I left work at 2:00 pm today and drove over to my folks’ house. From there, Mom and I drove down to Forest Mall in Fond du Lac, where we parked her car, met up with Dad, and got in his truck. Our destination? Cleveland.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, I was talking with my mom about Puckaway projects. Specifically, I was describing the condition of the shack. Windows are broken from uneven settling, it’s mustier than ever, signs of critter infestation are everywhere, the doors are in rough shape, and the roof–that is, the wooden roof built over the actual mobile home roof–is rotting apart. My recent cleaning efforts and furniture rearrangement have made it more habitable than it’s been in years, but it’s an unwinnable war.

The idea of a new, permanent dwelling at Puckaway is one we’ve discussed for years, but has always been tabled because it’d be quite an investment to do it properly. Any building, either crafted on-site or hauled in as a pre-built home, would need a foundation poured. A well would need to be dug and a septic solution put in. Also, we’d need to get rid of the shack before any of that could start, leaving the keep as the only place for anyone to stay in the meantime. It just didn’t seem financially viable.

As I was discussing the shack with my mom and she was lamenting its condition, I half-jokingly offered, “You should just get a big camper like Peter’s.” I was referring to my father-in-law, not our Puckaway neighbor. He purchased a 30-foot travel trailer a few years ago for family camping trips (which led to us inheriting the pop-up camper) and it’s an amazing unit with lots of room and amenities.

My mom really took to this idea. It makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. It’s a new, clean, furnished space with a full kitchen, heat and air conditioning, and plenty of storage. There’s a bathroom with a flush toilet and a shower, but it doesn’t require septic service or an on-site fresh water supply. You don’t need a foundation, just some concrete pads to park and rest the levelling jacks on. If you don’t like where it’s parked, you can move it, and we don’t need to get the shack out of the way before we can use it. It has utility outside of Puckaway if needed, and if it ends up not working out, it should hold a lot of its value for resale. My joke suggestion suddenly seemed like the perfect solution for replacing the shack.

As excited as Mom was at this new, potential option, I didn’t expect anything to come from it any time soon. I had just fixed up the shack and a travel trailer isn’t exactly a minor investment. But then she and Dad started visiting RV dealerships and getting the feel for some of the models and layouts. Within a week, she was trying to decide between two specific trailers, a decision made easier by the fact that one was being peddled by a slimy salesman who insisted on the tropey bargaining technique of sliding handwritten price quotes across his desk. And that’s how my parents ended up purchasing a 2020 Crossroads Zinger 32-foot travel trailer.


She’s a biggun.

So that’s how I ended up riding to Cleveland (Wisconsin) on a Tuesday afternoon. Our destination was Wagner’s Trailer Sales, where the camper was waiting for us and parked prominently out front. My mom went through the final sale paperwork while a service tech pulled Dad’s truck around to set up the massive weight-distribution hitch. In the meantime, I got my first up-close look at the shack’s successor.

It’s been a good year for new toys.

Once all the signing and reviewing was complete, we headed into town for a celebratory dinner at a little supper club called Rupp’s. I ordered tenderloin tips and was served a plate big enough to feed eight. My carry-home container was comically heavy. We made our way back to the dealership and hooked up the camper. I was surprised at how well the hitch keeps the weight off of the back of the truck. It barely squatted at all once we retracted the tongue jack. After a quick test of the trailer brake controller, we were on the road.

Looming large.

This thing is tall, long, and at the upper end of the truck’s towing capacity, but it pulled like a dream. It never let you forget it was back there, and there was quite a bit of bouncing where the cement highway blocks got wavy, but other than that, it was a trouble-free tow at nine miles per gallon.

We dropped off Mom in Fondy around 6:45 and continued our journey west. An hour later, we were at the mouth of the Puckaway driveway. I hopped out of the truck and climbed the ladder on the back of the camper, flashlight in hand. It was pretty dark at this point, and I wanted to be very sure that any remaining low branches wouldn’t damage the roof-mounted components.

You really get a sense of scale from this view.

There was nothing to worry about; we navigated the driveway without incident. I opened up the pole barn and turned on the outside lights, then we scouted out a good parking spot. After having to cut a low maple branch, we got the camper positioned in the south yard, parallel to the shack. We parked it on some planks and placed a cinder block under the tongue jack.

I’m going to need to get another extension cord for the power to reach where we left it, along with some cement pads from Menards for the wheels and stabilizer jacks, but we’ve done what we set out to accomplish today. The shack has been put on notice. This year will be its last Puckaweekend and deer camp. Next spring, we empty it out, move it over to the side of the brick garden, and begin the deconstruction process.

The view from the front door of the shack.

I shut everything down, locked up, and Dad and I pulled out of the yard around 9:15. The nighttime drop-off just added to the overall surreality of today. I’m still trying to process this.

We’ve put in an incredible amount of work over the last few years to transform the landscape, but this will be the biggest, most impactful change to date. To top things off, the camper isn’t the only major Puckaway investment that was made today. Mom met with Jerry from MPB and signed a contract to get the roof repaired on the pole barn. Work should begin in early November. The future’s looking pretty bright around here.

Welcome home.