Elwood and his wife, Eileen, are happy.
It’s a gorgeous summer day. The Collegiate Peaks are beautiful, massive, rising beyond the valley below, just west of the brief commotion known as Buena Vista.
The air is crisp and clean. Birdies are tweeting.
Eileen changes the tape in the deck. She slips in The Greatest Hits of the Platters.
As melodious harmonies fill the cabin of Elwood’s 40-foot Discovery Fleetwood RV, he shifts down to second gear to negotiate a curve in the road. Elwood looks in his rearview mirror to check the auto trailer hooked to the back of the Discovery. He is toting his Toyota minivan behind the massive RV.
“ … smoke gets in your eyes …”
Elwood glances lovingly at Eileen: a wrinkled version of the gal he met in high school, the gal he married. They raised three kids — Bruce, Elwood Jr. and Patsy. Bruce is a bigwig in the auto leasing business. Patsy is a nurse, and a mother. Elwood Jr. works at a hair salon in Los Angeles; Elwood and Eileen prefer not to discuss Elwood Jr.
Eileen is wearing a green golf shirt and cream-colored shorts, calf-length argyle socks and a pair of white Korean-made tennis shoes. So is Elwood. They always dress alike: when they travel in the Discovery, when they bowl, when they attend the BPOE convention, wherever in the good old US of A the convention is held.
Elwood smiles. He looks at the speedometer: 25 miles per hour. Safely around the corner, Elwood slows a bit to avoid a marmot, then slows a touch more to observe a cloud formation that looks just like Wayne Newton. He checks the rearview again and he sees the auto trailer and the Toyota, rolling safe and secure behind the Discovery.
What Elwood fails to see, and has failed to see for the last half hour, is the line of cars and trucks stretching a mile behind him.
What he doesn’t see is the short, fat guy in the battered Lexus SUV about 20 cars back — the guy screaming at the top of his lungs, pounding his fists on the steering wheel, his eyes crossed and his blood pressure hovering at 220 over 170.
My day is not going as well as Elwood and Eileen’s. I’m jacked up on five cups of Honduran Supremo and a few over-the-counter allergies tabs, and I’m listening to the Rollins Band at 120 decibels. I am tense.
I must be patient, I tell myself. Things will improve. Soon, Elwood will accelerate to a whopping 35 miles per hour in a 65 mile-per-hour zone. I repeat my mantra — “cheeeeeeeese” — and attempt to enter a meditative state.
It doesn’t work. I am going berserk. I feel enormous pressure in whatever chakra it is that’s located just above the asshole.
Fortunately, Elwood’s prostate is acting up and he needs to stop. He wheels the Discovery off the highway at the Gunsmoke truck stop and, for an instant, I am tempted to pull over and have a chat with the geek.
I review a hypothetical conversation in my head.
Me: Hey, you withered up moron: You’re a dangerous, simple-minded pinhead and you’re a threat to society and you need to go back from whatever sleazoid hole you came from.”
Or something like that.
Elwood: “Well, excuse me mister, apparently you’re not aware of my Constitutional rights.”
Me: “What the hell are you talking about? You loony, no-good simp.”
Or something like that.
Elwood: “It’s the 34th Amendment to the Constitution, buster. It establishes that every American citizen, native born or naturalized, who has not been convicted of a felony and who is not from North Dakota, has the right to purchase an absurdly large recreational vehicle and to tow another vehicle behind it. Further, he has the right to drive at whatever speed he desires.
“Our Founding Fathers were wise men; they envisioned the day when people would complete a career at a mindless job and, with the illusion they had achieved something of value reinforced by a ridiculously large monthly retirement check, that they would engage in a spending frenzy and make conspicuous purchases designed to act as a grace note in an otherwise tedious and unproductive life. And drive those ridiculous emblems of their silliness anywhere in the Continental USofA.
