As promised, I’m going to tell you about the cast of characters we met along our trip. This is one of our favorite parts of vacation. You never know who you’ll come across. Often it’s in the campgrounds, but sometimes it’s on a train. And sometimes you don’t actually meet the person at all, but they leave their mark just the same.
Here we go.
Our camping neighbors were Santa and Mrs. Claus. Greg had a big conversation with them while fixing breakfast one morning. At some point I peered out of the camper (I was working on inside parts of breakfast) and saw him chatting with a fellow who looked precisely like Santa, and whose wife looked just like Mrs. Claus. I wasn’t feeling very conversational, so after smiling (as much at the situation as at Santa), I popped right back inside. Greg gave me the rundown later. Mr. and Mrs. Claus used to run a car wash, but Mr. Claus had contracted pneumonia twice during the winter, so they gave it all up and enrolled in Santa School. What a marvel, that such a thing even exists! They adore gospel music and this trip was their maiden voyage in their current RV. They got their passports specifically so that if they were needed to play Santa and Mrs. Claus overseas, they could leave on a moment’s notice. Fascinating.
We had a trying day, one of our days in Ouray. We had Jeeped all day long, if I remember correctly, and had been somewhat disappointed because so many passes were still closed thanks to record snow in the area. It took about forever to work our way back to camp. To alleviate our disappointment and please our all-pizza-all-the-time son, we walked from camp up to the local pizza parlor. Each of the kids brought a DS along because while we don’t usually allow them to play DS outside of the truck, we desperately needed some respite. But respite was not to be had, because some lady allowed her kids to hang around our table the entire time we were there, looking over our kids’ shoulders as they played their video games. So I’m really glad she enjoyed her kid-free meal on our behalf. Grr.
Oklahoma Okies – These were really nice people, honestly. Like the Clauses, they loved gospel music and had gone to Lebanon, MO to listen to it. They had left their RV in Marshfield in order to do so (connection!). While in Marshfield, they attended the Freewill Baptist church. They both taught school for years. He taught business and computers. I don’t remember what she taught, but they also “ran cattle” for 40 years. They had 550 head of cattle on 330 acres. They couldn’t “run around” while farming though, so they sold out four years ago. He wore standard-issue white velcro sneakers in lieu of cowboy boots and the also-standard-issue dark wash Wranglers. They had attended a chuckwagon dinner the night before and thought it was better than a lot of them, so I guess chuckwagon dinners are regular nights out for them. They talked about how alcohol makes people do stupid things, and then Greg went to the concession car and got beers for us. I’m sure they were impressed.
Galloping Granny – This lady may just take the cake. I’m not sure, it’s between her and the final entry below. She is married but miserable, so she travels with her boyfriend from 48 years ago. He’s also married and miserable and likes to purchase guidebooks and give a mile-by-mile tour update along the railroad line (for 3.5 hours). They met up again on Facebook a couple of years ago. She finds him to be an obnoxious East Coaster (as did we, notes Greg), and he doesn’t like the fact that in her Jeep it’s her rules and he’s not allowed to touch anything, but he’s a companion at least. Granny has 3 kids, all of whom are doctors. She travels everywhere on her own at 78 years old (except for when she is traveling with the obnoxious East Coaster). She Jeeps into the backcountry and backpacks, though her hips aren’t what they used to be. She raises thoroughbreds. She has an iPhone with more than 1000 photos on it (shitty photos, notes Greg). She takes great pride in building fences on her son-in-law’s farm because he’s too worthless to know how to do it himself. Her husband, equally worthless, has diabetes and despite the fact that their daughter is an endocrinologist, he refuses to take care of himself and expects her to stay home and take care of him. Well, she is not about to do that. To give you some idea of what the Galloping Granny looks like, think Minnie Pearl with wire-rim glasses.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado:
Remember way up in the very beginning of this post where I mentioned that sometimes people leave their marks even though you didn’t meet them personally? That’s what happened at Mesa Verde. While dining on our lovely Navajo Tacos, someone paid a visit to our truck. Some of you may recognize this as our rear license plate:
I would never have noticed, but when we returned to the truck from lunch, Greg spied a folded piece of paper stuck into our plate. He picked it up and this is what was on it:
Someone had taken the time to sit down and plot out the chemical structure of diesel fuel and leave it there for us. We thought that was just about the coolest thing ever.
Wilson Lake, Kansas:
Ivan. What can I say about Ivan? Ivan is Mexican, but Ivan is not just any Mexican. He revels in being the stereotypical Cheech and Chong style Mexican. As soon as he got to his campsite (we were already set up), he strutted over to offer me what he referred to as ‘Mexican-style beer.’ Around here we refer to it as Bud Light Lime. He also offered me some beef jerky, though he was evasive about its origins. I think at some point he told me he thought it was beef. I didn’t want to be rude, so I accepted his offerings, and the jerky was crunchy. Crunchy jerky. YUM. Visiting with Ivan is an experience in and of itself. When he found we had detoured into Kansas to avoid flooding in Nebraska he laughed, “Oh, white people freak out about that sheet, man. Not us Messicans. That sheet don’t bother us at all, man. We go through rivers with babies strapped to our backs, you know? You know, buddy?” Ivan was hilarious and Greg and I did everything within our power to encourage him. Pretty soon he was on the subject of Mexico itself. “Hell, no, you won’t get me back to Messico, man, I went there once, and I got family there, yo, but I was scared to def, man. I was born in Texas but I was raised in Chihuahua and I ain’t goin’ back. Messican gover’ment, they cut off your heads there, buddy. Nooooo, I don’t want
to go there. And Juarez? Sheet, dat’s the MOS’ dangerous place, buddy. I won’t even walk across at El Paso. You know, one time I walked across but we lef’ our car there on the other side and when we came back the car wasn’t even there, man.”
Ivan was in construction. He was a iron worker, working on refineries in Texas, but now he is unemployed and he just LOVES it. “Man, thees is the life! $450 a week! And all I got to do is travel around and sheet, man. And I can just keep getting this every week.”
(I suspect he doesn’t really feel that way, but he has to make it sound like he does in order to make himself feel better. Whatever, I guess.)
The next morning, we discovered Laurel had left her soap in the shower and of course Ivan was outside his camper and heard the whole thing. “What?!” he said, “Someone stoled your soap? Sheet, that’s crazy, man. That’s not right. I mean, if you’re gonna steal something, steal something WORTH something, you know what I mean?”
So yeah, Ivan might just take the cake.
As you can see, you can meet all kinds of characters in a two-week jaunt. I didn’t list every interesting soul we met, but I have listed the most peculiar. Can’t wait to see who turns up next year.