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Illustration by Marley Allen-Ash

We bought a Shamrock trailer in the fall of 2019 in anticipation of our three-month journey to Baja, Mexico. The model name evoked what we wanted for our trip – a lucky, charmed, easygoing time. The camper would be home base for all the fun and adventure our family, myself, my husband and our three teenagers, would have all the way south.

Camper preparations got off to a rocky start. The Shamrock was full of mouse poop because the previous owner had stored it in a field. My husband Josh cleaned it up, and watched for hantavirus symptoms for weeks after. Our departure date was set for January, 2020, and that month temperatures dipped to – 30 where we live in Calgary, so preparation was made difficult. We basically threw our belongings in the camper until it was piled high. Unfortunately, before we left the key broke in the lock owing to the cold and we had to get a new lock.

It took three days to drive from Calgary to Las Vegas and the temperature went from –30 to +15, what a miracle! When we finally put our possessions to right in the parking lot of an enormous hotel on the Strip, I felt I could breathe a sigh of relief. Our problems were behind us.

But by the time we made it to San Diego, Calif., we had visited two RV mechanics to fix water leaking from the water tank, a bed heater blew up, there were toilet issues and a crumpled stabilizer leg. Thankfully, while we waited for repairs we could listen to waves lapping on the shore and practice the art of Zen to detach ourselves from these troubles.

The Shamrock also developed a penchant for throwing food around. Doors seemed to open and cupboard contents would cover the floor just about every time we moved the camper somewhere new. Our freezer door opened one time and meat and ice cubes fell out. A small upside to this incident was our floor getting a bit of cleaning it desperately needed when the ice cubes melted. A jar of green salsa opened in the fridge and created a goopy waterfall, finally pooling in the crisper drawers – not a fun cleanup. Once the salt grinder jumped out of the cupboard and spewed its contents over the floor. That time I ran in with bare feet to see what fell. Have you ever wondered what salt crystals feel like under bare feet? It hurts! I threw some over my left shoulder, you couldn’t be too superstitious in the Shamrock. I imagined a mischievous leprechaun impishly dancing with happiness while I lay on my belly, cleaning up the orange lentils that had spilled in the cupboards at floor level.

Eventually, we crossed the border into Mexico at Tijuana. We had been warned not to but no one really said why. Now we know: it’s the traffic, a mass of cars and trucks not moving with endless vendors rapping on our windows. Wide-eyed we pushed our way through Tijuana and down the coast.

One night we parked outside a fancy resort, and in the dark tiny ants marched up our power cord right into a dance party hosted by our leprechaun. They were all over the floor in the morning, we were killing them in the bathroom for days.

While driving around Baja, we were stopped by soldiers for a security check. But the guy who wandered through our camper took one of our special flashlights. We learned this is common, the soldiers checking your vehicle will just casually take drinks from your fridge or pocket things lying around. This particular officer was looking in our bathroom and came out limping. The Shamrock had attacked! Somehow he had hit his hip on the counter. I was glad to see the leprechaun didn’t discriminate in its hijinks.

While we swam and paddle-boarded, ate tacos and watched sunsets, the Shamrock kept throwing us curveballs. I learned to take it in stride. “No day can be 100 per cent perfect,” became my mantra. Why lose sight of how lucky we were, and we all learned to savour the good moments while dealing with the bad. We wove the Shamrock’s irritations into the tapestry of our trip.

By the time we reached Todos Santos, we couldn’t ignore the pandemic any more. Its shadow dogged us the whole way home.

Driving through Utah, our truck began clunking and hissing. We pulled over and called for a tow. The truck’s engine had completely broken and we needed a new one. We were so used to our Shamrock trailer’s problems that we were shocked at this massive betrayal by our dependable truck. We holed up in St. George, Utah, in the trailer to wait for this new repair. But the leprechaun struck again. One evening we were heating up dinner when the oven let out a big WHUMP! The whole camper shook. The propane had built up in the oven and then lit too late. You know those movies where people jump out of the way of an explosion? Ha! As if. We just stood there, staring, our mouths agape, there wasn’t time for anything else. Nothing was damaged, except probably the oven which we never used again.

After a few weeks, we left our truck in Utah – the engine transplant wasn’t going too well – and drove home in a rental to Calgary. At that time, there could not have been five travellers so happy to quarantine in their house for two weeks. We ran from room to room, shutting doors and sighing in contentment.

Eventually, we hired someone to drive our truck and the Shamrock to Calgary, but he arrived with just the truck. The camper was “causing problems” and the keys got lost, so it was left in Idaho. It is still there, we recently marked its one-and-a-half year anniversary of storage.

This brings me to the point of this essay: For Sale: A precocious and lively 30-foot Shamrock camper. Keeps you on your toes! Sleeps five. $9,000. Pick-up is somewhere in Idaho, bring some tools to break into it.

Catherine Warwick lives in Calgary.

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