Tuesday, November 21, 2017


"Get up!  We're leaving on vacation today!"

Soon afterward, footsteps upstairs told me that four sets of feet were scurrying to be the first ones in the shower and dressed for our first day on the road.

It was 1985 and I wanted my children to experience something very special this vacation to take their minds off of the changes of the past few months.  

I was going through a metamorphosis of sorts as a new single parent. So, carefully unfolding a state map of Texas, I highlighted my route in yellow from Rio Hondo to Garner State Park.  

When I was young and still at home, my favorite summer vacations began by loading up the camper with our sleeping bags, clothes, and a cooler full of condiments and hot dogs.  

Mom chose scenic drives through the country so we could drink in the beauty of the diverse land and water features of each region we crossed. 

Highlights of those trips for me were the talks around the campfire as it spit out sparks and crackled.  Laughter drifted from one campsite to the next.  

Hiking over wooded mountain trails to view a falls, far off glaciers, or trailing through extensive caverns gave me close-ups into another world that previously only existed on the slick pages of a heavy book of photos or a National Geographic.  

So like my parents before me, I wanted my four children, ages nine to three, to experience something different.  No motels.  No interstate highways.  No TV.  No phone.

Little did I know what lay ahead.

Pulling into Garner State Park, the last rays of sunlight were extinguished. Headlights showed the way to our campsite, but across from us, lined up like an army squadron were a dozen Harleys. 

I glanced over and considered my options. After a five hour drive with my kids, was I going to back out and go for a motel before heading home?

I considered my options and taking a deep breath, I pulled into the parking spot. As soon as we got out, all eyes were on us. It was clear to see that I was alone with four kids. What was I thinking to come all this way by myself without other adults to back us up?

A procession walked our way and the teens offered to put up our tent for the night. That task was finished quickly and now my kids were hungry. The camp store was closed and there was no wood to build a fire, so we walked around and found a few pieces of kindling, but could not get it to light since it had been drenched when they put the fire out.

We munched on cold hotdogs that night.
What was I thinking?

Tired, frustrated and disappointed in our disastrous beginning, I tucked my little troopers into their sleeping bags and lay awake thinking about morning and how I would forego the eggs fried over an open fire. Instead, I decided to take out the camp stove to prepare their breakfast. 

It didn't take long for me to say prayers of thanks for our safe journey and the kindness of the kids camped nearby. Their escape from boredom was our blessing. Maybe, just maybe things were going to work out so that this would be a memorable time for these trusting souls.

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Camping encounters
Camping Garner State Park

1.   alone with 4 kids
2.   motor cycles all around/borrowed a friend's tent/teens came to put up tent
3.   borrowed camp stove/didn't work
4.   wood wouldn't burn/cold hot dogs
5.   Lincoln Continental broke down
6.   family next to us/husband mechanic
7.   went into Leaky and bought a trunk full of wood
8.   wood vendor had a peach tree/ offered to let me pick peaches for the kids
9.   hiking in Lost Maples saw an armadillo/playing in Frio river/square dance in the evenings
10. friends from church stopped to check in on us
11. slept at Falcon Dam out under the stars on a picnic table, so tired
12. breakfast at Dairy Queen
13. so much wood left over the kids put up the tent and built a fire in the back yard.
14. best fire was that night in our back yard/built by my kids