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COVER STORY: 14 Grandkids and a Teardrop

- by Tim Foley -

Taking 14 grandchildren camping with a teardrop is akin to eating an elephant. You take small bites. My wife and I built our teardrop camper in 2014 to tour old Route 66. We got to see our great country and met many fun people while camping. We wanted to take the grandkids on a trip but needed to come up with some place for them to sleep. Not looking for a bigger camper or wanting to rent two sites for another tent, I came across car-top campers and they seemed to be just what I was looking for.

With the sewing skills of my sister, Maureen, and welding skill of her husband, Barry, we modified a car-top camper to seal against the teardrop and built a removable platform for the grandkids. We call it the “Condo,” but to the kids it’s more like a tree house with a ladder to climb and their own space to hang out.

We have two daughters, Amanda and Kelley so our thought was to divide and conquer. It was important for us to take them before they were teenagers and they became smarter than us.

Our first trip was in 2015. We took four boys to the Badlands, a wild west town, the Corn Palace, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Arches National Parks. On the way we went on many hikes in different states and terrains; went whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, and saw parts of the country we had never seen.

Having survived that, we took two girls in 2016. Trying to mix it up a little bit, we toured some of Route 66, saw Lincoln’s Home and Memorial, Arches, Zion, Jackson Hole, a Cowboy chuck wagon ride, the Tetons and Jenny Lake. We hiked and went white water rafting. Because they were girls, a stop at the Mall of America was required.

We thought we were done camping with the kids so we took off the “Condo” for a trip to South Carolina for our 40th wedding anniversary. Along the way, our oldest daughter, Amanda, adopted a group of six siblings. So in the summer of 2018, it was to divide and conquer time again.

We took four of Amanda’s kids and one of Kelley’s, who was too young to go the before. Fearing for our sanity, as they were younger kids, we took a shorter trip. We went to Brown County State Park in southern Indiana. It was a long weekend filled with many hikes, horseback riding, and a nature walk with the Park Ranger and, of course, swimming until we were prunes.  

After a three week break, we took the final three grandkids camping. We wanted to explore a different area of the country. We started in Brown County State Park with horseback riding and hiking. We then went to an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana; did more whitewater rafting and more hiking in West Virginia; visited Mammoth Caves, a Kentucky Horse Park and the Ark in Kentucky.

There is no better way to make a memory with your grandkids than to take them camping; getting them out of their environment, away from their electronics, challenge them physically, and show them parts of our country they have never seen or may never see again. All of these great memories started because of a teardrop adventure for two.


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