I promised a blog of my RV adventures and this still feels more compelling than a cancer update on doctor appointments, clinical trials, paperwork and insurance denials. I spend enough time in the adult world and I’m betting you do, too, so C’mon! Hop on the magic bus with me.
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Seems we’re all rollin’ with Sasquatch these days, a monstrous creature of lore we hear about through word of mouth or catch a clip of on the news–
“No, seriously, a friend of a friend was roasting marshmallows off a trailhead near Hoodoo and a huge shadow fell over the campfire…”
Some swear they have personal knowledge of this mythic being, others deny its very existence. Real or not, it has left a large footprint on our psyche and forever imprinted on our cultural history.
A lot like COVID-19.
Me? I’m an easy believer.
I believe in Sasquatch because I like the idea of an indefinable hairy something out there in the Oregon forests that has eluded man and technology since I was a kid. And it gives my home state something to crow about besides anarchy.
I believe in Santa because it requires magic to do what he does and I like magic.
And I believe in COVID because it might kill me if I don’t.
Yea, yea, I thought I was special, too. Definitely immortal. Then I was diagnosed with cancer.
Glenn and I were well aware of this as we made preparations to drive a 31′ luxury RV north to Oregon territory. It would’ve been hella faster to fly but in the end it came down to maintaining a controlled environment.
The amount of paperwork required to fly on a medical leave with my airline during COVID?
Team Bushmire, start your engines.
This content is for pure entertainment value and is not meant to inform nor educate the user of proper RV equipment, travel and/or etiquette. Team Bushmire accepts no responsibility for elevated blood pressure, auto-related finger gestures, accidents or injuries.
Signed, Team Bushmire, RV Virgin Productions
News of my impending parole was delivered on Day 1 of chemo infusion up at the cancer center, a 5-hour day of switching out IV bags. While I’m dozing in and out of chemical dreamland, Glenn works a little magic and presto, bango!
When I wake up, we have an RV.
I can’t wait to get out of here! Nurse Chubby Cherub replaces the IV with a portable pump and for the next 48 hours I receive a steady chemo drip at home or wherever I may roam…
Which turns out to be drawer to drawer, dresser to closet, kitchen to bathroom and back again.
Two days to blast off and I can’t wrap my chemo-stuffed head around what I need to bring or where to pack it or even how. And so I lose it. Like, come unglued bawling lose it.
Glenn says, “We have tomorrow. Let’s see how you feel tomorrow.”
Nooooo! I want to pack NOW.
For 10 months, I’ve been on house arrest with cancer treatment every other week and big, hairy COVID creeping around outside. Now I’ve got something to look forward to besides keeping my food down, even if it is a golden oldie roll along the I-5 corridor.
Did I mention this thing has 5 TVs?
Oh yea. One in the main living area, one in the master, one at the foot of each bunkbed for the absentee twins we never got around to having, and one outside so we can roast marshmallows for Sasquatch.
Or Jiffy Pop.
I was stoked to find a lone Jiffy Pop amongst canned goods in the RV cabinets. For the hopelessly young, Jiffy Pop is stovetop popcorn wrapped in aluminum foil that expands as the popcorn pops. It was killed by the invention of the microwave.
Huh. Maybe I’m not too young for lifestyles of the golden oldies.
By the time we roll out Friday in the RV, it’s 10:pm.
Now, the plan was just to get past L.A., avoid morning traffic. I’d booked us an RV site near Pyramid Lake in the Grapevine pass run by Song & Jong, a mother-son team who told me in no uncertain terms we had to arrive BY 10:pm. That was quiet time and that’s when the gate closed.
Now, did we want a pull-out or a pull-through? Would we be dry camping?
Huh? My head is going places it shouldn’t…
I will learn that, just like surfing, there’s a whole cultural lifestyle surrounding RV travel.
Obviously, we did not make the 10:pm check-in.
I lost the $50 deposit and we spent the night “dry-camping” (no water/electricity/cable hook-ups) at a TA truck stop next to a tweaker who kept popping out of his car and tinkering under the hood.
This is how I found myself waking up on the morning of my 51st birthday in a truck stop parking lot, and I don’t even drink anymore.
We were on the road bright and early, around noon.
This was the first lesson of RV travel — You can’t be in a hurry. You just can’t. You’re rolling with all the comforts of home including kitchen, bed and bathroom… What are you in a hurry for?
It bucks in the face of the whole RV experience so chill out. Relax.
We’ll get there when we get there.
Like most lessons, we didn’t get this right away. Ok, I didn’t. Blame 20 years of SoCal living. We went to three different air stations to fill the RV tires — one had a four-car line up, one had a missing hose, one kept spitting out the credit card with an “error” message.
Grrrrrr… What happened to good ol’ quarter slots?
Finally balanced with air, food and sufficient caffeine, out comes the trip map. In the twosome of Team Bushmire, I’m the travel coordinator and Lake Shasta is our destination for the night.
I’d boiled it down to two options:
Antlers RV is right on the lake. The cream of the crop with free cable, wi-fi hotspot, large/deep RV sites (again with the innuendos), cute little country store, even security which we’d have to alert if we were arriving after 4:30pm.
Uh yea, at this pace we’ll be lucky to get there by 10:pm.
