After taking the newlyweds to California on a surf adventure, “Little Things” was ready for a hiatus. For the next five months, most of her time was spent lounging behind the kids’ home, with only sporadic visits by Matt, Adria, and Cora, when she became their private backyard retreat.
But, those times kicking back were about to change. Rumors about another big trip were spreading, and when April 2015 arrived and Matt was giving her the once over, she knew something big was in the works.
Matt, Adria, and Cora would be moving to Massachusetts, and “Little Things” would be going along for the ride. After receiving word that he got a new job in Boston, Matt started planning his trip back east- back home- camper in tow. A cross country trip from Salt Lake City, UT to Merrimac, MA to start a new life. Matt would make the 2,500 mile trip alone; Adria and Cora would join him in a few months.
“I had spent a few days putting together an itinerary, since I would be towing the 14’, 1977 Great Western camper my wife and I had bought only months earlier,” Matt reflected, prepared and eager for the journey ahead.
After learning they had the camper improperly hitched to his truck for the ‘Golden State’ trip, Matt corrected the problem and was ready to hit the road at a whopping 65 mph. This time it was Massachusetts or bust!
Matt was no novice at traveling cross country. “Six years earlier, when I participated in a non-stop, 36-hour drive from Massachusetts to Utah with a few good friends (I was transferring to the University of Utah from Champlain College in Vermont), I recall the drive through Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming to feel especially endless; that’s why this time I planned on multiple stops along the way.”
After staying his first night at a Walmart parking lot in Sidney, NE (the most cost effective form of camping around) and waking to 27 degree temperatures, he was eager to start his second day on the road; another day closer to home.
Once ‘ASI’ (ass in seat- thank you ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’) and a few miles under his belt, Matt had a feeling come over him like no other. “My ass fell asleep somewhere outside of Nebraska. It had only been a few hours since I began my second day crossing the country and I knew I was really in for it when that tingling feeling overcame my buttocks while entering Iowa,” Matt said with a chuckle.
With the sun out in full force and miles to go, Matt squinted his way through the open country, making the necessary buttock adjustments along the way.
Feeling the two-days of road grime building up, he felt it was time to opt out of staying between the lines at Walmart. After a quick search online, he found an equestrian RV park that had 4.5 stars and a review that said “A+ showering facilities. “I was sold, so I plugged in the address and hit the road. Needless to say, it was the best $28 I spent on camping, and the review of the showers were spot on,” he said thankfully.
“Feeling refreshed the next morning, I hit the road and left my last few miles of the west behind me as I entered Illinois. After chatting with my good friend about the perils of Gary, IN, and how adhering to its stop signs could result in things much worse than just traffic violations, I pulled off the highway and started towards my next destination for the evening.”
With farm landscapes that seem devoid of the modern advances of time, sporadic sightings of single family homes, and dilapidated barns that dotted the flat lands-abandoned and unwanted, Matt felt as if rural Indiana lived up to the convoluted media stereotypes. It was hard for him to shake the uncomfortable feeling that eerily hovered in the atmosphere.
As the sun set, Matt pulled up a dirt road to a clearing where just a few larger campers were parked; the campground his refuge for the night. As he set up camp, eager to relax, a large fellow sporting a full goatee approached, introduced himself as the manager, and invited Matt to join he and the others gathered round the fire pit for a few beers, and to “Goose the gravy.”
“As I tried to wrap my brain around where that phrase came from I got my camper ready for my stay and went over to say hello. This is when I was told they were not even open for the season yet and they had literally just set up the phone minutes before I gave them a call. I was their first unofficial customer of the 2015 season, and the only camper that evening,” Matt recalled.
Matt enjoyed the company of the past and current owners, as well as the manager and his wife and sons, while partaking in beer after beer and much lively conversation about their life stories, news topics, and about how difficult it is to find reliable employees in this day and age. Once midnight approached, and most of the group were slouched slumbering in their chairs, Matt, eager to hit the hay as well, asked the manager if he could pay his $12 bill for the night right then to avoid any disruption for his early morning departure. There was only one problem; the credit card machine wasn’t operational yet, and Matt was short on cash.
“The manager gave me a big smile and told me to not worry about it until I could get to the ATM the next morning,” Matt said relieved. It was what happened next that Matt never saw coming.
“Bullshit, you need to pay up,” the inebriated owner bellowed belligerently. Thinking he was joking, Matt and the manager laughed it off, but when the 6’ 3”, thickly built German man stumbled up to him and insisted he pay up or get out, the seriousness of the situation became clear.
“The manager stepped in quickly and began reasoning with him about the situation, and after a few minutes, the owner’s wife awoke from her camp chair and lead him off to their camper. I couldn’t believe this was happening over $12,” Matt said more than a little unsettled.
Thankfully the manager and Matt devised a plan. “I’d go look around in my truck and “find” the extra few dollars I needed to pay my bill (which the manager actually loaned me) and then pay the owner.” After about five minutes rummaging through his truck, Matt walked over to the owners’ campsite where he found the owner’s wife standing with the manager. “I gave her the money, apologizing for causing such a problem,” Matt said hoping to avoid any more conflict.
