Meltdown in the Desert

Even at the time, I recognized that my reaction was way out of proportion to the incident. But such is the nature of the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The previous day I had left Missy in her crate as I joined our small group of RV’ing Women (RVW) Solos for a tour of Ajo, Arizona, and lunch at a good old-fashioned Church rummage sale (Bought a book for 5 cents!). We were boondocking at the Ajo (pronounced “Ah’-ho”) golf course/country club for an annual Fiddlers’ Contest.

To my surprise, Missy greeted me at the door when I returned.  Apparently I had neglected to secure the 2nd door of the crate. To my delight, she had done no damage. So when I left again later that day, this time to play Mexican Train with the group in the leader’s large and comfortable RV (a Class A), I left Missy lose.

Although the evening was full of fun, I happened to be seated next to The One in Every Crowd. I found her loud and obnoxious and disliked that she considered herself an expert on every, I mean EVERY, RV-related subject. Perhaps she does know what she’s talking about, I tried to convince myself; it just might behoove me to pay attention. That ploy didn’t work. The best I could manage was to refrain from strangling her.

As always, Missy was delighted to welcome me back home.

My dreams that night were awful, full of anxiety and frustration. I awoke unrested. And then saw what Missy had done during my second absence: Torn the screen door.

I fell apart. I sat outside in the sun and cried and cried. It was in this state that one of the RV Women found me.

“I can’t take it anymore,” I sobbed, pointing to the slight damage. “I can’t afford to fix this. It’s been one thing after another.” (This was before my epiphany that yes indeed, traveling in an RV IS one thing after the other. Deal with it.) I went on to list my litany of woes, some of which were actually legitimate.

“I can’t stop crying,” I told her.

“Maybe you need to cry some more,” she replied.

“I know it’s ridiculous to get this upset over a torn screen, but it’s just the last straw,” I said.

“We’ve all been there,” she assured me.

After turning down her kind invitation to join her and some of the other women for breakfast, I continued to cry. I should note here that it’s unusual for me to cry unassisted. I typically need to watch a movie in the tear-jerker genre to get me going. The best ever is “A Catered Affair” with Bette Davis. Had I not been in a movie theater (this was in the days before VCRs) and been obstructed by the armrests, I would have thrown myself prone across the seats and sobbed my heart out. Thank goodness for Bette Davis. That woman’s movies got me though more down times than I care to remember. Once when she was in the Bay Area and rumored to be staying at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, I sat at the bar for several evenings running in the hopes of seeing her to tell her how much her movies meant to me. (“Saved my life,” might be a bit dramatic, but not far off the mark.) I gave up after a while, in part because of the expense of the drinks at that swank place.

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Voila! Bottom of screen door fixed.

Back in Ajo, I was finally finished crying when the woman I had spoken with returned with several others in tow to examine the damaged screen. “Easy to fix,” they assured me, referring to the door, not my state of mind. As if by magic, a small roll of screen, scissors and a gasket roller appeared and my very own cheerleading squad helped me cut out the damaged section, affix the replacement, and hand me a series of threaded needles to sew the new section of screen in place.

Although the replacement looks homemade, which of course it is, and some might even go so far as to describe it as “tacky,” I plan to keep the makeshift, ragged “L” formed by the repair job. As far as I’m concerned, the “L” stands for “last,” as in that was the last time I left Missy uncrated. More importantly, the “L” stands for “love.” Every time I look at the repair job it reminds me of the supportive community that exists everywhere along the journey.

Synopsis to be followed (eventually) by more detail

I can explain. I’ve either been busy having a lot of fun (Palm Desert with Cousin #2; Quartzsite; Aja AZ for a fiddlers’ contest) or too down. However, I turned a corner last week; I had an epiphany:  An RV means dealing with one thing after another. Always and forever.  My search for a state of grace, in which all necessary repairs are completed and nothing major will malfunction for the next XX months, is illusionary. My new affirmation is, “As long as I’m in the U.S. and can get towed to an RV campsite, I can deal with it.”

My acceptance was bolstered by a friend who assured me that when their RV was brand new, and she was traveling with her mechanically-inclined husband, who could fix most problems, they still had to be towed several times.

More About Quartzsite

Quartzsite is a location in Arizona. It’s also an annual event of huge proportions, involving the onslaught of up  to a million RV’ers who, for free, boondock (camp with no electricity; no disposal of garbage; and no source of water apart from your 20+ fresh water tank) on Arizona BLM land. Quartzsite means “The Tent.” Imagine a country fair with three long rows of vendors  marketing to RV’ers.

Quartzsite also means lots of various and sundry RV affinity groups camping together. I camped RVW (RV’ing Women) and WINs (Wondering Individuals Network) and participated in events with LOWs (Loners on Wheels) and Escapees. RV’ers also gather according to their type of rig (Lazy Daze, Winnebago, Airstream) to compare notes and hold Open Houses to see owner customizations.

The Tent is surrounded outside by even more vendors.

The Tent is surrounded outside by even more vendors.

When I mentioned to a friend that I had joined RVW over the summer, she informed me it was a gay group. Oh well, I thought, surely not everyone would be gay. When I read the RVW newsletter and realized the group was holding a round-up in Quartzsite and I would be in nearby Palm Springs a week earlier, I decided to go.

Although I continued to believe that surely not everyone would be gay, it did give me pause when I read that the RVW site would be immediately beyond the “Beaver” group. Just what IS the Beaver group, I wondered. Hard core lesbians? Turns out Beavers are a type of RV.

Upon arrival, I couldn’t help but notice that my short grey hair was significantly longer than most everyone else’s. Also, on more than one occasion, I saw people who from afar appeared to be men. Upon approach, however, they weren’t. Those cowboy boots and hats can certainly be deceiving, particularly when viewed atop a rugged four-wheel drive vehicle with two deep-voiced, profanity-spewing individuals and at least one large vicious-breed dog. Identifying women who didn’t play for the same team was not easy. In the end, I decided that those I suspected of hetero tendencies included the half-dozen recent widows and the woman I became friendly with who said, incredulously, “Tell me that really IS a man.” It was. I had actually asked myself the same question when I spotted him.  In case you think her reaction wasn’t conclusive, there was further proof (the incidents would take too long to tell).

I attended RVW workshops featuring topics such as fire (I stocked up on three new fire extinguishers; bought flares; and learned I’ll need to get out the RV, with the dog, in under 20 seconds); and tips on traveling full-time. I also attended an RVW Solos Group, where we introduced ourselves and briefly presented our backgrounds and interest in RV’ing. When it was my turn, I flatly declared, “It’s been one fucking thing after another.” Much knowing laughter ensued.  I’ve been told my proclamation is now used by several Solos.

I hope they, too, can come to graciously accept it.