As we were driving down the rutted dirt road, dodging mud puddles and big dirt clods that might have hit our newly-replaced oil pan, I turned to Frank and said, “If this goes bad for us, you may be forced to start hunting rabbits. Sorry about that!”
To backtrack a bit …
We had planned to stay at the Escapees RV park in Livingston, TX. I mean, it made perfect sense. After all, I’m a member and they manage my mail for me. They’re a short drive from the office where I am to register the Nutshell, having driven it all the way back from southern California. I had even spoken to them about staying there during the last visit in July (when they told me, “Sure you can camp here in a tent and have access to electricity … no problem!”) So when I called to make a reservation last Monday morning as we were headed towards Houston, I wasn’t expecting the woman on the other end of the phone to hesitate after I answered her question about what type of rig I was driving.
Me (quite proudly, after spending the last 9 months in a tent): “I have a teardrop trailer.”
Dorothy: “A teardrop? What’s that?”
Me: “It’s a small camper, about 8 feet long. I just bought it and have to register it in Polk County.”
Dorothy: “Oh … a teardrop. So it’s not self-contained?”
I ran into that question before when I called about another park. This is not going to end well …
Me: “If you’re asking if it has running water or a bathroom, no. It doesn’t. Is that a problem?”
Dorothy: “Well, um …. no, not really. It’s just that I can’t reserve a spot for you with the other RV’s, where you have electricity. We’ll have to put you in the dry camp area with the tents.”
Me: “That’s not going to work for me. I sleep with a C-pap and don’t have battery power for it. Last year when I asked, I was told I could camp with electricity, even if I was in a tent. Why should it matter if I don’t have a bathroom. Don’t you have restroom facilities there?”
Dorothy: “Well of course we have facilities. But we had an … ummm … incident … a couple of months ago, and we changed our policy. You’ll have to stay in the dry camp area.”
First off, I did not want to get the details about the “incident”, given it involved someone who was camping without their own bathroom. That can be left to the imagination as far as I’m concerned. I asked to talk to the manager and discovered, unfortunately, that that was Dorothy. And nothing I said over the next five minutes of the phone call would change her mind.
Had this phone call happened when we first started out last May, I would have been totally rip-shit. Think Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”. But rather than strike down upon Dorothy with great vengeance and furious anger … and noticing that a State Trooper was sitting alongside the road up a ways and I wasn’t on Bluetooth … I glanced at the “It’s all worked out before” sign on the dashboard and just hung up the phone. Frank gave me a, “What’s going on?” look and I waved to the Trooper as we drove by.
That screwed things up. I hadn’t planned on NOT staying at Escapees and didn’t have a fallback position. We pulled into the next rest area and I started looking up RV parks, but didn’t see anything that was particularly interesting. They either were way more than I wanted to spend or, if reasonably priced, had pretty lousy writeups on RVParkReviews.com.
The only place that looked interesting was a listing on Passport America: Triple Creek Music and RV Park. Interesting writeup – the park hosts “music weekends”, alternating between gospel, country, open jam and bluegrass. The only problem was that they were well east of Livingston and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that night.
I gave them a call and spoke with a woman named Karen. She said, “Well, we’ve just had a pretty good rain, so the road is awful muddy. Just watch yourself coming in!” I asked, “I’m not gonna get stuck, am I????”, to which she replied, “Well, just give us a call if you do and we’ll send someone down to get you out!”
Okay. Got it. Alrightee, then.
I told her that if we were going to make it there, I’d give her another call when I got close and left it at that. As it turned out, Houston traffic and Gertrude, the woman who lives in my Garmin GPS, had other plans.
We hit Houston a little before rush hour. Before I could realize what was happening, Gertrude had dropped me onto a tollroad heading north out of town. Now I travel with my debit card and never carry cash. I might have stopped at an ATM four times since leaving Charleston, usually so I could buy quarters for laundry. But I had nothing on me as we drove towards the toll booths. I pulled over on the side of the road and scrounged up the $3.75 toll by rummaging through the ashtray, under the seats, and lying on the floorboard of the Hyundai … just enough to get us onto a nearby surface street.
You now how when you veer off the course set by your GPS and it adjusts its route? Well, Gertrude’s idea of adjusting was to tell me at each intersection that I needed to turn around and get back on the tollway! I have to say, I hate that bitch! I don’t think she knows anything about selecting the best route or anything like that. It’s become personal between us: there have been times when I’ve cancelled a route and said, “Voice” a few minutes later to try something else out. And you know what? She won’t answer! It’s embarrassing to be screaming “VOICE, GODDAMMITT” at your Garmin and realize people in the next lane are looking at you. More than that, it’s infuriating!
What I need is a Scotsman GPS. A guy who understands me and what kind of help I want from him. Someone that will say, “A tollroad??? FOOK the tools, mon! I’ll get ye wherrre yerrr be wantin to go. And we won’t need to FOOKIN toll road. Don’t you be worrrrrrryin’ now, laddie!” Okay, digression. Big time. Anyhow ….
