My first thought was that she was being sarcastic, but her sweet open face and tidy grandmotherly hairdo belied that notion. “Well, no,” I replied cautiously. “I’d like it to be a bit warmer.”
“Are you from here?”
“Well we just love it here. We’re from Georgia and it’s so hot there.”
“Oh, that explains it. You must be enjoying the cool weather.” We were camped just south of Duluth. It was a 60° and cloudy in July – not the best summer weather in my view, and in winter five feet of snow can arrive all at once, all in one day. Sorry, Duluth. Can’t say I’ll be exploring your charms any further.
And that, my friends, is a perfect example of why we have been on a wild goose chase looking for a perfect place to live.
Because we’ve been talking to people.
What you already have – curly hair, skinny legs, a home in the South – is not necessarily what you want. What someone else wants – straight hair, big boobs, a home where it snows in winter – isn’t necessarily what you want.
What Jimmy thinks he wants is not necessarily what I want. And what we both think we want or someone else thinks we‘d like, we don’t want when we get there and see it. It’s too congested or too rural, too busy or too slow, too tired and seedy or too brand new and characterless. I despair.
So let’s review that list of requirements for a perfect place again:
somewhere not too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry
no spiders, no mosquitoes or other hideous insects
no snakes, no bears
no deep snow
no wild fires
a low cost of living
an ocean or gulf view (yes, realize that eliminates all but 21 states)
a mountain view would be nice, too
To this list I’ll now add:
no cattle grids on the interstate ramps (too high chaparral)
nowhere that traffic on the interstate is the main topic on the local news
not on a road called Skunk Hollow
on second thought, no spiders (above) would certainly eliminate all 50 states so will modify that to no tarantulas or giant arachnids. That might eliminate Florida so I won’t tell Jimmy if I see one. In fact Florida has all manner of shocking creatures, but humans are probably the worst (humans in general, not Floridians in particular) and we can’t get away from them.
not in a town where the local library sees fit to display a “No Guns” sign listing the pertinent ordinances in case you want to argue the point
near a major airport to take a teeny bit of stress off trips back to Blighty
not where we would ever, ever have to use the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River in New York City ever, ever again. Others shudder when you mention it to them and Jimmy pales and starts to tremble.
nowhere that you can buy just guns, musical instruments, jewelry and car audio in the same store
that no hurricane and no tsunami thing might eliminate all the ocean and gulf coasts so I’ll choose to ignore the discrepancy for now.
I’d like to say not within 50 miles of a taxidermist but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
not in a town where the gun store sells gator meat, hog traps and fresh frogs legs.
not in a town with a gun store at all. It may be very un-American of me to not want to have anything to do with a gun but I’d like to live somewhere that I don’t feel the need to have one about my person or home.
nowhere that we’d be dependant on using an Interstate daily as one third of Americans are. They’re a generally a mess – busy and bumpy.
Should we abandon the quest and the list and just live near one of my brothers so we’d at least have family nearby?
That would be Florida which falls foul of many of the items on the above list.
Or under the unending grey skies of Washington State (at least when we lived there) where when Mount Rainier is uncloaked it is event to be remarked upon and pointed out. “Look! Rainier’s out!!”
Fourteen and a half thousand feet of geographical wonder, which when the sky is clear is visible all up and down the Puget Sound, is usually hidden from view under a thick veil of cotton wool. Look at a U.S. weather map and you will invariably see a swirl of muck over the top left corner of Washington. The Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier are under there.
Jimmy is really no help at all. He wants to blow the house fund on a big motorhome.
In my own little world as I often am when a passenger (most particularly just before we get lost) I was jolted out of my reverie by a loud obscenity from Jimmy and by the car (towing the trailer) swerving viciously towards some bollards marking out narrow lanes in road works. Being America, they were not just little cones, but beer-keg-like bollards. When I checked my door mirror, I saw three orange blinking monsters catapulting towards the work crew. Ping, ping, ping they went, like tiddlywinks.
Jimmy had had to make a split second decision to either let “some stupid woman in a white car” hit us or to rearrange the construction site. Fascinated with the incredible trajectory of the bollards, I didn’t notice at first the damage to our awning. But when I saw the awning struts sticking out from the trailer like compound fractures, I shouted “You’ve got to stop!!”
“We’ve got to! We’ve got to! The awning is broken and swinging around!!”
“I can’t stop here!”
“Yes you can! Yes you can!” I was beginning to sound like Dave Letterman with his annoying habit of repeating himself. “It’s OK here! It’s OK here!” I insisted, trying to browbeat Jimmy into pulling off the highway anywhere as he couldn’t see the dire state of our awning in his mirrors.
It was still furled up in place, near the roof of the trailer but the struts at either end had been snapped off at the bottom and were dangling from the top. The whole thing looked perilously close to crashing to the ground. The struts would then get tangled in the trailer wheels causing the trailer to jackknife or catapult or become javelins bounding along the roadway or the whole thing could sail away causing an interstate pile-up.
White knuckles gripping the wheel, Jimmy eased gingerly onto the shoulder of an on ramp of Interstate 95.
We could go no further, particularly on a road full of truckers and crazy Florida drivers who didn’t appreciate the danger of road works whilst wrapped in large pieces of speeding metal.
A State Trooper pulled up as we were standing beside our trailer, shell-shocked and scratching our heads. I was prompted to ponder the question Jimmy had posed a few days before; Do our license plates run out at the beginning of November or the end of November? Isn’t it funny how we feel guilty as soon as a policeman is in view?
The Trooper was big and imposing. His biceps bulged tightly in the sleeves of his neatly pressed tan shirt. He was so tall that if he had lifted his arm out to the horizontal I could have walked under it with inches to spare above my head. His children wouldn’t need outdoor play equipment. They could use their sturdily built father as a climbing frame. I pictured a tot swinging from his biceps or sliding down his broad back. No, he wouldn’t have children. He looked too mean.
An impending scene of degradation and disgrace, vis-à-vis so many movies we’ve all seen, loomed in my mind. The Trooper squinted at the license plate on the car and scribbled something on his little spiral pad (just like the ones they all use in the movies) and slid it meaningfully into his shirt pocket. I waited for it. He strode menacingly up to Jimmy, engaged eye contact and paused while we quaked.
I was convinced it was against the law to stop where we had and I scanned the trooper’s belt for handcuffs. If our trailer was confiscated would they junk it? All our worldly goods were on it.
Are Florida jails air-conditioned? How will I sleep? What is the diet like? I can’t manage on stodgy food.
Jimmy and I stood like two naughty children waiting for the punishment that we knew we deserved.
“You folks having some trouble?” he asked kindly.
To our immense relief after our babbling explanations he produced some plastic ties from his car, secured the wayward awning struts to the body of the trailer and informed us that there was an RV dealer just five miles down the road.
And so ends this sorry tale of great anxiety, vast expense and no one to blame – she got away.
There is a happy ending though. Adjacent to the RV dealer was an outlet mall and in the two hours it took to replace our awning, we used the free time productively. Jimmy purchased all my birthday presents, a matter that had been preying on his mind for some time.