camping, United States

A random travel memory from my youth…

Warning: this is kind of a horrifying story about a trip I took to the Eastern Shore when I was about ten years old. It was originally posted on the Blogspot version of my Overeducated Housewife blog. I would put it on my newer WordPress version of that blog, but when it comes down to it, this is a travel story… and this blog needs some love. So here’s my mortifying camping story from the 80s. It’s not for the faint of heart!

The featured photo is of a 1977 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van. My dad had one exactly like it back in the early 80s. In fact, this guy’s video below shows a van that looks very much like the one my dad had, right down to the green plaid upholstery. Wonder if it also smells like pancake syrup, like my dad’s van did… When the top wasn’t popped, I could swing on the bar used to push up the camper top as we cruised down the interstates. In those days, kids didn’t have to be strapped down.

Here goes…

Back in the early 80s, when I was about nine years old, I went with a friend to Annapolis, Maryland.  I stayed with her and her grandparents for about a week.  Then my parents picked me up and we drove back to Virginia by way of the Eastern Shore.  I seem to remember stopping in Chincoteague and Assateague, where there are wild ponies. 

Being a horse crazy kid, I was pretty excited about visiting there.  My dad was driving an ugly, bright orange, VW van with a popup top.  I remember spending the night in it at a campground in Maryland.  The next morning, my dad decided he wanted to go swimming in the pool.  I went with him.  Unbeknownst to us, the pool was closed, but for some reason, we were able to access it.

After a few minutes, my dad got out of the pool, but left me in the water.  Next thing I know, I hear this old man yell “Hey!  What’s that kid doing in the pool?!” 

I quickly got out.  He confronted me, asking what I was doing swimming.  I told him my dad had gone swimming and I was with him.  The guy said, “Oh, so your father can’t read either?  There’s no swimming when no one’s around!”  In retrospect, I realize that guy was unnecessarily mean to me, but at the time, I was really humiliated and upset.  I’m sure he yelled at me because he was worried about liability, but as a young girl, I didn’t know about such things.  He made me cry.

Mortified by the man’s sharp words, I ran back to the camper, where I refused to sit on a seat, lest someone see me.  My parents took me to breakfast at a Hardee’s.  Because it was late morning, I wanted a cheeseburger, but they weren’t serving them and my dad said, “This is one of those places where you have to order what they want to serve you at the time they want to serve it.”  

My parents hadn’t seen the guy yell at me, and when I told my dad about it, he kind of blew it off.  I stayed upset, though, because it was his fault I was in the water in the first place.  And hell, he hadn’t even gotten me out of the water when he decided to get out himself.  As an adult, I realize how stupid that was.  Nowadays, someone might have called CPS.  Fortunately, the only harm was my extreme embarrassment and shame.

Later that day, we went to Assateague and Chincoteague. I remember going to the beach at Assateague, marveling at how much less crowded it was than Virginia Beach usually is. We drove through the national park and picked up a book about the wild ponies, though I don’t remember if I actually saw any. I did have a friend in school who owned a Chincoteague pony and used to win a lot of awards with her in barrel racing. Then later, we visited a water slide… the very first one I had ever been on in my lifetime, at that point.

It was a pretty cool slide and I couldn’t wait to get on it.  As I was about to sit down, I slipped and went down backwards.  I was terrified, but apparently going down backwards impressed a bunch of people, including a cute teenaged boy who congratulated me for my “bravery”, even though I had only gone down backwards because I’d totally slipped and fallen.  The water slide fame made up for the scary encounter with the campground guy.

Over the years, I remembered that trip so fondly. Even the campground was kind of fun… at least before the guy yelled at me. I haven’t been able to visit Chincoteague or Assateague since then, but I always fantasized about going back, and maybe riding the slide again.

Don’t read any further if you’re squeamish…

Years later, I wondered about that water slide. Out of a sense of nostalgia, I went looking for evidence that it still existed. I finally found it when I read a story about the man who had owned the slide at a water park he and a friend had opened called “Wet & Wild”.

Turns out he was a sex offender named James Jenkins, and years after the water slide closed, he got caught molesting a 13 year old girl. That, in and of itself might be shocking, except for the fact that Jenkins was so upset about his uncontrollable urges to molest little girls that, in 2003, he decided to castrate himself with a razor while taking a shower in jail. He’d asked a guard for a razor so he could be clean shaven for court the next day. The guard had hesitated, but then gave him the razor. Jenkins put an apple in his mouth to muffle his screams and tied a shoelace around his scrotum as he removed his own testicles. Having cut them off, he then flushed them down a toilet in the jail.

Needless to say, I was shocked to read about that.  At the time that I found the news story, it was the only thing I could find that mentioned the 80s era water slide in Chincoteague that I remembered so well.  I don’t think the slide is still in existence.  I’ve looked for pictures or mentions of it.  I’m pretty positive that Jenkins’ slide was the one we visited because, at the time, it was the only slide in the area.  

So, on that trip to Chincoteague on the way home, not only did I get yelled at by a scary, mean old man at a campground, but I also visited a water slide owned by a pervert.  And not only was the guy a pervert, but he later actually took it upon himself to cut off his own balls with a razor and flush them down the toilet. The up side to this story is, Jenkins later said that castrating himself “saved him” from his obsessions.

