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The Relaxed Life at Camp Hebert

Trucker finds simple camping trips bring the joy of the outdoors home.

Many of the drivers featured on these pages have gone into the outdoors with a purpose and a skill. They have hunted or fished, using rifles, bows or light tackle, and they have found a way to leave worries behind as they stalk and match wits with prey. They have shared an intensity of communication and camaraderie with their fellow hunters or fishermen. They have come out of the woods with a sense of accomplishment, totally refreshed.

But Teddy Hebert finds the same intensity of friendship and gets the same rejuvenation of spirit by heading out into the woods and doing nothing much at all. Hebert is gradually perfecting the art of camping, mostly with the aid of his 13-year-old son Blake.

“There’s really no better way to communicate; it’s just one on one,” says Hebert (pronounced “A-bear”). “And you do things together, sharing the work whether it’s putting up the tent or hauling supplies. Every morning we get up, then we’re tending to the fire and making bacon and eggs in a skillet, and at night maybe we’re cooking hot dogs over the fire and talking.

“We’re doing things together because we like it, and you don’t always find that happening if you stay at home or go to a resort of a theme park.”

Hebert, a long time driver for Hirschbach Motor Lines, is now a company driver again after spending three years as an owner-operator with the company. He had previously been a driver trainer for the company.

He grew up camping in tents with his brother Randy in southeast Texas. “Then Dad bought a property near Ivanhoe, Texas, at a place that was not really a resort; it was a place for people to set themselves up out in the woods,” he says. “There were five lakes, one for swimming, one for skiing and three for fishing.”

For years, they camped there in a pop-up camper; then they built a house on the spot.

“In those days, growing up, if we weren’t heading for Ivanhoe to go camping, we’d be heading for Sabine Lake to go fishing,” Hebert says. “We’d be outdoors every weekend. I enjoyed it so much I knew I would get my son Blake into it.”

Still a resident of his native southeast Texas, Hebert lives in Port Neches, on the Louisiana border. He hauls meat in a reefer behind a 2004 Volvo VN.

Hebert doesn’t take camping gear with him on the road, even though he’s out for three weeks in a row. “When I’m out here, I want to work. If I’m not working, I’m not making money. If I took time to go camping, I wouldn’t enjoy it.”

But, says Hebert, camping is something truckers can easily do from their tractor, using waiting time or regulated downtime. “Even it’s only an overnight, it might just be a break that gets you ready to get back out there with a new attitude.”

While Hebert is happy with basic equipment, it occasionally needs updating. Just two months ago his old faithful boat and outboard were upgraded – because teenage boys grow. “We always went camping with our little aluminum boat and a small outboard, just enough to take Blake knee boarding,” he says. “I had a 14-foot aluminum boat with a 25-horsepower motor. Now I’m buying a 17-foot center console boat with a 90-horsepower Johnson. It’s a ’99 model, but it will do the job – you don’t need new for what we do.”

The new boat, which Hebert found by searching a southeast Texas web site, is made by Polar Kraft, a major player in the recreational boat industry.

Spending time with his son – regardless of the equipment – is what Hebert loves most.

“Camping creates quality time, whoever goes with you,” Hebert says. “That’s why I like to take Blake out with me. At home Blake will play video games, and I have to peel him off the screen if I want to talk to him. It can be hard to communicate.

“But it’s totally different when we go camping. All the distractions are totally taken out of it.”

When they are camping, Blake is full of questions, Hebert says. “He asks me what I did as a kid when I went camping, what I used to like to do when I was growing up, what we’re going to do tomorrow and what I think about all sorts of things,” Hebert says. “He never says ‘let’s hurry up and finish water skiing so I can play a video game.'”

And Blake will never let his dad forget the times they had raccoon trouble. “We had raccoons in camp, so we put the food up in bags out of their reach the way you are supposed to do it, but they still got into it,” Hebert says. “So next time I left our groceries in the pickup truck, with the windows just cracked enough to let the air move. Well, that’s what I thought. Come morning we found that the raccoons had squeezed in – I have no idea how they got through such a small opening – and Blake still gets on me about the garlic bread smell in the seats.”

