For four months, when my daughter Emily was a little girl, she traveled with my wife and me for four months on a giant motorhome trip across America. We traveled 17,000 wonderful miles in our 24-foot Tioga Class C motorhome, through 33 states, on a media tour sponsored by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Our assignment: to talk to newspaper and television reporters about how wonderful it was to camp with our son in a motor home. And so we did, day after day, week after week, month after month in cities across the United States. I must say it was a dream job.
Our little house on wheels became something very special to us during those wonderful months. He took us through Florida’s Alligator Alley and into North Carolina to the same place where Orville and Wilbur Wright first flew on a plane. It took us to Franklin County, Missouri, where I stumbled upon the last corn cob pipe factory in America, and to a funky cafe outside Little Rock, Ark., Where Bill Clinton once had hamburgers.
Our Tioga took us to Boston, where we spent a hot day by the Charles River, chatting with old friends who had stopped by while we waited for the media to show up to point us with cameras and wonder how great it was to travel with us. child.
Emily was wide-eyed from all she saw and experienced. He would ride in his car seat at the dining room table, hour after hour, staring out the window until he got bored, at which point we shoved a videotape of Barney into our 12-volt VCR to keep it busy for a little while. Every time we pulled to the side of the road, she was blazing with excitement for the new adventure that awaited her. What would he find, he must have wondered, when he got out? An ocean beach? In the woods? A cafe to eat fish and chips (your favorite food)? Or maybe another playground?
He played in a hundred playgrounds, whether in campgrounds or city parks. More than once, my wife and I thought we should name our tour “Playgrounds Across America”.
Emily gathered a basket full of seashells on a Florida beach and dipped her feet into the Suwannee River. In Maine, she on lobster and near Indianapolis, she chased fireflies in a cornfield. In tiny Millersville, Ohio, he celebrated July 4 with wide-eyed locals and their parents, who had never witnessed such small-town patriotism. Perhaps Andy Griffith’s fictional town of Mayberry really does exist.
Also in Ohio, Emily caught her first fish, a four-inch perch. He also dined on a hanger with his Uncle George in Cleveland. She wasn’t crazy about fried pickles in St. Louis though, but she loved the strawberry waffle she shared with me in Orlando.
Camped on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, she marveled at the gray whales that passed our motorhome window. More than a thousand miles away, he posed for a photo on South Dakota’s Wall Drug giant jackalope. In Indiana, she and I ran out of the trailer during a break in a violent thunderstorm to take our photos at the grave of Wild West cowgirl Annie Oakley.
Many nights, we made a campfire, roasted marshmallows and talked about the day’s adventures. Life, I suspect, doesn’t get much better for a child or, I should add, for a parent!
Every night we settled Emily in her own bed, which was familiar and safe to her no matter where we camped. Today, that bed remains one of his favorite comfort zones.
My daughter, now a teenager, was too young to remember most of that trip, but I think she will always be deep within her. Today, when summer rolls around, she’s still first in line to get in the motorhome and head out of camp.