Saturday, October 16, 2010

People of The Road -- Part One

Not too many stories unfurled the first week of our journey.  The first night we stayed with normal people, normal friends, in Austin.  Between kids and dogs and a few beers -- not to mention DELICIOUS FOOD -- we were treated to a relaxing night, a respite from packing, moving, garage-saling and preparing for a huge lifestyle change.  (Thank you, again, Mike and Cat.  :)  The next few nights were odd in that we were connected via extension cord to Dad's house and were set up in his driveway and his next-door neighbor's driveway.  (Thank you, again, Mike and Cass!)  Some curious neighbors came by during Dad's final garage sale and snooped around our "rig."  I have to admit to a twisted sense of satisfaction that I ruffled their snooty feathers.  Get over yourselves, people.  Ha ha!

The two weeks we spent at Cedar Hill State Park were for the most part uneventful, too, in the people-meeting department.  I mean, we met really nice folks -- some who are interested in hiring us.  None were what you would expect from traveling...The Road...My brother Mick toured with Aristaya/Ice Cold July for about five years.  He has some incredible stories!  David and I have our own from Mexico, Seattle, and Northwest Florida.  So by week three, having met only very nice and very normal people, I was beginning to feel like this lifestyle might not be so "alternative" anymore.

In Lockhart we met Mike and Peter.  Mike is an ex-Marine, a gun-wielder, and a liberal-hater.  He is an insurance adjuster and armed guard of oil companies' gated lands.  He is also a super-friendly guy who gets a little lonely after extended assignments, and will offer to help anyone adapt to the full-timer lifestyle.  Mike invited us over to barbecue, to watch movies, to swap stories.  He offered us his spare heater when temps dipped into the low-50s.  A heckuva guy.  He travels with his docile German Shepherd, Grace, and was on his way to deliver his mother for a visit with family near Fort Worth.  Most of our stay in Lockhart State Park was spent trying to get phone and internet signals -- remember, our business depends on these services!  Maybe next time we cross paths we will be able to spend more time with Mike.

One morning a park ranger pulled up to Mike's site.  Someone had complained about Grace not being on a leash.  After the ranger had left, Mike told me he knew one of the complainants.  He had met her in another park, when Grace had killed a goat.  Maybe a lamb?  I think it was a goat...anyway, Mike said Grace was playing with it and accidentally killed it.  He asked the owner if he could compensate him and the guy demanded $500.  Of course I didn't pay it, he that reputation had followed him (unfairly) from the other park.

Peter arrived in only his truck.  "I just had to get out of the city for one night!" he shouted across three campsites.  Was he talking to me?  Nobody else around, I decided he was and so I turned around and welcomed him to the park.  Peter is an ex-truck driver turned entrepreneur.  He owns a trucking company now and until recently also owned a limo service.  Apparently he rents an apartment in San Marcos and a storage room in Fort Worth, and conducts business by phone and email from anywhere.  He just couldn't get the dust of The Road out of his blood, so he escaped to a state park to camp in the bed of his truck.  I don't know how long he decided to stay because he was napping, his bare feet hanging off the edge of his tailgate, when we left.  Nice to meet you both, Mike and Peter.

Back in Corpus Christi, we met Mike and Tammy.  They are around our age.  Mike has adult children, ranging from 25 to 19.  Tammy has no biological children but raised her nephew for several years.  They have been full-timing for 5 years.  Like us, they also have a mobile business.  Their gig is remodeling, and they have been working on Andy's Kitchen for a while now.  Landscaping, too.  We joined them for a beer that turned into many more.  Their stories were the best!  I might confuse some of the details but this one was the most goes...

They were on their first trip as full-timers and were traveling on the ferry at Port Aransas.  They met another couple with a camper who were going toward Padre Island.  Mike and Tammy pulled over at Mustang Island, maybe JP Luby Park.  The couple -- who claimed they were going to Padre Island -- pulled alongside them and set up camp.  When they met on the ferry the wife kept mentioning "the kite" several times and Tammy -- a self-described naive farm girl from eastern Washington -- wondered what she meant.  She also wondered why any experienced campers like this couple claimed to be would set out toward primitive camping without flashlights or other lighting.  Mike offered to loan them a spare and took the husband inside their camper to look for it.  The wife asked Tammy if she liked swapping...and Tammy, Ms. Naive, thought she meant swap meets like those she remembered from small-town Washington.  Eventually the wife recognized that Tammy did not understand, so she said plainly, "My man is old but he'll do you good."  Tammy's jaw dropped (mine did too when she told me this story!) and she felt very uncomfortable.  Mike and the husband seemed to be gone for a very long time, and she was growing restless listening to this stranger and her interest in swapping.  Finally the men returned and through body language and arm-pinching Tammy communicated to Mike that they needed to get away from these people.  FAST. 

That night, she said, ALL NIGHT, the wife would flag down cars and lure people into their camper.  Tammy said she could not keep up with the number of visitors who stayed for about 20 minutes or so, then left.  The next day, livid and appauled, she stopped a park official and told him about the goings-on next door.  He said they (law enforcement) knew about this couple, and others, and were keeping an eye on them.  He also suggested to Tammy that she and Mike NOT camp next to anyone flying a rainbow kite.  I guess that's the rv equivalent to a red light?

They had other stories, and were well-stocked and generous with their beer.  But we do have a toddler and had to get to bed.  The next day we met them at Bird Island Basin inside Padre Island National Seashore.  They were intent on staying up all night drinking and fishing, even among the brutal mosquitoes.  We had to pass...can not keep up with that pace.  We found our own sanctuary among the dunes and coyotes and native plants in profusion.

After two days of busy traffic, we were treated to two days of near seclusion.  Then Richard and Barbara arrived, in a truck camper too.  Sage and I were running errands but David rode his bike over to say 'hello.'  Great people, retired couple who live west of San Antonio.  The next morning they gave David a batch of banana and walnut bread.  He left mid-morning to speak to Port Aransas Garden Club.  Sage, Folsom and I played all day on the beach.  I worked directly off the truck's battery -- and did not recharge it -- so it.was.dead.  The next day, Richard came over to see if he could help and to introduce himself to Sage and me.  He is a living file of stories about the relationship between ranchers and illegal immigrants from Mexico.  He told us about the drug cartels poisoning the water supply along the border to try to keep the illegals from leaving Mexico.  Before we began this journey, we met a couple of people who own land near the Rio Grande and both told about illegal immigrants damaging their property extensively and repetitively.  Richard corroborated these claims, adding that many ranchers along the border are tired of repairing again and again damage caused by people entering this country illegally.  I'm not taking either side, I'm just sharing their opinions here and hoping thoughtful conversation will emerge.

Richard and Barbara left yesterday.  New folks arrived then, too.  We will be leaving this area soon.  The beach does not care.  The birds, the fish, the insects, the coyotes...the waves and sand and sun...they pay no attention to us humans, really.  Their world continues, long after we are gone.

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