[Note to those looking for action and adventure: This post is all talk. For A&A, click here for a very exciting day in Willcox and here for sandhill cranes and my first trip to Mexico.]
David is attracted to the big American vehicles known as motor homes. I am not. He dreams of traveling in one, and his dream is my nightmare. He is drawn -- and I pull back as he tries to pull me forward. This struggle has been going on for years.
Almost every long-married couple (if your experience is different, please share it with me!) has recurrent, never-resolved debates, and some of them make no difference whatsoever. An example of such a trivial debate is ours over spotted horses: I love an Apaloosa, and David wouldn’t have one as a gift. To him, only a solid color (preferably black but definitely dark) is acceptable in a horse. I love a dapple myself. I also love a buckskin. I like black horses, too – just not exclusively. The bottom line, however, is that it is highly unlikely we are going to become horse owners at this stage in our lives. Nothing is riding on a decision. No decision is called for.
I wish I could say the same about the motor home debate, but I fear it could be otherwise.
Recently I had a couple of new insights into our different opinions. The insights hardly promise to resolve the differences, but they’re interesting, nonetheless – at least to me.
Last summer David spotted a motor home he considered an ideal size (which I saw as alarmingly, dismayingly enormous), and he began dreaming out loud about how wonderful it would be to take on the road. My reaction was: “It’s so big we would never be able to explore dirt roads or two-tracks. We’d be on expressways all the time (and I hate expressways). Furthermore, it’s so complicated, like hauling a house around, that you would be completely absorbed in driving and worrying about every aspect of the vehicle, and you wouldn’t pay any attention to me at all.” I summed up my view by telling him, “It would be, literally, hell on wheels!” He laughed and was unconvinced, but he did see, I think, where I was coming from. Whenever a car we’re in starts making a strange noise, forget conversation! How would it be, then, with all the potential for problems in a motor home?
Okay, now forward to this winter. A friend who came to visit us here in southeast Arizona is traveling this season in a small motor home. Her husband is back home in Michigan. She’s traveling with her two cats – and having the time of her life! David saw her vehicle as too small for us, and she admitted that when her husband joins her on the road from time to time, a larger motor home would suit them better.
She and David got into a long discussion on the merits of motor home travel, in general. He asked what it cost to stay places overnight. She prefers state parks to RV “campgrounds” (the scare quotes are mine, as you could probably guess; most people use the term with no irony intended) because the state parks are cheaper, but they’re still not cheap. David asked about mileage. Not great. My observation then was that considering the overnight fees and gas consumption, traveling in a motor home wasn’t much cheaper than staying in motels.
“But you can make your own meals in your motor home, instead of eating in restaurants,” my friend pointed out. She and David also raved about the convenience of being to “pull over and take a nap” whenever they got tired.
“A man convinced against his will/is of the same opinion still,” wrote Ogden Nash, and the same is true of a woman. But I was not even convinced. When I travel, I like eating in restaurants and not having to shop, cook, and do dishes! I like staying in a motel where clean sheets and towels are provided, and the bed is immaculately made and the bathroom has been cleaned by someone other than me!
The next day I accompanied our friend, in her vehicle, to a big truck stop out by the expressway, where she could “dump.” Need I say more? Offsetting all the “conveniences” of taking a home with you on the road, as I see it, is that you also take along all the concerns of having a home with you on the road. Locking such a vehicle involves much more than a click. Powering and fueling and monitoring all its systems is quite a job.
I would never want to be responsible for all the complex systems of such a mode of travel -- and, of course, I would not be if David were the driver and expedition leader, but then, neither would I have a relatively carefree travel companion, because, as I pointed out to him last winter, he would be constantly monitoring the house we were hauling around behind us. It’s no simple turtle shell! If it were not making some strange noise, he would be listening to make sure there was no strange noise. The concerns of traveling in a car would be multiplied and supersized.
Size – that's another issue.
Whenever my attention is called to a motor home, my first response is to its size. I tell David I would be embarrassed to be a passenger in one of the behemoths we see on the road. Besides the fuel expense and the mental energy one of those things would demand (detracting from my enjoyment of new scenery and regional culture), the sheer look of excess repels me. Our friend’s current vehicle is not like that. It’s modest in size and looks like something I could drive (if I had to). But David considers it “too small,” and Karen agrees that it’s too small when she and her husband are living in it together. But if it’s something I might have to drive, a pickup with topper or van with rear extension is as much as I want to consider.
We’re still stuck, aren’t we? Why? Is there any possible resolution? Maybe not, but that’s probably because we are trying to compare apples and oranges, and maybe recognizing that will at least shed some light on the debate.
Brian Wansink, a researcher into eating habits, writes in his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think about the differences between what men and women consider “comfort food.” For men, a warm, home-cooked casserole or meat-and-potatoes meal is “comfort food,” while the phrase conjures up in a woman’s mind images of ice cream, candy, and snacks. Why? Because they have different associations with the word “comfort” and with the foods they put in the category. The foods men put in the comfort food category are those that make them feel taken care of. Is it any surprise that they imagine a woman taking care of them? And that where they see “comfort,” the woman sees “work”? Women’s comfort foods are those that don’t require work: they are “hassle-free.”
Men’s comfort: Be waited on!
Women’s comfort: Put your feet up and relax!
In the motor home debate, the key issue might be defined as “freedom,” and here again, what David sees as freedom, I see as work. Someone would be fixing those meals, doing that laundry, cleaning that vehicle. Not to mention that someone else – he – would be focused on the smooth running of the vehicle rather than on his companion and the world around. This, of course, is my perspective. The “freedom” touted by advocates, my husband included, looks to me like the complete opposite for both of us.
Can’t we stop and take naps in the car? I could relax pretty well with my feet up on the dashboard. How about you?