Congratulations to the lucky winners of the best camping story contest!!

Humorous category winner: Shawn Abdoney -Scottish people don't bike

 In the spring of 2008 we decided to buy a class C motorhome and see if we would like the camping life. Our kids were 8 and 11 years old and having just recently moved to US from Scotland we thought how better to see the countryside and embark on some memories and adventures. With an “all in” attitude I convinced my wife we should go through the Rockies, then down to the Grand Canyon and then through New Mexico hitting may historic and picturesque spots on the way. Lest do it! She said. So in March we set off. We have never really camped before nor had much experience in a motorhome but what better way to experience it I bought a tow hitch style bike rack and attached our bikes to it expecting to be mountain biking in the mountains and in the grand canyon exploring the great outdoors and taking it all in….however, on day 2 when we drove into the mountains we could see plenty of snow, cold conditions … no one had any desire to bike! On to the Four Corners – bikes still on the rack bouncing jubilantly in my rear view mirror waiting for their opportunity to shine. My wife commenting how much they were bouncing… the hitch is well rated for them so nothing to fear. Grand Canyon was beyond amazing …but not weather to bike in nor did we have much time due to the grueling schedule …seemed every day we were piling on another 500 miles… high desert was next and stunning….I recall at this point what the drivers passing us were referring to by their waves and gestures…the bikes bouncing on the rack, I waved with confident assurance all was well and safe. New Mexico for a couple days to relax an amazing hot springs resort where we could camp and relax in the mineral outdoor springs watching (more) snow fall around us…soaking but no biking ☹ Finally headed north on I-380, stopped to empty the tanks one last time and whilst outside looked sadly at our cargo of mountain bikes – what a shame I thought and what a waste, they were dirty, covered in nearly 3000 miles of road grime and salt from snow covered roads. My sons brand new hardly ridden bike last on the hitch was desperate looking and my son most unhappy about the condition of his recent birthday gift. Finally home. I got out and stretched, sore and tired from the long drive, looked to see the kids and my wife disappear into the house – of course I will unpack. I walked to the back of the camper and noticed the bikes were missing..well that’s good I immediately thought at least they took the bikes off. Wait…no they wouldn’t/didn’t holy moley WHERE ARE THE BIKES!!!???? I ran into the house yelling ‘the bikes are gone!!’ my wife laughed – yeah sure they are very funny. No…they really ARE GONE. Terrified they had been dropped on the interstate causing carnage on the roads I jumped in my car and took off retracing the road just travelled….one mile south I turned West onto a local residential street and there at the side of the road with fresh tracks having been dragged from the middle of the road to the side walk were our poor bikes. A weld joint finally after 3000 miles and one mile from safety and home broke. To add insult to injury my sons brand new bike took the full force of the fall. The silver lining – we loved the trip sooo much we bought a class A, over 6 years and many more trips put over 30k miles on it and now my wife and I enjoy our 5th wheel….the kids don’t think its cool to camp with us.

Nostalgic Category Winner - Kristi Leis - Labor Day Traditions in a Military Family

Having a child go into the military is a very proud and scary event for a parent. We have 4 boys (Eric, Zach, Ryan and Kyle) and they all grew up camping with us. I never thought any of my children would go into the military after high school, but when 3 of the 4 boys joined, I was shocked. Zach (2nd to oldest) was the first to go in. Army National Guards. Ryan (2nd to youngest) was next to follow choosing the Airforce, and Kyle (the youngest) followed last also choosing the Airforce. It was the youngest boy that leads me to my favorite camping story. It was Labor Day weekend and we had a big group camping together. I had talked to Kyle early on in the day to see what he was up to since he couldn't be with us. He told me that he was just hanging out and not doing much. We talked for a bit and he said he needed to go. We had spent most of the day sitting around the fire, laughing, playing games and eating. Zach had told us he was coming to visit and have dinner. I knew he wanted to spend some time with some friends that were camping with us and happened to be leaving the same day Zach was visiting. I kept messaging him telling him that he needed to get to the campground or he was going to miss them. "I'll be there soon mom." was the response I got. An hour went by, still no Zach. I messaged him again, "i'm on my way mom." I really had no idea why it was taking so long for Zach to get to the campground. When he finally showed up he walked into the campsite and stood there with a huge grin on his face. I just looked at him and said; "what is going on?" In the next second I had 2 long arms wrapped around me. Kyle was peeking around my side; "Hi mom! Surprise!" It had been 6 months since I had seen him last. I was overcome with emotions that he was there. He was the reason Zach was so late getting to the campground, the wait was so worth it. It was a short visit, but he was able to be with us for our traditional labor day camping weekend. I am so proud of my children for all of their accomplishments, for all of their dedication and service. I will forever remember that Labor Day weekend! BEST surprise yet!

Children's category winner Anya Hilley - The Best Camping Story

 I love two things really really a lot. The first one is my family and the second is my new camper we just bought. You should see both my family is great and my camper is so perfect. We camp at a seasonal spot on a lake called Big Fish. I do not see a lot of big fish but that is ok because I like to swim and not fish so much. We get to camp in our new camper all summer. We wake up in the morning and go out on the pontoon and have a morning swim before breakfast. We then come back and have breakfast in our awesome camper. We lay in our tree hammocks during the day sometimes to relax. We have a lot of people that we camp with every weekend so during the day we paint rocks and paint pieces of wood and sell them to the grownups. One day we made $120 on rocks and wood, that was awesome! We go out to the sand bar on really warm days and swim with all the other kids. The parents make a line with all the boats and they go from boat to boat visiting while we swim. Our camping neighbors have a huge slip in slide that even really big parents can go on. We just love going down it and racing parents. The parents do not get up very fast at the end so we usually beat them. When it gets dark we have camp fires and roast marshmallows for s’mores and pop popcorn over the fire. It is so nummy in my tummy! We have had movie nights outside with a movie projected onto the tree in front of the camper(the tree is the hugest I ever saw).When the night is done me and my sisters go into our camper to watch a movie but we usually just fall asleep before we get to see it. My mom and dad tell us that these are the best things in life and that is why I think this is the best camping story. We get to do it together every summer. 

February 2-5, 2023
Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN