Summer Vacation 2015 – Day One – Camp Cracker Barrell

For our 2015 summer vacation, we reserved a campsite at Harrison Bay State Park near Chattanooga, Tennessee. My folks drove from Green Bay and we drove from Enterprise to “meet in the middle”. I wanted to record each day in the event that we wanted to “relive” the fun. 

The plan was to roll out around 9am, that would put us at the campground around 4pm. Dad and Cindy were driving down from Wisconsin and were also arriving at the park around 4pm. We had a little bit more packing to do, so we didn’t leave until 9:45am. The drive up to Chattanooga went pretty smooth. My camper break lights weren’t working, so Tara had to follow pretty close in the van to keep cars from getting in-between. We stopped for lunch in Clanton and then continued on our way. We stopped once more just outside Fort Payne for diesel.

We arrived at the park around 4:45. Dad and Cindy had arrived 20 minutes prior and were sitting outside “A-Frame” the ranger station waiting on us. When I hopped out of my truck Dad met me with a frown. “I screwed up, I booked our site for the wrong Saturday.”

“I screwed up, I booked our site for the wrong Saturday.”

Originally, we were staying Sunday through Sunday. However, Dad was able to get off work a day early. So at the last minute, we both booked campsites for one night on Saturday, because who wouldn’t want an extra day of vacation right? We booked our reservations in “Section A” way back in February, but when we booked the sites in “Section B” for the extra night, we didn’t do our research. Dad booked the wrong day, and my site was only 25 feet long – and I have a 34-foot camper.

We talked it over with park rangers and decided it would be best to go find a hotel in nearby Ooltewah. Frustrating for sure, but hey – we were on vacation, no need to be grumpy right?!

By the time we made it to Ooltewah, it was 6:30 and everybody was dog tired and hungry. We parked at a nearby Wal-Mart, then we all took Tara’s van to a Cracker Barrel. Over dinner, I called all the local hotels. There wasn’t much available, and prices were high (it was Saturday night after all). I asked to speak to the manager at Cracker Barrel to explain our situation and ask if we could use their parking lot for the night. Without hesitation she said, “Absolutely! Folks use our parking lot all the time for overnight stops. We have an RV parking area that is well lit and has security cameras. We open at 6am too, so join us for breakfast!”

FYI: Wal-mart has stopped offering overnight parking for trucks and those towing campers in some locations, Cracker Barrell however, says “Come on! park your RV!”

So that’s what we did. The first night of the family vacation was spent in the Cracker Barrel parking lot. There wasn’t any power or running water, plus it was 90 degrees all day, so you can imagine how hot it was in the camper. We had no luck getting Chloe to sleep in the sweltering heat, so Tara, Chloe, and Chase went to sleep in the van with A/C running. While I was getting the camper locked up before heading to the van myself, I heard a weird “click. click. click” sound coming from the camper refrigerator.

“What now!?” I yelled.

It’s 10:00pm, I’m hot, sweaty, tired, frustrated and just want to go to bed. Turns out the camper battery was dead and our fridge (which I thought ran on LP) runs on both LP AND battery. I’m so confused at this point because the camper should have a fully charged battery. It was plugged in at the house for two days, plus the truck’s alternator charges it while we drove. Apparently that was broken too. I started my truck anyway and went back into the camper. The clicking continued. “What the hell!? Why aren’t you charging!” Frustrated beyond belief, I went and layed down in the cab of my truck. The A/C felt good and I need time to think. I feel asleep around 10:30 and by 2:00am I awoke with a big light bulb above my head…

“Check the fuses.”

I grabbed my screwdriver and opened the fuse panel on the truck. Looking at the manual, I located the two responsible for brake/turn lights and battery charging. Sure enough, both of the were blown. I stole the fuse for my windshield wipers and plugged into the battery charging slot and ran back into the camper. The clicking had stopped and I had a green light. The fridge was running again! This sweet victory was just what I needed after a tough evening. I layed down in our bed and dozed off. By this time, it was only 70 degrees and the camper was quite comfortable…


By Greg Rickaby

Director of Engineering @WebDevStudios / Author & Editor @Wiley

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