Here We Go

Camper in Massachusetts

Well, the camper is finished. I took it on a shakedown run from New Jersey up to Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts last week, and the weather was obligingly horrible. Only problem was some concentrated leakage due to bad seals and driving in rain. Now, while my doubt and laziness might compel me to stay on mom’s farm in Lambertville forever, at least the freezing temperatures in the forecast will get me to hit the road.

I plan to be mobile on Monday. It’s been a year and a half since I bought this thing, an old wreck. I’ll be heading toward the vague idea of something new: south through Virginia and North Carolina, Alabama and Texas, toward southern California for a family Thanksgiving. If you’re a friend located somewhere along the way, give me a shout and I’ll be sure to visit.

Now that I’ve patched some leaks, I have to get it back on the truck and stock up with all the things I need, plus put away the stuff I’ve dumped at my mom’s house since moving out of Philadelphia. I’ll be writing here, of course, about the things I do and see. Enough of the private repairs and working in the barn. It’s time to roam the public roads.

And now, a partial explanation of my absence.

If you look at my previous posts on the subject, you’ll see that they’re few and far between—separated by months at a time. I’ve been largely silent during the rebuild process. I haven’t taken step-by-step pictures, posted my progress to forums, or given timely updates on social media. The lone exception is some documentation of the process over on Instagram.

This might seem strange for a writer, especially one who went and bought a camper during a particularly dry period, partly as a vehicle for whatever story might come next. The truth is, though, I just wanted to keep some things to myself. The early, dewy mornings when I flung open the barn doors, turned on the lights, sipped my tea and put the country station on the radio. The failed attempts at building a floor or fixing the windows. The mildew, the rust, the dumpsters-full of postwar Made-in-USA parts all broken or filled with mouse droppings. The chilly days sitting inside the gutted shell of an old recreational vehicle, wondering what I had gotten myself into. During the whole process, I have come to the unsettling but firm belief that not everything should be written about. Sometimes, it’s okay to be alone with things, building on one’s own.

That first post I wrote about the camper, when I stopped in Virginia, came out like I was talking to a friend. Because I was—I wanted to tell you all about the crazy thing I’d done, the new places I’d seen, the hope on the horizon. When I pulled back into New Jersey in April 2013 with a moldy old camper on the truck, I honestly thought I’d have it fixed up and ready to go in three months’ time.

Turns out I missed the mark about six times over. What came after that was a long period of living half in Philadelphia and half at “home home,” spending nights in my childhood bedroom or in the barn, cutting myself off from social contact while I made multiple trips per day to the hardware store or mulled over different varieties of plywood. Some of it was grim, some of it was deathly boring, all of it took a long time as I traded in parts of one life for another, and vacillated between writing fiction at a desk and driving very real screws into very real metal, one at a time.

None of that made me want to write about it. But now that some time has passed and I’m road-worthy again, maybe we can talk about it. Just invite me over to park in your driveway. I’ll tell you all you want to know.

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