By Rheta Grimsley Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
Impulse purchases, they are called. Things you buy on the spur of the moment when you need an emotional B-12, or when, suddenly, you imagine how swell you’d look wearing that swingy red dress or those bejeweled sandals.
I don’t mess around when I buy on impulse. Feeling sad one night last summer about the impending sale of my little Louisiana camp, I went on eBay and typed in “travel trailer, vintage.” I figured it would be grand to pull my own lodging around behind me, turtle-style, sparing friends and relatives the bother of hosting me and three dogs. I doubt many friends love me enough to do that, and I’m certain no relatives do.
That’s how I ended up sitting in the parking lot of Sweet Pea’s Truck Stop off an Arkansas interstate in a 40-year-old travel trailer. I was the only bidder on the aqua and white jewel, and I failed to notice until “winning” it that my new trailer was parked in Paducah, Ky. Thank goodness I didn’t win the other prize I bid on; it sat on blocks in British Columbia.
You don’t realize how few places there are to pull over and eat a sandwich until you try to pull over and eat a sandwich. I’d envisioned a mountain stream, or at least a shade tree, for the initiation picnic. This was something else again. I was parked in an asphalt crater and diesel fume smog. No point that I could see in spreading the French tablecloth.
To be one of the most beautiful states in the union, Arkansas has the world’s worst interstate accommodations. There are toilets along the Arkansas interstate that haven’t been cleaned since Bill Clinton was a pup.
Didn’t matter. I was under way on my first adventure in the 1969 Serro Scotty. I figured with the money I’d save on motel bills and restaurants, I could justify the two new tires and repair work I’d had done before departing. I’d be free to stop whenever and wherever the desire struck.
Don’t imagine a huge recreational vehicle, RV, like the ones that have bumper stickers that say “I’m not in a Hurry, I’m Retired” or “Grandpa’s Chariot.” This is a less-than-14-foot-long trailer with an awning the color of a swimming pool bottom that screws down when you’re under way. My Tennessee friends Bobbie and Eddie Williams have a camper that could hold my amoeba in its bathroom.
My trailer is cute as a toddler in rain boots. Whenever I stop somewhere for longer than five minutes, someone is sure to mosey over and ask about it. Nobody wants to buy it, but everyone wants to admire it.
Not that I would sell. Not yet. I intend on mushing West until I am sick of the drill. This shake-down cruise is nothing if not enlightening. Screws are popping out of the door, leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail of hardware along the Arkansas interstate. As some of you have guessed, I already have a few loose screws.
At night, however, once the mosquitoes have been swatted, the vents opened, the dog food stashed beneath the table, the water hose hooked up and the electricity piped inside, the trailer is as cozy a dwelling as ever I’ve enjoyed, a virtual Red Roof Inn on wheels. I haven’t found a place worthy of the two pink flamingos I brought along, or a good way to plug in the blue Christmas lights. I’m hoping.
It’s been my observation thus far that there’s no need for reservations. There are so many recreational campgrounds these days and the economy is so bad, the concessions need me a lot more than I need them.
After all, I could stay in the parking lot at Sweet Pea’s until the cows come home – or die from diesel fumes.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.