Rick Rogers: Riding the storm out in the mini-van

Rick Rogers

As we huddled in our tent, the flashes of lightning were almost blinding.

“Here we go again,” is all I could think to myself as we watched the radar on my cell phone show thunderstorms about to roll in from the west.

It was a little after 2 in the morning, and the good wife and I had a decision to make: Ride out the storm in the little 4-person tent with the girls, or pack up everything in the dark and head for the van.

Last year, we decided to stay in the tent and didn’t get a wink of sleep as thunder echoed loudly off the lake, and rain pounded the tent’s thin walls.

So, this year, we decided to try the latter — moving the still-sleeping girls to the back seat of the van while we packed up the tent as fast as we could.

With the wind howling around us and lightning providing a little illumination, we were able to get the tent packed up in the back of the van and sought shelter.

With my 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame, a night sleeping in the front seat of a van with limited, if any, legroom is not appealing.

But, with maybe 4 hours of sleep, we managed to ride out the stormy weather. When we finally woke up that morning, the ground was soaked and we watched others at the campsite try to dry out their belongings out of their tents and campsites.

At the time, we felt pretty proud of our quick thinking to avoid the storm and the headache of having to wring out sleeping bags, clothes and towels.

But, the antics of our annual start-of-summer camping trip to Table Rock Lake didn’t end with our night in the van.

As we were leaving the campsite, there were children riding bikes on the gravel paths to the right of us. Concerned about making sure I had my eye on them as I backed up the van, I failed to see what was on the left side as I put the van in reverse.

A few moments later, “boom.” The van stopped. And my foot was not on the brake.

I hit a tree.

You thought I hit one of the kids on the bike, didn’t you?

Trust me, for a split second, I did, too, until I looked and saw a huge tree in my side mirror.

As I stepped out of the van and walked to the rear of the vehicle, all I could do was wince when I saw the damage: A busted taillight, dented bumper, dented rear quarter panel and more.

It was the perfect ending to what was not a perfect night of camping.

But, that’s what those family excursions are all about. Years from now, we will all sit around and talk about the night we slept in the van after packing up the tent at 2 in the morning. We will talk about the thunderstorms that rolled in, and how Dad hit a tree while backing up the van. The girls will all laugh, and I will roll my eyes.

And next year, we will make the same trip to the same campsite with the same group of friends.

And, just as in the first two years of our annual trip, we will probably have a thunderstorm roll in, but let’s hope I can keep my eyes on the trees next time.

Rick Rogers is the publisher of The Daily News. This was his first car accident since he fell asleep at the wheel when he was 18 and hit two mailboxes and a street sign. You can e-mail driving tips to