Dec 5, 2009

A Sleepover At My New Friend's

Several summers ago I worked at a country bar in Whitehorse, YT, that featured a Chinese buffet for lunch during the week. How weird is it to serve Chinese food in a country bar? In Whitehorse?

But Chinese food is not what I want to talk about.

Whitehorse. Summer. And I'm back on track!

There was a Walmart, of course. And this Walmart had a massive parking lot, and in this massive parking lot were always many a campers and RVs. They were parked at the back, and always grouped together. Some would even have their awnings set up, maybe a few chairs out, and once I swear I saw a man barbequing while his kids ran around in circles.

That's just rude, I exclaimed as I walked by.
No, it's okay, my friend said. Walmart encourages it.

Apparently this is true. You can park your sleeper vehicle at Walmart without getting hassled. At the time I thought this was gross. Especially considering the size of some of the beasts considered to be an RV. Those absolutely massive trailers that have compartments that can automatically puff out of their sides to give even more space to stash your diamonds and briefcases full of cash. These things cost millions of dollars. Millions. Of. Dollars. What idiots would spend that kind of money on a glorified tent trailer, drive it all the way to Whitehorse, only to park it at Walmart?

Stupid Americans. That's who. And judging by the parking lot, there were a lot of them.

Flash forward to last week. I was driving home from Valencia, CA. This is approximately 2000km. As previously discussed I'm not much for stopping once I get started. So I was pretty sure I would end up doing this drive in two days.

After a week of warm, sunny, shorts-and-flip-flop weather, I leave Valencia and twenty minutes later find myself in a snow storm. It lasts half an hour as I drive through some mountains, and then I'm faced with nine hours of driving through wind. No, actually it was more like WIND. Lots and lots of WIND.

The unexpected snow reminded me of something I'd heard on my drive down. Northern California has a nice little mountain range to drive through, peaking at Siskiyou Summit (4310 ft). This guy had warned me the summit is prone to freak storms and shared a story that involved him getting stuck up there for 14 hours and having to dig his way through snow with a cookie sheet or something equally ridiculous.

I'm thinking of this the whole nine hour drive through WIND, getting more and more nervous as I get closer. If the little foothills of southern California can have such a storm, what about the scary summit in the North? I finally reach the beginning of this northern range at around 6:30pm. I decide to calm myself by asking a gas station attendant about the road conditions ahead.

Oh, you'll probably need chains to pass. Yep, definitely chains.


My options at this point are to stop for the night and worry until the next morning, or to try to get a little closer and see for myself what's going on up there. It's dark, but the sky is totally clear and the wind is gone. Maybe, just maybe I can squeak through this death trap before the really bad weather comes.

Long story short - I keep driving and driving, climbing higher and higher, getting more and more worried, and...nothing happens. The pass is fine, there is no snow anywhere, and I curse myself for nearly inducing a panic attack over nothing.

At this point it's around 10pm. I've been driving for 13 hours. It's time for a break. But do I really want to spend money on a hotel room I'll use for a few hours before I hit the road again early in the AM?

What to do?

The solution presented itself as a shiny blue sign beckoning from the distance.


I drive by and see, in the back, tucked in the corner, several campers of different shapes and sizes. I flash back to my summer in Whitehorse. But I feel none of my former contempt. It's brilliant. I could pull in among them, curl up in the back of my van and get some sleep. Cheap, and relatively safe. If only I didn't have to go to the bathroom so badly.

But wait! People are coming in and out of the front doors! Is it possibly open? Yes, 24/7. So at close to midnight I pee, wash my face, and buy a sandwich. At 7am the next morning I abuse the bathroom again, breakfast at the Golden Arches within the mighty W's walls, and am on the road (sort of) rested and with a nice supply of munchies for the drive ahead.

I will now say what I don't often admit. Words so rarely uttered by me that those who claim to have heard them are usually dismissed as drunks or dreamers.

Walmart, I was wrong. I was wrong, and I'm sorry.

But buying groceries from you is still icky.

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