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The Golden Road

Sometimes the lives of RV Ramblers can seem impossibly glamorous to our readership: the truck stop bathrooms, highway construction zones, RV dump stations, and sharing a space smaller than a walk-in closet with another human being. And believe it or not, these things are only just a part of the allure.

There are so many other magical moments that I honestly feel a little hesitant about posting on Instagram, but that I hope you will permit me to humble brag about here a little.

Please See Cashier for Assistance

Lori and I do the grocery shopping together when we’re out on the road. (At home, in a process I do not yet fully understand, food just seems to appear in the house right when we need it). In terms of Stanley’s foodstuff capacity: a freshman dorm dweller would look upon our frig dubiously. Our pantry, if so grand a term applies, is similarly challenged. Consequently, we have to stop every three or four days to resupply, like in Europe and other 3rd world places. On these frequent market visits, I’m often enticed by the self-checkout lanes which usually don’t have a queue and thus feel like they will be faster; and probably would be faster, if it were anyone else in them other than us.

Let’s start with bagging. The kiosk thingy (or point-of-sale system if you will) wants to make sure you’re not accidentally passing things from shopping trolly to bagging area without first scanning the bar code, because that would be stealing. So, it cleverly weighs each item as you scan and set it down to ferret out the cheats. The system sort of works. But it sort of doesn’t work for us, because we are using our own bulky grocery bags (saving the planet), and there isn’t always enough room in the bagging area for everything (I’m talking to you 30-pack of PBR). The general chaos often results in dinging and sternly worded messages from the bar code genie, only some of which can be resolved with a digital “um...sorry...?”

Just when we get on a small roll, Lori will spontaneously decide to transfer an item that we just scanned directly back into the cart (as a time-saving move?). This results in more angry dinging from both husband and machine. At a certain point, it just flashes the “Wait for a Customer Representative” sign and freezes the whole process. All the while, I’m eyeing the people in the regular checkout lanes who have completed their checkout, returned to their car, stopped for a drink with a friend, and are now home watching TV.

And we haven’t even commenced with the dreaded produce items yet.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about here, but we didn’t buy the organic kiwi fruit, we just bought the regular kiwi. We’ve scrolled through the entirety of the K letter produce. Nada. And no way are we going to pay an extra $.30 per pound for organic if we didn’t get organic. So, we ask the nice gal who helped us unfreeze the machine thrice before to come back, swipe her card, and punch in a bunch of “these people are idiots” codes before we can proceed. Repeat all of this three or four more times for the asparagus, the broccoli, and the always challenging kale (a notorious bastard), to say nothing of Lori’s watermelon which she insists was on sale, but that price isn’t registering.

Oops, here comes the beer. That requires an ID check from a real person. “Ma’am... would you mind...?”

At a grocery store in Mansfield, LA, we set the U.S. record for customer assistance, tallying nine separate interventions from the staff to fix something before we could check out. And this was on about fifteen items. It resulted in a hearty congratulations from the store manager along with a lifetime ban from self-checkout kiosks nationwide. A blessing for all concerned.

RV Entomology & Entomophobia

Insects are always part of the summer camping experience as you spend most of your time outside. But occasionally, it’s part of the inside experience too. Such was the case last year when Kenny the Cockroach set up shop in Stanley. Lori first discovered him in Florida, staring at her with his beady little “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds” eyes over the bed covers. It wasn’t until Georgia that she emptied the entire trailer and put insecticide around the floor spaces. Several more days passed before Kenny surrendered to her on the hallway floor, legs up, in the “I yield” capitulation position. Well played.

During this unfortunate episode, I was unavoidably (and regrettably) detained at a boys’ weekend in Atlanta, or I would have almost certainly assisted by handing her a wad of tissue for his little sarcophagus.

Don't Go Toward the Light

This year, we’re having an equally exciting experience with only slightly less creepy insects. The Miller Moth is a remarkable little bug, as bugs go. A homely cousin to the butterfly; they hatch in the plains states and then fly a thousand miles west, navigating by starlight, toward the Rocky Mountains and their bountiful nectar harvest before returning to the Plains to mate, molt, lay eggs, and die – or something like that. On their journey, they can become disoriented by the artificial lights of the Denver area which looks a bit like the moon and the stars to a moth; so they wind up flying around inside of houses, businesses, and RVs that apparently resemble moonlit foothills.

How they actually get into Stanley, we don’t know. These are not small moths. And we are meticulous to check for unauthorized entry whenever we open the door. In theory, there are no other ways in, not even moth-sized ones. Nevertheless, once night falls, and we turn on a single light in the trailer, it fills with fluttering wings frantically searching for an exit (evidentially, not being able to find the one they used to come in).

Knowing that Miller Moths are an important pollinator, we try to practice catch and release using our hand-held vacuum (saving the planet again), but inevitably there is some collateral damage. We release (and murder) up to 15 or 20 a night, only to start the whole process over again the next night. Our first thought (and perhaps yours too) was that they have successfully established a breeding colony in Stanley. I was ready to tear the trailer apart to seek and destroy the mother nest, or at least suggest that Lori do this – already having experience as she does. But the internet assures us this is not the case; Miller Moths don’t eat or breed on their long journey to the mountains. So, in theory, every time we get one out, that’s one less in. But maybe the internet doesn’t know everything, because each night, there is a whole new batch flying everywhere. At this point, we may just have to wait them out.

At some point, they have to die of natural causes, right? I mean heart disease, untreated prostate cancer, or something? But who knows? The guy that sold Lori the lethal cockroach cocktail said that even one cockroach will never just die. Because... wait for it... they can reproduce asexually. Dear god...

And the meek cockroaches shall inherit the earth.


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