I called an old friend who now lives in Houston. Not sure of his heritage, but Mike figured out where I was, helped get us around the toll road and headed back north towards Livingston. By this time though, it was past 6 o’clock and there was no way I was going to risk getting stuck on some dirt road out in the middle of nowhere in the dark. I started looking up Motel 6’s near Livingston, where we could stay the night and regroup. After having driven almost non-stop for 8 days and then dealing first with Dorothy and now Gertrude, all I wanted was a nice bed and a shower.
I found one in Cleveland, about 20 minutes south of Livingston. Coincidentally, my PCP was there and I was going to have to make an appointment for them to look at my finger anyhow, so that’s where we stopped. We actually wound up staying there two nights because the earliest available appointment was Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday was uneventful. On Wednesday, Frank and I drove over to the doctor’s office and sat in the car for a couple of hours. Once I got in to see him, everything went fine. He said the stitches look good but that my blood pressure was too high. I knew that from the readings they had taken at the ER in California and told him I was willing to get on blood pressure medication. He said he also wanted to do some blood work, just to check on other things like my blood sugar and cholesterol levels. (As an aside, I got the results of the tests a couple of days ago. Everything was fine. No diabetes. Cholesterol and everything else was “normal”. As it turns out, the only thing I am is fat!)
We left the doctor’s office and headed north. And that brings us back to the start of this post – headed down this old dirt road out in the middle of the east Texas nowhere. My thoughts were all over the place. I din’t know if we were going to end up in a scene from “Deliverance”, or if we were headed into a white supremist compound or something else. Hence, my warning to Frank that he might have to take up hunting if they buried me and decided he might prove useful.
The road took a turn and finally emptied into a big open area with live oak and pine sprinkled throughout. There were three buildings up ahead, past a few RV’s that looked like they had been there forever. I got out of the car and noticed a young man sitting in a golf cart. After asking me if I was, “fixin’ ta check in,” he directed me to one of the buildings and said I should ask for Rick.
I walked in to find about 25 people sitting around a few long tables, having dinner, cafeteria-style, while chattering and laughing away. As soon as the door shut behind me with a little bang, the room went silent and everyone looked straight at me. Some stranger stumbling in on a secret society meeting. At least that was how I felt.
I sort of let out a weak chuckle and said, “A young man out there said I should ask for Rick?” A small guy stood up with a smile, wiped off his mouth with a napkin and ran over. “I’m Rick. You looking to stay for a while?”
I knew from the accent that Rick wasn’t a native. As it turns out, he was from Boston. My anxiety lessened right then. “You’re talking to probably the biggest … literally, the biggest … Red Sox fan in east Texas,” I laughed. Rick took me around the camp on the golf cart, showing me everything while talking about Mookie Betts, David Price and the “mother effing Yankees!” Yep, this place was going to turn out okay.
Looks can be deceiving, and I’m grateful I didn’t let my anxiety keep me away. Sure the two flags on top of the open air music pavilion are for Texas and the Confederacy. But the people here couldn’t be more friendly! (I just know that I’m not going to get into any political discussions while I’m here.)
They have potluck dinner Thursday through Saturday evenings and a “contribute what you want” breakfast on Saturday morning. Bob, a retired engineer from Tulsa, stopped by on Friday evening with his dog Rufus and wanted to know how come I hadn’t come for dinner. When I told him that I was concerned about Frank’s howling when I was away, he replied, “Sheeee-it, that sound is probably music to the ears of most folks in the park. Brings back good memories of squirrel hunting! You best be coming for breakfast, otherwise you’re gonna be hurtin’ people’s feelings!”
I wasn’t about to make any enemies this far off the beaten path, so I showed up for breakfast (having driven into town first to pull $20 out of the ATM). I have to say, it was the best breakfast I’ve had since leaving Charleston, complete with biscuits and gravy that brought me back to mornings at my grandparents’ farm in Tennessee! Bob introduced me around and we had some great conversation, matched only by how great the food was!
Sure enough, I could hear Frank howling as I left the meeting / music / dining hall and apologized to the folks sitting on the porch about it. They all laughed and said how much they enjoyed hearing him. I think half of them had beagles when they were younger, and said so! All Saturday afternoon, people stopped by to talk. Actually, I think the talk was just a guise for wanting to come over and pet Frank! He’s made quite an impression on everyone here.
Saturday afternoon brought mixed emotions. Sitting at the picnic table, I could hear folks inside playing Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson songs … and here I was, with a guitar sitting on my back seat and unable to play! It was a special kind of torture. We’ll see how things go after those stitches come out tomorrow afternoon.
So yes … looks can be deceiving. I think Frank and I have found a place where we’re going to enjoy ourselves over the next month. I might even make it out alive! Of course, that’ll depend on how well the blood pressure meds do their job. :o)
It’s Bingo night … I’m off to join the neighbors.