The baggage in the middle of the road


    By Betty Slade

    PREVIEW Columnist

    I ran off to join a circus of traveling performers — six family members en route to meet a dozen more. We thought it would be a great adventure. You know, like in the RV rental magazine ad where everyone is smiling with wind blowing through their hair. Not a care in the world, just me, you and the open road. 

    I regret to inform you, the travel ad was a lie. If you smile on the windy open road, your hair will become matted and you will get bugs in your teeth. And that big top RV felt more like a sideshow push cart as far as I was concerned. 

    It is no wonder why people take photos at the start of a trip. I saw what we all looked like when we tumbled out of that RV after arriving in the Pacific Northwest. We weren’t pretty. 

    Every great adventure has its stories. Ours is no less the case. And, what did I learn about living in a box on wheels with six people? Adhere to rule No. 1: One bag only. But, more about that later. 

    Our trip began in Albuquerque as the family excitedly approach the place where we had rented an RV. We had seen all of the brochures. Our unit was to have plush captain chairs and a stairway that led to a master suite. Pictures showed a hundred different things that folded down and lifted up. It was a veritable jumbo tiny house on wheels.

    We arrived at our designated RV pickup point only to find that our unit wasn’t ready. After several rounds of delay and a lot of unanswered questions, our getaway had begun. Not on the road, but in the comfort of a nearby hotel. 

    One thing that Pagosa teaches is learn to roll with anything. And, so, after a great sleep and early breakfast, we were out the door. Our morning excitement would soon be squelched as we encountered several more delays. The cause? There was still no unit. How did we know? Because there were no employees to be found at the rental lot.

    I’ll save the stories about the antics that followed that afternoon, for a later time. That night, as the sun set, we were on our way, nearly two days behind schedule, but on the road.

    Packing for a trip is important. On the road, we can’t stop every time we need something. We also don’t want to have so much that the nicety of having something becomes a burden to all those around us. 

    As an excuse to carry more than he was supposed to, my Sweet Al made my purse his medicine cabinet, wallet and even curio corner. Well, he did need a place to put his eagle feathers and a piece of driftwood that he picked up from somewhere along the way.

    Like clowns in a barrel, we bounced from place to place. And I mean we literally bounced from place to place. Whether from the sway of the back of the trailer caused by a shift in the road or my grinning son-in-law at the wheel, we discovered we had reflexes we never knew we had. 

    Soon enough, and we had made it to my nephew’s cabin in Toledo, Wash. I didn’t know there was one there either, but it is a beautiful little town. That coming from someone who lives in a beautiful little town. 

    We met up with our eldest daughter, her family and my nephew, his wife and their family. All we needed was for a ring master to yell, “Let the show begin,” as it had.

    There was a day trip to Mt. St. Helen’s Johnson Observatory, the Ape Caves and a vineyard in eastern Washington. But, our most cherished activity was sunrise and sunset fishing on the Cowlitz River. 

    You never know how many of these opportunities you have to enjoy with your family. Even if doing so means putting up with the occasional inadvertently poked bear or stubborn old mule. 

    Back to the one-bag rule. Rolling down the road in a house on wheels means getting used to playing dodgeball with the occasional flyaway object. Unfortunately, in this family, we have one who will sneak in every comfort around her if not monitored at the door. 

    And, so, it was our elephant in the room. Our youngest daughter had been warned about only bringing one suitcase on the trip. While she was definitely the best dressed, I can’t tell you how many times I tripped over a handbag, a suitcase or something else she had hidden underfoot. 

    Like two peas in a pod, my Sweet Al decided that he couldn’t adhere to the rule I gave him. “Two pairs of shoes, one in your suitcase, one on your feet.” 

    At some point along our journey, I found four pairs of shoes in my Sweet Al’s suitcase. That didn’t include the pair on his feet or the muddy pair on the cabin’s porch. 

    What is it with those who can’t follow rules, especially around those who are aerodynamically impacted by the occasional bump in the road?

    Final brushstroke: We are so blessed to have our family around us. Most of the time, we even get along. But, all of the time, we have a love for one another that defines us. Even it if means putting up with occasional excess baggage. Helping others carry their load is certainly more pleasant than letting it stand in the way of having a good time. Besides, a swift kick and the room is cleared. 

    Readers’ comments

    Send your comments to 

    Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.