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Excerpts of South Dakota Travel Diary
State 11 - SOUTH DAKOTA 10 AUG 98 - 14 AUG 98


A sunny disposition

A wide beam of light from the bright, red glow of a setting sun ushers us into this charming, lakeside campground filled with cottonwoods, junipers, and pockets of yellow blazing campfires that dot the campground like miniature volcanoes. We are glad to find our assigned lot is directly across from the lake. What a thrill. Can't explain the ecstasy of arriving at a new site each week. Aside from the relief of unloading the 30-foot box that's been dragging behind us for hours, it's a joy to see how the inside of the trailer, our home, changes. Every new cam psite changes its appearance inside. Different scenery outside and different sun positions change Harvey's inner personality every time. This time the kitchen faces south. Last time it faced east. Different directions in which the trailer is parked also give each room a new hue, a new choreography for the way the sun dances on the floor. The show is never the same, because the RV is never parked the same . . . angles change, trees change, seasons change and the states themselves all affect the atmosphere inside the trailer. Quite a kick.


As Ken backs in the RV I spy an older man staring out his window at us. Staring intently. Soon he gets out of his RV and stands right beside our truck as Ken tries repeatedly to back in the RV just so. The stranger is not offering directions or any help, just staring. I'm wondering "what the heck is his problem?" Have we offended him somehow and he's waiting to tell us? But there he stands. Staring. Minutes later he realizes it's going to take Ken a lot longer to back this thing in than he surmised. Head turned down, he trots back to his RV. God only knows what he wanted.

Trailer backed in, unloaded and balanced; water hooked up, electric plugged in. Time to relax at the picnic table. Two seconds later an RV backs in beside our picnic table. Privacy gone. Our attention turns to wondering who will be our neighbors? A retired couple? A young family? Always a bit of anxiety watching to see what kind of neighbors we'll get. Looks like three guys in their 20s. Great. Beer cans, loud music, foul language. What's this? An older man is driving. Perhaps it's a father and his sons. They set up camp and begin making dinner. Meanwhile, the man who was watching Ken backing up the RV comes over and says, "I see you're from Massachusetts." (Wow. What good eyes!) He says he was excited to see our license plate because he's trying to track down an old army buddy from Massachusetts. He had hoped we might know him or his family. But we do not. Reluctantly the man returns to his RV unrewarded. Now I'm sad.What memory is he trying to rekindle? What war experiences did these two men share?

"Bear." My thoughts are interrupted by the guys next door calling their dog (I think it's a dog. I hope it's a dog.) "BEAR! Git over here! Now!" (Bear?) Afraid to see what a dog named "Bear" looks like, but their frantic voices tell me he's heading my way. Feel vulnerable in this beach chair. Now wish we brought regular lawn chairs. But thought beach chairs were lighter and more portable. They are. But they are also so low to the ground. Should "Bear" suddenly come upon me, the top of my head will be positioned just beneath his drool level. Getting dark now. Can't see. Don't want to meet Bear. Go inside. Cook dinner. In an RV park, you get a change of scenery, a change of neighbors and constantly revolving pet situations.

"The Long, Long Trailer"

Rented a Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez movie called, "The Long, Long Trailer." It was made in 1956, but aside from the clothes they wore and the wives wanting a "deep freeze," the movie might have been made today. Nothing else has changed in trailer life, except in place of high heels, flouncing skirts and "adorable" hats, trailer women today don sneakers, shorts, and T-shirts. The movie is funny. And sad. Lucy and Desi experience all the same problems we've been having on this trip, except for the tornado evacuations and windows being torn off the trailer while in transit. Sure glad I saw the movie now, because had I seen it before leaving on this trip, I would have attributed all our problems to the power of suggestion. Seeing this movie made me want to evaluate the pros and cons of living in a mobile home versus a stationary suburban home. I want to do this pro & con analysis while the transition is still new and the differences are still so pronounced in my mind. Here goes . . .

It's a small, small world . . .

