|We live here, in the New Grove|
The Campground is pretty quiet today. The Cell Phone Lady hasn’t made an appearance. She’s fiftyish, wears jeans, sandals and a long pony tail. She zips around the campground on one of those skinny scooters, talking into her phone with one hand while she steers with the other. She talks and talks, she babbles, really, and is quite demented. She doesn’t acknowledge boundaries. She zooms right up to a stranger and says, “That’s some hard hat you’re wearing”. The person isn’t wearing a hat, but no matter. Cell Phone Lady has scooted away.
She goes down the row of RV sites and sees an open door on a forty foot Fleetwood with Florida plates. “Hi!” she says, “What’s the food like in there?”
Cell Phone Lady doesn’t wait for an answer. Her world is unique. She doesn’t hurt anyone, she’s just a little annoying. Her insanity has an Alice In Wonderland quality. If things don’t make sense, they’re not supposed to make sense.
We moved to this campground a year ago. After five years at a famous chain campground, which we shall call Kountry Kampground, we got priced out of the place. Rental on monthly sites nearly doubled.
KK was doing an ethnic cleansing. It was investing in resort equipment: a larger pool, a video game arcade, a petting zoo, rental bikes and vineyard tour buses. A family in a Winnebago would pay eighty bucks a day and consider it cheap.
Why waste forty sites on grizzled full-time RV people? Price ‘em out!
A search in the yellow pages turned up this place, called The Grove.
There’s history behind The Grove. In the sixties it was an RV commune. About eighty people with buses, trailers and campers bought the tree-lined acreage. The owner was selling the land to a developer who was going to put up an apartment building. It was already hooked into the town’s plumbing and power grid. Somehow this group of pranksters made the high bid and moved into this glade that's just half a mile from Sonoma State College.
The Grove became a notorious hippie haven and dope magnet for the kids at the school. All the suits and squares in the town tried to shut it down. It took twenty five years of litigation to cut The Grove in half and turn the front half into a commercial campground. In the back, behind a gate with a combination lock, is the original Grove, with the original trailers, trees and even the original hippies, now in their sixties and mostly on Disability. The place is like a hobo jungle. It’s shady and cool. The old buses are rusting and covered by tarps against the winter rains. Some of these vehicles have become two-story hobbit houses, odd domains with round windows and crazy skylights.
We live in the front, in the commercial campground. Most of the trees have been cut down.
Sites are small and arranged all higgledy piggledy. What it lacks in beauty and amenities it compensates with a sense of laissez faire. Management at the KK was heavy handed. We always felt watched and evaluated, like kids at a scout camp. At The Grove, if we pay our rent and stay out of trouble, all is cool. We also need to tolerate the cuckoo leakage from the Old Grove in back. Like The Cell Phone Lady. And The Flintstones. And Rubber Roger. And Naked Marty Bell-Tone. For me, this stuff is an asset, not a liability. Hey, I’m a writer. Man, there are stories here!
Some day this place will be Volume Two of my book, AVOIDING THE POTHOLES. Six years ago, when we started feeling the floorboards of the economy rotting under our feet, we decided to get out of the house. The drain on our income was deadly. We didn’t know how smart this move would be. The RV has paid for itself twice over, and will continue to return our investment. We own it free and clear. It costs a few bucks to maintain, maybe a few grand a year if we work it hard.
It’s home. It’s ours. If we don’t like our neighbors, we can fill up the tank and leave. We have solar panels on the roof. A generator for backup. Wi-fi, cable TV, cell phones. When we get the money, we’ll put a retractable satellite dish on the roof.
Living in the house, we didn't use a fraction of the space. We lived in the bedroom and the kitchen. We never sat on the living room couch. We never used the extra room. We stored stuff there, boxes of books and CDs. Now we live on a more human scale. Two indoor cats loll in the sun on the dashboard. Two toy poodles manipulate us for more walkies and treats.
Damn smartest thing we ever did, moving into an RV.