Pulling a camper is like being followed by a shadow that’s gained 2,000 pounds.
Sure, I’ve spelled my husband en route to nearby campgrounds. When straight roads send him to Lullaby Land, I save our lives by driving short stretches on state highways.
But brave roaring, dragon-like semis on interstates? Motorcycles whipping in and out of lanes at Star Wars speeds? Han Solo, I’m not.
Especially as the rearview mirror is rendered useless.
My husband installed extended mirrors. However, they warn that reflected objects are closer than they appear.
That’s nice. Even humble, and I admire humility. But sorry, nice mirrors, when changing lanes, I want accuracy. And if up-close-and-personal encounters with construction barrels throw you off, I really don’t need views up my nostrils.
Especially when parking. We often need to stop for gas, food, and/or restrooms. Those paltry reasons pale, however, as we focus on more profound questions: Will we find a place to park the camper? Afterward, can we get out?
Once, as I contorted truck and camper in my 100th effort to leave a convenience store, Hubby lost all hope. “Will we spend the rest of our lives behind Kwickie Mart?”
Not exactly the retirement we’d envisioned.
I tried to console him: “Living on Little Debbie® cakes and beef jerky wouldn’t be so bad.”
My attempts scared traffic to a dead stop. A hundred yards away.
Thus, we finally left Kwickie Mart.
Hauling a camper never bores us. Once, while I was driving down South, purple-cloud giants charged us. They spit lightning and smothered us with avalanches of rain that drowned car taillights ahead. If I had risked pulling over, my flashers would have disappeared, blown out like candles.
Did I slow down? Not much. Storm or no storm, drivers who never drive less than 85 mph — on roads, shoulders and in parking lots — can be found everywhere. Even in easygoing Mississippi.
My prayer life shot up several notches.
Hubby’s, already flourishing, set new records.
Jesus took the wheel.
Afterward, when He had guided us to sunshine, Hubby tried to talk Jesus into taking all my shifts.
He smiled and said, no, we needed to grow in faith. Together.
Though Hubby still had theological doubts about Kwickie Mart experiences, and I struggled with mirror-nostril crises, we indeed have learned to depend on Jesus and each other. With His help, we and our 2,000-pound shadow return home, safe and sound.
We will hit the interstate again soon.
It’s only fair I give other drivers advance warning: Look out, I’ll be pulling a camper!
Prepare to grow in faith.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever pulled a camper? Driven an RV?
Last summer, my husband and I set up our camper in Versailles State Park amid southern Indiana’s lush, green hills. Beautiful weather. Perfect.
Except for an odd, reverberating hum whose volume increased every hour.
Hubby snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah. Cicadas. I read the every-17-year swarm — this one’s called ‘Brood X’ — will arrive this summer.”
I recalled my childhood fascination with cicadas’ molting. My siblings and I giggled at our mother’s squeals when Dad tossed empty shells at her. We perched additional shells on the screen door for her viewing pleasure.
Nowadays, I enjoy cicadas’ summer evening concerts, but Brood X’s noise made me shudder. “Reminds me of 1960s sci-fi movies before aliens show up.”
“The Return of the Monster Cicada,” Hubby intoned in a Vincent Price voice and threw a shell at me.
The nonstop drone only hinted at Indiana’s bug invasion. According to Elizabeth Barnes and Cliff Sadof of Purdue University, up to 1.5 million cicadas per acre might leave their 17-year underground larvae childhood to climb trees and party.
I thanked God that multitudes of His interesting but noisy little creatures gathered on campsites elsewhere. Those insect swingers appeared so desperate for dates that they climbed anything resembling a tree. A few shinnied up our camp table legs. Up signposts.
Occasionally, on us.
“Get lost.” I brushed off would-be suitors. “I’m taken.”
“If we were survival camping, you’d ask them to dinner.” Hubby consulted his smartphone. “They’re low in cholesterol. See, somebody topped cookies with them.”
“I wouldn’t survive cicada cookies,” I retorted, “and neither would you.”
I suggested a walk around historic Versailles, where we read about John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raid and viewed a unique 1937 Art Deco church.
Ooooooo-mmmmmmm. The weird bug love song still sounded as if crooned into microphones. Piles of cicada shells grew beneath trees. We tiptoed along sidewalks to avoid squishing our fellow pedestrians.
Back at our campsite, I ignored ooo-mmms and gave thanks for bugless s’mores. For a fun experience amid beautiful, rugged hills, despite the swarm.
Fortunately, another Brood X won’t occur for another 16 years.
If I still camp at age 85, I plan to head north.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a swarm like Brood X?
“It won’t be a stylish marriage; I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.”
According to writer Harry Dacre, his heroine, Daisy Bell, and her sweetheart seemed destined for marital bliss.
My husband and I? Not always.
Whatever a stylish marriage is, I don’t think ours qualifies. I don’t look sweet, either, red face sweating as Hubby and I climb hills on our tandem bike.
We’ve come a long way since our first tandem ride 19 years ago, when we bought the bike as both celebration and consolation for our empty nest.
Hubby explained this “togetherness” hobby would work for us. “It’s the perfect solution for riders of — er — unequal athletic levels.”
Let Hubby do most of the work? Sounded like a plan to me.