Hebert, who often takes Blake for ride-alongs in the summer, cherishes the time he gets to spend with his son. “I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much fun it is for kids to go camping,” he says. I think that every child, if given the opportunity, would thoroughly enjoy camping. I know we have memories you’ll never take away.”

And Hebert likes the simple camping life. He is not about to swap his tent for an upscale camper. “If you get something with air-conditioning and a television set, you might as well stay at home because you are going to spend all your time inside with all those modern conveniences and not feel like roughing it outside,” Hebert says.

This is one outdoor adventure, says Hebert, where your imagination really decides what you do. “Camping, to me, is a total release,” he says. “It’s a very powerful relaxant; it takes all my worries away. You have to learn to take it easy, not to feel like you’re still out on the road and everything has to be busy.

“After camping, I’m ready to come back to work, completely refreshed, much more so than if I had stayed at home or gone to a resort with my time off. I’m a better diver out there, I’m a safer driver out there, and I’m a happier driver.”


Keep It Simple and Laid Back
A camper, new or old hand, doesn’t need a lot of expertise or equipment, says veteran camper and trucker Teddy Hebert.

First, he advises spending a little time browsing in a camping store. “When I was a kid, the Coleman store near us was my favorite place; it was like dreamland for me,” he says. “Going in there and looking at everything was one of my favorite things.”

You’ll need a tent, and Hebert says you can get a good one for less than $100. “You need a lantern, a stove or maybe a skillet if you’re going to use a fire and a pot for something like beans. That’s about all,” he says. “I use a blow-up mattress because I won’t sleep on the ground, but you don’t have to have one. A cooler for foods and drinks is a necessity. And a sleeping bag if it’s going to get cold.”

And, of course, these days your cell phone can keep you in touch with the authorities if something worries you. “Otherwise, turn it off,” says Hebert, laughing.

“The beauty of camping is its simplicity,” he says. “You get a lot of pleasure and relaxation, and excitement, without having to put out a lot of money or work real hard at it while you’re out there.”

Check out the campgrounds near you before you choose one, says Hebert, because they don’t all offer the same thing, giving you options on anything from horseback riding to canoeing to hiking and swimming, fishing, boating and so on.

“Now, just park and there’s no need to drive anywhere or do anything but set up camp,” he says. “You don’t have to fill every moment of every day with something to do. Sometimes you’ll have to get up and put another log on the fire.”

And you may get another surprise. “It’s cheaper than staying home for me,” says Hebert. “I don’t rent movies or order pizza or go the mall and so on, and in the end it costs me less. In fact I leave my wallet in the pickup.”

Hebert’s basic advice for enjoying camping the old fashioned way: “Camping is a vacation you can take very time you come home. Just keep it simple.”


Threatened Rooms in America’s House
Few people see more landmarks that are part of America’s heritage than an over-the-road trucker. But as you drive through different corners of the country, do you also see parts of that heritage under attack or perhaps already crumbling? Maybe some of you are seeing historic places that future generations will never get to see.

Each year since 1988 the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which was founded in 1949, has created an “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” list. The Trust’s aim is to focus attention on the effort to save the places on the lists.

This year’s list provides truckers with 11 special places in America where the future hangs in the balance, places you as a driver may get the chance to roll by, or even stop and visit. Here’s what the Trust has said about each one on the 2004 list:

