Monday, March 17, 2014

#156 - I Came, I Saw, I Camped

Today was St. Patrick’s Day, ostensibly commemorating the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland. In actuality, though, I think it is simply an excuse to add green food coloring to beer and get drunk. This weekend, however, we experienced a green of a different kind, the green that one begins to find outdoors as spring nears.

Over the weekend, we made the season’s  first outing with our fifth-wheel trailer. The promise of nice weather this past weekend (mostly delivered upon) made us decide relatively spur of the moment to hitch up the rig and motor about 90-minutes west to Farewell Bend State Park in Eastern Oregon.

Farewell Bend sits along the Oregon side of the Snake River and was the last river stop along the Oregon Trail. It’s a pleasant park that can get hot in summer and is often windy, making it less than ideal for tenters. During the winter off-season (through March), most of the sites are closed off leaving a handful of available spots all lined up like a mini RV park.

For our purposes, though, Farewell Bend was a perfect destination on two days’ notice. We had a chance to get the trailer out for the first time in more than five months and make sure some of the important components (refrigerator, oven, microwave, furnace) were in operational form. Because of the nice weather, we got to spend much of Saturday outdoors relaxing instead of glued to this screen or that or dealing with household chores or home project #47.

We also experienced yet again a phenomenon I marvel at every time I encounter it. Many of the RVers we’ve met have tended to be outgoing, friendly people ready to make strangers welcome at the drop of a hat. They certainly have done so on several occasions.

I do not include the so-called “weekend warriors” with broods of young children still at home in this category of RVer. These people often strike me as trying to cram seven days of togetherness and family activities into a weekend and often appear anything but relaxed. So I guess I can’t really blame them if they aren’t that friendly or outgoing when a stranger passes.

However, I have encountered such friendliness often enough to know it is a much more common occurrence in the RV community than it seems to be in the general population at large. We first experienced it not long after we bought our first RV, a 10-foot Jayco tent trailer. A private message sent to someone on an RV discussion forum led to us being invited into their full-time home on wheels and a discussion of several hours about full-time living in a motorhome.

This past weekend, my wife mentioned to the owner of one of the motorhomes near our trailer that the brand they owned was one we were considering a few years down the road. Next thing we knew, we were being invited to tour their wheeled home away from home and subsequently invited to join them around the campfire, That led to several hours of enjoyable conversation about favorite campgrounds, health, food, retirement, even skydiving.

They are the kinds of conversations that no longer take place in many neighborhoods. It’s as if we have taken the idea that our home is our castle to heart and created an imaginary moat around it to keep the outside world at bay. Neighborhood and residential developments have become so spread out that it becomes somewhat daunting and intimidating to meet neighbors, especially if you tend to be somewhat introverted, as I am.

Because an RV of any kind is much smaller than a traditional home, there is a greater tendency to spend at least part of each day outside. Therefore, the likelihood of interaction with other people is also much greater. The couple we spent several enjoyable hours with this weekend are people we likely would never have encountered if it weren’t for our common ground of RVing. If we lived in the same neighborhood, our paths might never cross.

This social aspect is one of the great things about the RV life. Equally great, though, is the possibility of obtaining complete solitude if desired. Especially in the western half of the United States, there are numerous places where one can get away from just about everything and everyone. That ability to be around people when desired and get away from people when needed is, to me, one of the greatest attributes of the RV lifestyle. It allows one to maintain a balance between the social and private self and to establish or restore a harmony between the human self and the natural world. I’m just not sure it gets any better than that.

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