New Voices: My Daughter Crashed the Minivan

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Each summer, our family hits the road in our much-modified 2008 Rockwood Freedom tent camper hauled by an aging 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan. We love the tenting aspect of this little pop-up, and my knees appreciate not needing to crawl out of a tent.

We hit the road with an old school Rand McNally atlas to determine less travelled roads, en route to a tentative destination. At the time of this trip, we did not have smart phone technology to help us navigate.

Lost in New Brunswick on a dark and stormy night

New Brunswick is not that big a province, but we had gotten fairly good and lost. I blame my wife. I was just driving – she was responsible for navigating.

The rain was coming down hard. It was getting dark. We didn’t know where we were. The only good thing was that the kids were quiet and happy. We usually resist allowing screens on our travels as it takes away from the family bonding experience but, on this occasion, we relented and they happily hunched over the laptop to watch their DVD in the back seat.

We were watching for any pull-off in which we could hunker down for the night when, suddenly, a sign appeared. I won’t tell you the name of the place, in the spirit of looking out for our own best interests, but it advertised a private campground and cabins. I hauled off the road and my wife braved the rain to check in for the night and find out where we were.

I would like to say that this was a hidden gem, perhaps even a diamond in the rough, that I look forward to finding again on a future trip. Unfortunately, I can’t say any of those things.

The cabins looked abandoned with sloping roofs and forests growing out of gutters.

My wife finally came out of the office, and told me the proprietor would show us to our site. The rain had let up to a mist as we drove slowly behind the limping owner. The place was deserted.

He led us to a spot in an overgrown field and advised that this was our campsite. One hand gesticulated at the electrical box for our plug-in. The other waved towards a half-collapsed building that advertised its potential as a bathroom. Then he turned around and hobbled back towards the office.

I was not well-positioned for the hook up and asked my wife to assist in helping me back into position. I am sure you will understand how everything that happened after this is her fault as she abandoned me and headed towards the purported bathroom.

Since I was suddenly without my human backup camera, I decided to use the facilities as well.

When I came out, I noticed our van had moved quite a bit further down the field. What on earth was my wife thinking?!

I stomped off to calmly explain that her chosen location was even worse than the original site. As I got closer, I realized that the van was parked at a highly unusual upwards slanting angle. This motivated an increase in my stomping speed.

I saw that the van had actually run aground on a rock pile and the drive wheels were spinning freely in the air.

My wife had caught up to me by this time and through some calm, rationale problem solving, we determined that I had accidentally left the van in drive and it had dragged the camper down the length of the field, fortunately slowed by the long wet grass, until it had run aground on a pile of rocks.

Our first priority was to put the vehicle in park but the minivan had threaded the needle between trees and both doors were blocked.

Eventually, our banging and yelling alerted our kids—they were completely engrossed in their movie and oblivious to the crash.

Our daughter climbed over the seat and put the vehicle in park.

We got the jack out of the trunk and raised the vehicle enough to remove the rocks and then lower the van. I reversed the van and camper back to our original spot while my wife kicked the grass into an upright position to conceal the tire marks of our runaway vehicle.

In utter darkness, we put up our tent camper and went to sleep.

At first light, I made a more complete inspection of the van and discovered, to my relief, that the vehicle had run up the rocks on the rocker panel, completely avoiding any of the critical lines that paralleled the stronger structure. A quick drive on my own confirmed that everything was in working order.

We hooked the Rockwood up and carried on our way.

My wife refuses to accept any responsibility for this incident, and so, as our daughter was the senior occupant of the vehicle at the time of the accident, I have decreed it was her fault.

And that is how our ten-year-old daughter crashed our minivan.

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