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24 – I’m getting cranky (but Mountain View is lovely)

For the record, it is quite possible to drive a 25 foot cab-over RV like a bat out of hell. You probably shouldn’t, but on a freeway that for the last thousand miles has had a speed limit of 75 or 80 with a minimum speed of 60 and is heavily traveled by many people in a big hurry, it can be hard to avoid.

And by now we’re getting cranky. Well, I’m getting cranky anyway. Mom is still giddy with freedom and playing with her phone like a teenager. At any rate, the road is losing enough of its lustre that we’re more prone to hurrying from stop to stop. However, when we suddenly smell smoke (wasn’t us, thank goodness) I think of the horror stories about fires caused by RVs and dragging tail pipes, which leads to thinking about joint stress and metal fatigue, which leads to mental images of the entire top of the RV suddenly blowing off, trailing a very surprised cat interrupted mid-nap, and I resolve to dial it back a notch.

Today we’ve crossed into Missouri, which I clearly had conflated with Mississippi in memory because I thought it would be flat. Why I believed this when we were headed for a place called Mountain View is not an unreasonable question. Apparently I thought the name was aspirational. It is not. Mountain View has both mountains and views, and is altogether lovely.

“Oh! Turn here! Turn here!”

Mom waves her arms, points, and shouts, apparently believing that it might be difficult to catch my attention from three feet away. She’s bouncing in her seat with excitement. I crank the wheel and begin the ponderous process of negotiating the turn into the entrance of the campground.

“No, no, keep going that way!”

“Mom, that’s the sidewalk.”

“Are you sure? It looks like a driveway to me.”

“Mom, it’s four feet wide and this is an RV camp.”

“Oh. I guess you’re right.” Pause. “But it’s prettier over there.”

“This is a driveway. It’s for driving from here to there, not for landscaping purposes.”

I believe I mentioned that I’m getting cranky.

“Well, what if we go that way instead?”

“Mom, it’s…” I stop and breathe. “Fine. Maybe you’re right. We’ll go that way.”

A lovely Mountainview field

Fifteen minutes later, after sailing right past the campground, taking the scenic tour through everything in the immediate area that is not even remotely part of the campground, turning down a few side roads and eventually finding a place to very carefully make a 12 point turn so that we can retrace our steps back in the general direction of the campground, we have arrived back where we started. At the entrance to the campground. Mom has judiciously decided to refrain from further comment as I turn down the driveway and park in front of the office.

It’s a beautiful RV camp, with crystalline air, a forest of tall trees making gentle background noise of the breeze, a gorgeous sunset, a flock of guard chickens, a pond, and a general sense of bucolic peace.

Mom immediately starts causing trouble.

“Hmph. I didn’t realize there would be so many people. How are we going to find a space with a view of nothing but trees? Ooh, that’s a pretty spot over there. Should we go look?”

“I think we should get checked in first.”

A man driving a golf cart rolls past us toward what appears to be the office.

“Oh, look at that man. I like his beard. Do you think he can tell us who’s supposed to check us in? Honk to make sure he knows we’re here.”

“He knows we’re here – he’s only ten feet away. If I honk at him from this distance, it will either annoy him or give him a coronary, which would also very likely annoy him. Besides, I think he may be the person who checks us in.”

“Well, make sure he knows I prepaid. I called ahead and reserved our spot and paid for it with my credit card, and I don’t want to get charged twice.”

“I’m sure it’s fine.”

Mom rummages around in her bag. “Here, you’d better take my card in with you so you can check.”

“I’m sure it’s fine.”

This conversation continues in the same vein the entire time it takes me to park, pry myself out of the RV and walk ten feet to the door of the office. Mom rolls down her window and reminds me again to make sure they don’t charge her twice. I promise her that I will make absolutely certain she is charged once and only once, while silently considering the distinct possibility that mom may have had a little too much coffee again today.

The bearded man in the golf cart turns out to be the owner of the campground. He’s very nice. We chat for a while as he checks us in and confirms that mom has indeed been charged only once. Then he hops back in his golf cart, I clamber back into the RV and he guides us to our campsite.

It’s a very pleasant drive-through site, with full hookups, a fire pit, a picnic table and lots of trees. We can, of course, see other RVs. Mom rolls down her window, leans out and starts waving at the owner as he turns back toward the office.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”

Mountainview RV park

Mom is hollering as though he’s hard of hearing. I wonder to myself if we should have her hearing checked and decide it must be past my dinner time because I’m getting crankier by the minute. There’s something about wearing a mask all the time that leads to problems with volume control. Apparently we’re so used to the visual cues we get from seeing people’s mouths when they speak that when they’re covered we suddenly can’t understand each other at all. We tend to make up for this by shouting. Some more so than others.

Mom isn’t generally a shouter, but she does like to make sure she’s understood. The owner turns back, looking wary.

“Excuse me,” mom says, ratcheting the volume down a few notches. “Is there any chance we could get a spot where we can’t see any of the other RV’s?”

By now the owner is beginning to look deeply regretful about not sending someone else to check us in. “Ma’am,” he says with a sigh, “I’m sorry but we’re fully booked. You can see I’ve got quite a few vehicles staying here right now and there really isn’t a spot where you won’t be able to see any of them. I promise you this is one of the best spots, right here in the trees.”

Mom’s expression is that of a five-year-old whose ice cream has fallen off the cone and is melting on the pavement. She looks so bereft that it’s clear she isn’t just being difficult. There are so many reasons this road trip could be a sad, uncomfortable journey best left to fade from memory, but it’s our last big adventure together and she wanted it to be perfect. It can’t possibly match the pictures in her memory from all the other trips over the years, and it isn’t at all what she had hoped for, but she still yearns for it to be a good adventure.

“Hey mom.” She turns to me and for a moment I can see her five-year old self trying hard not to be disappointed. “Look over there. Nobody else is parked over in that direction. On that side there’s nothing but a couple of pretty little cabins, and on this side we’ll be able to see the sunset through that line of trees. There are birds everywhere. The woods are right across that road and it smells like pine needles and breathing trees. This is a beautiful place. We’ll just look that way.”

She looks around, thinks for a minute, inhales deeply, then starts to smile. “Okay!” She leans out the window and waves to the owner. “It’s perfect. Thank you!”

And with that, everything is fine again. Sometimes we need to overlook a few things, maybe pretend a little bit, but it can make the world a much more appealing place.

And it keeps us from throttling each other.

Mountainview sunrise through the trees


  1. Kerry williamson

    “I thought the name was aspirational.” Ha ha!!!! Amber, these just keep getting better. This one made me laugh and cry. So good!

  2. Linda Barufaldi

    You are extremely patient with your mother. It’s wonderful you can have this adventure with her. I love your dry, understated sense of irony. Always have.


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