Monday, July 1, 2002


This story is still NOT funny to me:

SUMMER, 2002
We wanted to take a trip with our kids during the summer.  We found out my hubbys company picnic was going to be at the theme park near St. Louis, Missouri, a little over an hour from where we lived in Springfield, Illinois.  So we decided to go camping an hour past St. Louis Friday night, near Merimac Caverns and Merimac State Park.  We figured we would camp Friday night, we would go to the theme park Saturday and then drive home.

(It kind of looked like this picture I found on line)
A "friend" of my hubbys from Springfield said we could use his camper so we didn't have to pitch a tent.  That sounded so fancy!!! You mean I don't have to set up camp for an hour, sleep on the ground or contend with snakes?  You mean we'll have a toilet, a stove, a TV/VCR, A/C?  SOLD!!!  He didn't notice anything out of order, except it was about 15 years old.  We loaded up the 3 kids (our 2 and our niece Jacklyn), our dog Angel, and headed out for the camp ground, 2 hours away.

We got to the highway and were on the On Ramp and we hit a bump.  Immediately, the camper filled up the the most toxic, horrible, old, shit smell you have ever smelled in your life.  We were all gaging.  We pulled over and called the owner and he said, "I must have forgotten to empty the toilet tank at the end of last summer.
When you guys get to the campground, just dump it, sorry", like it was no big deal!!!  We were only about 15 min. from our house, WE SHOULD HAVE TURNED BACK HOME.  But the kids said they could handle it for 2 hours, better option than cancelling the highlight of their summer vacation.  So we drive about 1/2 hour, kids are settling down, hubby is trying not to hit any bumps, its HOT, windows open (because the A/C was already on the fritz).

Jacklyn, our niece, (who was 13) decides to pull out her magic 8 ball and scare my kids/her cousins.  So Jacklyn started asking the Magic 8 ball all of these questions:

 "Is this trip doomed?".................. OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD
"Will we die?"................................ IT IS UNCERTAIN.
"Will Jennifer get hurt?".............. YES.
"Will Michael get hurt?"...............YES.
"Will Auntie Bev get hurt?"..........YES.
"Will Uncle LoLo get hurt?".........IT IS CERTAIN.
 "Will Angel get hurt?".................YES.
 "Will I get hurt?".........................NO.

Now shes freaking me out and I was like, "OK Jacklyn, put that DAMN thing away and stop scarring your cousins, ha ha ha".  But I had a terrible feeling, and I WAS THINKING, WE SHOULD TURN BACK.

But as I looked out the window, I thought, the sun is shining, its a beautiful day, just very hot, Bev, you're just  being superstitious.  Right as I was thinking that, OUT OF NOWHERE, a single set of big black clouds moved in right over us and it started POURING RAIN.  My hubby went to turn on the windshield wipers, nothing happened, we realize they were broken.
We barely made it to the side of the road, it was a  blinding downpour and we were driving blind without wipers.  We had to sit there until the rain stopped, looking at each other, thinking poor kids, this trip is over.  We went to a gas station so he could see if he could fix it before we broke the news to the kids. Inside the gas station they had this RainX stuff that makes the rain just bead off of your windshield.  We bought it and it worked.  I looked up, the sky was completely blue, not a cloud in the sky.  How eerie.  So once again,  I IGNORED MY INNER WARNING, and we continued on our trip.

About a 1/2 hour later, the kids all fell asleep, then so did I.  All of a sudden I heard a very loud THUMP.  I woke up and looked out the window and said to my husband "What was that?"  He didn't answer me.  So I looked over, he was holding his head, which was BLEEDING, the camper is swerving as he yelled out in pain.  I was confused, 1/2 asleep, looking around, like, "WHAT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  PULL OVER, TELL ME WHATS GOING ON!!!"

He pulls over, says something hit him in the head.  I see the bed above us, and there's a metal ladder that is suppose to be secured across the sleeping area above the dashboard that's now on the floor behind our seats.  It had fallen down and hit him in the head when he hit a pothole.
(picture I found on line.  The inside kind of looked like this.)

