and the first time the 7th grade crush said hello to you, level of freak-out – so the smooth ride to the campground was a joy in contrast!
For the inaugural “Shakedown Cruise” we didn’t venture far. Just about 30 minutes down the road to Raccoon Lake. We figured that was far enough to miss what we would forget (for example, I forgot peanut butter & salt. The boys both forgot pants. Pants.) and close enough to run back home to get it.
We arrived at Raccoon Lake, sans salt & pants, to experience another “First” – backing the camper into our space & setting up camp. That process is full of important things that need to be done in particular ways, therefore it has the potential to be really frustrating. But once again, Jeff – my hero – maintained his cool and got us into our spot, I did my best to communicate and be a help, and we did it…..really, HE did it…and even though I felt practically worthless to him, he was so kind & patient with me! I’m so thankful for my husband.
After getting her all leveled out, we unhitched the camper & plugged her in to the electrical box and were shocked (no pun intended) to discover that EVERYTHING WORKED! I didn’t realize until that moment that we’d focused on bracing ourselves for disaster & disappointment to the point that we could hardly believe that everything was actually ok! We were freaking stressed out!!!!! And, when we flipped the lights on we finally smiled, we hugged & and breathed a sigh of relief.
We cracked open a couple of beers, I started on dinner, Jeff built a fire, Sam walked the dogs around the loop, and we settled in!
The worry turned into appreciation with every little thing – an oven that works, running water, water heaters, the warm sunny day, how sweet & well behaved the puppy is (bless my soul – Millie Mae couldn’t have been better!), how nice it is to have an little old dog who would rather be with me than chase a squirrel, a husband who is kind even when he’s stressed, a son that helps without being asked.
We stayed for two nights, and we LOVED it! And by the time we got comfortable it was time to pack it up & take our home, home.
I could feel our shoulders tightening up again as we went through the newish, but this time not totally new, process of packing up, cleaning up, hitching up, and hitting the road.
And we left Raccoon Lake feeling like we’d grown. Like we’d made it through 6th & 7th grade & were finally in the envious position of 8th graders who’d been there, done that, and had just enough swagger in our step to balance out the nagging reminder that we’re really just one sneeze-fart away from ruining everything.
It was a good feeling!
We were spared some potential messes – a tight turn, a close curb, almost overlooked step in the hitching-up process, the lack of salt & pants….but it was when we were back in the driveway that I made a mistake that really should have been a disaster. Jeff was backing the camper into the driveway (which he is really good at, btw. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty impressed with him right now) and I was watching to make sure we didn’t hit the garden fence, but I was so focused on the distance to the fence panels that I forgot to look up. The top of our garden gate has a big pergola shaped entrance with beams that extend beyond the fence. By the time I noticed, we were only about a 1/2 inch from gouging a hole in the side of the camper – seriously, I bet I couldn’t have gotten a gum ball between the camper & that garden gate – BUT, hallelujah, I saw it at the last blessed moment, yelled “STOP” & Jeff stopped – and all was well.
Whew…….Thank you, Jesus – Thank you, Jesus – Thank you, Jesus!!!!
Crisis was averted, and friends, just like that, the first camping trip was history.
We learned a lot of stuff – for example, when you make bacon in the camper, everything about the camper smells like bacon for a long time. My hair, our bedding….everything.
We gained a deep appreciation for our owners manual. There is a process for everything, and we can only move one step at a time anyway.
We were reminded that sometimes tensions will run high – but we have the determination to love each other well, regardless.
And for the first time we know that, 8 weeks from now, we are going to pull out of the driveway and into the adventure of a lifetime. – And we’re going to be ok.
8 weeks to go.
Oh. My. Gosh.