Tuesday, August 24, 2010
There are those who see travel as a great evil. It disrupts the painfully gathered sureties of existence, and stirs up primitive anxieties. Will there be room at the Inn? What will we have to eat? Loaves and fishes? Will we be able to sleep?
Or, as a stubbornly practical non-traveler told me, "When the urge strikes, I want to be sitting on my own pot."
An RV traveller has answers for all these questions, but the habits of a sedentary lifetime often rise up unbidden and shake his confidence. Will we find a campground? Will there be electricity? Will we have air conditioning?
That last question was on my mind as I left Lubbock, the Houston of the High Plains. It was around 9 o'clock, and I was driving into darkness, with a distant but spectacular thunderstorm in the offing. In fact, I was heading right into it, like Linda Hamilton at the end of Terminator. It had been over 100 degrees all day, the cab AC barely keeping up with it, and I was not looking forward to a sweltering night. But with the sun gone, the land seemed to be cooling, and there was a bit of a breeze when I got out to pump gas.
I had a decision to make. Looking for a campground this late stirred unpleasant memories of late night dashes from one none-too-clean cheap motel to another, looking for a temporary and bogus salvation. I'll bet I've not stayed in a commercial campground a dozen times in as many years because of that memory, and every time it involved a need for air conditioning.
Do I seek shelter? Do I drive on? Do I dare to eat a peach?
What the heck. There's something to be said for tradition, even a fairly recent one. Besides, I'm an intrepid Rver. I laugh at danger.
The night was young. I wasn't tired. I was listening to Benny Carter on the stereo. It was cozy in the cab, just me and Benny and the dim cool lights from the dash. Fifty mph, which had irked me earlier as the blazing sun ran round the sky, didn't seem so slow in the enveloping darkness.
In fact it was just about right. I let the miles roll by. Nothing nagged at me. It was the best part of the day.
Y'know, I saw where one RVer was embarrassed to admit that after a few years it felt like they were just "driving in circles". Don't we all? If you've ever been involved in a lasting relationship, you know what it is to go round and round. And then the earth spins round the sun, the year through the seasons. Dust to dust. You may think all that simple minded, but step back. Deep in the blood, we are all Lunatics, responding to the ebb and flow of tides. The only way any of us can manage to think of ourselves as going in a straight line is by flattening the whole of life and cutting it up into tiny slivers. It's like looking at a Mercator Projection of the World and believing those proportions are about right.
Circularity in life is not a problem, it's a relief. It makes a few things still dependable.
At any rate, late at night, cruising down a two lane highway in the panhandle of Texas, it was easy to imagine that in some sense I wasn't really moving at all, though the moonlit world rushed by my door. There was a stillness to my passage, because I was at home.
After a couple of hours I pulled into a rest area just short of Farwell and the New Mexico border. The high plains had cooled further, to a humid 79 degrees. I could live with that, but not in the overhead bed. Not enough air. So I made up a sort of instant sleeping porch on one of the couches, and opened both windows and the vent above for ventilation. I have something like a Fantastic Fan up there, very quiet, with a rain sensor on the cover. It's a different brand, though. Shurflo, I think.
I found some really handy red and blue flannel sleeping bags at Walmart for 10 bucks apiece. They can even be zippered together to make a double. I just spread them out flat, because the flannel grips the upholstery and won't ball up and crawl around like cotton sheets do. They have elastic bands on the ends, and roll up into handy little neck cushions that sit on the back of the couch. If they get dirty, you just throw them in the wash. Or at that price, buy a couple more. Come to think of it, plain flat flannel sheets would work nearly as well.
If you ever sleep where the truckers do, on the side of the road, there's something else you will need: ear plugs. The highway is right there, a railroad track even closer, and big trucks will rumble in and circle round occasionally in the night. But nothing woke me up, the next morning was mild and wet, and stayed that way all the way to Santa Rosa. I didn't need the A/C at all.