It’s a lovely summer’s day. The Collegiate Peaks of Colorado rise abruptly from the valley below, just west of the brief commotion known as Buena Vista, a mountain town best known for mediocre restaurants and a state prison. The air is crisp and clean. Birdies are tweeting.
Elwood and his wife, Eileen, are happy.
Eileen changes the 8-track tape in the ancient deck. She slips in The Greatest Hits of the Platters.
As melodious and boring 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 the week after he got out of the army. 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 and has a side business producing and selling handcrafted Christmas ornaments. Elwood and Eileen rarely 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. As is Elwood. They always dress alike —when they travel in the Discovery, when they bowl or play pickleball with their buddies at the senior center, when they attend the yearly BPOE convention, wherever in the good old US of A the convention is held. The last convention was held in Branson, Missouri.
Elwood smiles, a smidge of mayo crust at the corner of his mouth. 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 — the young Wayne, of Danke Schoen fame. 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, eyes crossed, his blood pressure hovering at 240 over 170.
My day is not going quite as well as Elwood’s and Eileen’s. I’m jacked up on five cups of Honduran Supremo, and a dropper full of my friend Joe’s special tincture, and I’m listening to the Henry Rollins Band at 120 decibels. My environment is electric, I am tense.
I must be patient, I tell myself. Things will improve. Soon, Elwood accelerates to a whopping 35 miles per hour in a 60 mile-per-hour zone. I repeat my mantra — “cheeeeeeeese and weeeeeeed” — in an attempt to induce a meditative state. It doesn’t work, I am going berserk. I feel enormous pressure building in whichever chakra is located just above my asshole. Things are about to blow.
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 possible conversation in my head.
Me: Hey, you withered up moron: You’re a dangerous, simple-minded pinhead. 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 fuck-face 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 careers at mindless jobs, and with the illusion they had achieved something of value, reinforced with a ridiculously large 401K, 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 existence. And drive those ridiculous emblems of their silliness anywhere in the Continental U S of A, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico that rightfully belong to us.
“The Amendment is sandwiched between the 33rd Amendment, which guarantees the right to play mindless hip hop music at top volume, 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 Karen Goodman’s prematurely large breasts distracted me on 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. Now get out of my way, I need to get to the bathroom.”
Me: “There’s no bath in there.”
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. They are a blight — gruesome symbols of an unrealistic culture, an icon for short-sighted microcephalics caught in a riptide of fanciful consumption, a class of people with entirely too much money, and no concept of how to spend it in a meaningful fashion.
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 drive to Colorado.
I’m pissed off. 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 front 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 it was my duty as a fourth-generation Coloradan to express this point of view 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 Utes and Arapaho can shout at you. And remember, when you’re old enough to drive, and you see a vehicle with white license plates, run it off the road.”
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 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 hefty mutagen with Bactine.
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, which puts me at max needle 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 at a site near the highway, each no more than four or five feet from its neighbor. So, this is where the goofs roost! 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 as you walk across a dark parking lot at a Coco’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 at the “Fun Park,” each with a picnic table set next to it. I spot a miniature golf course on the property, 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. Imagine one of these RV circuses developed next to your dream house. Ponder the prospect of one of the clowns who use the word “pristine” being your neighbor.)
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 Siberia With a View. 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 — something 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 in his off hours, makes a yearly pilgrimage to Sturgis, 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. Make sure you wear a mask, and gloves.”
Tony likes to get to the point, but not linger there. 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 sees a problem, then deals with it.
Following our brief but pithy conversation, I am convinced my attitude is correct but, since I respect the Constitution, and the rights it gives all citizens (even those I wish to eradicate), I fire up the vape, have a cocktail or three, and 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 said highways will be designated as “Feeb-Only RV Lanes,” complete with appropriate signage. 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 clothing, in an un-airconditioned 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 marginally attractive, 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 snack bars and horseshoe pits. And square dance barns. Hell, the state can even fund a “general store” where visitors can buy snappy, faux western wear in order to look their best at the hoedown.
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 (read: totally whacked), I think I’ll whip up a dinner more to my liking, and chant my mantra.
I opt for chicken salad, using the remains of the spatchcocked and roasted bird I cooked the night before. I’ll make a mayonnaise in the food processor with an egg 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 shallot 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 on hand, and I’ll add some rounds of yam, 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.
After I eat, I’ll chant. My rear deck chakra will feel a lot better.
“Cheeeeeeeeese and weeeeeed.”