Friday, October 7, 2016

Stereotypical day for an RV'er

We’re in Elkhart, Ind., the birthplace of darn near every fifth-wheel, travel trailer and motorhome you see on the road today.

And with that distinction comes a well-honed, stereotypical image of an RV-enthusisast: a graying, sneaker-shoe wearing, binocular-toting Boomer, a bit myopic and cloyingly perky.

Is that us? 

And is that them? The people who birth these homes on wheels? Are they like us?

Unfortunately, we have a chance to find out because a piece of our fifth-wheel pooped out. Just clanged into inoperability. And we need it fixed. So we head to its mother womb, a company called Open Range in Shipshawana, an Amish-filled town on the Elkhart outskirts.

 I see a single-story, long building that resembles an old-fashioned motel, only spiffed up a bit. Inside, we crowd into a tiny RV-sized waiting room, where a man is engaged in a lively phone conversation. His back is to us, so we see his lovely blond pony tail trailing darn near to his waist.

Soon, a man wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, sporting a Duck Dynasty beard and wooden earrings pops in and offers to help. He has more tattoos than a tattoo parlor advertises. Nothing’s on his face, which must be all of 30 years old. He listens to us and slips back into the Open Range belly to fetch Jennifer. She’s all of 30, wears a flowered headband and skinny jeans, a barely-there T-shirt and the cutest little slippers she says she bought at Walmart.

The two diagnose our problem, hand us the parts we need to make repairs and wave farewell.

Wish I had thought to take their picture.

 Because, clearly,  they are the antithesis of the RV stereotype. And we aren’t.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Avoiding Toledo, technology free

My granddaughter Grayce loves maps. They way they look. The places they delineate.

I’m thinking about her and her passion as I panic because I need a map. We’re barreling toward Toledo and I do NOT want to spill onto the city streets to do battle with tiny turns and tree branches.  We’re towing a 38-foot fifth wheel that's about 13.5 feet high. 

I want to avoid Toledo.

But I don't know how. And my phone’s map app is crashing and my GPS is a pathetic bully. Technology fails me today.

So I reach under the back seat and grab my Rand McNally — an oversized coverless compendium of places we’ve been and places we want to be. I flip to Ohio and within seconds I’ve navigated us out of Toledo’s grasp and into the arms of Route 20.

 Where we stay for hours and hours. Watching corn grow. And cows graze.  Enjoying scrubbed up old towns, palms up for a tourist's dime. We see wafting clouds of starlings and hawks chasing their prey.  And classic barns, grain elevators, Mom-and-Pop stores, aging trucks for sale in varying degrees of decay. I love the white-steepeled churches with congregations of graves just outside.

Yes. Yes. Had I used the technology to get from here to there I would be there already and I’m not. I’m sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot somewhere in Indiana instead of Illinois, listening to a train passing by. And my Rand McNally is nearby. It’s my new best friend. 

My granddaughter loves maps.

So do I.