  • Located in a remote part of Utah, Nine Mile Canyon is often called “the world’s longest art gallery” as it contains more than 10,000 images carved onto canyon walls by Native Americans. The canyon also contains many historic sites – including stagecoach stations, settlers’ cabins, ranches and iron telegraph poles installed by the famed 19th-century Buffalo Soldiers – that stand as reminders of the area’s pioneer history. Now this historic canyon is under increasing pressure from tourism, recreation and energy development that threaten its significant prehistoric and historic resources.
  • Nestled in the oak and redwood-studded ranchlands and mountains of Northern California is the home of a great American legend, Seabiscuit. It was here in 1939 at Ridgewood Ranch that an improbable winning trio – owner Charles Howard, jockey Red Pollard and trainer Tom Smith – nursed the ailing racehorse back to health after a serious injury. Seabiscuit’s recuperation set the stage for an electrifying blaze-of-glory career finish at Santa Anita Racetrack that captured Depression-era America’s imagination. Recently, a new generation has been introduced to the Seabiscuit tale through Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit: An American Legend and an Academy Award-nominated movie. Now, Seabiscuit’s home and final resting place is in jeopardy, its former thoroughbred glory dulled by deterioration due to inadequate funding for maintenance.
  • In New York City, an unorthodox and controversial icon of the recent past, 2 Columbus Circle, located on the southwest corner of Central Park, may soon be stripped of its architectural integrity. Created by architect Edward Durell Stone, who also designed Washington’s famed Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 Columbus Circle is a nationally recognized – albeit controversial – icon of the Modern Movement. Sporting a marble skin, porthole windows and a street-level arcade that critics have likened to a row of lollipops, the unorthodox building is radically different from the glass-and-steel boxes typical of its era. Now it is slated to be sold and renovated as a permanent home for the Museum of Arts and Design. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the design proposed for the new use would strip 2 Columbus Circle of its architectural integrity, and since it is not protected by New York’s preservation ordinance, these changes could be made without any kind of preservation review. Unless the new owner can be persuaded of the building’s significance, sweeping architectural changes could rob 2 Columbus Circle of its distinctive character and rob America of an engagingly quirky icon of the recent past.
  • For almost 400 years, wood-frame tobacco barns have dotted the rolling fields of Southern Maryland, their shapes defining the character of the area’s rural landscapes and their simple construction echoing traditional timber-framing methods used in England for centuries. Once essential to the process of air-curing tobacco, a mainstay crop of Maryland’s agriculture since the 17th century, historic tobacco barns are now being lost at an alarming rate as the region’s agricultural land is consumed by the spread of the D.C. metropolitan commuter-shed. Pressure from residential sprawl has only been aggravated by the unintended consequences of Maryland’s 2001 “tobacco buy-out” state policy, which encouraged farmers to stop cultivating tobacco. Scores of tobacco barns now have no productive purpose and stand unused and deteriorating.
  • Nestled in the heart of America’s most heavily visited national park, Elkmont is a link with the era when the park system was in its infancy. Originally established in 1908 as a base for logging operations, Elkmont housed many prominent figures lured by the Smokies’ abundant hunting and fishing opportunities. After two-thirds of the area’s forests had been depleted by logging, summer residents began advocating government protection for the region – an effort that eventually led to the establishment of the national park that now draws more than 9 million visitors annually. Since the National Park Service (NPS) assumed control of Elkmont in the early 1990s, inadequate maintenance – coupled with a debate over whether the area should be allowed to return to its “natural” state – has resulted in serious deterioration of the vacant wooden structures that comprise the 60-acre National Register-listed historic district; already, the rambling Wonderland Hotel is in such bad condition that it must be razed.
  • A little-known landmark of the recent past, the 1937 Kraigher House is an important example of the groundbreaking work of Richard J. Neutra, one of America’s – and the world’s – most influential and highly acclaimed modern architects. The house he designed for George Kraigher, a Pan American Airways pilot, is one of the few Neutra houses outside of California and may have been the first International Style house in Texas. Despite its impeccable pedigree, the house has been vacant for years and is scarred by the effects of neglect, vandalism, water penetration and termites. The City of Brownsville, current owner of the property, needs to take immediate steps to weatherize and restore the house and market it to a sensitive buyer.
