As soon as my new glasses are ready to pick up Jerry and I will set out for Alaska in our new (to us) truck camper.
We found this camper on Craig’s List and made 2 trips to Gig Harbor to finalize the purchase.
The first trip, a distance of about 100 miles, we drove down on I 5, past many RV sales lots which had no customers but row upon row of shining white behemoths bearing names on the side like “Wilderness Explorer” or “Rifle and Rod”. We had shopped a few of those lots, an experience which I found utterly disconcerting. It was a world of big plastic, of hard sell, of smiling idle men who I imagined living lives of precarious tedium. What we wanted, a small lightweight camper, was not to be had.
With the help of our GPS device we located the Craig’s list camper in Gig Harbor. It belonged to a man, about 40, with 2 pre-teen boys. He met us at his house which was at the end of a dead end dirt road. The modest house was surrounded by acres of land that looked recently cleared. Each of the 2 boys was riding a 4 wheeler, zooming around the empty lot, kicking up dirt and gravel. There was a big chicken coop near the house. The man said his name was Greg, and the camper had belonged to his father who had recently died.
It was about as small as a truck back camper can get.
The top pops up, and the bed fits over the cab.
It has a table, a stove, a refrigerator and a sink, all mini. It has no bathroom (not enough space), but Greg showed us the little port-a-potty that his father had installed (it fits under the table and can be pulled out) “for his girl-friend so she could pee in the night without going outside.”
The camper, called Starcraft, had stickers the shapes of each of the 48 States where Greg’s father had traveled. I thought about this man who had visited all those States with his girlfriend. I asked Greg his father’s name. It was Roger, he said, with a catch in his voice. Roger had died three months ago, and it was still new and painful. He was a man who never went to the doctor. He had been ill with a cough, and finally, when his breathing became so labored that he couldn’t walk, they called 911. He went to the hospital, but it was too late. He died of pneumonia. He was 74, 3 years younger than Jerry and me.
Jerry and Greg began to go over the technical aspects of the camper: the wiring, the propane, the waste disposal, the supports.
I wandered over to the chicken coop. It was muddy and wet, but the chickens were healthy and handsome. They strutted and clucked and fixed me with a gaze of round eyed alertness. There were a couple of roosters.
I told Greg that I plan to get chickens. He enthusiastically took me on a tour of his chicken coop and described his breeds and his methods. When we went back for the second time to pick up the camper he insisted that we go home with eggs. He gave us 8 cartons of 18 eggs each.
I distributed eggs to those of my Mah Jongg friends who don’t themselves keep chickens. Jerry and I are still using the last dozen and a half.
Jerry has been over every inch of the camper since we brought it home. He has tested all of its equipment, cleaned the inside, washed the covers of the benches and mattress, cleaned the woodwork and mended some of the interior walls where he thought moisture might be getting in. He kept an infra red light inside it for many days to make sure it dried out completely. He built new and better supports to keep it steady in the truck bed. I know that when we set out he will know how everything works and everything will work. What a man!
He took off all of Rodger’s State stickers. I asked him why, and he said, “They were peeling, and I didn’t like them anyway.”
I am trying to prepare myself for this trip. I am looking forward to it, and just a little apprehensive about finding places where we can legally park to camper overnight. I know it will be an adventure.
I’ll think of Roger.