If things go as planned, (which is rarely the case when it comes to Naughtonian RV adventures), by the time you read today’s column I should be recuperating at home following our family’s most recent road trip. Should be.

                Travis Naughton

I’m writing to you from scenic Hot Springs, Arkansas with one day remaining in our foray into “The Natural State.” Arkansas is a beautiful place with enormous tracts of unspoiled forests, flowing rivers, and unique geological features such as caves, mineral and gem deposits, and of course hot springs. Our neighbor to the south should be on every Missourian’s list of places to visit—even if getting there proves to be an adventure in its own right.

While the kids are on their scooters, I should be riding bicycles with my lovely wife around the gorgeous Catherine’s Landing campground that is perched along the shores of Lake Catherine, but the bike rack I fastidiously attached to our Volkswagen Beetle somehow slid a few inches down the curved rear hatch of the car sometime during our nine hour drive from Ashland as we towed it behind our RV, causing the front tire of one of our bikes to drag on the ground for what appears to have been many miles, thus melting a significant portion of the tire until all that remained was a very flat inner tube.

This should be enough to convince me never to bring bikes on a camping trip again considering the fact that this is the second time I have shredded a bike tire behind our aptly named recreational vehicle/force of destruction: The Hurricane. But I’m a slow learner.

What’s worse is that one of the bike’s pedals scratched the rear bumper of the car pretty badly, making Alex’s VW the third Volkswagen Beetle that has sustained damage during a Naughton family vacation in as many years. Maybe we should be considering getting a different type of vehicle to drag along with us on these trips. Something armored perhaps.

And what Naughton RV vacation would be complete without a malfunctioning power generator? Because our onboard generator wouldn’t start, (even though it ran just fine the last time I tried it), we could not operate our rooftop air conditioner as we endured nine hours on the road. By the time we pulled into our campsite, the temperature inside our motorhome was exactly ONE HUNDRED DEGREES. I should be used to driving our RV in sweltering heat by now. We’ve faced the same problem during our trips to Montana, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and all points between. Although I’ve paid a professional mechanic to tune up the faulty unit, it has never run for more than twenty continuous minutes in the three camping seasons we’ve owned it.

Luckily, once the camper is plugged in, the A/C works just fine, and during our stay here in Hot Springs, we have been quite comfortable. And we’ve had a lot of fun—as is the case whenever we vacation with Bethany’s twin sister Charla and her family.

To some people, travelling with eleven people, including six kids and a mother-in-law, might not sound like an enjoyable way to spend a vacation. But for the Naughton-Hecker-Lemon family, there is nothing we’d rather be doing than hiking through the Ozark, Rocky, or Teton Mountains together or cramming into a dimly-lit corner of a local restaurant with visibly worried waitresses fretting over which of them will draw the short straw and be forced to deal with our insanity for the next hour or two.

Earlier this evening, as we walked along the famous “Bath House Row” in downtown Hot Springs, Bethany, her mother Glee, and I fell behind the group as the kids danced and sang and recorded videos of each other being ridiculous. Grandma Glee remarked at how great it was to see six kids, ranging in age from 10 to 17, all laughing and getting along so well. I had to agree.

Seeing our kids enjoying life’s simple pleasures together is exactly why the Naughtons and the Heckers bought RVs in the first place. No, I do not enjoy riding in an oven for nine hours while shredding bike tires and tearing up Volkswagens. But there is nothing better in the world than watching my kids and their cousins posing for silly photos, splashing in creeks and pools, and laughing together.

After a couple days of recovery we’ll be on the road again, this time to my hometown of Hannibal for Tom Sawyer Days where we’ll meet up with the Heckers at the Mark Twain Cave Campground. It should be another unforgettable adventure. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

(But maybe this time I’ll leave the bikes and Bugs at home.)