After 30 years, we didn’t expect our first ride would send us back to Marriage 101. That we would nearly take out our neighbor’s trash cans. Starting and stopping required the precision of our operating like bicycle gears. Hubby hadn’t realized navigating turns would be like driving a semi. Dragging an extra person up a hill would resemble hauling an oversize load.
I, taking the back seat, hadn’t realized I’d see nothing in front but Hubby’s back. Nor did I understand that without exception, I had to communicate my intention to procure my water bottle. Once, my shift in balance sent us careening toward a pickup.
Hubby and I still disagree on how to deal with 4,371 dogs that guard roads throughout our county.
Canines always lunge for riders on the back seat. Ergo, my approach: “Pedal for your — I mean, my — life!”
Hubby’s: “We’ll never outrace them. Yell at the dogs to alert the owner.”
What if the owner commutes to Chicago?
Despite our differences, we enjoy aspects of the Indiana countryside many people miss — rustling cornfields, forested hills and flower-covered meadows. Cows and horses can’t make heads nor tails of this odd, two-headed creature passing their fields.
Daisy and her man probably discovered that riding a tandem and achieving wedded bliss are work! Both are acquired tastes — especially puffing up those hills.
Though on that first ride, we hit speed bumps, Hubby and I have kept both tandem and marriage moving. They’re our favorite pastimes.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever ridden a tandem bicycle?
Sunday, when I worship Christ with His family and grow in my faith, is my favorite day of the week. However, even a confirmed church lady occasionally experiences a Sunday that makes her wish it was Monday.
Those tough Sundays happened more frequently during my years as a church music director.
One unholy morning, my pastor met me at the door. He’d changed his sermon topic on the way to church. Would I please restructure the service in five minutes? Thank you.
Half the choir music had disappeared. Who steals church choir music?
The regular accompanist had left on vacation. Our substitute struggled, but she played loud to make up for it. During practice, I sneaked a signal to our young sound man, Dylan. Turn the piano down.
I fastened a microphone to my lapel and hung its little black box on my waistband. Dylan usually did a good job, but this morning, the sound system hated us both. After squawking and squeaking sound checks, I quickly made a restroom stop before heading downstairs to warm up the choir. Without warning, the microphone leaped from my lapel and dove into the toilet, followed by the clunk of the little black box.
I screamed, clearing the restroom of primping churchgoers.
Did I really have to fish the mic out of the toilet?
Its green power light no longer shone. I wiped the microphone with a dampened paper towel, then tried to dry it. As I headed to the sound booth, I pasted on a toothpaste-ad smile and avoided shaking hands.
Dylan was also a church board member. What could I say?
In a microsecond, I evaluated my fib files. None came close to explaining this.
I held out the still-damp, $200 device. “Dylan, I dropped the mic in the toilet. I’m sorry.”
He stared, then whipped around to test a second mic. “Hurry! Service starts soon.”
No threats of dragging me before the Inquisition. Or the budget committee.
The little green light on this second mic shone like a candle of compassion. I rewired myself, incredulous at his forbearance.
Decades later, I remember that complicated Sunday, when I wished with all my heart it was Monday.
Thanks to a fellow Christian’s maturity, not so unholy, after all.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a complicated Sunday?
On a blue-sky morning with a delicious summer breeze, don’t you want to hit the beach?
Me, too. (Sigh.) Instead, I meet our clean-underwear quota.
I remember clotheslines with chorus lines of jigging jeans. Wind-chubby, upside-down shirts. Billowing sheets sailing in a heavenly sky-ocean. My siblings and I flitted in and out of a blue-and-white world.
As I stuff wet laundry into the dryer, yesterdays hover like butterflies.
We were crazed moths, drawn to clean laundry like a flame. Fresh from the playground, we plopped into laundry baskets. The clothes didn’t mind grassy, muddy hugs, but Mom did.
We despised bedtime, but clean sheets’ sunny smell reminded us we could play outdoors tomorrow.
When I helped Mom, clothespins chomped my fingers like miniature monsters. A determined little laundress, I learned to pinch them instead.
Everyone possessed a clothesline, then. For big families like ours, every day was a potential wash-and-dry day — if the sun appeared. Sometimes, he’d shine while we filled lines with clothes, then played hooky. Worse, he conspired with rowdy, storm-cloud friends, who gleefully doused a morning’s hard work. When the sun left for Florida in December, clothes morphed into stiff, frozen aliens that refused to fit into a basket.
No wonder we — and much of America — greeted dryers with enthusiasm. Clotheslines became an endangered species.
Recently, however, their number has increased, mostly for ecological reasons.
Despite her neighborhood association’s rules, Susan Taylor of Bend, Oregon, set up a clothesline. She became the star of a neighbor’s covert photographing sessions. Even after Susan screened her offensive laundry behind backyard trees, then a curtain in her open garage, the association filed a lawsuit against her.
Susan and others nationwide won their point, though, because Oregon and 18 other states now ban bans on clotheslines.
I don’t own one, mostly because Hubby’s too busy to install it. But I’d like to fulfill our clean-underwear quota with a clothesline, hanging them behind sheets, as Mom taught me. I could return to that heavenly, blue-and-white world, then snuggle at night into sun-kissed sheets smelling of a fresh tomorrow.
Unlike Susan, I live where people care more about each other than the way they dry clothes.
Her neighborhood’s dirty laundry has been aired all over the Internet. I wonder … have they learned to be neighbors yet?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever used a clothesline?