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25 – The people are delightful. But the rooster? He’s a jerk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever before fled for my life while being chased by an enraged rooster.”

I’ve just finished relating the story of my narrow escape from being pecked to death during my walk by the pond, and mom is thoroughly unsympathetic.

“Sweetie, roosters are very protective. You should have stayed away from his hens.”

“Believe me when I say I was never within 20 feet of the hens or the rooster. Except, of course when he started gaining on me while I was – did I mention? Fleeing. For. My. Life. I’m just happy I escaped with my limbs intact and without recorded evidence of the debacle posted all over social media.”

Mom laughs so hard she nearly drops her coffee. Like I said, unsympathetic. We’re sitting outside in our camp chairs, enjoying the sunshine now that my life is no longer in peril. It’s just warm enough to bask, if you’re wearing a sweatshirt. The only sounds are the wind in the trees, the distant whine of a passing car and Sophie’s soft snoring. It’s so calm and peaceful that I’m thinking of dozing off.

“Oh, shoot. Where are my glasses?”

I peel an eye open and look at her.

“Have you checked at the end of that granny lanyard you’ve been wearing?”

“Very funny.”

“Side pocket of your chair?”


“Are you sitting on them?”

“You’re no help at all! I must have left them inside.”

Mom slowly levers herself out of her chair, turns around and stops. I look over and laugh.

“You were sitting on them, weren’t you?”

“You know, it’s not very nice to laugh at your mother.”

Mom huffs and settles back into her chair, glasses in hand. I’m still snickering when we hear someone crunching across the gravel in our direction. I turn to see the couple from the converted school bus waving at us.

We’re both very interested in these people who turned an old bus into a home on wheels. It has to be a complicated process – there’s plumbing involved, after all. And gas lines. Where do people learn to do these things without suffering very unpleasant sewage complications or blowing up everything in the vicinity? It’s not as though you could just buy a bunch of buses, experiment along the way and toss anything that didn’t quite work out. At least I assume this is not standard procedure. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a vast half-converted bus boneyard hiding in the hills somewhere, full of bus skeletons singing a sad song of conversion experiments gone wrong.

This particular bus conversion is certainly impressive. It’s enormous, bright orange, with large windows and a retractable awning. I’m pretty sure it’s even ADA compliant. It somehow looks like Schoolhouse Rock come to life.

From about 20 feet away they ask if they can come say hello, and offer to sit at the picnic table, which is about 10 feet from mom. We’re outside on a sunny day, which seems like a reasonable time to risk talking to interesting strangers without masks, and it turns out they’re delightful. They’re on the road with family and they call themselves the Nerd Herd Nomads – Mel, Dawn, Alaura, Pops and an assortment of pets.

Within ten minutes we’ve heard about their adventures in converting the bus; the complex physics of braking when driving an unloaded 18-wheel vehicle versus when it’s fully loaded; what it’s like to have three generations traveling and living together; the best nearby spots to visit; their search for a good piece of land for building their perfect multi-generational house; and the local musicians performing tonight at the semi-outdoor, socially distanced, on-site music venue just down the road past the pond. Within eleven minutes they’ve offered us one of their cars to drive mom to the concert and to use to get around town for as long as we plan to stay. They’ve also warned us (too late, alas) about the attack rooster, who is known locally for his aggressive (some might say demented) territoriality.

Big orange bus

By this time Pops has moseyed over and been introduced, and he is also delightful, though much more reserved. We thank them profusely and explain that we’re only staying one more night and that the concert venue is close enough that I plan to wheel her down there in her walker, so we really don’t need a car. We chat for a little longer and I promise to stop by later to have a look at the big orange bus.

A couple of hours later a very clean car with all of the windows rolled down rolls up next to the RV and parks. Pops steps out, turns around to wipe down the steering wheel and driver’s area with a cleaning wipe, pops the trunk, ambles over and puts a key on the picnic table then gives it a once over with the wipe. He tells me the car has been thoroughly cleaned and aired out, and is for us to use for as long as we need it – we can just park it by their bus and put the keys in one of the camp chair cup holders in front when we’re done. He then shows me the trunk is emptied out so that mom’s walker will fit without any trouble.

It’s such a generous offer and he’s so sweet and diffident about it that I can’t decide whether I want to cry or adopt his family into what’s left of mine.

When people you’ve just met offer you the keys to their freshly sanitized car so you can drive your mother and her walker the quarter mile down the road to hear outdoor live music, and don’t give you a hard time about your masks in an area where practically no one wears them, and are very solicitous about keeping social distance when they seem completely unconcerned on their own behalf, and seem to be doing everything they can to make you feel welcome with no strings attached, it does remind you that we are capable of being kind to one another even if we approach the world a little differently. We just forget.

Another result of all this generosity is that I can’t stop thinking about how much dad would have liked this place and these people.

Dad RVing

After all the kids were out of the house, mom and dad bought a second-hand Road Trek that they used as their “family car” for years. Every year they would load up their collection of pets and head out on a road trip to raise money for the orphanage in Haiti. They both loved a good RV park and the people they would meet there.

My father could get just about anyone to start talking to him. If he was in a place for more than 10 minutes and there were people nearby, he’d end up knowing everyone’s life story. Children in particular adored him, which was surprising because he was big and barrel-chested, and the combination of his beard and the dark sunglasses he always wore to protect his eyes made him look kind of grim and generally intimidating.

Dad would have been in his element at this RV park in particular. First of all, most of the men here look like they could be his relatives and several are members of the local bluegrass band that plays every weekend, which would have made him very happy. He would have been even happier if the weekly barbeque were happening, but Covid has put the kibosh on that for the duration. Second, there’s a neighborly man tuning the engine of a pretty spectacular vintage car a couple of sites over. I have no idea what kind of car it is, but dad would have been able to ID it by outline alone and would probably have had a long discussion with the owner about the finer points of that particular model. Third, he would have been very interested in any multi-generational family in an elaborately converted school bus that they converted themselves.

Every campground has a different social vibe. All of them have helpful people, but some are a little more prone to helping you get situated and then keeping to themselves, while others treat you like a newly-discovered family member. This place is definitely the family member type. Coming from a family that never had a lot of family contact beyond the nuclear core, I find this mildly unnerving, but surprisingly delightful for the most part. It’s a little like being wrapped in someone else’s down jacket on a snowy day. It’s only borrowed and it doesn’t really fit, but it keeps the cold out nicely.

Dad would have loved it.


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