Then there’s LakeHead Campground, a no frills site run laissez-fair style by a graying Brit named Cecil who told me there were plenty of slots this time of year. Just show up, park in an empty slot and pay in the morning.
After the Song-Jong debacle, it was an easy decision on my part.
See you tomorrow, Cecil.
I’m okay with leaving some things to chance, like parking wherever once we arrive at LakeHead.
Glenn is far more exacting. His genius lies in numbers (exact) with a background in construction (measure twice, cut once). He’s the eagle zeroing in on his prey, I’m the butterfly flitting here and there distracted by bright, pretty things.
Which, by the way, there is nothing of on the I-5 drive between L.A. and Sacramento so I’ll spare you this part of the journey except to say that maintaining balance in an RV is nothing like being on an airplane.
I’ve made this mistake before. I dated a guy who managed boats and often delivered them to different slips along the southern California shoreline for the owners. He invited me on one of these trips, between Dana Point (where I first fell in love with what is now my little town) and Huntington Beach.
I was like, “Sea legs? Oh, you mean will I get sea sick?”
Look, I’m a flight attendant. You’re talking to a girl who has tray-surfed a 737 (for the un-initiated, this is standing on a serving tray at the top of the aisle and when the plane lifts off the ground, you “surf” the tray down the aisle– on a ferry flight with no people, of course).
What I said was, “I’m used to motion. I’ll be fiiiiiine.”
I was so not fine.
Not by a long shot.
Now, thankfully there’s no sea sickness in a land whale but there is definitely balance required in larger ones that fish-tale in the back, which just so happens to be where the bathroom is. And I’m sorely lacking balance and coordination given I’ve been darn near bed-ridden the past month.
So yea, you get the idea.
When we hit Sacramento, Glenn called Cecil to remind him we were coming. Cecil gives us slot #8 — Enter and stay to the left, #8 is top of the loop.
“Good thing I called,” Glenn says. “Now we know where we’re going.”
Sure enough we roll in after 10:pm, the darkness so thick it swallows our headlights.
Stay to the left, follow the signs. At the “top” of the loop we see #7 on the right. Awesome. Then #9. We immediately look left, as if the campsites are addressed like homes, even/odd.
To the left of us, blackness.
No #8 to be found.
We make another loop around the site, shining our high-powered flashlights out the windows. No #8 to the right. No hook-ups to the left. I even get out for a closer look.
We’re exhausted and we pull over into the blackness, what we deem to be a campsite with no hook ups, the “park wherever” site.
We’re dry camping. Again.
No Generator, says Glenn. We don’t want to wake anyone up.
This immediately elicits the “Nooooo!” response from me (you’re going to become very familiar with this).
The RV runs on different power sources, obviously the battery is one. Then there’s gas, which the refrigerator runs on continuously so food doesn’t spoil. The Generator runs everything else: Lights, microwave, a/c, HEAT.
It is butt-ass cold up there in the mountains. Looking out the windows, we hardly have any neighbors and it’s doubtful the sound of the generator would disturb them if we do. C’mon…
Grumble, Grumble, Grumble…
After a full day of driving, Glenn is exhausted. There will be no debating this.
He sets the levelers, (four metal feet that extend behind the wheel base to balance the RV on uneven terrain) and slips right into bed, beneath a down comforter and a thick, faux fur blanket we call “Hollywood” because it is pure luxury, my friends.
I would like nothing more than to slip into Hollywood but I have to mummify myself first.
Like the kid who believes in Santa, I maintain hope for miraculous overnight gifts. Doesn’t the body heal faster at night?
Out comes the gauze, the ointment and the scissors as I swaddle my neck, arms and fingers. If I don’t, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with my neck burning like a son-offa—
“You coming to bed, babydoll?”
Glenn’s asleep by the time I get to bed and asleep when I wake up. So I slip out of the RV and go looking for #8…
Now you know as well as I do, #8 is going to be between sites #7 and #9. Sure enough, it is. It’s just set back farther from the road and there’s NO SITE NUMBER on a tree like the others; no, it’s painted on the hook-up box which cannot be seen without standing right in front of the box and bending over…
A few hours later finds us chilling in the main living area of the RV, freshly showered and fully hooked up. It’s not yet noon, Google says we’re 5 hours from my parents’ house but something tells me regardless of what time we leave, we’ll be rolling in after 10:pm.
I’ve been wanting to see my parents for a while. Mom has been living with multiple myeloma for over 6 years now and Dad had a mini-stroke back in February, right around the time of my diagnosis. And we’re all dealing with COVID-19.
It occurs to me that life never really falls together, not completely. Oh, we get moments where it does but those moments don’t last. They’re not meant to…
When will I arrive, we wonder? When does it all come together and Aha! I get it. At last.
As soon as it falls together, it falls apart. Why?
Because there’s another level.
Life is giving birth. It is messy and painful, it is joy and magic. It is love and loss all wrapped together in a messy ball of emotions that we struggle to unravel so we can make some sense of it.
Stop asking “Why.”
Start asking “How.”
How can I live the greatest, most fun-incredible-awe-inspiring-wow vision of myself while allowing you to live yours?
My Dad may have had a mini-stroke but he’s still the first to climb a ladder to the roof and pick off moss growing amongst the shingles. And Glenn wonders why I insist on putting Christmas lights in the highest tree branches.
This holiday season, shine your light for the whole town — the whole world — to see.
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