“The Amendment is sandwiched between the 33rd Amendment, which guarantees the right to display several rolls of midsection flesh in public places and the 35th Amendment which protects the right of people who decline to purchase a gigantic RV to otherwise fill the vacuum of their lives by becoming members of property owners association boards of directors.
“Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
Me: “Oh, gee, I didn’t know. Forgive me — I have a major case of ADD and I was distracted by Karen Marlowe’s prematurely large breasts the day we discussed the Constitution in fifth-grade civics class. Please, accept my apology.”
Elwood: “Okay. But, slip up again and I’ll sue you. Or, I’ll shoot you. I’ have three, loaded AR-15s between our captain’s chairs. Second amendment, you know? Now get out of my way, I need to go to the bathroom.”
Instead of pulling off the highway and accosting Elwood, I drive on, seething all the while. Two minutes later, I come up behind another huge RV.
I’m ready to explode.
I detest RVs. Put simply, they are a blight — gruesome symbols of an unrealistic culture, an icon for short-sighted microcephalics caught in the grip of fanciful and superficial consumption; the emblem of a nation in which a certain class of people have entirely too much money and no concept of how to spend it meaningfully.
For the price of one of these motorized RV megasaurs and the enormous cash reserves it takes to move one of them any appreciable distance, a semi-sophisticated being could buy a lovely townhome in a temperate location then travel twice a year to Paris, Tuscany or the Greek Isles, stay in a three-star hotel for three weeks and eat spectacular meals.
But no, these clowns buy RVs, and they all drive to Colorado.
I’m peeved. I can’t help myself. My anger has a deep source.
I’m a product of my Grandmother Minnie’s relentless, lifelong work to prevent migration to the State of Colorado.
Minnie brainwashed me. Back in the early ’50s, my cousin JR and I were packed into the spacious backseat of Minnie’s DeSoto and, with Aunt Hazel at the wheel and Minnie enthroned in the passenger seat, we motored from Denver up U.S. 6 and Colo. 119 to our ancestral home of Central City.
During these trips, Minnie gave JR and me specific instructions: It was our job to lean out the windows of the DeSoto every time Aunt Hazel passed a vehicle with non-Colorado plates and scream “Go home” at top of our lungs. We were instructed to extend our middle fingers in a salute if the license plates on the other car were white in color.
Minnie believed, as a fourth-generation Coloradan, it was my duty to express this idea as loudly as possible, as often as possible, for the good of our precious state — for the future.
“Don’t worry dear,” she would say, “only the Indians can shout at you.”
Obviously, the best of plans can fail. I still occasionally mouth the words “Go home” to people with alien plates who turn in front of me in the supermarket parking lot in Siberia With a View, but I realize at least half the people sporting Colorado plates in this part of the state have lived here less than five years. There’s no way to get at these people anymore — no way to identify them and attack them. The battle is useless; it’s like fighting a mutagen with iodine.
So, my hostility has detoured to RVs.
After I leave Buena Vista, I pass one after another of the abominations on my trip home to Siberia With a View. With each new RV, my fury blooms.
Then, I experience something that throws me over the edge, that puts me at Defcon 4 on the rage-o-meter.
I look to the side of the road as I motor away from South Fork on the way to Wolf Creek Pass. There are hundreds of RVs parked there, each no more than four or five feet from its neighbor. So, this is where the goofs stay! This is the Great Outdoors they seek. I peer into the graveyard of metal behemoths and I am seized by a profound depression. It is like getting ball-peened while you walk across a dark parking lot at a Chili’s in Gallup, New Mexico. It’s like a vision of hell. If Dante had known of RVs, Ugolino would be at the wheel of one, with Satan chewing his head.
There are hundreds of Discovery Fleetwoods, each with a picnic table set next to it. I spot a miniature golf course and a square-dance barn! (There are recent arrivals in my little town in the San Juan Mountains who are worried about cement plants built in what they amusingly call a “pristine” environment. Ponder one of these circuses set next to your dream house!)
I am despondent.
