I now have the peace of mind of knowing that driving the RV is not the scariest thing I’ve ever done. (What is the scariest thing? That is a solid writing prompt for another time.)
Pulling away from home was scary. I sat in the passenger seat and trusted Christopher to drive. (Even as I write these sentences I am aware that they are offering me metaphors rich enough to explore on their own.) Life is a highway. (Okay, that one was on purpose.)
I take out my notebook and pen and take notes of the dialogue, centered on getting used to the whole concept of an RV.
“Do you think this thing is actually going to brake going downhill?”
“Oh shit, I spilled.”
“This will be the best day of the trip, so have a good attitude.”
“Look kids, it’s the ocean!”
We slog through California’s freeways, waiting for America’s beauty to reveal itself. We have time.
I take notes on the scenery as we ascend the 15 toward Adelanto, recalling the first time I went to the ICE Detention Center. Christopher and I start a conceptual discussion of our next big idea, scheming to make the world in the image we would like it to be, where everyone has a fair chance. A billboard for “California’s Largest Gas Station!” captures our eyes with an image of a giant ice cream sundae. We see a confederate flag sticker on a pickup truck north of Vegas, and will later see a Black Lives Matters sign on a front yard tree in the town leading into Zion.
In Nevada, we stop to make sandwiches in the confines of our rolling home — sourdough toasted over the gas burner, with turkey, salami, cheese. I have forgotten the mayo, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem; Emmett asks if he can have the exact same sandwich tomorrow.
We switch drivers after Las Vegas (look out, America, I’m in charge now). The sky transforms from the color of cement to blue dotted with clouds, until finally, into the northwest corner of Arizona, the rocks start revealing their blush.
And then it’s as if all the beauty has been saving itself up for these hours, to drench the landscape in latent colors all at once — red rocks striped with charcoal layers and dotted with green trees rise up on either side of us, as we follow the path a river has cut into southern Utah.
And, voila! All the planning, the perusing of online black and white maps of campsites, the hoping the one-day drive here will be reasonable, leads us to the real life version of that map, our spot of earth for this night next to the burbling Virgin River, to Zion.
A snack, a walk (boys separate from parents — their choice), and then dinner. A moment to pat myself on the back for obsessing about what we will eat on this journey. I prepare plates of flatbread, butter lettuce, and microwave-warmed chicken shawarma I cooked last Saturday night, with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce with fresh lime juice. (Reality check: by night 2 we order takeout.)
I take my stab at deep conversation, ready for eye rolls or grunts, and am met with contemplation and sharing of something deeper than our typical everyday chatter. This is everything. This is worth the price of admission.
There is a mild amount of shouting and groaning about how difficult it is to make an RV bed. There is bumping into each other and getting annoyed. And there is a knock on our door. A fellow camper letting us know that there is a rattlesnake outside our camp. “Don’t worry,” she says, and reports that they have taken matters into their hands and run over it with a car three times to kill it. It’s still alive, but one more roll ought to end things. WTF? We go outside to bear witness to the death throes of the poor reptile. And learn a serious lesson: Do not mess with RV’ers.
The boys go inside to play 2K (#roughingit), and Christopher and I take two camp chairs out to look at the stars (scanning first for avenging snakes). We forget that NEOWISE is in the sky, but see a couple of shooting stars, slap at a couple of flying ants, and take in the fact that we are actually here.
In the morning, after breakfast, we clean up, walk on a trail, let the kids have one more ride on the electric scooters the RV guy threw in, and resume our odyssey for what we hope will be our longest day behind the wheel. On to Colorado.