that the dogs didn't want to get into the motorhome. They wouldn't
get up on the beds or look out the window or sit near the air conditioner.
They wouldn't walk around on the new carpeting. They wouldn't put
their coffee cups in the cup holder. Worst of all, they wouldn't
help with the driving. Is it my fault the Husky left her license
Instead, they jammed themselves between the front seats, arguing
about which one was entitled to the passenger seat. They were wedged
in so tightly, it was like they were Velcroed - it took two cans
of WD-40 to separate them. They then jumped up on the seat right
behind me, hanging their heads over my shoulders and slobbering
so profusely that I slid off the seat three times before we even
got out of the driveway.
Headed due east from California, nightfall found us at Mount Hualapai
campsite near Kingman, AZ. Ah yes, nature, raw and uncompromising.
Tall pines, black sky, a million stars. This was totally different
from my New York background where "the Great Outdoors" refers to
the distance from your front door to an Uber.
Attempting to appear knowledgeable, I bombarded the park ranger
with inside motorhome jargon, using words like "rig," "hookup,"
and "propane." This didn't seem to impress him, as he told us there
was nothing available. I tried to remain composed as he said,"Calm
"No hookups? No problem," I said. "This baby's self-contained, and
this puppy," I said, pointing to the generator, "can do everything,
except walk the dogs." I must've been convincing, because the Ranger
indicated an empty spot with no benefits like water, electricity,
or any other utilities . Who needs amenities anyway? Not with this
baby. We got out the puppy with the little bubble in the middle
and watched it move over to the side. So I gues that's how it lets
you know it's working.
I felt the first signs of stress when I realized I didn't know if
you're supposed to keep the engine running for the generator to
work or not. Why does the fuel gauge read Empty when we had a quarter
tank a minute ago? Does this mean that your vehicle still uses gas
even though it isn't moving? What would happen if I turned off the
engine? Would the propane explode? Would the air bag implode? Would
the pontoons jettison into dirt if there was no water around?
Or, more likely, would a huge, hungry grizzly slash its way into
our rig to plunder and pillage?
Taking a deep breath, I turned off the engine and, with trembling
Fingers, switched off the all-seeing, all-knowing generator. Instantly
the lights went out, the air conditioning went off, the microwave
stopped blinking 12:00 12:00 12:00 and in two minutes, it was sweltering.
When both panting dogs stood by the door, staring out through the
screen, I realized they had solved our problems. It was time to
go, except I was too panicked by now to start the engine, so we
coasted back down in Neutral and checked into a motel at the foot
of the mountain.
Air conditioning and clean sheets uplifted our spirits enough to
head for Phoenix next day, where we were joined by a friend who
had offered to drive down to Guadalajara with us, and I said yes
the minute she said she could change a tire.
"So you bought this rig to sleep in, but you're sleeping in motels?"
"We'd sleep in the rig if it had room service," I said.
"And you won't use the bathroom?" she said.
"I didn't want to be the first one," I muttered.
"I thought your son took the rig out for a dry run last weekend;
didn't he use it?" she asked.
"He didn't want to be the first one either," I said. If I ever sell
it, the ad will read:
FOR SALE: New bathroom surrounded by used motorhome.
Driving without incident across the border at Nogales, I whined,
"How come they're not inspecting the rig? Do we look too bland to
"More likely it's because no one ever smuggles drugs INTO Mexico,"
When I grow up, I hope to be as smart as she is.
With Gail behind the wheel and the dogs supervising her from behind,
I prepared breakfast. Every time she hit a pothole, another hotcake
sailed out the window.
"Ever crew on a sailboat?" she yelled back to me.
"Do I look like I did?" I shouted back, heaving myself up off the
"You'll get your footing eventually," she said, grinning. "Say,
Maggie," she yelled. "Those eggs look great on your head."
We decided that, while in Mexico, Gail should sleep in the Rialta,
but I was too chicken and should sleep in hotels. However, I wouldn't
part with the dogs and it was impossible to find hotels that allowed
them. We tried a ritzy San Carlos hotel with caged exotic birds
in the lobby, but management took one look at the dogs and told
us no rooms were available.
necessity is the mother of invention, for the next hotel, we created
a "halter" out of umbrella stays and a belt and tied it to the Husky's
back. Wearing big sunglasses and holding the halter with one hand
while flailing in the air with the other, I walked into the lobby.
It wasn't difficult pretending to be blind since the humidity was
so great that it fogged up the sunglasses and I couldn't see anything
anyway. Miraculously, a room suddenly became available. Mexicans
don't treat their dogs as well as we treat ours, but when it comes
to handicapped humans, Mexicans are very kind.
On another night, we successfully sneaked the dogs into a hotel
and I was feeling pretty smug, when there was a knock on the door.
"Do you have dogs in there?"
"Not exactly," I shouted back. "They look like dogs but they're
really movie actors. We're on the way to film a dog food commercial
in Guadalajara." The knocking stopped, and we were good for the
We managed to have a great meal in yet another hotel by pretending
to be part of a wedding reception being held there.
"Hey Gail, what's Spanish for "Such a beautiful bride. We're her
cousins." We were so good at the deception that the groom's family
thanked us for coming such a long way to attend the festivities.
Next day, we reached the end of the luxurious superhighway we'd
been on, and had to finish our journey on a scary two-laner. Mexico
is probably the only country in the world where a chicken has the
right-of-way. It was frustratingly slow going and the dogs were
anxious to get out for a walk, but we could do nothing except wait.
At long last, driver Gail took matters into her own hands.
Maneuvering like Tom Brady on steroids, Gail careened out from behind
a truck, passed it, and slipped back in front of it with inches
to spare. Every time she did that, centrifugal force propelled the
dogs and me against the walls, flattening us in place until she
swerved back, whereupon the refrigerator door flew open and spewed
its contents onto the floor. I just wish I hadn't landed on that
squishy watermelon when Gail resumed normal speed and I slid off
By the time we limped into Guadalajara, I'd heard "calm down" many
times without reacting, been on a memorable adventure, and figured
out that, though men claim women live longer than they do, I say
it only feels longer.
"A Balloon In Cactus"
- July 2, 2018 column