Bill on July 24th, 2019

“Road Trip” turns out to be a foreign concept, a strange idea easily supplanted by another, more familiar one. “Expeditious Travel,” perhaps.

Originally conceived as a leisurely journey in a comfortable camping car, our western summer road trip has quickly evolved through several permutations, including “tenting in different fields and forests,” “overnighting in a couple of different motels,” and finally, “sprinting from bed to couch” as we raced to visit friends in the Northwest before returning briefly to Pinedale, Wyoming—which in addition to offering all of the civilization one needs, is seemingly the center of our universe this summer and a last wayside on the road home.

Just as I knew in advance that the camping car could well be a purchasing mistake—an idea more attractive in the dream-state than when realized, so too I knew in advance that a road trip might prove not be our favorite thing. But we were both willing to give it a good go, and so we went.

For many people (Nuris) the idea of traveling long distances just to see what’s between two points is, well, pointless. To this way of thinking, the whole point of traveling is to get from “Point A” to “Point B.” Anything in between is an impediment. This is a reasonable position to take through much of the deserted western United States, terrain to which I mercilessly subjected my wife for weeks on end. (Of course I exaggerate, but not much.) For others (ahem) the idyllic byway cruise can begin to feel overly full, what with driving, directing, navigating, translating, and such. More, I think, than either of us had realized or bargained for. And now we’re done.

The feeling as we prepare to head home is familiar–sort of like the feeling one gets when shedding a camping car.

After my last post a thoughtful friend was kind enough to point out that I was firmly on the right side of the whole “sunk costs” accounting equation when I sold the camping car (that would be the “happiness side” of the equation) and I’m now suggesting the existence of some sort of parallel social calculus that rationalizes cutting short a not particularly pleasant sight-seeing trip. Of course the common factor in both calculations is that “happiness factor,” which, I’m confident, is the whole idea.

So this morning we will gird our loins and squeeze a Honda-and-a-half’s worth of stuff (don’t ask) into a single full-sized Honda and begin to wend our way home with a full summer’s worth of experience and joy under our belts.

I hope your summer has been equally instructive, if maybe with a little less concentrated windshield time.

Bill on July 14th, 2019

Hi,

I may have mentioned that recreational vehicles are like homes writ smaller and more complicated with more systemic details than the typical home, what with multiple optional power sources, contained tanks of fuel, water, and other sundry liquids and so on. And then there’s the fact that the whole complicated thing is mobile, with all that mobility entails: starting, turning, stopping, and the like.

Yet none of this frightens me. Perhaps it should. While I may not have entirely “been there,” I most certainly have “done” most of “that.” Confidence, I have; competence I’ve mostly got also or, where lacking, could certainly learn. What seems to be lacking here is desire. Just because I can, doesn’t mean that I want to.

And so I’ve sold the camping car.

Don’t misunderstand my action—this was a great camping car: it had a big refrigerator, freezer, a comfortable bed, heat pump, furnace, air conditioner, a microwave/convection oven, and a dry bathroom. It was predictable and stable to drive and delivered 17.9 mpg. Etc, etc, etc. And Nuris was OK with it, too.

It just isn’t for me at this time. Maybe a couple of years ago–or perhaps in another couple of years it will be a swell idea. Just not now.

And so the Winnebago has a new happy family, who gladly paid the price I asked, in much the same way as I bought the rig last November.

As for me, I now have a set of $10,000 license plates, and I’m OK with that.

The sale rapidly and entirely completed, Nuris and I have again departed Pinedale, Wyoming for points west, this time in the four door sedan loaded with tent, sleeping bags and sleeping pads—and of course with the giant cooler.

We’re off to the Oregon coast, then to visit (and meet!) my once-and again daughter in Portland, after which friends and vistas north and east, eventually yet again returning to our good friends in Pinedale before eventually landing in Maryland.

Whooeee! I’ll keep you posted.

Bill on July 5th, 2019

Hi,

Perhaps your bedroom was 56 degrees when you woke up this morning, but probably not. Unless you’re living in a tent. Or in a camping car.

Nuris and I are still visiting with friends in Pinedale, Wyoming where I have retrieved and am acquainting myself with my nearly-new, rather old Winnebago View. We spent our second night inside the camping car last night. Cozy!

In terms of systems a camping car is like a house, only smaller and more complicated. Certainly it’s waaay more complicated than the tent camping that has mostly been my outdoor experience in recent years. But, on the plus side, the bed is surprisingly comfortable and the gas furnace soon had the bedroom and the living room (but not so much the bathroom) up to 72 degrees. This is still a bit chilly for us but appropriate for the first cup of coffee and these paragraphs.

