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Feeding the Fantasy

5 October 2005

Humboldt County Fairgrounds
Ferndale, California

Good Morning.

I recently wasted your perfectly good time with a long lament about the ruinous price of gasoline, and the felt need to reconsider my RVing career. Surely you remember. I even contemplated downsizing to a Scamp or Casita or another one of those little fiberglass eggs.

You didn't think you were going to get away that easily, did you?

Bob Hatch wrote:

"Maybe you need to think another way. You're driving that truck everywhere. To the store, sight seeing, to the mall. The low mileage truck is your primary method of transportation. Your "average" mileage would go way up if your transportation was split between a nice, but not too big, Class A or C, and a Jeep or similar type vehicle. Seems that about 1/2 of those miles you list were when not towing the trailer. If you could get 26 mpg on 1/2 the miles, your average cost per mile goes way down.

Unassailable logic. But me, in a motorhome? Become one of the Pod People? Oh, brother.

Seriously, there are a couple of problems I have with his plan. One, it takes a hunka hunka burnin' cash up front. And two, it only works when you move seldom. Or not at all. That's the opposite of traveling.

Okay, okay. I guess I don't have to buy the fanciest or most expensive or newest Land Whale out there. And the used price of some of them ought to be coming down considerable next year, if gas stays up there.

But, but, but... don't those things just go from one parking lot to another?

Something in me just recoils at the idea of a motorhome. It is almost a political argument. It is not his logic that makes me want to back off. It is his starting point. It may boil down to a matter of style, which takes the discussion out of the realm of economics altogether.

I am, mentally, just miles from a motorhome. I may get there, but it'll take a while. Bear with me. I may live that long.

People come to this RV racket from very different places. Some come down from a house. Others come up from a tent. They may wind up with the same RV, but they will have nearly opposite expectations of what they hope to accomplish.

With me the ideal is peace and quiet back in the woods. Or at the shore. Hard to get at places. With a small footprint and simple tools, breathing air that has not just been exhaled by someone else, in a place where I can hear myself think, and be comfortable in my own skin.

Don't get me wrong. I was never Natty Bumppo. It is a fantasy. You have yours and I have mine.

Here is the reality: I am 59 years old. I have to take medicine every day for my heart. My knees won't let me run any more. I can't see fine details without my glasses. My neck is held together with a metal plate and scar tissue. My ankles turn if I look at them. Things fall from my fingers if I DON'T look at them. I creak and pop with every movement, and bits of me hurt every day.

But what the heck I'm still here to bitch and moan about it. And I'm still a vessel for my fantasies.

So I've made some compromises along the way. I suppose the first one, long ago, was when I started carrying water instead of drinking out of streams. Sensible, no? Then I gave up the 60 pound pack. I bought into certain prosthetics, like Jeeps, and started keeping more or less to something resembling a road. Then I made a bed in the back of a pickup, and traveled those bits of the country accessible by pavement.

Then I bought a small trailer. And followed with a bigger one. The one I've got now. Which may have been a bridge too far.

Step by step, the slippery slope. Farther and farther from the fantasy. I'm afraid that one of these days I'm going to wake up with an empty heart and a mouthful of ashes, sitting in a fancy coffin on wheels.

A motor home. Arrghh!

And before you roll your eyes, remember that the purchase of something like an RV is all about the accommodation of fantasy. It is seldom a practical decision. The most practical thing is to stay put.

Unless you happen to live in New Orleans.

It's all relative. For instance, at the moment I am eating blackberry pie for breakfast, looking out my window at the fairgrounds in Ferndale, California. Right across the way, up against the fence, is a vintage 18 foot Airstream that looks like it's been there for a while. While I was writing all that stuff up above, a couple of boys in red shirts and blue jeans, about 6 and 4, emerged from the darkness of a doorway half hidden by a rag of blue awning.

A small white dog followed them.

The boys are about as clean as boys get. They played a little, rough and tumble, waving sticks and wrestling, speaking in the tight voices and hushed tones of children who don't want grownups knowing too much about their games. One of them fell down dramatically, and I heard something about "killed ina linaduty." Then a slim woman appeared, a bit worn about the eyes, carrying clothes in plastic sacks. The woman locked up the trailer, and they all got into a red Jeep station wagon and rode off together.

They seemed unreasonably happy.

The little trailer looks lonely without them. Abandoned under the trees. Like a battered shoebox, where a child might once have kept his special things.

I think it is their home.


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