And all those years, I thought it was the mean guy at the campground who was offensive.

I’m glad childhood is over.


Book review: States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction

Here’s a repost of a book I read and reviewed last year.  If you like stories about road trips through the United States, Paul Jury’s States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction may be a good bet for you!

Young man drives all over America to find himself…

Jan 31, 2013 (Updated Jan 31, 2013)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Well-written, funny, engaging and entertaining.

Cons:Loses a little steam toward the end of the book.

The Bottom Line: Highly recommended!

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across an article about Paul Jury and his 2011 book, States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction.  To be honest, I don’t remember what it was about the article I read that made me want to read the book; I only know that after I read, I went to and bought.  I downloaded his book to my Kindle and there it sat for almost two years.  I finally read it this month, finishing it in less than 48 hours.  And now I’m a little embarrassed it sat in the queue for as long as it did.

Who is Paul Jury and what is his book about?

After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in film, Paul Jury was at a loss as to what he should do next.  He grew up in Minneapolis and had a girlfriend named Sarah who was in Chicago, earning a degree in law.  A lot of Paul’s friends had found lucrative jobs and were on their way to do something with their lives.  Paul was floundering, having worked a couple of unsatisfying dead end jobs that ultimately led to nowhere.  Somehow, Paul came up with the idea to spend 48 days driving to each of the 48 continental states.

He had it all figured out.  He would drive his parents’ 1993 Eurovan, affectionately dubbed the Spacemobile.  He would sleep in the van and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He would stick to side roads, making a point of doing something “interesting” in each state.  And he would stick to a budget.  He had saved up $3000, which would fund his adventure.

Things went awry from the very beginning, when the Spacemobile had problems that made it impossible to drive.  Paul embarked on his trip in his father’s Ford Taurus, which he called “The Imposter”, with plans to come back to get the Spacemobile when it was operational again.  Once he got on the road, he found that sometimes the best laid plans lead one somewhere completely different from where they thought they’d end up.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading States of Confusion.  Paul Jury is an entertaining writer with an excellent sense of humor.  Most of all, I really related to him.  When I was fresh out of college, I had my own identity crisis, which led me to join the Peace Corps.  That was sort of my place to “find myself”… only I kind of didn’t.  Anyway, I related to Jury’s search to figure out his life and I liked the way he characterized some of the people he met on his journey.

From wading in a snake filled fetid lake of brown sludge in Missouri in search of his car keys, to swilling beer with two recent jailbirds in Arkansas, to being waited on by a one armed waitress in Vermont, to meeting a Waffle House heiress in Mississippi, to having a massive breakdown in Montana, Paul Jury got a real taste of Americana.  He shares that taste with his readers, everything from the genuine boredom he experienced to the panic he felt at times when inevitable trouble cropped up.

As I read States of Confusion, I pictured myself undertaking a similar road trip and realized I wouldn’t want to do it, as exciting as it seemed.  I think I would get lonely, though Paul did keep a blog, carried a cell phone, and bunked with some friends.  Also, he mentions that he got awfully ripe, thanks to a lack of laundry and shower facilities.  At the end of the book, Paul comes to some satisfying conclusions.  My only complaint is that it seemed a little like his story lost a little steam the further west he went… but maybe that’s to be expected, given the state of the Spacemobile.


This is a great book, especially for those who enjoy funny memoirs about regular people.  Yes, Paul’s road trip is a bit wacky, but it’s fun to read about and imparts some universal truths that may be especially valuable to young readers.  I definitely recommend States of Confusion, especially to anyone looking for direction.

For more information:


Just bought tickets to DC…

Not that I really want to go back to the States, but I am expected to put in an appearance at my dad’s memorial over the Thanksgiving holiday…  It’s been four years since we last had Thanksgiving with my family and we’re overdue, I guess.

I used to really love Thanksgiving with my big, southern, fun loving family.  Now that I’m older, I think I like our quieter, less involved celebrations more.  And really, going back to the States from Germany is a pain, especially since this will be the fourth transatlantic trip we’ve done this year.

Some folks on Stuttgart Friends turned me on to ABC Travel Service, a German travel agency that offers discounted flights to American military and government employees.  I ended up scoring two round trip tickets from Stuttgart to Washington, DC by way of Paris for $1436.  Unfortunately, we ended up with a really long layover in Paris on the way back.  If we can’t get that flight changed (it’s only about an hour), I guess we’ll just go into the city for a long lunch and some shopping.

Of course, I will probably not be in the best of moods when we land. I don’t sleep on planes and I imagine I’ll be tired, cranky, and emotional.  But there are worse places to be stuck.  As long as we can get out of the airport, it’ll probably be okay.

We could also take a train or drive back to Stuttgart, but I don’t know how many bags we’ll have.  I doubt we’ll want to drive and deal with Paris traffic or crowded trains.

So far, I’m kind of impressed by ABC Travel Service.  I made the reservations yesterday evening and within an hour, they came back to me asking for a proper billing address (their Web site only offered one for home addresses).  I got back to them and within another hour, we were confirmed.

I expect to have a full review of the travel service and the airline once this is all done.  I’m thinking we’ll be on Air France, but I won’t be surprised if we end up on a code share flight, too.

I will be glad to be done with this trip home, so I can focus on European travel!