The thirty-foot camper creaked, swayed and groaned in the wind as it headed over the mountains of Utah toward Wyoming on the curving S-shaped roads. One side; a cliff drop-off to doom, the other up ragged cliffs. Slowly, we moved forward. I was not driving, and my eyes often squeezed shut. My heart pounded. I took long deep breaths and attempted to imagine a calm continence rather than a panicked one that could send me to an emergency room. There were no medical facilities of any kind in the mountains.
At the top of a crest, we stopped for a break. The wind was howling at a rate that grabbed the car door when I opened it a crack, and then closed it with a herculean effort. I tried to steady my panic and go for a second round. I made it out onto the asphalt road and headed towards the camper. When I unlocked the door, the wind grabbed hold and banged it into the side wall. I wondered if it would fly off and take me for a ride like Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz. Again, all my strength was required to pull the door shut behind me.
Inside the camper, I had to choose to either climb over the kitchen counter, at age sixty with limbs not as supple as they used to be, or open the camper slide-out enough to squeeze in between the counter and table. The valance and its screws were sitting on the table instead of remaining above the window frame. They had fallen off as we drove up the mountain. The rest of the valances remained on the windows; the screws barely holding onto their molly bolts anchored in thin particle board.
The table, once anchored to the floor, had roamed a few feet out of place. The interconnected recliner had slid across the carpet. A better look revealed a three-section unit instead of one. On a calmer day, I decided I’d remove the middle console which divided us and change it into a friendlier loveseat to watch television. It was not working well on a good day with a black-and-white screen instead of color. We decided the amplifier with a DVD slot and radio was broken. The warranty had run out. Upon reflection, we realized it hadn’t worked the day we bought the camper either; DOA. We don’t watch shows too often normally, even less on the road, except on sweltering evenings when we’re exhausted.
Looking around more while the wind howled, I saw the baby slide-locks held most of the cabinet doors closed, except for one. On the floor were bowls, cups, and bananas. I focused on these things rather than the camper’s wind induced tremors. The bathroom was my goal. The struggles I’d encountered to get inside made me believe relieving myself by the side of the road might have been a better choice, except for the terrifying exposure. Once I reached my target, I sat and focused on the shower doors. They are convex and initially refused to stay on the manufactured tracks due to a defect in the rollers. Before our trip began, we’d ordered new parts twice. Each time they were different and dysfunctional. During the peaceful drives, the doors fell off. Adding a bungee cord helped them stay somewhat upright during this climb. When I stood with effort, the wind rattled the camper again. I grabbed the sink to steady myself; it worked fine.
After the journey to and from the truck, I was glad to get away from the mountain. Further down the road, the wind calmed, and the camper stopped rattling and shaking. The panic I felt dissipated. This trip, this first long trip, living on the road for only three weeks, was a novel experience for us.
From the first day to the last, we learned the rhythm of camper. When we parked for the night at a site and didn’t level the floor with jacks, the door never closed without slamming it and disturbing the peace of the neighborhood. Perhaps no one minded because they had their own noises with cats meowing and dogs barking. At some stops, we could only get 30-amp circuits instead of 50-amps, which affected our water heater and air-conditioning units. We could only run one or the other at a time. Funny, really, since decades ago we were satisfied with tents. Yet, we found a way to have an outdoor fire in an aluminum fire-pit (Solo Camp Stove) instead of directly on the ground. The drafts under the flame were so good that there wasn’t any smoke swirling around chasing us as we’d encountered in the past.
It still amazes me, the amenities our camper contains. Two propane fireplaces, a full kitchen and bathroom, and a television screen. The only thing missing was a bar-b-q grill, so we bought one. Upon opening an external compartment and stuffing it in, we soon noticed the floor of the camper was flooding. Initially, a mystery. We pulled the new grill out and discovered it was the culprit. It had turned on a faucet in the closet. The nozzle was side-ways and missed the drain. Hence, the water flowed into the camper and across the floor. It’s not such a terrible place. All the comforts of home crunched into a box on wheels. No hotels to question their sanitation practices or adjust to a new bed every night. Cooking is easy and healthier than eating out every day. The COVID pandemic is beginning to recede. Our vaccinations were completed before our travels, but our worries still remain. We hauled the camper across the country to move to Wyoming a year before the world locked-down by degrees. Our adult children left countries abroad to return and hunker down with us in Wyoming. Each one came at different times and each one quarantined in the camper for two weeks before getting COVID tests to clear them to join us in our house. So, I am thankful for our home on wheels. And now, as the future unfolds, we can travel with caution and see our country in the way we had intended for some of our retirement adventures.
Copyright Elsa Wolf