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.
JACKLYN'S MAGIC 8 BALL:
"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.
THE ONE AND ONLY BLACK CLOUD FOUND US AND OUR BROKEN WIPERS:
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.
LORENS GETS HURT:
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!!!"
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.
JENNIFER GETS HURT/HAS NO CLOTHES:
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.
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!
BYE BYE VCR, HELLO OUTHOUSE:
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.
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.
MICHAEL ALMOST DROWNS:
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.
ANGEL ALMOST DIES:
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!!!".
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.
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.
MY SISTER/MY HERO AND THE STRANGE TOW TRUCK DRIVER:
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.
HOW IT ENDED:
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.