The camper is filling up with the year old shit smell again too.  I got him ice from the cooler, bandaged him up and Jacklyn says, "JUST LIKE THE 8 BALL SAID, IT IS CERTAIN, UNCLE LOLO WILL GET HURT."  

I YELLED at her this time to be quiet and stop scarring the kids.  But Lorens and I looked at each other and I had a pit in my stomach, AGAIN, and yet I IGNORED MY INNER WARNING and thought, its just a silly Magic 8 ball, no way.  We secured the ladder and continued on our trip, now over an hour behind schedule.

We get to the KOA campground and it was HOT outside, 95 with 100% humidity and it was almost dark.  Kids wanted to go swimming before the pool closed.  Kids had their swimsuits on under their clothes.  So they just dropped their clothes in a pile on the camper floor and we went to the pool.  My husband's head was swollen, bloody, he had a headache and just wanted to stay in the camper and try to lay down.  That time at the pool was the only good part of the trip.  Cool, relaxing, fun, tired out the kids.

Pool is closing, its pitch black out, we're wet and the temp. dropped, we're cold and not sure where our camper is.  We're walking through the campground looking for it and the kids start running ahead of me.  Then Jen starts crying and Jacklyn screams for me.  I run ahead and find Jennifer on the ground, crying hysterically.  She ran right into some campers metal hitch and cut her nose and face, scrapped her hands and legs in the gravel on the way down.
Now its dark, we're cold, Jen's hurt.  
I was thinking, great, just get me back to my damn camper.

So we find the camper, go inside with Jen crying, bloody.   I get her all bandaged up and tell her to go get changed.  She opens her suitcase (which she INSISTED she pack herself cause she's a big girl) and realizes she brought the wrong one. This was her dress up suitcase that had all her costumes in it, not clothes.  OUR DAUGHTER IS GOING TO BE POCAHONTAS, PRINCESS JASMINE OR A WITCH FOR THE REST OF OUR TRIP!

I tell her to just put on the clothes she wore here.  The clothes she had worn there had been thrown on the floor in our rush to get to the pool earlier.  A tube of toothpaste had been dropped on the floor and had been stepped on, many, many times during all this commotion.  All of Jen's clothes, HER ONLY CLOTHES, now had toothpaste on all of them.
So now we had to drive the smelly camper into town to a WalMart and buy her a change of clothes.

We get back and hubby tries to dump the tank and realizes there's no hose and we can't dump it.  Not only do we have to live with this smell for another day, we can't use the toilet and need to get up, dressed, find a flashlight and walk to the outhouse.  We decide to start a movie in the campers VCR to help the kids fall asleep.  We put in a new movie (we had borrowed from a friend) and hit play.  About 5 min. into the movie, the VCR sparked, ate our friends movie and died.  Now I think I owe our friend a new movie and the camper owner a new TV/VCR combo.  Great.

The campers air conditioner kept shutting off and it was now cooler outside than in our SMELLY camper and I ENVIED THE PEOPLE IN TENTS.

In the morning we got ready to leave for St. Louis.  Lorens' head is swollen, cut, and his head was still pounding.  Jennifer had a gash across her nose and scratches on her head and leg and hands.

We get to the theme park and put our dog Angel into their kennel.  They said they would put her in a big outside run with access to the inside/outside, with a bucket of water.  We went into the park, thinking she would be safe.

It was PACKED, way too crowded, way to hot.  But we had food coupons his company gave to all employees and their families so we got to eat and drink throughout the day without having to go outside to our camper and cook more hot dogs.  The food coupons ended up being for hot dogs.

(I found this picture on line, PERFECT.  Looks just about how crowded
the theme park wave pool was in Missouri where our son almost drowned.

At one point the kids were getting overheated so we decided to take them into the water park part of the theme park (so did about 1M other people).  We go to the wave pool which was way overcrowded.  All you could see was inner tubes, as far as the eye could without an inch of open water anywhere.  My son was 8 years old.  Then the waves started.  The crowd roared.  I see a very large woman's inner tube knock my son over.  I see my son go under the water.  It was so crowded, where he had been disappeared and was now covered in black inner tubes, with no way for him to get above water.


