Full time RV’ing will never become the norm. If you accept that most of your neighbors are never going to sell up their house and most of their belongings to go wandering around the country in a glorified tin can, then you must accept as well that full time RV’ers are out-of-ordinary, irregular, unorthodox. You aren’t the norm is you’re an RV’er.
The process of travel exposes one to differing ways of seeing the world, differing ways of dealing with problems, indeed — to different problems as well. Those of us who travel love it, those who don’t often-times cling to the life they know, or insist on keeping the life they know as it has always been.
“Hitler didn’t travel.
Stalin didn’t travel.
Saddam Hussein never traveled.
They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.”
— Howard Gardner
If ‘orthodoxy’ is the accepted way of thinking, being, and doing things then the RV’er is surely a bit un-orthodox. Being with and around RV’ers is surely the best way to prove that. You really do meet some of the most intriquing people. Lovely people. Strange people. Whacko’s and wizards. Helpful and helpless.
You’ll find RV’ers who do things according to the owners’s manual, and you’ll find others who dream up bizarre ways of handling any problem that somes along. I commend the creative thinkers for their creativity even if I may cringe at their method. You’ll find the entire range of approaches to life from those who throw money at every problem to others who live a very frugal life, to extremists who torture the concept of being miserly — just as you find in every other realm of life — in the handling of money there are the same extremes as in the rest of life, merely manifested in novel ways.
Driving way out of your way, consuming more dollars in gasoline/diesel in order to save less money on camping fees always strikes me as unorthodox. It’s not really an economy, it’s a quirk.
A friend of ours has one of those rare RV’s that actually carries a full sized spare coach tire in a basement storage bay. The molded plastic bin the tire rides in has cracked over time. Now, the cracks extend nearly all the way around and he’s trying to find a way of keeping it from dropping out on the highway while he goes down the road. We were talking the other day and he admitted that in over 10 years of RV’ing he’s had only one flat tire. He’s too old to change a coach tire himself, but when I suggested that maybe he remove the tire, and use the storage bay for something else he thought that a ridiculous idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a decade of driving he has spent more money in fuel costs hauling around the extra weight of an aging tire than his tire cost him in the first place. Parts are no longer available for that part, so if he does make a makeshift repair the risks of an accident caused by that repair may be more dangerous than the cost of fixing a roadside flat.
On the positive side, we’ve seen campers this summer on cross country trips in a tent, when their car is a tiny Prius. They remind me of our first ever vacation, Peg’s and mine, that we took in a ’68 VW around Lake Superior with an Army Surplus single burner “white gas” stove and a two man Boy Scout tent — and we had the time of our life even though that ‘Bug’ was crammed to the ‘gills’ (I suppose that’s mixing my biological metaphors but what the heck). We couldnt’ take much with us, and it seemed that every evening along our trip we were making compromises about one thing or another. Unlevel sites, how late we had to drive, you name it… everything we did was a compromise. So much for instant marital harmony– we were still getting to know each other and when is that ever a completely painless experience. But traveling brought questions to mind we never would have faced if we’d stayed at home.
The fact of the matter is that RV’ing, and camping, does force upon you the need to stay flexible and creative. This week we had a 37 foot 5th wheel come in to take the reservation they had made in a 40′ site — which proved totally unacceptable given the fact that their combined length was closer to 60′ than 40′. It was late in the day and he and I got out our smartphones and I helped him find another solution along their route within easy driving distance that evening. It’s good to help one another out. They had never been in this part of the country before, they were eager for assistance, and they were extremely capable of adjusting to incoming data. We talked about where they wanted to go, he got out his paper campground directory, I got our my smartphone and my RVParking.com app and in 10 minutes — with me leaning on the window ledge of their big Ford Pickup they had reserved another site within an hour’s drive, had their onboard GPS programmed and were very appreciative — seeing as the had just loaded up the freezer in their household refrigerator and they didn’t have any backup onboard power to keep it running without a site with electric plug-ins!
It’s possible to flex and bend without breaking. So many people drive through the gates as if their plans are the only plans possible. But that’s rarely true, they simply don’t want to deal with the reality of having to change plans. I can’t believe how many people think they can drive up to a public campground late on a Friday summer afternoon thinking that no one else might want to get away for the weekend, or that maybe a check on reservations, or a call to the office might not be a good idea. Sure, that’s part of our job and I don’t mind going through the options with those who haven’t planned ahead. But I am amazed by those who take their own failure as a personal affront — that the world just doesn’t understand their needs.
I have been made painfully aware of homelessness this summer. We’ve seen a regular parade of families and individuals who clearly have no place to live, attempting to use a Federal campground as an alternative to home. There are lies about whether they have paid their fee, there are stories about “why” and “how” and “whether.” It hurts me to see families with children having such a difficult time; which pain is immediatley tempered by a constant string of lies and avoidance. Of course that reaction is worsened when we see mom or dad driving a brand new vehicle and the kids looking rather shabby.
I was impressed by a sign we saw at the first rest area in Minnesota on I-94. It said this:
Homeless isn’t a “condition,” it’s a situation. Call, we can help.
I thought how wonderful! I wonder how the state (it was a state agency readers were directed to call) was helping with helplessness. I say that semi-sarcastically because when we were volunteering in Oregon there was a scandal about people who had been given travel vouchers by government agencies in Utah to move permanently to Oregon — to help reduce homelessness in Utah. Out of sight, out of mind — make your problem into someone else’s problem. I’m hopeful that is not what Minnesota is doing, and I am happy to see efforts being made to address directly a real problem in our country.
As “camp hosts” our job is never to enforce, it is to inform so there’s a bit helplessness involved. We can’t wave a policy for someone struggling — nor can we enforce it. We get the rangers involved when the problem is “above our pay grade” and we get a chance to see them try to find ways of handling a myriad of problems within their own authority and within the standard practices of their agency. Occasionally they involve the local police when the “problem” whatever it might be lies outside their purview.
If there is one thing that retirement and that volunteering have done for me is to put me in situations where we see and become involved in a broader variety of human interactions. When you’re “home,” living in sticks & bricks, with a regular job, and family and friends your circle of acquaintanceship tends to be “so” large and no larger. Getting out here on the road has opened our eyes to other “ways” of being, and other kinds of people. Some we’ve been thankful to know, others not so much. But it’s been an education to be sure.
And … we keep trying to stay unorthodox. Keep trying to find different ways of doing the same thing safely and efficiently. Keep trying to find ways of helping people; and of encouraging them to help themselves. We’ll keep interacting with others. Keep learning from them. Keep trying to pass on what we have learned. It’s a small world really — Just you and me and other humans, all just trying to get through life.
Thanks for stopping by, I’ll be here again tomorrow, why not stop by and say hi.