They say RV sales are skyrocketing as more and more Elwoods leave their mundane middle-management jobs in search of the good life they’ve avoided for forty-plus years.
And they are inching their way toward my home.
I am alarmed. Something must be done.
I need to consult my advisory panel to determine, first, if my reaction is appropriate and, second, whether there is a solution to the problem — like spraying bleach on mold.
I hustle to the gym to lift heavy objects and put them back down again. Tony and Wally are at the gym lifting heavy objects and putting them back down and I bring up the subject of giant RVs filled with goofs, RVs clogging the roadways, RVs filling acre after acre of previously arable “pristine” land.
Tony is a police officer. He rides a Harley and has extensive experience with RVs and their drivers.
“Force the vehicle to the shoulder of the road,” he says “roughly remove the occupants and what few valuables they possess and burn the RV. Reduce the vehicle to a puddle of molten metal.”
Tony likes to get to the point. He expresses himself and gets back to the task of executing a set of brutal triceps exercises.
“I wish I had a couple of cannons mounted in the grill of my car,” says Wally as he pauses from lifting heavy objects and putting them back down. Wally used to be an agent in the FBI. “If I had the firepower of an F-15 in the snout of my Chrysler, the problem of RVs would be solved, pronto. You better believe it.”
Wally is a man who sees a problem and deals with it.
Following our brief but pithy conversation, I am convinced my attitude is correct but, since I respect the Constitution, including the 34th Amendment, and the rights it gives all citizens (even those I wish to eradicate), I conceive a gentler, more diplomatic solution.
I’m starting a petition campaign designed to deal with the Elwoods of this world. While Amendment 34 of the Constitution preserves Elwood’s right to own and operate his RV, I think our state should enact regulations governing the use of the offensive contraptions. Why have a Republic if the citizenry of a state cannot rise to act in the common good, huh?
In Colorado, I propose any recreational vehicle or trailer bigger than a pickup or an SUV be restricted to six-lane interstate highways. The far right lane of such highways will be designated as “Feeb-Only RV Lanes,” complete with appropriate signage (a hefty silhouette with a walker). Severe penalties, including steep fines and public whippings will be levied for violations of the mandatory lane rule. A third offense, and the driver of an RV will be forced to negotiate the drive from Needles to Barstow, California, dressed in winter gear, in an un-air-conditioned RV, at 20 miles per hour, at noon, on August 1.
As for the acreage used to contain the abominations when they are not on the road, I propose state-supported “RV Fun Stops” placed at strategic locations along the six-lane Interstates. Since the RV drivers seem happy to congregate with their own kind in marginal, cramped spaces, there should be no problem converting areas previously used as steel mills, feed lots or plutonium manufacturing facilities into classy RV parks, complete with snackbars and horseshoe pits.
I feel better now that I’ve considered the problem and produced a viable, humane solution.
I need food.
At first, I think about producing a repast that would satisfy my adversaries, the RV enthusiasts. Something like cold Beenie Weenies and Kool Aid.
But, I’m in such a comfy mood, I think I’ll whip up a dinner more to my liking, and chant my mantra.
I’ll make chicken salad using the remains of the broiled bird I cooked the night before. I’ll make a mayonnaise in the food processor with an egg yolk and canola oil, adding a teeny bit of mushed garlic as I emulsify the liquids, along with salt and pepper and a hefty wad of fresh tarragon. I’ll combine the mayonnaise with the hunks of chicken, some finely diced white onion and celery, and season to taste.
The salad will be packed in a tomato from which the seeds have been removed, and the tomato will be set on a bed of greens picked fresh from the garden (I feel so alive!). I have a cold, cooked yam and I’ll add some rounds of yam, a half of an avocado and some steamed broccoli with butter and lemon to the plate. Fresh French bread and a sybarite’s share of butter and the door will open on a calm world.
Oh, and a bottle of rosé.
After I eat and drink, I’ll chant. My rear deck chakra will feel a lot better.
…and no RVs.