I became Superwoman.  I ran towards him, LIFTING inner tubes with both hands, on either side of me, FLIPPING people out of their tubes as I went along, like they were toothpicks, looking for my son.  When I knocked person #5 and #6 off of their inner tubes, my son popped to the surface, throwing up water, coughing.  We carried him out of the pool to the lifeguard, my stomach was in my throat.   I said, "HEY, YOU, MY SON JUST ALMOST DROWNED BECAUSE YOU'RE SO OVERCROWED, HE WENT UNDER AND COULDN'T FIND A 1 INCH SPOT TO COME BACK UP".  So she blew the whistle and they closed that pool for a few minutes while they called first aid for Mike.  He checked out ok but I was very shaken.

That was the last straw, I thought, how much worse can this trip get?  Now my son almost died, I wanna get my dog and go home.  So we leave after I stop up front and tell them what happened and how it was their fault.  No, I don't want free tickets, I'm never coming here again.

So we go to the kennel to get our dog.  I stop by the outside part to peek at her.  Shes laying down, her tounge is sticking out to the gound.  It was about 95 outside, the sun was completely covering every inch of the kennel, there was no way for her to go inside, and the bucket they had given her had a hole in the bottom and she was without water ALL DAY.  I was hysterical.  "FIRST YOU TRY AND KILL MY SON, NOW MY DOG!!!".
(Found this pic on line.  Their kennel kind of looked like this
except the doors to go inside were closed.)

We got their hose and wet her down, gave her a cup of water.  I was crying to my hubby, "Just take me home already, this is a camping trip from hell, I give up!"  LOL, this was all before the fire.

So we leave 6 flags, get onto the highway, had driven about 15 minutes from the theme park but we were still in Missouri.  All of a sudden, smoke starts coming out of the hood and then out of the dashboard.  We were in the middle lane.  There was a car with 2 old people on our right that would not slow down or speed up so we could exit.  Lorens was honking the horn, I was waving my arms but they wouldn't look over at me and we almost missed that exit.  We didn't have a cell phone and we thought we have to get off of the highway to a phone to call the fire department.

Then flames started coming out of the dashboard on my side then, burning my legs.  I started screaming, unbuckled and jumped in the back as my husband was trying to exit the highway.  I have 3 kids, a dog, we're doing 70mph and we're on FIRE!!!!

I tell the kids, "Get ready, the second the camper stops, we have to jump out, leave everything behind."  There was a gas station just off of the ramp.  I don't even know the name of the little town we were in between 6 flags and greater St. Louis where this happened.  We pulled off the highway, right into a Shell Gas Station at the bottom of the ramp, right across the street.  We pulled the burning camper on the side of the building, we later saw we had pulled in right on top of the gas refueling hole in the ground.

The second we stopped, we both jumped out the drivers door (passenger side was completely engulfed in flames by now) as the kids were opening the back door of the camper. I didn't want them to have to come up front but we realized the back door was stuck, the kids and the dog are trapped and are going to have to come out past the fire.  They kids came running out, no problem, we told them to get far away, but our dog went and hid in the back of the camper.  My hubby finally coaxed her out but she singed her fur and burned her face on the way out.

The gas station store was closed for the night.  We told the gas station attendant  (through the anti theft glass), "Quick, call 911, we need the Fire Department!!!"  He told us, that there was a garden hose over there we could use.  "A garden hose?"  Did he think my "toy" camper was on fire?  What a moron!!!  We ran back to the camper, the inside dashboard was completely engulfed in flames by this time.  Lorens found a spicket on the side of the building and had to ATTACH the small hose to it, then he turned on the hose and nothing happened.  No water!  I run back to the glass and say again, "CALL 911, THERE IS NO WATER!"  Lorens screamed at me to go on the other side of the gas station building with the kids and the dog.  We both thought the camper was about to blow.
(Found this picture on line. )

The idiot gas station attendant  finally called 911 and the Fire Department came, so did a couple filming it, talking about it on camera, trying to do a little news story about my trauma as we were still going through it.  I wanted to smack them.  They said they listen to the scanner and rush to scenes and try to sell it to the news stations.  I don't know if it got on their local news that night or the next day.  I refused to speak on camera, I was hysterical and they reminded me of ambulance chasing attorneys.  I felt like I was in shock.  The firemen came over, said the fire was out, told us we would need to call someone to pick us up and they left.

