The older one gets, the harder it seems to be to hang onto one’s sanity. Years ago my wife Shelia and I bought a small pop-up camper for our college graduation present. We camped in it a couple of years and even joined the Sequatchie Valley Ramblers Campers’ Club. This was in the mid-1970s and by the time Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, we had moved up to a small camping trailer. Within a year, that small camping trailer had been replaced by a thirty-foot trailer with a pair of doors and two air conditioners. We had been hooked. When we went camping we took almost all of our earthly belongings. Camping became a chore rather than a recreational outing, so in the early 1980s we sold our camper and got out of the camping business.
We stayed out of the camping business until October of 2013, when we purchased a twenty-six foot camping trailer. The trailer has two doors, like our last camper, but only one big air conditioner. It’s a bit easier to camp now than it was thirty years ago. You no longer have to light a pilot light for the water heater, because it’s on automatically and can be run off propane gas or electricity. The awning opens easier now and with a brand new Ford F-150 pick-up truck to pull it, it’s much easier to get from campground to campground. I’m saying all that to say this; backing in a tough place is not easier than it was. After more than thirty years and a lot of age on the driver, I have had a tough time backing into a camp spot without getting dizzy. I prefer the pull through campsites, rather than a back-in, for obvious reasons.
Since we bought our camper last fall, we have been to four different campgrounds, all county or state park facilities; Harrison Bay State Park, Cumberland Mountain State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Chester Frost Park in north Hamilton County. There have been quite a few improvements at Chester Frost in the last thirty years or so, but the state parks look the same way they did in the 1970s; with the exception of Harrison Bay.
Harrison Bay has completely remodeled one entire section of camping facilities, with the new section being opened on July first. The sites are large, paved, and shady. For once we have a real modern section to pull our camper to, and a lot of sites are right on the waters of Lake Chickamauga. Perhaps the biggest advantage to camping now is the fact that Harrison Bay is a mere twenty minutes from our house in Hixson. Chester Frost is still a little more than ten minutes away, but it’s always too packed this time of year, and they don’t take reservations at Chester Frost. They also don’t have a swimming pool at the Hamilton County facility, but the one at Harrison Bay is like brand new and is huge.
To camp just to preserve your sanity, (if you have any left) is meaningless unless you have fun. We have truly enjoyed our little camper and will likely buy another bigger, nicer unit within the next year or two. As I finish writing this column I can hear the birds sing, the roar of distant motor boats on the lake and the sound of a small billy goat coming from inside our camper. It’s actually our youngest granddaughter CoraLee who makes that sound when she cries. (Unlike the sound of a mashed cat her older sister Dellamae made)
Earlier this morning, our oldest grandchild, Coleman was forced to sit in “time out” by my wife for trying to place sea shells over my eyes. This was just before his two-year-old brother Boone arrived and fell twice in five minutes while climbing on the picnic table.
Oh the joys of camping…..and preserving my sanity.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have four grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, DellaMae and CoraLee.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org