“We just don’t want to get pulled around, that’s all,” she said. As she headed toward the camper the owner stumbled out still clearly distressed. “She showed him the money and he made throwing motions and said, “throw it on the ground.” After a few short winded vulgarities between drunken pauses, his wife corralled him back into their trailer once again. I gave the manager my gratitude for getting me outta’ that jam and he just let me know how sorry he was that it had to go down that way. Needless to say, I slept with the camper locked and an axe handle close by,” Matt said, shaken by the evenings events.
If there was ever a time when a night needed to pass quickly into morning, it was that night for Matt. By 6 a.m. he was up, hangover inconveniently in place, prepping “Little Things” for departure. “Feeling beat up and tired I fired up the truck and took off toward the nearest town, 35 miles away. Three gas station visits and one half conscious exchange with the manager later, I was thankfully on the road again, leaving my mid-west backwoods nightmare behind me.”
After putting in about an hour on the road, Matt received an unexpected phone call from a random number. “The owner of the campground called me and began apologizing profusely for his behavior the evening before; his wife evidently had filled him in. Before exchanging goodbyes, he told me I would always be welcome to stay at their campground in the future.” Was Matt’s faith in humanity restored? Maybe a little bit, but it surely had been tested. As for “Little Things”, she had provided Matt with a safe haven that night, and she was prepared for any future mishaps.
The rest of that day blurred into a long stretch of pavement. Still a little on edge and yearning for something hot to eat, he pulled into an Ohio rest station.
“Ohio rest stations are pure luxury. It’s literally a mini mall food court with clean bathrooms and private showers. I even could have set up my camper there for the night with the electric hook-ups in the trailer/RV parking area. Seriously, if you are ‘road tripping’ and need a night to crash at a decent place for little cash, do it in Ohio,” Matt advises.
After grabbing a hot shower and a meatball sub, Matt and his three audio books would take on the longest portion of his trip, diverting from his original plan to spend the evening in rural Pennsylvania, and continuing on until he couldn’t drive anymore, or at least till 2 am.
“The Midwest landscape began to turn more rugged as I transitioned into the Adirondacks; it felt a little more like what I was accustomed to having grown up on the east coast.” As the sun set and Matt strained to keep focus on the dark highway, his audiobook kept him company; recalling the incident at the free rock concert at Altamont Festival in 1969, Livermore, CA, with the Hells Angels (from the United Kingdom, not Cali). (“The Hells Angels received $500 worth of free beer as compensation for handling “security” at Altamont. So combine their hostile tendencies with plenty of inebriated fans – and their own hostile tendencies – and you’re brewing up some trouble.”) (1)
“As I proceeded, the narrow highway turned to an even narrower construction zone, leaving me about a foot to a foot and a half on either side of my camper as I maintained an even 65mph. It was getting close to 1:30 am and I knew I really needed a good night sleep.”
With no Walmart parking lot to save him, he pulled into a rest stop where a few other RV campers had set up for the evening. “I basically passed out immediately,” he recalled.
When morning arrived, Matt remembers waking to the most satisfactory feeling; he was soon to be on the homestretch. “As soon as I left the Pennsylvania border, New York and Connecticut flew by; I was in lower Massachusetts before I knew it. A very familiar landscape settled in around me as I accelerated towards my destination. Turning off the exit to my childhood hometown, I realized how much distance was behind me, and what I had travelled through and experienced. Suddenly, the sense that everything was a little closer together overwhelmed me; I felt a comfortable ease come over me,” Matt recalled.
When he pulled into the yard, his mother was waiting with open arms and her own sense of relief. After Matt unloaded the camper, “Little Things” found a new home, nestling into a cozy spot under three maple trees where she would slumber blissfully.
From there, “Little Things” would watch Matt enjoy the comforts of home; home cooked dinners and rich conversation shared by the fire pit with his parents. She would also watch him leave for his new job in Boston every morning, and then listen to the mountain mans’ woeful tales of running for subways and trains in the city. But, she also heard about the fun times he had visiting with his sister in Boston on occasion; getting to know the city better with every site viewed and every bite taken.
After two months of resting peacefully under the lush green canopy of the tall maple trees in Merrimac, MA, “Little Things” watched as Adria, Cora, and friend Morgan arrived safely from their cross country trip to Massachusetts. She heard about the details of their trip; visiting places she and Matt did not, like the Grand Teton mountains in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and the beauty and historical brilliance of Boston, MA. If “Little Things” could talk, a bit of envy may have been detected.
Once Adria and Cora settled into to life with the in-laws, “Little Things” took on a new role; providing Adria with a secluded studio for adventures in water color, and a hang out spot where old friendships were rekindled. She would watch Matt and Adria pack up their surfboards and head to Jenness Beach in Rye, NH, chuckle as Cora fished for frogs in the pool, and listen to delicious recollections about family dinners on the wharf in Newburyport, MA.
She enjoyed her time in Merrimac, but another move was in the works. The kids found a rental in Rye, NH, five minutes from the Atlantic coastline. She didn’t know it then, but she was entering the retirement stage of her life with the newlyweds; resting once again in the rental driveway surrounded securely by towering pines, maples, and oak trees.
Knowing the kids, “Little Things” was well aware that her destiny could change at any moment; but with such a big move to the north east, she was fairly certain she would be staying awhile. As she rested, she couldn’t help but wonder what her next trip would be; maybe an adventure to the ski slopes of Vermont where Adria’s parents lived, or the majestic mountains of New Hampshire. Once again, only time would tell, and “Little Things” would have to wait to see what would happen next.