In the continental United States, Pinedale is close to nothing, and so smugly greets visitors with the proclamation the city provides “all the civilization you need.” I imagine that my friends from Pinedale might take exception to me characterizing the proclamation as “smug.” I’ll bet they would prefer “wry,” or maybe “witty,” neither of which would be wrong. But I’m going to stick with “smug” and take my lumps as needs be.

By virtue of geologic good fortune and a few quirks of climate and tax policy, Pinedale is a thriving small community. Unlike so much of small-town America, Pinedale displays very little of the economic distress and consequent social malaise that afflicts thousands of American towns of comparable size. In the homogenizing era of big-box stores, consolidated school districts, and the pervasive and corrosive politics of Perpetual Petulance, Pinedale appears to be doing just fine. Which speaks to more than mere good fortune. More accurately, it speaks to good people, who happen to be fortunate.

The day before hitting the highway I was disappointed to discover that neither the gas-fired, nor electric powered method of starting the refrigerator were successful. And after the full allotment of two attempts at starting the thing (!) It moved into “lockout” mode. In the interest of keeping cool I went out and bought an ice chest, which is riding on the floor right in front of the refrigerator.

I’d like to think the refrigerator is embarrassed and I, somewhat smugly, think that my placing the ice box directly in front of the refrigerator is wry. Or maybe witty. But really it’s just an annoying intrusion placed in the least inconvenient place it can be. Too bad it won’t fit inside the refrigerator.

When I get a break in the action I’ll get into my RV refrigerator. How difficult can a thirteen year-old mobile refrigerator with 110v and propane power, both controlled by a 12v panel be? More on the subject later. Perhaps.

Our first evening finds Nuris and I parked beside the Snake River in Idaho, where life, in the main, is very, very good.

Hope you feel the same wherever you may be, and whatever the temperature of your bedroom.

Bill on June 29th, 2019

Unless you grew up there, I’ve probably been to Elkhart, Indiana more frequently then you.

Over the years I’ve developed a few habits when in Elkhart—habits which have been largely private, at least until this afternoon when I introduced Nuris to the Steak and Shake fountain milkshake.

Really, it had never occurred to me that the Elkhart shake is somewhat excessive. But I now suppose that it can be seen as so. (This is a view that I do not personally share. For me an excessive milkshake would be built on real ice cream with loads of butterfat and not on something called “milkshake base” But I digress, and risk losing my point in the bargain.)

The point being that, in the same way that foreign travel should broaden one’s horizons while at the same time deepening one’s appreciation for life beyond the world of things and stuff, so might familiar, even repetitive domestic traveling bring opportunity for fresh insight. This is particularly the case when such travel is conducted in the company of a foreigner. For that matter, any location might present this opportunity, which may at times be easier to appreciate when in the company of an observant companion. But you probably already know that.

But it seems that the spur to insight or appreciation needn’t even be human. To wit: I’ve probably stopped in Elkhart, Indiana on more than 50 occasions over the past 25 years and I’d never noticed that Elkhart is less that 2 miles from Michigan. It took the little mechanical man in the Waze application on my smartphone to draw my attention to this fact, which he did promptly when I asked the software to plot a path to Pinedale, Wyoming—and stay off the freeway.

As we move around the central and western states over the next few weeks or months I’ll do my level best to explain what we are seeing in a way that doesn’t make me feel overly foolish and that remains consistent with my own cultural bias. Wish me luck.

I’m pretty sure that my salvation and deliverance will stem from the fact that the United States is a pretty awesome place, no matter who is doing the sayin’.

Chicken fried steak, anyone?

Bill on June 27th, 2019

…we’re off!

This morning I woke up wondering—and not for the first time, just what it might have been that possessed me last November to purchase a second-hand camping car in Iowa and then trot off to Pinedale, Wyoming to store it for the winter

Of course, in many ways a big quonset hut in Pinedale is a great place to store a camping car: it’s been shielded from the sun and weather, it’s consistently been bathed in dry air—and hopeful it hasn’t been nibbled to pieces by one sort or another of high plains rodent since we parked it.

In any event, today we begin the 2,000 mile trek from our home in Maryland to our friends and RV-keepers in Pinedale, after which we’ll see how much of the seller’s orientation I remember from last fall or can otherwise divine from the accompanying copious and detailed manuals. And then we’ll hit the road, bringing all of the hypotheticals to an end.

(At least in theory,) we’ll keep you posted.