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I Meet the Most Interesting People April 13, 2011

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.

One of the really fun aspects of travelling around the country in my 5th wheel trailer (Big Easy) and my big Ford truck (Big Ride) is the variety of nice people Lacy the dog and I meet.

Unlike John Steinbeck whose descriptions of people in his book Travels with Charley have been challenged by his peers as invented, the memories of folks we have actually met are painted bright and crisp. Will and Francine (not their real names) are part-year neighbors in the RV campground I call home in Florida. They work and live in western Iowa in the spring and the summer as farmers, and they drive a fifth wheel trailer to Florida in Autumn. In Florida, they get together with friends from Iowa, eat dinner out every night, and play a lot of shuffleboard.

I spoke with Will this past January, and I learned that he has a farm in western Iowa on which he grows corn and soybeans. His son runs about 50 head of Black Angus cattle, and Will has about six head himself. I looked him up on the internet, and I found out that Will and Francine live in a modern house in town, commuting to work as most working Americans do.

Nearly everyone who breaks camp and drives out of the RV camps we have stayed in for seven years seems to do so with no fanfare, under cover of darkness. No “Adios”, no “Bon voyage”. Usually, they leave their spaces spotless. I miss the goodbyes; I guess that I should get up earlier. Anyway, that’s how Will and Francine left, so I decided to send them a card. I got their address from the internet, and sent them a card which said “Missing you” and had a picture of a long-faced doggie looking out a car window on a rainy day. In the card, I brought them up to date on the happenings in the park since they left: Mark and Pamela have returned from Boston in a $400 truck, to live again in their truck camper across the way. Mark nearly got into a fight with Gary, the park’s maintenance man who bought the run-down park trailer recently vacated under a court order by the old guy with a yellow Mohawk hairdo who sold the trailer to Gary and his young family for $100 while Mohawk was high on crack (selling it from the trailer is his profession). The fight nearly started a few hours after Mark returned, when he spied a nice looking Coleman gas barbecue grill outside Gary’s trailer which Mark claimed was stolen from him. Ten minutes later, after the park manager intervened, Mark was seen setting up a second barbecue grill which looked similar to Gary’s, which he had brought outside from the truck camper, to catcalls from Gary’s family (wife, unmarried 19 year old daughter, and grandkids 14 months and 5 months old). So he found his after all. Since Gary lives on one side of me, and Mark across the street, I had already set up my chair and I had started making popcorn when the dispute was, abruptly, disappointingly and without warning, settled.

Then there’s Jean-Claude and his wife Toni, from Montreal, Quebec. They travel from Canada to Florida every February and stay until early April, along with approximately 2.5 million other Canadians who visit Florida every year. About 60% of these visitors are over age 55, and many speak English (though not Jean-Claude nor Toni). I learned a little French when Michel lived with me in Puerto Rico as we built a plant for L’Oreal. He spoke no English either, so we developed our own pseudo-Esperanto. Jean-Claude celebrated his 60th birthday here, and he brought me some cake and coffee during the party, and invited me over to meet 35 of his closest French Canadian friends. I first got online and created a birthday card for him. It had a colorful cake with many candles, and I wrote on the front, “Quickly, blow out the candles…”, and I wrote on the inside, “… while you still have some breath!” I translated it into French, printed it on the color printer, and gave it to him at the party. It was well received. I think.

Last Friday, there was a huge tornado in western Iowa – one and a half miles across – which destroyed the small town of Mapleton (population 1,500). The town is about 70 miles north of Will and Francine’s home, so I called them (before they left, I gave Will and Jean-Claude my card with contact information but I didn’t get theirs back). (Guess where I got Will’s phone number…) It was Sunday evening, and my call went to the answering machine. During the day, I found out that there were no fatalities in Mapleton and only one injury, because the town sheriff used some initiative and sounded the alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal. People took shelter early, and while half the buildings are gone, everyone is okay. I was happy to hear Will’s reply on my voice mail on Monday night. They were not at the bake sale in Mapleton as I had speculated; it was a huge storm for an area which knows huge storms this time of year. Will is getting ready to plant corn (he is ten years older than me), but they are predicting a light snow this week. The fertilizer is down, so he will wait to plant until next week.

I was happy to hear from Will. They are friendly people, but reserved and private. Jean-Claude and Toni left for home last Saturday morning “sous le couvert de l’obscuritĂ©” (under cover of darkness) at 5:30 am. Will and Francine towed their fifth wheel back to Iowa; Jean-Claude and Toni left theirs here for the summer.

Meanwhile, my chair and popcorn are still ready if Mark gets upset again. His doctor appointments in Boston to adjust his brain pan after a severe fall a few years ago apparently worked, at least partially.

If Florida gets too hot this summer, maybe I’ll move camp to Lake Wobegon, MN, where it’s cooler and I can continue the stories.




1. Bob - April 13, 2011

Only in America!

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