In a pandemic world of limited safe travel, two girlfriends and I decided to take an RV trip to visit another friend a few states away who was isolated, depressed and in need of a boost.
With the best intentions, we rented a small RV to minimize contact with the outside world. It was the perfect plan. We’d stay at RV campgrounds to sleep and reduce nighttime driving and we brought food, so the only stops were for gas once a day. But, if you’ve ever been trapped in a tin can for 72 hours with even very good friends, you’ll discover what I did – friendship has its limits and nerves don’t.
We tried to anticipate problems by agreeing to “going native.” With limited storage space and the normal accruements of three women, we decided room for food must be prioritized over makeup, hair styling devices and large luggage. We each were allowed one medium-sized duffle bag with three changes of clothes and would do laundry on arrival. This alone nearly torpedoed the trip.
My predisposed picture of an RV trip comes from wacky scenes in Lucille Ball’s movie, “The Long Long Trailer” where she is thrown out of an unlocked door into mud and pummeled with flour and other ingredients out of unsecured cabinets. Unfortunately, my lens was fairly accurate.
Our first hazard came quickly. Within a few minutes, we heard a piercing alarm, as the other two annoyingly questioned the newbie driver…“What did you do?”
After we pressed all the buttons to no avail and could no longer stand the stabbing noise, we pulled over and called the RV shop. The first of many calls with a quick fix that I’m sure had them laughing at we three dim old ladies. Turns out the carbon monoxide detector was located in the banquette table, right where any normal person would put their feet. Needless to say, this was not the last time that sound plagued us. What dimwit thought of that brilliant location for a heart stopping alarm?
We drove in shifts to give everyone a break, but driving the RV proved challenging. We all underestimated the crosswind and the wide load of the RV which had each of us frequently riding the rumble strips on the shoulder. The first time it happened, we were terrified, holding on for dear life and yelling at the driver, who was also screaming in fear. After we realized this was one of many perils on this trip, the horror subsided, but the discomfort didn’t. The road rash and bad shocks left an impression on our bottoms and our waning anxiety.
Life inside the RV, or the rolling turd as I began to call it, was not much better. The first time we tried to make a sandwich, I was having flashbacks to the dreaded Lucy movie, but in real time. Standing and performing any job amidst the rumble strips and swaying cab took practice that geriatric ally challenged knees don’t favor. You get bumped and bruised a lot. Even simple tasks seemed difficult and required multiple attempts in slow motion. Just buttering bread you felt like a malfunctioning robot with a loss of full kinetic operation.
Then with one slight break for traffic, the bread, butter, meat and cheese slide off the counter like they’re fleeing while plastic cups, breakfast cereal boxes and other pantry items fall on your head from the cabinets above. Lessons learned. You need to hear two clicks on the cabinet to ensure they are locked, not one. And sit down when making a sandwich.
The slight braking mishap continued to be a cruel test, though. Anything on the table like cards, laptops, glasses and cell phones would regularly plunge to their doom with each press of the brake pedal, even light ones. And there was a lot of traffic. After day one, the driver tried to shout warning while the others gripped everything like octopi attempting to ride out an earthquake. Good thing there were cup holders for drinks or else we would all have been sticky and drenched.
Outside foibles aside, I think the most surprising annoyances came from inside the RV. Actually, three fifty-five plus women are not the best company when trapped. For the sake of brevity, I will list the infractions and save the commiseration. Snoring; CPAP machine noises; horrible driving (especially next to mountains); endless negotiation of the heat and cold settings which would never please anyone; and continual absentmindedness regarding turning on and off lights and water pumps, resulting in one odorous day with no water and no showers and several nights in complete darkness.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back and my head was the chattering. The unanticipated volume and clatter of the RV was menacing, to say the least. Everything creaked, rattled, banged, jangled and clanged, creating a symphony of irritating sounds. My headache began at one in the first hour and reached Defcon five proportions by day three. And because I was in the driving pool, I could only drink myself to sleep at night, which was never peaceful. I direct you to the previously mentioned snoring and CPAP machine noises. If I were a cartoon, my head would’ve been too big for the RV by day two.
And the loud unabated road noise caused every conversation to be at a volume of eleven. Loud one-sided cell phone conversations were aggravating, but the maddening prattle of nonstop nervous and bored chatter left me wanting to hurl myself out of the RV into the Smoky Mountains below to escape. My only measure of passive resistance was when driving. At least I could roll my eyes, make faces and silently mock them undetected. It turns out the wonderfully fun discussions we always had over afternoon wine or game nights turned into empty idle babble when forced in a continuous loop. Maybe wine does improve banter and friendships.
When we finally arrived at our friend’s house, I was tempted to rush out the door and kiss the ground for safe arrival, but I settled for being the first released out the door. I have a sneaking suspicion that even though our remote friend was desperate for company; we all were frantic to get out of that tin can. The only problem, in a few days we had to go back home and do it all over again.
© 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton