Lee Pitts: Off the road again

In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to buy a recreational vehicle at a garage sale. But that’s exactly what my neighbor Shorty did. Although, I must admit when he told me that he only paid $3,000 for it I was just a bit jealous. Who hasn’t dreamed of leaving all your cares behind and traveling the world in your own RV, taking your house with you everywhere you go? In an RV you can see the country without ever being groped by security people at the airport or using bus stop restrooms.

I’ve dreamed of cruising the back roads of America in an RV writing the next Travels With Charley or On The Road, but my wife hates the things. She’s grown tired of relatives plugging into our power, dropping off their trash and their sewage. Now we tell everyone we don’t have any electric plugs available and our septic tank is full.

RV’s have a lot to recommend them; providing all the comforts of home without any grass to mow. And if you have a long enough extension cord you can visit former friends and never have to pay another power bill ever again. Newer models are especially enticing with four slideouts, full Internet access and HD TV. Alas, Shorty’s RV has none of these features. It’s only “slideout” is a TV antenna stuck out the broken back window, its generator sits inside taking up most of the floor space, and his “sewage system” drips all the effluent on the blacktop as he cruises down the freeway at 40 miles per hour. Its top speed.

Most of Shorty’s RV problems are due to the fact that his rig was built in 1972. It has a rag for a gas cap, a hole in the roof where Shorty put his foot through trying to fix one of many leaks, the shower stall is so small if you drop the soap you can’t bend over to retrieve it, and the bed is four feet long. And did I mention that Shorty is six feet four inches tall? The first trip Shorty took was to the dump where he came home with more junk than he left with. Including a “new” couch. Despite its drawbacks Shorty is excited about owning an RV and it’s a good thing he’s retired because he’s spending 60 hours a week fixing his RV, which I understand is about average.

The main reason Shorty bought the RV was for a road trip to visit relatives who live on a ranch in Nebraska. In preparation for the trip he loaded up 12 cans of starter fluid, a case of oil, and made sure his membership in the Automobile Club was paid up. He barely made 20 miles before he had his first breakdown and it took him a week and a half to go 600 miles. When he wasn’t fixing a flat tire, or broke down, he was parked off-road while being awarded a fix-it ticket by cops in three different states.

Once at the ranch Shorty insisted on staying in his RV, for the first night anyway. I’m sure you’ve seen the sign that says, “If this RV is rockin” don’t bother knockin?” Well, Shorty experienced just such a night. It seems he parked in a pasture and during the night the cattle took umbrage with the RV’s bumpers. Fortunately the next morning they found some old baler twine to tie the bumpers back on.

It was hot in Nebraska and Shorty lost his air conditioning when he swatted a fly perched on the overhead AC unit and the entire air conditioner came crashing to the floor, landing on and badly damaging the generator that was already there. Shorty also had to traipse through fresh cow pies in his flip flops to use the restroom in the house because on the dirt road to the ranch it seems all the plumbing jarred loose.

Despite all the setbacks Shorty loves the RV lifestyle, especially the time spent at truck stops getting fuel and repairs. Shorty especially liked how friendly all the other motorists were as they waved at him as they passed… after following him for 100 miles going 40 miles per hour. In fact, Shorty loves RV–ing so much, like all RV owners, he wants a longer one. So he’s selling his old wreck to raise the cash. The garage sale is next Saturday.

Tell Shorty I sent ya!