  • Extending for hundreds of miles between Cape Fear and the St. John’s River, this stretch of coastline is home to one of America’s most distinctive cultures: the Gullah or Geechee people, descendants of slaves who have stoutly maintained lifeways, crafts, traditions – even a language – whose origins can be traced back over the centuries to their homelands in West Africa. Until fairly recently, the coastal region of islands, marshes, placid rivers and oak-shaded roads had seen relatively little change – but now change is widespread, often overwhelming and sometimes devastating. Unless something is done to halt the destruction, Gullah/Geechee culture will be relegated to museums and history books.
  • A state known for its historic villages, winding back roads, spectacular mountain vistas and strong sense of community, Vermont is once again besieged by the onslaught of big-box retail development. With working farms, winding back roads and forest-wrapped lakes, Vermont has a special magic that led National Geographic Traveler magazine to name the state one of “the World’s Greatest Destinations.” The National Trust first named the state to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1993. Back then, Vermont was the only state without a Wal-Mart. Today it has four – and it now faces an invasion of behemoth stores that could destroy much of what makes it Vermont. During the 1990s Wal-Mart located three of its four Vermont stores in existing buildings and kept them relatively modest in size. Now, however, the world’s largest company is planning to saturate the state – which has only 600,000 residents – with seven new mammoth mega-stores, each with a minimum of 150,000 square feet. These potential new stores may be located in St. Albans, Morrisville, Newport/Derby, St. Johnsbury, Bennington, Rutland and Middlebury. Wal-Mart’s plans are sure to attract an influx of other big-box retailers. The likely result: degradation of the Green Mountain State’s unique sense of place, economic disinvestment in historic downtowns, loss of locally-owned businesses and an erosion of the sense of community that seems an inevitable by-product of big-box sprawl.
  • One of the nation’s most important steel plants, the Bethlehem Works in Pennsylvania, played a pioneering role in the development of America’s steel and defense industries. Steel from the Bethlehem Works was used to build the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and to reconstruct the White House in the Truman era. Today, the sprawling mill lies dormant, in danger of being cleared for a retail complex or industrial park. Unless preservationists succeed in saving the birthplace of integrated steel-making, there might not be a single blast furnace, machine shop, foundry or crucible building left on the site of one of America’s – and the world’s – greatest industrial triumphs.
  • With its imposing neoclassical architecture, the Cook County Hospital in Chicago – once the country’s largest – has become familiar to millions of Americans as the setting or inspiration for numerous films and TV programs, including The Fugitive and ER. The facility was long the primary source of health care for the city’s poor and immigrant populations, but it was vacated after the Cook County Board voted to construct the new John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County on an adjacent site. Despite public outcry and studies demonstrating the feasibility of converting the venerable building to housing or other uses, the leadership of the Cook County Board remains determined to demolish it at a cost to taxpayers of $30 million.
  • One of Detroit’s most significant remaining examples of turn-of-the-century downtown residential architecture may have a date with the wrecking ball. Built in 1901, the Madison-Lenox was a fashionable residential hotel until suburbanization and inner-city decline forced it to close. Today, more than a decade of abandonment has left the once-elegant building ravaged by vandalism and deterioration. But its stately design remains impressive, and its location at a critical point between two historic neighborhoods that are experiencing revitalization means that a restored Madison-Lenox could play an important role in the area’s burgeoning renaissance.

The Trust says the 11 sites chosen every year “are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. Some are well known, such as the Vieux Carre in New Orleans or Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Others, like the Kennecott Copper Mines in Alaska or the village of East Aurora, N.Y., are less famous but just as important, because they too represent preservation challenges facing thousands of communities. Each site raises awareness about the dangers to specific parts of America’s heritage and about preservation generally.”

The National Trust “11” lists have featured more 140 significant building, sites and landscapes. Now more than 20 states and a number of cities and towns have begun publishing their own lists to try and save local historic sites.

You can find out about the privately funded National Trust and the endangered places it is fighting to preserve at www.nationaltrust.org.

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