November is in the history books. I took the entire month off. First was memorial service for my mother then a teary exit in my “Escape Pod” RV. My mission was to drive the pain away and explore the space between my ears and to follow where my nose led me.
I travelled with “Chooch,” a 23.8-lb blond, tan and grey cocker-poodle mutt mix. It’s a good thing we did not follow his nose because we would have never left the parking lot. He has quite the curious sniffer.
I’m a boondocker. That simply means camping with the RV, without the luxuries of RV hookups for electricity, water and waste disposal. My RV provides light, mobility and water without any hookups. No heat or air conditioning when boondocking but me and Chooch are strong.
I spent a lot of the summer boondocking around the state and got used to being out there. You see a lot more stars and find a lot more wild raspberries when you are out boondocking in an undisclosed location. A lot of times I would just head off on some unmarked road and let it take us.
My first RV park experience came about a week in when me and Chooch pulled into an almost sold out state park in Texas. As you bundle up for a day on the slopes remember that there are thousands of people on the road out there staying in massive RVs that have all the modern luxuries. My RV looked like a tricycle next to the heavy metal in the park. We filled the tanks and flushed the greywater and got back out there into the wild woods.
It’s legal to camp on any US Forest Service land and we took advantage of that. But on several occasions we found ourselves in the falling dark in a urban setting looking for a place that was safe and hopefully dark. We live in a bustling world but throughout the South there are many abandoned businesses and vacant lots providing temporary refuge for weary travelers.
We went through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. I must be a very good driver because we made it 7,300 miles without serious incident. Not to say that we didn’t have some close calls and we saw plenty of carnage out there.
I must have learned a lot of things and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what. The road is sketchy, lonely, long and lovely. Florida is a really big state and we paid our dues to get there but it was exotic to get in the Atlantic Ocean one day and the Gulf of Mexico the next. Following our noses.
The other really big state we crossed twice is Texas. Now that is a really big state. We avoided the cities and lurked in the woods. Even in the remote places we found churches, churches and more churches.
My last two days in Texas were strikingly different. First we were in a state park running the air conditioning, the next night we pulled into a spooky, remote abandoned silo site that would have been a good location for a scary movie. But we had been driving hard and a storm was moving in. Things were about to get intense.
We woke before dawn to howling wind and three inches of fresh frozen rain on State Highway 87. I was genuinely terrified to pull onto that dark highway but we had to move along. We rolled down that icy track at 35 MPH clutching the wheel and staring out the windshield while cursing and cussing to the gods. Conditions improved when we crawled into Colorado but we passed two major accidents, one involving a bus that was totally destroyed.
It was decision time. I had been invited to a Thanksgiving gathering in Denver. I checked the forecast and there was a favorable weather window that would allow us to get home the day after. We spent a chilly night on the streets of Denver and headed out for the last push into the mountains. We were turned back almost immediately. I-70 was closed all day because of a rockslide and we had to pull back into icy, messy Denver with our tails between our legs. Patience. Yes, that’s what I learned.
The next morning we took off in the dark. The highway was a mess and 60 MPH winds were blowing the Escape Pod around like an aspen leaf in a tornado. Berthoud Pass was snowpacked and slick. When we pulled into the snowy driveway in Funky Fraser I felt like dancing … but my back was seized up from all the driving. Chooch hit the ground running. He was a real trooper and really is my best friend.
Steve Skinner wishes you safe travels. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.