When I was a child, camping out in a tent was a lot of fun. I never seemed to notice the hard ground, the insects, or the hot, muggy nights. But as an adult, I have no desire to rough it, so 16 years ago my wife and I purchased a used camper. 

Camping out in our little 18-foot trailer is wonderful. It’s air-conditioned, has a furnace, a cook stove and oven, a fridge, sink with hot and cold running water, even a toilet and a shower. It’s just perfect. 

But our little camper is also 47 years old and just like me; it is showing signs of age. Over the years I have had to fix an occasional leak in the roof, and work on several plumbing and electrical issues. Keeping this well-used and much-loved camper operating has been a challenge at times. Repairs can be time consuming and costly. It also desperately needs a paint job

It’s been two years since we have used the camper. With vacation plans in the works, my son and I decided go check everything out. 

I’m glad we did. 

Apparently after our last usage, we did a poor job of preparing it for winter. When we turned on the water, we found several places where the waterline had burst. It took three hours and four trips to the hardware store to repair the damage. 

We also discovered the left turn signal was not working. We spent a lot of time tracing wiring and checking connections in order to solve the problem. We also replaced both the left and right signals with new LED fixtures. 

But sometimes, no matter what you do, or how carefully you plan, things still go wrong.

We had made plans to pull our camper to the little city of Argonia. There isn’t much to see or do there, but they have a beautiful RV park just outside of town. We planned to make that our home base, and then explore the surrounding communities.

It was raining hard on the morning we began our trip. I was dreading going out in the heavy rain to hook the camper to our vehicle. Fortunately for me, the rain soon slacked off to a gentle drizzle. I made the necessary connections, and we were on our way.

In Argonia, the rain had stopped and the sun was bright and hot. We pulled into the park and found a shady place to park the camper. My son and I worked together to set everything up, level the camper, and connect it to water and power. After completing that task, it was time to relax and enjoy the days ahead. 

Well, not quite.

It seems that when I made repairs to the water line, I didn’t make the connections tight enough. Minutes after we turned on the water, a connection blew apart, spraying hot water all over. We shut off the water and made the repair again. This time we made sure that it was secure. 

Looking back, it would have been wise to check the status of the other repaired connection. For some reason I never gave that any thought. About an hour later, sure enough, it also blew. My son ran to shut off the water, I ran after the tools. 

Once again, we made sure the connection was tight. 

With those problems behind us, it was finally time to relax. I grabbed a can of pop, but before I even took a sip, my wife had discovered another problem. 

The refrigerator was not getting cold. 

I removed an access panel to make sure it was running. I was hoping I would find a thrown breaker or a power plug that had vibrated out of the socket. But no such luck. The compressor was boiling hot. After 16 years of service, our refrigerator had called it quits. 

There was no choice but to move everything to an ice chest. It is amazing how much ice one can go through in three days when the heat index is 105 and above. At $4.65 a bag at the local convenience store, the cost of keeping our food and drinks cold added up pretty fast. 

Things had not gone according to plan, but everything was finally under control.  I decided to grab a quick shower, and that’s when I discovered our next problem. All of the clothing I intended to bring was still home in the dryer. 

We piled into our vehicle and made the trip back to Ark City get my clothing and pick up a few other items we had forgotten.

But we refused to let any of these things get us down. We were here to have fun. Everything else seemed to working fine, so it was time to go exploring. 

Traveling east to Wellington, we visited a train museum. It was full of interesting railroad memorabilia.  Our next stop was the historical museum. All three floors were full of interesting displays. My favorite was the old soda fountain with the counter and stools, and a booth with actual menus. 

Heading back west, we visited the city of Harper. We were in luck, because the Harper County Fair was in full swing. Harper’s fairground is located in the heart of the city and the rides were set up on one end of Main Street. Many special events, including a rodeo and a car show, were taking place all over town. 

We had a wonderful time.

Our little camper is old and pretty ragged looking. It needs a lot of work, and someday I hope to completely restore it. It may not be much to look at, but it’s totally paid for. 

Some of the happiest moments of our lives have been spent in that beat up little camper, which my son used to call the tent house. Given the choice of keeping it or getting a brand new one, I’m not sure I could ever let our little tent house go. The memories we have made in that metal box on wheels are just too priceless.


CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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