All in all, the life in the big tin can is quite sweet. Check with me on different days about this, though, because I am sometimes a little dark, dark like the Grinch, dark like Monty Clift.
We have a 26″ TV with DVD and VCR, and an auto satellite dish that pivots and twirls till it locks on a giant floating TV machine that floats – always – above the Texas gulf coast. We have hundreds of crystal clear channels, and mostly I just make it go from 201 to 545 as fast as possible to remind myself that the world is still with us.
We have the microwave, a nice refrigerator, three burners, and an oven big enough for the thinnest cookies ever made. We have slideouts in the living room and bedroom, enabling us to increase floor space in each of those rooms by 50%. The bedroom has a nice queen size bed, with room to walk around both sides. Storage is good. I have the seven shirts that make up my wardrobe, and my wife has along about what Diana Ross packs with her when she goes to Europe for a month. The living room has a 4-seater dining room table and a full length couch. You can really stretch out. When the sun’s up, we have all the windows open, and the views are almost always pretty spectacular, given where we’ve been traveling.
The bathroom? Well, the shower is located about half way back in the RV, and on one side, and as long as you’re under 6 feet tall, it’s an efficient space. Imagine a phone booth. Then think of something smaller than that. Something that would fit inside a phone booth. With running water. And slick surfaces. The toilet area is across the hall from the shower, and includes a stool, wash basin, and enough storage for 2 toothbrushes, some soap, some towels, and the medium size tube of Crest. When you shave in there, your elbow beats a nice pattern on the side of the wall, but if your belly wasn’t as big as mine, you’d think you were in a phone booth. Or something that would fit inside a phone booth. With a little chair.
The cab of the motorhome is great, CD player, weather band radio. We have a super handheld GPS unit that tells us where we are, and more importantly, which upcoming exits have gas stations – or a Taco Bell! The seats up front are comfy. They tilt, got the big captain’s arms. I’m like Kirk on the Enterprise or Lincoln in the big stone chair.
By day we drive, stopping absolutely whenever we want, making sandwiches at rest areas or scenic overlooks. Sometimes I take a cigar out and stand there, like today, staring out at the spectacular Badlands of central and western South Dakota. Sometimes we just sit inside, slurp our soup, make phone calls on one of the cell phones, or just marvel at the gas receipts that we sometimes hold up to the light…$147 at the Exxon in Sioux City, Iowa. Are we part owners there now?
Those who know me think it’s inconceivable that I’ve made it this far. I’m a bit of a motel whore. I love the Holiday Inn Express, the Radisson, the Sheraton. I’ll even be happy at the Comfort Inn, the Super 8 in a pinch. If there’s an ice machine, cable TV, and a Denny’s next door, I’m there. But RV life is so amazingly different. While the inside of the RV never changes – much like hotel rooms all sort of run together – the various machinations around parking a 29 foot motorhome and hooking up to power, water, and sewer each night, and negotiating the sometimes dodgy campground setting, bugs, snakes, outdoor bathrooms, etc. is just not part of my nature.
Yet, here we are, still married. My wife and I have a great system going; should I ever need a hotel day, she’s said, just take it. We’ll park the beast, pack up an overnight bag, and let the Ramada Inn care for me for the night. It’s a great option, and one that I’m glad to have. Yet, I’ve not exercised it yet. I want to push on, in the spirit of great adventurers everywhere, Lewis and Clark, etc. I am tough as nails. While watching the Cubs and Marlins last night on TV, drinking a cold Coors Light and watching the hot dogs cook on the stove, I felt like an explorer crossing the Continental Divide. I was making my own way across the country.
Later, after finishing the new Grisham book, I set the furnace to 70 degrees, turned off all the lights, got in under the sheets and comforter, thought about those settlers, traveling the same route I was on. They weren’t so great.
More of this travel memoir is located in “Poets on Place.”
Sounds nice. How did you manage to work?
Before the trip, we sold most of our belongings, a house, and a car, and used that money. On the trip I interviewed 62 American poets about the role “place” had on their work, and then sold that book somewhere around the middle of the trip. After we were done and I finished the book, we went back to work in a new state. Just in the nick of time.