The RV, Walmart and Entering Darkness

December 6th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

I’ve been on the road for the last four days on another planet. OK, you’ve heard that before. And, OK, maybe I didn’t cross any national borders or break through the outer atmosphere into another planetary dimension. But I did cross several time zones yet remained on the same land mass.

We were long overdue for an adventure. We decided to hit the road for two weeks, leave the dogs and the chickens and the nearly ripened vegetable gardens in the very capable hands of a young friend and avid rugby player named Greg. Where were we to go? Quite honestly, we wanted to go back to Bali, to visit our old friends and neighbors, and to take the kids on a memorable journey across still-active volcanoes and pristine terraced rice fields. We wanted to return to where was once our home.

That didn’t happen. Instead, we found ourselves smack in the middle of a Phoenix, Arizona, in record-temperatures of 115-plus degrees. It was the kind of heat that was foreign to us even though we lived in subtropical Bali. It was the kind of heat that smacked you when you walked out of the hotel room, and the shade gave no relief.

Overnighting at a Phoenix airport hotel that I cashed in with our airline points, we hit the road the next morning after making a stop at CruiseAmerica. (I quickly realized that their RVs are everywhere on the road in this part of America, easily identifiable by the blatant U-Haulesque advertising on all sides of the exterior that includes a website address and 1-800 number. This was a far cry from our farm setting in the Berkshires.) From the outside, we didn’t know how we could fit five people and an overwhelming amount of luggage in this vehicle. We even asked for a larger size RV, but they were all rented. Surprisingly, once inside, this glorified minitruck was roomier than our first apartment in Asia, a 100-square-foot flat in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. When I put things in perspective, they become much easier to accept.

My temporary home: a mobile ad.

(If you are at all thinking about renting an RV to take the quintessential family vacation within the next 6-8 months, I would highly suggest planning and reserving now. As if I have tons of time to blow as it is, I must have spent hours on the phone and on the internet exploring RV options. Bookmark a few RV rental places and use Cruise America as your starting point for standards and cost. And, if at all possible, don’t give yourself the leeway to change your mind. Many friends have told me that they’ve always wanted to do this sort of thing. My response is to find a way to make it happen, or else it never will and the dream will become only a vague afterthought of an experience that never happened. And there’s no reason why it can’t. Or couldn’t. Or shouldn’t.)

So instead of driving through the hilly, lush terrain of equatorial Bali, we hit the RV trail with a roughly outlined route by John’s good friend, Martin. The first stop was not on that route, though. Walmart was just around the corner, and there we amassed supplies that I hadn’t brought with me. We walked out three hours later mentally and physically spent, still glowing from the thousands of fluorescent lights illuminating the shopping center, and shelling out more than $300 to stock up our RV. We were good to go with a lifetime supply of pork and beans, canned oysters and Special K berry cereal, among other less essential items. Not to mention I brought from home my own supply of sheets, towels, pans, plastic bowls and cups, kitchen utensils and, of course, a corkscrew and bottle opener for beer and wine consumption.

And onward we rolled in the heavily ladened moveable homestead. From the onset, everything seemed a bit peculiar. It was odd to see cartoonish cacti dotting the landscape as we drove from Phoenix toward Flagstaff, passing by highway markings like Horse Thief Basin and Bumble Bee Road. The sky darkened sooner than I had anticipated into nighttime, our the first day on the road, lightening streaking across the nearly black sky on our way to who knows where. We stopped overnight at a state campground in the northernmost point of Red Rock Canyon. But the name of the location didn’t mean anything. All I knew is that I had enough and just wanted to stop. I’m a bit impatient when I’ve had enough. Or when I’m hungry. I’ve got to have a solution NOW. There’s something disorienting about driving in a foreign place in darkness. Everything seems slightly surreal, fuzzy, as if a cloak has concealed elements of the surroundings, opening up the imagination to the unknown. Not knowing is slightly unsettling, unnerving.  But it seems to always happen whenever we arrive in a new place. We oftentimes enter in darkness and awaken to a new world. And this was by no means an exception.

Darkness and dinner looming.