My wife and I started camping in the early 80's. Susan always said her idea of roughing it was a motel with an outdoor pool. I knew if I could get her to try it, she would like it. We only had a small tent to start out with. We camped that way a few times.

It didn't take long to decide that sleeping on the ground, no matter how many air mattresses you had under you, was not for us. A friend was selling an old 1964 model pop-up camper. This was basically a tent on wheels. You could sit on the beds, though. It had been garage-kept, and was in remarkably good shape for its age. We jumped at the opportunity.

  

My wife, who names everything, called this camper 'Ethel'. She said it looked like something Lucy and Ethel would have had in the TV show. We camped with Ethel for a couple of seasons. Susan wanted a camper with her own restroom in it. One day I was looking through a car magazine, and came upon a real 'deal'. It was a 1973 19 foot fully self-contained travel trailer. The price was in our range. I took Susan to look at it that weekend. After seeing it, she thought I was crazy. I offered the owner $1200, and pulled it home.

The camper needed a lot of work. I parked it in our front yard so I could check it out. I hooked up a water hose to it, and it looked like a lawn sprinkler. There were leaks every where! We had our work cut out for us. Susan scrubbed the inside, which looked like it may not have been cleaned since 1973. She painted the ceiling, lined the cabinets, and really spruced the thing up inside. I replaced the steel water tank with a new plastic one, installed a new pump, replaced almost all of the copper water lines, which had been allowed to freeze and break, and installed a new water heater. The camper sat in our front yard so long that Susan named it FLO, for Funny Lawn Ornament.

  

  

This is a picture of FLO on our first outing with her at Potato Creek State Park. The regular campground was full, so we stayed in the Horesman Campground. The sites were bigger, and the campground much quieter than the Family Campground. We had a great time camping with FLO. She was proud to be clean and working again.

  

We used FLO for a couple of seasons, but we were looking to change again. We were considering longer trips, and we wanted something more reliable. We also wanted a real shower. FLO had what was called a wet setup, where the entire bathroom was the shower. We opted for another 19 footer, made by Dutchman. Susan named her 'Dutchy'. We were camping in Dutchy at Twin Mills Campground in Howe, Indiana on September 11, 2001.

  

There are certain things that you only learn about a camper after you have used it for a while. This one had the bed tucked into a corner, with walls on 3 1/2 sides. You had to actually be IN the bed to make it. You had to start at the back corner and work your way out. Susan hated making this bed so bad that she would start fretting about it as soon as we started planning an outing. Needless to say, it only got made on the day we were heading home. There was also no place to sit in Dutchy, except at the dinette. This was not the most comfortable arrangement.

  

We went to a big camping show in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to 'look at accessories'. We ended up buying a 23 foot Sportsmen camper. Susan named this one 'Star', because, "she was the Star of the show". This one had a couch where you could relax while watching TV, and a bed that could be made without pulling your hair out. We were learning!

  

                        

  

I believe this picture was taken at Oubache State Park in Indiana. We were camping with Darlene and Rich Henderson. I worked with Darlene at Kabelin Hardware. I also upgraded the tow vehicle. I had been pulling with a Ford F-150 with a 6 cylinder engine. I traded it on this 1994 Dodge Ram 2500 with a V-10 engine. What a difference! It would pass everything but a gas station. We used Star for a couple of seasons, but change was, once again, on the horizon!

  

In the late summer of 2003, we visited Campland, our local camper dealer. Star had one drawback . . . a very narrow walkway. Luckily, she had two doors. There were times when Susan was setting up for dinner that I would go out one door and in the other to get to the other end of the camper. We were afraid of campers with slideouts, because of the perceived extra maintenance and problems presented by a slide. We had decided it was time to take a look at them, though.

  

And along comes . . . "THE CAT"!

  

We purchased a 2004 Wildcat, made by Forest River RV. After lots of trial and error, we had finally picked a winner. The Cat is a 26 footer with a large slide. We have camped in this rig for almost 11 years now. We have been to numerous places in Indiana, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and, in 2005, we used it for our move to Florida. We have been to St. Augustine, Forever Florida, Lion Country Safari, and numerous state and national campgrounds. We really enjoy camping, and hope to continue doing so for a number of years. In fact, we would like to retire and go on the road in a couple of years. I think we're going to need a newer camper . . . 

  

Camping in Florida can be hazardous!

  

                                                     

Never . . . EVER . . . feed the alligators!

  

  

  

  

 In September of 2013, I traded in the old Dodge on a brand new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. Susan and I had discussed it, and I told her if I keep this truck for 10 years, I will be 70 years old, and probably ready to hang up my spurs. She said I better get the one I want then. I pretty much did! I got the 6.6 Liter Diesel engine, linked up to an Allison transmission. The only thing I went back and forth about was whether to get 4-wheel drive or not. That option added about $7000 to the already high sticker price. After driving the salesman crazy going back and forth, I finally opted for the practical side, and bought the 2-wheel drive version. The diesel engine makes a world of difference when pulling the camper.

  

In March of 2014, Susan and I went out looking for a replacement for 'The Cat". She was getting a little long in the tooth. We settled on a 28 foot Radiance by Cruiser RV. We are now ready for retirement and a little traveling . . . as soon as the bills are paid, that is! Here is a picture of the pair at Franklin Locks Campground in Alva, Florida.

  

  

Susan calls this one 'Sterling'

We bought Sterling at LaMesa RV in Fort Myers, Florida. I would strongly suggest anyone looking for a new camper steer clear of this dealer. We have not had a pleasant experience.

  

We are constantly reminded of the hazards of camping in Florida!
Diamond Lil

In September 2016, Susan and I went to Camping World in Ft. Myers Florida, looking at new campers. We had just had too many problems with Sterling, and no longer felt comfortable with it for the long term. We almost made the leap to a fifth-wheel, but ended up settling on a 32 foot Keystone Outback 325BH. Susan named her "Diamond Lil". This is a beautiful camper. It has a separate room with bunks in it which we will use for storage and my own little man-cave on the road. It has an outside kitchen which is extremely handy for cooking breakfast without heating up the inside of the camper. It has 50 amp electric and two A/C units for the Florida summers. We camped in it several times at our favorite places, and even some new ones in Florida. In July 2017, we took her to North Carolina for a two week vacation. We spent a night near Jekyll Island, Georgia both going and coming. We spent 4 nights in South Carolina, and the rest in North Carolina. We love this camper. Unfortunately, on June 11, 2018, some professional thieves stole her from the storage area where we kept her. It took us 5 months to get everything settled with the insurance company and the bank. After much deliberation we decided not to replace her. All of our gear was in this camper. We just didn't feel that we had the energy to start replacing the camper and all the gear that we had collected over 30 years or so. This is a sad ending to our camping career, but we enjoyed it, and have lots of fond memories to recall. We had it all recorded in journals that Susan had meticulously kept over the years, but those were also in the camper when it was stolen.

© 2018 KW4G

This shot was taken at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park located north of Okeechobee, Florida.

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