I was sure it was an evil curse and I was truly petrified, shaking. Everything inside the camper was burned up, including the DAMN Magic 8 ball, and smelled of burnt plastic and old shit.  I can still smell that smell writing this story.

We're now stranded, in another state, with someone else's burned up camper, that we borrowed.  I called my sister.  She drove all the way to Missouri, I was about 100 miles from Springfield, IL where we both lived.  She called for a tow truck, picked us up and paid for the tow truck to tow the burned up camper back to Springfield ($300).  She brought us munchies, drinks, blankets, etc.  She was my hero that day.

The tow truck that picked up our camper didn't have any lights to hook up to the back of our camper (totally illegal).  He told my sister to follow him in her van for the 100 miles so no one would slam into the back of our camper he'd be towing.  He then proceeded to drive 50mph in the LEFT PASSING lane, towing the camper, while people doing 70mph (the limit in Missouri) sped around us, honking, making me shiver. I realized if he slammed on his brakes, we would crash into the back of the camper and die.  I had to keep my eyes wide open, starring at the back of the charred camper I never wanted to see again.  I was now convinced the 8 ball or the camper itself was evil and was trying to kill us, and its not over yet.

So I didn't blink for 100 miles.

My sister was following him, and looked into her rear view mirror to casually ask me how the rest of our trip went. I started screaming, "DAWN, KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD, DON'T LOOK AWAY!  WE'RE GOING TO SLAM INTO THE BACK OF HIM IF HE STOPS"!!!  She was like "Bev, CALM DOWN, you're safe now".  I was like "No Dawn, you don't understand, this trip is cursed, its the Magic 8 ball, its trying to kill all of us except Jacklyn, or at least hurt all of us except her, it wants us to think we're safe but we're not.  We're going to crash!".  I couldn't even blink.  She looked at me like I was crazy and said,  "Okkkkkk, ummm Bev, what 8 ball, what curse, what are you talking about?  Bev, an 8 ball can't cause a fire. Did something else happen besides the fire?"  I would have started laughing hysterically, but by this time I was traumatized.  I was freaking out and sure it was some sort of evil.

The tow truck dropped off the burned up camper to our driveway at midnight and left.  The owner came, said sorry and towed it to the junk yard, said we could have left it in Missouri.  We could have missed that ride home following it, not blinking for 100 miles, and saved $300.  I wish he never told me that.

I got the worst of the smoke and fire.  I couldn't stop coughing up black soot for hours and had some small burns on my legs also.  I was afraid to drive to the hospital but my husband convinced me I needed to go. I was treated for smoke inhalation and released a few hours later.

My niece was NEVER allowed to bring her Ouji Board or her new Magic 8 Ball near me (just in case).

We didn't camp much after that, when we did, we pitched a tent, under the stars, on the cool ground, nature all around us, cooked on a campfire, the night air was our A/C and the outhouse was far enough away that I never had to smell old, toxic shit ever again.   And THOSE were the best camping trips.  We didn't need any of that stuff to have fun.  We had everything we needed, we only thought we needed more.

I don't see how this is one of my funny stories for my "might as well laugh about it" blog,  I'm not there yet.  My sister still can't bring up this night without laughing hysterically.  She always tells me at parties, "come on Bev, tell your camping trip story."  She says, "This all happened to them in 1 weekend camping trip!"  That's all she manages to get out before she starts laughing hysterically, remembering the look on my face that night she picked us up at that gas station in Missouri.  Now I'll tell them to read my blog so I don't have to retell this story.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few horrible things that happened, this is the first time I'm writing it down.  I know that the Magic 8 ball was right, everyone was injured, including the dog, except for our niece Jacklyn, JUST LIKE THE MAGIC 8 BALL SAID!!!