Road Trip to a Faraway Campsite
Chapter 4 of my work-in-progress camping memoir
I started working on a camping memoir five years ago but abandoned it after a year of detailed work because the time just wasn’t right. Now I am ready to get back to the work I started and turn it into a true memoir of the first 21 years of marriage and parenting. If you want to get regular updates on this project, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
During that first year of marriage our camping trips were close to home and relatively close to civilization. We had little money, even less time off of work, and any vacation with just the two of us was a dream. All of that changed as my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary approached.
A year and a half after marriage, while we were in the process of buying our first house, my grandparents decided they wanted a family reunion for their 50th wedding anniversary. My parents and aunts and uncles looked into various church camps and other places around the country that could offer fun local experiences and enough lodging for my grandparents, their seven children and spouses, and the resulting twenty-three grandchildren. Even though none of the nearly 40 family members lived in the state and it was nowhere close to anyone in the family, the adults in charge of reunion-planning selected Fort Robinson, a state park located in the middle of nowhere in northwest Nebraska.1
Jeff was less than thrilled when I proposed the trip to him. After three and a half years of traveling from Michigan to Nebraska during our dating years, he thought he was done with trips to the Cornhusker State. I knew that he wouldn’t want to make the trip, so in my best conflict-avoidance tone, I pretended like it was a done deal and brought it up as the most obvious of choices for our summer vacation.
After listening to months of plans being bounced around, Jeff finally spoke up. “You want me to drive to Nebraska for a family reunion? And not just Nebraska, but western Nebraska? You have got to be kidding me.”
“It’s for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. This only happens once. We need to go.”
In retrospect, I realize that what I was asking of my introverted husband was no small request. My large extended family had been such a big part of my childhood that I never considered that the sizable, somewhat chaotic gathering would be more of a potential annoyance than an excited reunion for someone who had little connection to most of the people who would be there. Torn by my desire to honor my husband’s wishes and my desire to see my aunts and uncles and cousins, as well as my undeniable need to be a people pleaser, I continued making plans and eventually he relented.
Once I finally had my husband grudgingly on board, the next hiccup was lodging. At the time I was the only married grandchild, and for the first time my parents, aunts, and uncles had to figure out how to accommodate more than just their immediate family concerns. With sisters and cousins quickly entering the last years of college, the family dynamic was changing, and since I am nearly fifteen years older than my youngest cousin, it was a family dynamic that was going to be in constant flux for quite some time. While it had been confirmed that there were enough beds for everyone who was traveling to Fort Robinson, it was not confirmed that there were enough bedrooms for all of the married couples in the family. I was told that the only accommodations left available to Jeff and me was a bunk bed and we would probably have to tolerate cousins in the room with us.
Nope. No way. That wasn’t happening.
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