Unlike a house, the tiny trailer is designed for efficiency. With each meal I prepare, I marvel at how quickly I can grab what I need without moving. Nothing is further than an arm's length away. And after-dinner cleanup is done without getting up from the table at all. No lie. Just reach over and dump the dishes in the sink. Reach out and open the refrigerator door. Of course, when it's time to actually wash the dishes, well then it's time to get off the cushy seats. But there are fewer dishes to wash because we only have a set of two . . . two plates, two bowls, two cups, etc.). Even if we used every dish in the place, we would only have eight dishes to do.

The bad news is . . . the trailer demands efficiency from its tenants. Being so small, it doesn't take long for the trailer to become oppressively messy. Clutter becomes overwhelming, irritating, and rude. Countertops scream for service. And, like living in a beach house, the floor must be swept twice a day. Luckily, sweeping is done in less than a minute. No bending over with a dustpan. Just sweep. Open door. Goodbye dirt. Like the pioneers in their shanty houses.

Fresh air . . .

Because the trailer is only 8-feet wide with plenty of windows and three skylights, we get a nice breeze coming in all day. Sweet scents drift in constantly. Each time of day brings its own unique bouquet. But, by far, the best time is evening when people are barbecuing, and, even later at night when the sounds of crickets and the moist night air swirls around your head on the pillow that lies so close to the earth. It's got that wonderful, crisp feeling of sleeping outside -- but without the danger of foul weather or creepy crawling bugs. Taking a shower is wonderful, too. The shower is directly under a skylight, which is about 10 inches overhead. So the fresh air comes in with its sweet smells while the sun shines on a wet and happy face. Again, it feels like you're taking a shower outdoors, but . . . no bugs!

The bugs. Of course, some bugs do creep in. More so than they would in a regular house. We've been warned that vermin can creep in, too, but so far, no sightings. I dread going south and having to deal with those notorious cockroaches the size of bananas. I believe they're called Palmetto bugs. Met one once in a hotel room and they are horribly, disgustingly ugly. Every time I spot a gnat or mosquito that slipped into the trailer, I imagine what I would do if it was a Palmetto bug. Or worse . . . a snake! Those are the things I anticipate with an awful, sickening dread.

Loneliness . . .

Hmm. Thought I'd be lonely on the road but surprisingly am not. In fact, more lonely at home. Here's why: no one can call me. No phone. But at home when no one called, I knew it was by choice. At least on the road I can entertain the notion that my friends miss me and want to call, but can't. It's a delightful delusion. (Sadly, this makes me realize, though, how friendless I really was back home. But isn't everyone over the age of 35 pretty much friendless? Mid-life is too busy with juggling jobs and family. Like disposable income, we only have so much disposable friend time.)

The phone zone . . .

Speaking of phones. The most painful part of RVing is the lack of a personal phone in the privacy of one's home. A phone that can be used while still in one's PJs. Oh what a luxury I long for. As an RVer now, whenever I want to make a phone call, I must get dressed, walk about a quarter mile to the campground's public phone (always, only one) and hope that: A) it works, and B) no on else is using it. If someone is using it, I have two unpleasant choices... walk all the way back to the trailer or stay and wait my turn as inconspicuously and nonchalantly as possible, but while also keeping a close enough distance to signify a claim that I am next, should another phone seeker come along (almost always). It's a finesse, an art, of staying close enough to stake a claim -- without making the person on the phone feel the pinch of an eavesdropper. (Of course, I do eavesdrop. Everyone does. It's unavoidable because for some reason the phone companies across America determined that phone booths with doors were no longer necessary. Instead is a phone on a pole and some weird semi-circle plastic shield around it which provides wonderful acoustics for strangers nearby.)

Now if the phone is free, (happy day, happy day), then I take out my calling card. Oops. Where is the calling card? Go back to trailer to get calling card. Repeat process above. Oh no. Now someone else is using the phone. Okay. My turn. Got the card. Dial the 10 digit access number. Oops. Hit the wrong button. Dial again. Oh drat. Now someone is waiting for me to get off the phone. No private conversation with mom after all. Too bad. What would normally take me 3, maybe 5 minutes at home, can take up to an hour, in an RV park.

"The women crack first"

When preparing for this trip last year, the three books I read about full-time RVing said, "the women crack first." Don't know why that is, but I know I will become another statistic to validate that statement.

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