Un-Orthodox


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.

22R truck tireA 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.  remember that everyone you know

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.

HomelessAs “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.

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6 Comments

  1. Peter, your early days with peg in the VW remind me of ours after we had Michelle. We also had a VW (’65) and it always had our stove, tent and lantern behind the back seat. On Friday’s we’d pop in the cooler, hit the grocery store and go camping for the weekend. Later we bought an inflatable boat too which was lots of fun but really hard to get all the air out of so it would fit in the car.

    I had the opportunity, and I do call it an opportunity because I learned so much from it, anyway…I lived in a homeless shelter for six months and in doing so was fully embroiled into the different aspects of homelessness and homeless people. I met shell-shocked vets who were harmless but could not function. I met parolees who had no forwarding address and were required to stay at the shelters. Some of the people worked, some had kids who went to school. Some were disgusting pigs who prostituted themselves in an effort to be someone they weren’t. I got to meet up with the campers, the ones who wouldn’t go to the shelter because of random drug testing, etc.

    I found I was less interested in who they were than in what they wanted to be…and some wanted to be…homeless, drunk, addicted, irresponsible, etc. while others worked like crazy to improve their life condition. The first group was generally parasitic to the community, the second needed to be helped. I throw the shell shocked vets into the helped group because most were just looking for a peaceful place to rest their head at night and most didn’t beg. I tried to help several people when I had liberated myself and though I had thought they wanted to change, they didn’t…they liked the irresponsible life and eventually took advantage of my generous nature. I was smart enough to not to allow it to fester for a long time but they had also figured out to get their “government cheese” shortly after that and didn’t need me anymore. By the way, New York also paid to have people shipped to Florida. That, government hand outs and the warm weather is one reason we have a huge problem with homelessness. It’s a multi-faceted societal problem. The paid an expert to do an analysis and he got it spot on, great report but too many areas that needed reform to make any workable headway into the problem.

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    1. At that time we were so poor it was scratching the barrel to be able to go anywhere for two weeks. But we did it. And we still look back at that first trip — 46 years ago — as if we were Columbus discovering the New World — because we were discovering ourselves together in new ways. As time went on we were doing better and had a more ‘normal’ life but the first couple years when I was doing my government service it was really a tight existence.

      You hit one important nail on the head. You can’t ever supersede another person’s will — not by force, not by violence, not by gentle prodding. I see that so much in parents trying to make their kids into what they want them to be, and I see it in social programs and we are never willing to speak to that reality in public. We think that if people are homeless that they have to be helped and I know folks who don’t want to be helped. Or how live massively below standards that society says are acceptable just to be able to live the way they want to.

      Your comment about paying to do a study and finding too many areas needing reform makes me think about the practicality of living in the U.S. Nations in Europe have been there, have existed, for multiples of times that the U.S. has been around. They don’t have many things we have but what they have done is to come to terms with the reality of their existence. They have “X” number of square miles with so many people and there are needs to be met. They don’t go off sending men to the moon because their budget doesn’t allow, and they have learned — centuries ago — that what you build has to be maintained. And what you have is what you have, you can’t afford to waste it. They are so far ahead of us in sustainability that it’s ridiculous, but then they don’t have the vast open spaces and seemingly limitless resources that we do. We have yet to realize that we can’t afford all the programs and ideas that we have. We have yet to accept that just because we can conceive it doesn’t mean we can do it. And certainly that a garbage collector or a burger flipper don’t have the same social value that a doctor or an engineer might have. We have another revolution coming that isn’t going to be easy and it’s up to us to decide if it’s going to be bloody or bloodless. That’s always a choice here in this country. It seems we don’t know how to do anything without shedding blood.

      I did not know about NY. But I’m not surprised.

      And of course if people are willing to do such things you know without a doubt why it is that we still have racism and a lot of other problems a century after we fought to rid ourselves of them. The problem is not societal. The problem is inside humans. Hatred, Greed, Envy.

      >

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      1. I have always wanted to go to Europe to get that feel of social connection. Nowadays, it’s not safe to travel abroad so our best travels will be in the US and maybe Canada. I do have to wonder if Europe has changed from what you experienced…with the new generations and technology…seems like it isn’t the same either.

        Well, I’m off to work, chat later. :D\

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      2. Yeah… change. I made about 4 or 5 trips and I’d love to have been able to afford living in France for our retirement, but that’s not possible. So, we do the best we can here. And there’s nothing to sniff at living the mobile life. We still love it.

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