As I’ve mentioned countless times, we are campers. Outdoorsy folks. With limits, of course. You will never see us riding a mountain bike up a 20% grade through thick forest and jumping the bikes over large boulders. Or rappelling up a vertical slab of rock above a river of whitewater below. We like to walk around on easy paths and occasionally flex our muscles in order to hoist up our smart phones and take a picture of some beautiful scene. Yeah, that’s our style of “outdoorsy”.
Now after all these years of camping we own a fifth wheel. We glamp.
But we started out with this:
|Ottawa County Lake. My nephew and our little girl. 1978
Then we bought a used Palomino tent trailer which was all tricked out with a stove AND oven, as well as a tiny little electric fridge. It did not, however, have AC. Or a toilet. But it was several steps up from above tent and we had good times in the old Palomino.
| Palomino from the 1970’s
And then, sometime in the early 1990’s we became the owners of a used 1976 motorhome. Very cheap. Yes, we had hit the big time when it came to camping.
You may have heard of the various classifications of motorhomes. Class A is the top of the line with heavy duty engine and deluxe interiors. Sturdy as an 18 wheeler but often as luxurious as a tour bus for a rock star. Class B are like oversized vans equipped for camping. Class C are like one-ton trucks with a permanently attached oversized truck camper.
The motorhome we bought? It was a mini-ish motorhome. I would classify it as a Class F motorhome. When searching for pictures of it in my boxes of old pictures, there were none. When googling the internet for pictures of this model/year of RV, Skamper, there were ZERO pictures. So, Class F, for Forgotten.
But my family will never forget this particular camping vehicle.
Our maiden voyage in it to nearby Ottawa County Lake was a resounding success and we were dancing on tiptoe with excitement to take it on a trip to southwest Colorado where we camped every year.
Sleeping space for us in the Skamper was limited to an overcab bunk the size of a full bed. No ladder. Which meant we stepped on the “sofa” and threw our leg way up over the side of the overcab bed and then climbed on in. That right there is quite the feat for someone like me whose pants inseam barely measures a double digit number. But I adapted and eventually could have qualified for the Olympics should such an athletic event have been offered.
We did pretty quickly upon gaining ownership notice a leak in the closet area of the camper. So we just didn’t use that closet. No biggie.
And then of course right away on our first long trip to Colorado we learned that sometimes to start the engine it was necessary to open the hood and insert a flat head screwdriver into the….. carburetor? Or something. Anyway, it involved holding some sort of flap deal open so that the engine would get gas and then Voila the engine would turn over. I got pretty good at it. No biggie.
In order to have a spare vehicle to drive we started towing our little Chevy S-10 pickup behind the RV. Worked well in flatland Kansas. However on a long trip from Kansas to New Mexico to SW Colorado we learned that climbing even a low grade hill with the S-10 in tow caused the camper to pretty nearly come to a complete stop. So, we disconnected the S-10 and I drove it while the hubby drove the RV for the rest of our long trip. No biggie.
A little window in the overcab bed section blew out somewhere near Walsenberg on one of our first trips to the mountains. It was just a little window. We taped a trash bag over the hole and carried on. Happily, no rain at all on that trip. We replaced the window later on. No biggie.
On one of our first return trips home from the mountains the motorhome very gradually slowed down to a complete stop right there on a remote road between Walsenberg and LaJunta. We were able to somehow limp into a farmhouse driveway and the hubby diagnosed alternator failure. He was able to get an alternator in La Junta and replace the failed one. This became a rather routine experience on future trips to Colorado. Our RV seemed to have a disposable alternator with short lifespan. No biggie?? Hmmm. Maybe a slight biggie.
And then came the year for a big old family camping trip gathering in SW Colorado. Several families would be camping together. We were all so excited for this trip and planned to have the time of our lives, I tell you. Of course we had our flat head screwdriver on hand for starting the engine. And we were prepared for the routine alternator replacement. We were armed with stellar attitudes and fully expecting to have FUN!!
Southwest Colorado has a monsoon season. Most trips we typically lucked out and only had a random shower here and there with entertaining thunderstorms. No biggie.
Until the year of the big old family camping trip gathering. It rained pretty much night and day. We entertained ourselves by playing dominoes in one of the campground buildings. And having boat races down the streams through the campground with “boats” we made out of solo cups, etc. Good times. During the day, anyway.
The skylight over our bed began leaking just a tiny bit the first night of the monsoon. Just a drip here and there. No biggie.
The second night of monsoon the leaky drip turned into two or three leaky drips and I struggled to sleep. I cannot say “no biggie”. My ability to function the next day was affected. My usual sunny disposition was altered to at least partly cloudy.
The next night of monsoon the skylight leak worsened and though my husband seemed to tolerate it, I could not. I was exhausted. I was not happy. My disposition had morphed from partly cloudy to overcast to severe storm with loud wailing and heavy tears.
In order to cope with the leak I determined that sleep was not in the cards and I needed to just get out of bed. So I climbed over the hubby and hurled myself off the bed and onto the floor below. I got a metal cooking pan and placed it on my side of the bed under the leak. The sound of drips hitting the metal was just so very soothing. No. It was not.
I deeply needed to distract myself from the sound of water dripping on metal, so I decided to sit and read a book the rest of the night. The only book in the camper was “The Other Side of the Ocean”. Good grief. Ocean, rainwater, sad story line, leaky camper. Winning combination, huh? But I sat myself in the comfortable dining chair and started reading. A few sentences into the book the skylight above the living area started leaking quite profusely. The words on the page blurred either from the water pouring through the skylight or my tears pouring from my face.
BIGGIE. Great big BIGGIE. EPIC biggie. That was the final straw for me.
The next day was our last day of that trip and for the first time ever I was ecstatic to be leaving the mountains and heading home.
And happily we made it through Walsenberg, La Junta, eastern Colorado and onto I-70 without any engine issues!! My heart was happy and I just could not wait to get home. The hubby and I chatted about future camping trips and how we might need to consider a change of camping vehicle. Although, hey, we could probably patch up the leaks and still use the old Skamper. No biggie.
We were just rolling along I-70 somewhere in western Kansas near absolutely nothing but cornfields and open spaces when there was a very ominous loud bang coming from the engine. DeWayne gripped the steering wheel and said “I’m going to try and pull this thing onto the shoulder and we need to bail out immediately and roll into the ditch. I think the engine’s going to explode.” Well I was all about rolling into a ditch on a 100 degree day in western Kansas. You know it.
No rolling into the ditch was necessary. The engine did not blow up. The engine did, however, completely cease to function. We didn’t roll into the ditch, but we did wait in the shade of the camper until AAA came and towed our camper to Hays, Kansas.
And shortly after this trip, we purchased our next camper. A brand new Coleman Cheyenne tent trailer complete with air conditioner and porta-potty. Ahhhhhh. No leaks, no alternators, no flathead screwdriver needed to get her going.
|Our Coleman on a wonderful trip in Buena Vista, Colorado
Oh the fun little stories that old Skamper gave us. Worth all of the few dimes we spent to buy it. I just cannot believe there are no pictures of it in the multitude of camping trip pictures over the years. Believe me, there are images in my mind that will remain for as long as I live. Oh my.