Gary: At 8am the next morning, January 3rd, the water was at the hubs of the truck. They brought two four-wheel drive trucks. The son backed his truck into the river in front of my vehicle and hooked my truck camper to the frame of his truck. He slowly pulled the truck out to the road that led to high ground. He got my rig into the sand, but couldn’t pull it himself, so they clipped his dad’s truck to his truck and there was a three truck caravan to pull my rig out.
TCM: I bet that was a show. What condition was your truck camper in when they pulled it out?
Gary: It was a mess! The four-wheel guy and his father owned a car repair shop in Crescent City. The tow truck towed me to their garage and the guy charged me ninety bucks.
I had to empty everything out and hose out the entire camper to get the mud and muck out of it. It was nasty! The guy drained the fluids out of the engine, the transmission, the gas tank, and the differential. He flushed the transmission three times. He drained the fluids out of the gas tank and, because gas is lighter than water, the water came out first. When it started to change to pure gasoline, he was able to save half a tank of gas. He put electric heaters under the dashboard to dry out the electrical. He charged me $1,200 after twelve days. The engine started and I was able to drive back to San Francisco.
TCM: That’s amazing. So, how did the ride home go?
Gary: I didn’t have any instruments; no speedometer, odometer, or gas gauge. I did have my headlights and tail lights. I left about 4 PM and drove about half way and stayed in a hotel. I made it into town the next day. My primary concern was to get the truck running well. After all this all I had to do was replace the instrument panel and computer parts for the air flow so that the engine would run right. I also had to clean all the electrical contacts to get all the corrosion out of it. Now it runs fine.
TCM: That’s one tough truck. How’s the camper?
Gary: The only damage to the camper was the door that covers hot water heater controls came off because of force of water in the river. I had to clean the telecoupler, which is the device that turns on the water heater. Everything still works; the three-way fridge, the heater, the propane, the two burner gas stove. Even the inside cabinetry was fine. It’s plywood and was not affected by the water exposure.
While it was all happening, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the Four-Wheel Camper was for off-road use. I took them for their word. I went to the factory to get the cover for the hot water controls which was thirty bucks and it just popped right on. Other than that, I didn’t need anything for my camper.
For several months the camper was in the garage opened up so that it would air out. I went through it and cleaned it up.
TCM: That has to be one of the most incredible stories we’ve covered here at TCM. I’m so glad you and your dog were okay and the truck and camper survived. Let’s back track to before your river experience. How did you get into truck campers?
Gary: I took a job as a sales representative in Florida back in the mid-70s and I was driving a van with a pop-up top. The van actually had an outside shower with a sliding mechanism on top of it. I traveled in the southeast. That was my first experience with car camping and it resonated with me. It was fun to be completely independent and not to have to sleep in somebody else’s bed.
Since then I’ve had several cabover campers. One day I saw a Four Wheel Camper on the road and asked the guy about it. He told me how it worked and how it was designed. The used ones were so much in demand. There was actually one that was advertised in San Francisco just a little while from my house and I looked at it, but a guy from Santa Cruz got there before I did.
So, I went to Four Wheel and bought a brand new one and I’ve been in it ever since. I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it because I use it a lot. I play senior softball and travel to tournaments twice a month. I also use my truck for work.
When I’m ready to use the camper, I just back up under it and go. It takes me about a half hour to put the camper on and twenty minutes to take it off. The Four Wheel Camper is also useful for salmon and steelhead fishing in Northern California and Southern Oregon. When softball season is over I do that type of fishing.
The joy, for me, is to park right on the river bank. Once the sun goes down people leave and I have the place to myself. With my truck camper I can get to remote areas and, at the end of the day, I don’t have to drive back to civilization.
TCM: What was the experience like at the Four Wheel Camper factory?
Gary: That was an interesting experience. At Four Wheel Campers you get an opportunity to decide what accessories you want and how you want your camper laid out. I actually had them build an extra storage compartment and put in a 17000 BTU forced air furnace. I also had a three-way refrigerator put in it. I got to decide where I wanted the air vents and the type of lights that were going into my camper.
It was a great experience! The people were really nice. I got exactly what I wanted and they worked with me. My camper is seven feet long. I have a Nissan Frontier with a six-foot bed, so I leave the tailgate down and it’s about the same length.