The role of captain of our rickety rig, as it barrels (perhaps buckets is more apt) across this American lifestyle, can be a lonely one. As Tristan pancakes himself into his Nintendo DS, playing games to wile away the sometimes long hours on winding, skinny back roads, I am left to keep the ship afloat. Heavy winds come at us broadside, threatening to give us a face-to-face with whatever cliffsides crawl up our righthand flanks, and so it’s a constant battle, a neverending left turn to keep us on the road and in our present tense of living. With the general westward movement that we do, and our propensity for noonish start times, I’m often driving into the sunset, and were it not for my most trusty of driving utensils — the elusive pair of sunglasses that prove both effective and stylish, rare in our modern world where companies typically only sell one or the other, form or function — I would be in a constant state of headache and squint.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s all good. Those small complaints are really just perks in disguise. A blazing sun, the thrill of a good fight against the wind. We are man. We travel with our full house in tow, how could nature hope to compete with that? But God bless her for trying, the old girl, I’ll be happy to be buried in her wormy soil when she finally does take me.
No, the glory of driving in an RV is substantial. Lead footed as you’d like, the reality of steep hills and driving winds combined with an engine meant to haul not particularly an entire house and home, make for a whole new meaning to “I can’t drive 55.” No, I literally can’t get it that high very often. Sure, we could blaze 70 mph down the Interstate, it having been cut through every slope and grade, straightened over every river and ranch, but why would you bother? You don’t jump off a bridge so that you can land in the water, you do it for the thrill of being in the air. I believe it was best said in On the Road:
Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
No, I see black canyon cliffsides burried in high desert expanses like black cotton swabs stuck to the cracked cheeks of the oldest crone. Big river valleys wind into the distance as we conquer them with the help of massive stone bridges made of more manpower than would go into an entire small town. And speaking of small towns, we see those. Not endless Wal-Mart wastelands dotted by your occasional Burger King or Super 8, but real, gritty small town America. Sometimes sick and dying, no doubt thanks to those afore mentioned wastelands Americans have chosen over the real, like cheating businessmen taking uninteresting, flabby secretaries over their supermodel wives simply because the wife plays it a little harder to get, and isn’t as convenient to run all the way home to. No, these small towns are dotted with stores that have signs that are hard to read, hand painted and sometimes falling apart. The bars seem seedy and dangerous, and very well may be, but that’s all part of the adventure. The gas stations are called GAS and the grocery stores sometimes still only refer to themselves as General Merchandise, where you might get your boots fixed in the back while they bake up a fresh batch of bread. You don’t get to cross them at 70mph, no not even at 50mph, you have to crawl through them, with their stop signs and their street crossing kids on bikes, you have to look around. At them, through them. Sometimes you even get to stop in them.
So short days become long ones, interspersed with lunches at rest stops, and Joanna Newsom and Camera Obscura and Iron & Wine make up the soundtrack to our rolling life. Yes, we have a destination. And we’ll get there eventually, but let’s hope that isn’t anytime soon.