Posted by: facetothewind | December 30, 2010

Avoiding Christmas

On Christmas eve, my friend Richard and I met up for a southwestern camping trip in his VW van. That’s his Eurovan camper on the far left. It’s a fraction of the size of most RVs. Richard and I have had many trips in the little van, bopping around California and Arizona. In fact the van used to be mine until I bought my first house and then sold the van to him. I used the money to buy my grand piano.

This year, we set out to avoid Christmas, camping in the sun amid the cactus and coyotes of the desert.

At age 51, Richard is as playful as a 15 year old only with the wisdom and prudence befitting someone his age.

Part monk, part nutty professor, he moves through his life with great simplicity, worrying about little, beholden to no one. He owns only the van called Henry which is his home base. His home is indeed always just around the corner. For someone of little faith, he sure trusts that life will not betray him. And it doesn’t. He can fix anything, sleep anywhere and magically turn lemons into lemonade.

I always feel blessed when Richard arrives in Henry the van – not that Richard would approve of such “blessed” language. We’re both hardcore anti-religious. But blessed in the sense that being near Richard means I get to travel protected by his aura of good cheer, wacky humor and happy-go-lucky attitude…a few character traits I lost in my recent divorce.

Here’s an example of how sanguine Richard is: Just the other day I was washing dishes and I shattered a beautiful handmade ceramic mixing bowl — one of his few possessions. I stood at the sink cursing my butterfingers. I put the pieces in a bag and went to the van to confess my deed. I met him skipping down the path toward the house and showed him the bag. “Oh, really, it’s nothing. I know that these things are all breakable and can be destroyed at any moment so don’t worry about it at all, David.” Whew. Years ago I backed his van into an oak tree and broke the back window and hatchback on his van. “Oh, I bought extra insurance and this is my excuse to go in and visit with the nice people at the auto body shop I found.” That’s truly how he operates.

Richard has an endless appetite for learning, a childlike passion for adventure and exploring new places. This we have in common…er I used to. OK, right now I’m dragging my ass out of bed trying to find something to be excited about. For now, I’m basking in the glow of Richard’s joie de vivre.

Our first stop was Cascabel to see Shreevie (the chicken whisperer), Erik and Evie. It was a bit of a love-fest there. Everyone seemed to really enjoy each others’ company. We cooked, hiked, learned about stone masonry, chased chickens at sunset and had lots of good conversations over home cooked meals at Erik’s and his neighbors’ houses. The commercial and sentimental notions of Christmas came and went practically unnoticed out there in the little desert village on the other side of the mountain.

Next stop was Bisbee and Whitewater Draft to show Richard the sandhill cranes. On our way, we were searching for a place to spend the night and literally stumbled upon a gay RV park. We pulled in and within minutes found ourselves floating in the clothing optional hot tub set on the edge of the desert and right next to the porta potty and SM playhouse.

Don’t miss the pool house of ill repute complete with pink pillory. Here’s a little video…

Next morning we got up at 4:30 am to see the cranes take off at sunrise. We arrived before dawn at the marsh where they roost and promptly froze our asses off. It was in the 20s and we were definitely not prepared. Richard grabbed a sleeping bag from the van and threw it over himself like a homeless person. People seemed to avoid us at the viewing the platform. We were certain the van had been visited by aliens as I misplaced my wallet and the van’s appliances mysteriously ceased working.

We found my wallet and the fridge and stove fixed themselves and we headed back toward Tucson, cutting the trip short due to a cold front with possible snow. Our final stop was at Redington Canyon in the Coronado National Forest overlooking Tucson. It’s raining outside and the roof is leaking and so tomorrow I get to go out and patch it in the snow…not something one gets to do very often here.

Richard will undoubtedly be making lemon snow cones.



  1. Sounds magical. I don’t envy you the snow, however, which we here in Charm City have miraculously managed to miss!

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