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Hopes, dreams and dry rot

Back when I was younger I used to dream of living in a motorhome and driving all around the country, looking for beautiful places, fun discoveries and wonderful roadside eateries located in obscure small towns.

As I grew up, I completely gave up that dream. I gave it up so much, I managed to go through most of my adult life without even learning how to drive.

Then one fine day in late 1999, I went to an auto auction with an acquaintance to see what an auto auction was like.

Then I saw it; a 1974, off-brand, 18-foot motorhome.

my old motorhome

The friend offered to buy it for me and drive it to a location where I could store it until I learned how to drive.

Two hours later I was the proud and very boggled owner of that new-to-me motorhome. I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ll skip the part for now regarding how I learned how to drive and the whole goofiness of having an ancient, clunky motorhome as one’s first car.

Turns out that old machine was like some old man with a cane who has a lot of “being old” health problems and a grumpy, curmudgeonly attitude to boot. There were a LOT of issues that came with it, from a bad carburetor to structural problems to a non-working shower to electrical problems to leaks in the roof and more.

But just like some old, grumpy relative you love anyway no matter what, I really, REALLY loved that ancient, problematic old monster.

I had the crappy malfunctioning Quadrajet carburetor replaced with a kick-butt, impressive Eidelbrock, tore out the inside of the back section and designed/built my own custom storage cabinet/folding table unit, invented a useful gravity-powered water system for both the sink and the shower, replaced the toilet, replaced the mattress, applied new waterproofing compound to the roof, installed LED lights, tossed out the lame ladder originally meant for the sleeping loft and invented an ingenious way to use large sturdy, stackable plastic crates as both storage bins as well as creating an instant mini-stairway into the loft. That was fun.

That old motorhome tried all kinds of creative ways to fall apart over the years. I remember one rainy night zooming down Highway 26 (down the steep hill towards the tunnel for you Portlanders out there). Suddenly there was a scary, LOUD banging sound on the left side. Turns out that a big chunk of the aluminum siding had come off and was flapping and banging against the vehicle body. A cop had to escort me to someplace safe and lent me some duct tape to tame the problem.

Over the years, the local Triple-A tow truck drivers and a certain local car mechanic got to know me and that motorhome pretty darn well. I often liked to joke that my home-on-wheels was “held together by hopes, dreams and dry-rot.”

Yes, it was a one big, sad puppy of a vehicle. Yes, it kept finding new ways to malfunction and to fall apart. Yes, I had the money from my crappy job to instead maybe get a small studio apartment and just ditch this problem-on-wheels.

However I didn’t want an apartment. At the core, I deeply wanted to live my dream. And because of that – despite all the problems – I deeply loved my ugly old monster.

Unfortunately, I never really got to go much of anywhere with my 6-wheeled old friend. Over the next 7 years, I never could get enough money or the time off to go much of anywhere. There were one or two epic trips down the Oregon coast, one to Oregon’s famed Crater Lake and maybe two trips to Mount St. Helens. The ‘home and I did go to the Columbia Gorge a few times, which was nice. However I’d seen too much of Oregon. There’s a whole continent to explore out there. Unfortunately, I never had enough money to go much of anywhere else.

I had bills to pay. Groceries to buy. Debts to deal with. A general sense of depression caused by the usual long weeks of grey, Oregon rain. The years stretched on.

Instead of discovering wonderful places around America, I spent most of my motorhome time situating myself where-ever I and my 6-wheeled friend could stay overnight on various quiet neighborhood streets.

After work, I would commute back to the quiet, dead-end suburban streets behind my favorite bookstore. Often I got official permission to park in the lot of my favorite coffee cafe. Other times I found adequate space besides some local neighborhood park or some random dead-end suburban street. The local police got to know me as generally harmless and were usually respectful to me whenever they recognized my friendly old monster.

At night, after I’d pull the blankets over me, I’d listen quietly to the sound of crickets, the frequent drumming of rain on my roof, and/or the sound of cars going by on the local freeway. There in the dark, I’d close my eyes and try to dream the other half of my dream.

In my mind, I had driven all day on some twisty-turny, adventurous, two-lane highway and had arrived at the destination of someplace beautiful and amazing somewhere out in the USA.

There I would be, pulled on the shoulder of Going-To-The-Sun Road, seeing Glacier National Park in all it’s glory.

There I would be, standing at a fascinating abandoned highway in Pensylvania investigating the old tunnels, waving at bike riders disappearing into the darkness.

There I would be, standing in a forest among the scattered remains of a long-abandoned industrial complex. Streets and buildings and fire hydrants mysteriously laid out within the thick stands of trees. Knowing that the spookiness of the Blair Witch Project had nothing on THIS location.

There I would be, at the little known “Grand Canyon Of the East” appreciating yet another unique, underrated place with great wildlife beauty in a whole state where most of the world seems to believe “there’s no ‘there’ there” except for the city of New York.

National parks. Route 66. Tiny towns with obscure yet wonderful local eateries. The humble beauty of a single streetlight shining at night at the intersection of two faraway country roads, hearing the buzzing sound of some struggling, old, half-lit neon sign, trying hard to keep it’s message bright.

As I slept, it was easy to make myself believe – for just a little while – that the next day I’d be waking up someplace wonderful… someplace I’d never been before… someplace inspiring enough so I could feel grateful to have been and seen that unique place before I left this Earth.

Instead I woke up every morning knowing I was heading to the parking lot of a business that was infamous among the local geeks for being a very depressing place to work.

Ah, well.

Still… I must say that half a dream is better than no dream.

I did get to live in my very own motorhome.
For 7 whole years, I actually got to be the proud owner and full-time dweller of my own motorhome. :)

Hey, I got half of my dream. :)

I do not regret having that much at least.

In the end, that old monster struggled very hard to get me to Nevada. I give it respect and credit for actually helping me make the move successful from Oregon to Las Vegas. Despite it’s age, despite it’s problems, my 6-wheeled friend valiantly gotten me to my new city quite safely. Right after it arrived, the machine finally gave up the ghost forever.

Thank you, old friend. :)

I only hope that someday, somehow I will get to experience the other half of my dream.

I hope that someday, despite cancer, I can still see so much more of the beauty and adventures on the road that America offers.

I hope that someday, somehow I will be able to live out my most cherished hopes and dreams – without the dry-rot.

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