The scent of depression was in the air, as we all knew it was the day to part ways. I scraped the bottom of the gravy can, in a struggle to get the last bit out. That could metaphorically describe how the kids and I felt throughout the day, we just didn’t have much left in us.
After breakfast, everyone busied themselves with packing their stuff and my Brother, Mother, & Aunt all left camp well before lunch. In previous years, my brother was the last one out. This time, it was our turn to pack camp, and haul trash. I now realize what a big, tedious task it is. What appears like an hour’s worth of “little stuff” is really just the tip of an iceberg.
I couldn’t load the truck with a full water barrel, so I started by filling up every bucket and jug I could find, and doing dishes whilst kids took down the tent. This was another entertaining exercise, requiring my managerial skills. The heat was once again starting to enhance every negative emotion, and snuff the positive.
The group had left food and drinks they’d rather not haul home, so we made sure to dispatch a (not) frozen pizza and hotdogs for lunch. With a 10+ hour drive, I couldn’t leave until the morning, so we had the day to finish up. I broke up tasks with a game or two, which helped keep our sanity.
Leaving the camper and trailer meant that I had to fit my 4-wheeler and all my other gear in the bed of my truck surrounding it. This proved to be quite the challenge! Fortunately, the quad provides lots of surface to strap things to.
I still had the ingredients for a 3-person meal of foil dinners, so I taught my kids what they were. For the curious, it’s just a layered packet of foil with any contents you want. Usually, I put some kind of meat or protein to go with potatoes, carrot, & onion. I always heap plenty of butter and seasonings for it all to cook in. We tossed these in the firepit for about 30 minutes, flipping & rotating sometime between. They were delicious, and had my son eating vegetables he hates.
As the evening cooled, I had to tackle the job of resealing the roof. My passenger side of the camper had developed a small leak after the winter, and I had planned to fix it later. Leaving it advanced my plans, so I had purchased some rubberized tar-like sealant at Home Depot. I resealed much of that entire side of the camper, so I hope that does the trick. After, I blocked up my trailer, and removed a tire and lug-bolts as an anti-theft deterrent. I had the kids help me with the bolts, teaching them the tire-spin removal process.
The water barrel broke its seal when I unloaded it from my truck, so I’ll have to come prepared to fix it next year. This and many other issues caused me to take extensive pictures of the camp and stuff we left behind. We slept one last night in the camper, then were leaving camp by 9am Saturday morning. (I didn’t take many pictures after this, so I’m just gonna fill in…)
Stopping off at Klamath Falls, I made sure we had some fresh supplies, and promised the kids we’d be making few stops. My teenage daughter shared the back seat with her dog, while my son had shotgun. They slept a good portion of the day, and I had figured out my FM transmitter well enough to translate my road music!
The truck got a little warm on the long hills, still, but that didn’t slow us down too bad. However, about the same area as last year, I started getting drowsy, and had to pull over for a break. It was about 5 hours into our journey, east of Bend, when the rolling hills of forest were more than I could handle after over a week of camp-sleep. My eyes were the only thing that could rest, as it was in the high-90’s, so no one was comfortable.
Back on the road again, I noticed my voltage meter was a little low. I have battery cable that gets loose, so I didn’t think much of it. However, I noticed that it was going down over time. “Uh oh,” I thought, “that check engine light could be about the alternator, and I’m drawing down my batteries…” While a diesel doesn’t need electricity to run, I bet the computer does. At this point I’m in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fossils, so I turn off the AC, stereo, headlights, etc. and roll down the windows for air. This was to conserve battery until the next town.
After the initial blast-furnace of hot air, the kids started laughing and having fun yelling and singing out the window. We pulled into Dayville, at a quaint little market with friendly hostess. We all used the restroom, and picked out some refreshing treats to patronize the place. While enjoying the cool air, the kids admired the baby chicks for sale, and I inquired about mechanical options.
There was an auto parts store in John Day, a mere “30 minutes” away. However, they’d close in 45 minutes, and not be open on Sunday. My hope was to swap one of my batteries with the one I removed from my camper, giving me sufficient power to reach the store. Getting their number, I called and was told that weren’t willing to stay after, so I had about 15 minutes to get more power. Argh!
I run to the truck and un-strap my camper battery, and haul it to the front. I hadn’t time to convert my truck terminals to top-post, so a battery ‘swap’ wasn’t even possible. I dug out my jumper cables and hooked it up to trickle from my full battery, to another. Next, I dug out my multi-meter which was buried deep in a duck-taped rubbermaid container. Checking the voltage on my truck batteries, they actually appeared normal… even when I unhooked the camper battery. It turns out, my bad terminal no longer had anything pushing against it, and had wiggled loose sooner than usual.
Regardless, we loaded up and headed out with 30 minutes left to reach John Day (just in case). It’s a good thing I didn’t need help, because with my load, I could not travel 35 miles, around turns, in 30 minutes or less… I called the store anyway, saying I wouldn’t be needing their alternator after all. The reader board read 104 degrees Fahrenheit when we stopped at DQ for dinner. Disappointed by the finger-sized “chicken strips” we continued the rest of the way home without incident. Around 9PM, after about 12 hours of travelling, we took showers and passed out, fully and utterly spent.
I have to say, this has to be the most stressful vacation I’ve ever had. In the end, it was worth it, though. I hope you all enjoyed my adventures, and get to have some of your own this summer!