It never fails. When we meet folks who don’t RV, or haven’t experienced RV travel, they invariably ask us the same exact question, “What’s the best place you have seen?”
I should just say, “Yellowstone” and leave it at that – but I can’t. “We have seen some incredible places while RVing,” I tell them. “But it’s the amazing people we’ve met that keep us on the road. People are the best part of RV travel, not places.”
Hearing the earnestness in my voice, most individuals understand that I’m sharing something I truly believe in. Then again, a few knuckleheads press on. “Yeah, but what about Yellowstone?” I want so badly to say, “It’s a giant super caldera that might explode at any moment. Don’t go!” Naturally, I don’t – but I really want to.
Having talked to thousands of fellow truck campers, I know many of you feel the same way I do about the magic of the people you meet on the road. The road and destinations are beyond amazing, but it’s the people you meet who are truly special.
The truck camper rally events are fun, but we go to see our truck camping friends, and make new ones. California is a remarkable state, but we go to see our friends, and meet new ones. Key West? Yes, it’s beautiful but… It’s the people, people!
To celebrate this wonderful truth, this week’s question of the week is, “Who has been the most amazing person you’ve ever met while on the road truck camping?”
Here’s my answer:
On October 16th, 2005, we pulled into Moab Valley RV Resort in Moab, Utah after two exhilarating days exploring Arches National Park. During the process of hooking up to electric, I struck up a conversation with our campground neighbor, Donna Burton. Donna could not have been more friendly and, before we knew it, we were enjoying one of those impromptu conversations that can only happen on the road between fellow adventurous spirits.
When Donna’s husband Clarence emerged from their fifth wheel, I immediately noticed his USS Yorktown hat. As the son of a history teacher, I couldn’t believe my fortune to meet someone who participated in the Pacific Theater. That afternoon, Angela and I had hit it off so well with Donna and Clarence that they invited us over to dinner.
Dinner was filled with stories of RVing adventure, trading advice on places to go, and lots of good old fashioned friendly conversation. It was a wonderful time and such a pleasure to meet two people who were at least as passionate about traveling as we were.
After dinner, I thanked Clarence for his service to our country and told him about my father teaching me about World War II from a very young age. I also told Clarence about a book I put together with my grandfather with his life stories and encouraged him to one day write his stories down for his children and grandchildren.
Clarence listened intently and then began to share with me some of his experiences during the War. Clarence had endured a successful torpedo attack on the Saratoga in 1942. He then joined the Lexington and two sorties at the “Battle of the Coral Sea” before surviving the horrific end of the Lexington. Clarence then rejoined the repaired Saratoga to support the capture of Guadalcanal.
After Guadalcanal, Clarence went through six-months of intensive training before moving to the Yorktown to support the landings at the Philippines, Marianas, and Iwo Jima. Following that service, he was brought back to the United States where he served until the end of the war.
Listening to Clarence’s first hand stories were nothing less than a gift. I was in awe of what he had experienced, and that he was able to survive. Two days later, I would turn thirty-three. Thanks to Clarence and Donna, and Clarence’s incredible stories, I already had the best birthday present I could have asked for. I was honored, humbled, and inspired.
By far the most important part of this story is what happened about two years later. On September 27th, 2007, Clarence copied us on an email that Clarence sent to his granddaughters and grandsons talking about his experiences during the war.
Two months after Clarence sent the email, we visited Clarence and Donna in California after touring a nearby truck camper factory. We picked right up were we left. To this day, we still keep in touch and look forward to the next time our paths cross.
Please share your response below.