After six weeks and a little over 13 000 kilometres, we arrived home yesterday. We put in some long days on the way back across the continent but we also enjoyed a day with Buck and Chrissy (our “other daughter”) in Winnipeg and a weekend with my brother and his family at their new home in Irvine, just east of Medicine Hat.
When we went to bed the night before the trailer’s second lift cable broke, I’m glad I didn’t know that it was the last time I’d sleep in it. I’d probably have been overcome by nostalgia. The gypsy wagon, as I’ve always called it, is an integral part of so many of our family’s memories. Purchased brand new, it replaced the old second hand one that had taken us on our first few long trips and was literally falling apart.
It’s maiden voyage in 1993 took us to California. Camped at the KOA campground in Anaheim, the children could watch Disneyland’s nightly fireworks from their beds! Nathan, our youngest, was born on July 24th and many of his birthdays have been celebrated in campgrounds. Most of our meals were eaten outside at picnic tables but that year, in a crowded Santa Barbara campground, he decided that he wanted his birthday dinner indoors around the trailer table. It was there that we dug into a rich and delicious chocolate cake. No, it wasn’t homemade. The trailer doesn’t have an oven so finding a suitable store bought cake was always a challenge!
The following year, we went in the opposite direction and Nathan celebrated his tenth birthday in Dawson City, Yukon with his cousin, Martin, who is one day older than him. It was on that trip that Richard’s mother joined us for a weekend of camping, the only time in her life that she ever camped. Little did we know that she would be taken from us very suddenly just a few months later and that that would be one of our last memories of time spent with her.
In 1995, we spent our summer vacation on the BC coast. We woke up on the morning of Nathan’s 11th birthday in Powell River where the beachfront campground is just down the street from my childhood home.
The next year, Colorado was our destination. On the way, while passing through Wyoming, we spent one night camped at the foot of Devil’s Tower, a pillar of stone over 1200 feet high that appeared in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Though some of our earlier trips had lasted six or seven weeks, this one was shorter. It was about this time that spending the third week of July at church camp became a highlight of Melaina and Nathan’s summers.
Before we knew it, the kids were graduating, going off to college and taking summer jobs. Family vacations came to an end but the trailer didn’t go into retirement. Richard and I began traveling on our own. Our first solo trip was to Ottawa in 2001 where we set up camp on the outskirts of the city so that we could spend some time with Matthew and his girlfriend, Robin, who both attended Carleton University there and were both working on Parliament Hill for the summer. Robin is now Matthew’s beautiful wife and soon to be the mother of our next grandchild.
The last time a child slept in the trailer was the summer before last when our little friend, Sebastian, who lives in Hong Kong, joined us for a sleepover. We were visiting his family at their summer retreat at Fintry on BC’s Okanagan Lake.
The trailer has a heavy duty axle that enabled us to travel some pretty rough roads like the Yukon’s Dempster Highway and the logging road to Bamfield on Vancouver Island. It’s also lightweight and easy to pull up even the steepest of hills like the one over Independence Pass to Aspen, Colorado which crosses the Continental Divide at an elevation of 12 095 feet!
Yes, there are many memories in that old trailer. The lift cables can be fixed but the estimated cost is $700 to $800. If we were planning to continue using it, we wouldn’t hesitate to put the money into it. The body, canvas and appliances (fridge, stove and furnace) are all in good condition but it lacks one thing that would making camping at our age much more comfortable; a bathroom. I also think that, after putting a tent trailer up and down literally hundreds of times, Richard deserves something a little easier. So it is that we’ve decided that the time has come to replace it with a somewhat larger, hard sided one. We’ve also decided that, if someone wants to bear the cost of having it repaired, we’ll give them the gypsy wagon. I would love to see it resurrected and used to help another family create beautiful summer memories.