Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer in Kansas: Toad's Caravan

Living in a travel trailer is so American that I wonder I haven't tried it before. But six or seven years of weekly five-hour commutes, four of those years travelling through what is arguably one of the ugliest and most boring stretches of the rural United States along Highway 50, and I was prevailed upon to buy a modest home away from home - a 13-foot, lightweight and lightly used trailer. It has, as my wife says, everything a big fifth-wheel has except space. Thirteen feet is, after all, shorter than the average canoe, or sturgeon, just to mention a couple of things that spring immediately to mind.

  (illustration by Arthur Rackham)

In The Wind in the Willows, when Kenneth Grahame wants to make Toad a raffish and interesting character with a thirst for life's little frissons . . .

tumblr_mk9dc5HE9C1r92xtdo1_500.jpg (469×500)

. . .   he gives him, variously, an overpowered roadster, a runabout boat for the river, and what the English call a caravan. 

The cast of riverbank characters - Toad, Mole, Badger, Ratty and so on - are all bachelors and so naturally they set off on their adventures in a bachelor company. I am not a bachelor, which partially explains why, for much different reasons, I also have a caravan. It's nice to sleep diagonally on occasion, as Walter Shandy observes in the pages of another landmark of English literature, but surely not every night, nor even regularly.

Inga Moore, "Wind in the Willows"
 (illustration by Inga Moore)

And as I'm busy with separate projects separated by 80 Kansas miles, I divide my time between lodgings on a rural estate (known locally as "the old Randall place," even though old Randall has long since been gathered to his fathers) and a camp trailer in a state park on a lake surrounded by big cottonwoods and "cedars," known as junipers nearly everywhere else. Kind of like this . . .

"Did you remember to bring the worms?"

. . . only with more people around. Still, it has potential: I can see taking it off to the mountains or the seaside . . .
"Did you remember to bring sunscreen?"

Maybe the wife and I could even join a club. But as I think I've mentioned before, I'm never going to play mah jongg. Never, with anyone.

 "Did you remember to bring the canasta deck?"

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