The American Chronicles: The John Vincent story

The camping universe is an amazing melting pot of people. To Chris and I, it represents a great cross-section of America and its goodness. Places like the Americamp in Ashland, Va., serve as an example. Young folks with their families and dogs out playing corn hole or tossing the football—and if the corn hole game isn’t exciting enough, they make it more like a hockey/football/corn hole fusion. Americans, especially American kids, are creative. Us older ones enjoy our campfire and holding hands with our spouse while walking the dog through the winding camp roads among aged oak and evergreen trees. Our journey to Ashland, like so many stops along the way, begat another story—The John Vincent story.

We had an appointment at Airstream of Virginia to take care of a couple of maintenance issues with our travel van. While waiting in the showroom as the expert technicians took care of business, there was an older gentleman waiting as well. When I say older, I mean older than us—which by any account is gently matured! We struck up a conversation. He said he had a 2009 Airstream trailer and brought it in because the refrigerator needed some work. He said he normally would do the work himself, but he felt it would be a lot less hassle to just bring it in and have it fixed. Come to find out, he had been camping since he was about five years old and had camped in 49 states—all except Hawaii. He had also backpacked the Appalachian Trail and in Alaska and Canada. But that was the short of it.

He began telling about how in the 1960s he and his wife and kids trekked across the United States, camping out of their car. His story was getting more and more interesting. He said back then they didn’t think anything of stopping somewhere and letting the kids sleep in the car, while he and his wife pitched a tent. They did this heading West to California. He also spoke of travelling several times to Alaska, first when the roads were merely dirt paths through today’s more modern era. This man was a true adventurist, and as he is telling his story I’m wondering how old he must be. He looked fit as any man, youthful enthusiasm, that special glint in his eyes and spring in his step. After a while, we decided to introduce ourselves—seems that happens a lot—we talk and share great stories, then finally find out each other’s names.

John and Barbara Vincent have been married 64 years. Together they have camped in 49 states, beginning out of their car, then a pop-up trailer, then a larger camper, bringing them to the 14-year old Airstream. But there is so much more to this 85-year old super star. He and Barbara have pioneered a church planting initiative in remote areas of Mexico—something they are still doing. He had so many wonderful testimonies about connecting people with the love of Christ. His card, quoting Christ in Matthew 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” also says, “Retired—Now Working for Jesus.” Somehow, I think John’s been doing that most of his life. He is an inspiration and a remarkable man.

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Bill Wilson

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