Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Little LeRoy History

This post is actually Chapter 1 of a book we started to write a few years back. Since we aren't making any progress on that book, we thought we'd share this little part of it with our Blogland buddies. We've updated it a little bit, as we would if we were back to writing the book.

It’s amazing that Suzy ever went camping with me again after that first experience as a young bride, yet here we are 50 years later, still RVing, and full timers at that.
We had borrowed my parents’ old canvas nine-by-nine umbrella tent and taken off for California’s Big Basin State Park to spend a week camping in the redwoods. Although my family had camped together since dirt was new, Suzy had never been closer to nature than a country mile. To make it more exciting, she was eight months pregnant and was, in the biblical phrase, “great with child.”
All redwood photos taken years later along the Northern California Coast.

We had sleeping bags and air mattresses. Of course, only one mattress went flat in the night: Suzy’s. Like the fabled Princess and the Pea, she felt every piece of gravel as though it were a rock, and the small rocks as if they were boulders. Although we traded air mattresses nightly, it was always hers that deflated while I blissfully slept on. About 2:30 Wednesday morning the wind arose in the redwoods. It sounded to me like a hurricane and I knew that these trees, these leviathans which had stood in place since the time of Christ, would likely come crashing down upon us that very night. In my exaggerated sense of responsibility for my burgeoning family I panicked. I dragged Suzy from her hard, unyielding bed and threw her, along with the dew-dampened tent, the Coleman stove, our sleeping bags and other paraphernalia, into the car and sped homeward through the dark and stormy night. 
The following summer we camped again, this time in Yosemite National Park, with a nine-month old daughter along for the ride. Today’s child protection authorities would have blanched at the arrangement: we had taken one of those folding aluminum framed baby carriers that hung on hooks over the front seat of a car and attached it to my brother’s home-made wooden pack frame. For sun protection we attached the shade from an old baby stroller. As we hiked Yosemite Valley and the high country, our Debbie and her backpack throne attracted a lot of attention. Remember: this was 47 years ago, before many of today’s commercially available comforts had been invented.
Since those days, we have camped and RVed our way around much of the United States, into Canada and Mexico by tent, tent trailer, travel trailer, pickup camper, van conversion and finally by motorhome.
22-foot travel trailer, Superstition Mountains, Arizona
During our first full year of full-timing we were stuck in vacation mode, trying to see everything everywhere. We rallied ourselves to a frazzle with three major rallies. We logged 11,391 miles in the motorhome plus another 12,070 miles in the little green car we towed behind. We spent one or more nights in 59 different RV parks, two RV dealers' parking lots, one chair manufacturer's parking lot, two Elks lodge parking lots, on a friend's lawn in Arizona, and at both of our daughters' homes. We found ourselves camped in 18 states, 14 of which we'd never seen before.
We've eaten Creole in Louisiana, pasties in Michigan, Russian in Kansas, Amish in Iowa, cheese in Wisconsin, grits in Mississippi, and "original" barbecue in at least four states. Suzy learned how to cook jambalaya. We boat-toured the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisiana and the upper and lower Dells in Wisconsin. We became friends with a man who was decorating the outside of his motorhome with illustrations from Alice in Wonderland. 
Leif Hatlestad decorating his coach
More about Leif and his pictures in Chapter 2!

So, that's Chapter 1! Maybe some day we'll update Chapter 2 and tell you about some of the nice people we have met ... in Our Life on Wheels.


  1. After the collapsing mattresses, I'm surprised Suzy didn't throw in the towel! :) I'm sure many of us could write a book about our life-long camping experiences, but never get around to it. Thanks for chapter one.

  2. Jerry & Suzy: we have a similar story except that I was the camper and my husband was the city boy. Our first trip led to his many years of backpacking trips and our 5 year full-time RV life. We now "part-time" in our 5th wheel and spend the rest of the time near grandkids. I've been a reader of your blog for a long time and enjoy your writing and adventures. Dione

  3. I enjoy your writing, you should finish the book, you can make an Amazon Kindle book. I hope to start full timing the first week of November this year. I am hoping to take it slow and easy and not try to see everything all at once.

  4. Great job...loved the story so far...Let's hear somemore!!

  5. Chapter one is a hit. Maybe this will be one of those serial books-one chapter at a time:)

  6. It's fun to hear about the beginnings. My parents actually met each other at Big Basin State Park when they were in high school. Their families camped there every year, all summer, and the dads would come for the weekends. They both lived in San Francisco, but went to different schools. As a youngster, we always camped in Big Basin or Yosemite for our vacations.

    I'd love to read the second chapter. :)

  7. It's a great start to a great story. I enjoyed Chapter 1!

  8. Loved your story...I keep telling myself I am going to do something similar for my kids before I forget everything but I have not followed through. Keep at it and let us read some more. I enjoyed that.

  9. I love your humorous writing. You sure did some traveling that first year. 59 different RV parks must be a record! Get back to that book writing but not at the expense of ignoring your blog writing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Keep on writing it! It's great fun to read!

  11. I agree with the others - please continue with the book. I really enjoy your writing style and you have a wonderful story to tell.

    WRITE ON!!!

  12. Oh the memories of our first camping adventure came rushing in... That was 42 years ago. Like you we have done the whole gamete of campers from tents right up to Tassie our 40 ft diesel. Your story was wonderful and I enjoyed it to the fullest ~ too bad you didn't continue your book writing skills... It was GREAT!
    Have fun

  13. Good job with chapter 1 ... hilarious to read about that first camping experience, but I bet Suzy was not laughing at the time. Waiting on chapter 2 now ... no pressure :-)))

  14. A fine story indeed and what a treasure trove of tales we all have indexed away in our minds. Always a good idea to get these memories written down while we still can and I think this blogging format is an excellent place to begin that project.

  15. A great story and a perfect start to what will be an interesting book. Keep up the good work!


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