The Stupids Go on Vacation

(When the children were little they had a favorite series of books about a family aptly named The Stupids by James Marshall. The only intelligent life in their home was the cat and dog. Often times, when things fall to the dysfunctional around our household, we laugh and remember The Stupids.)

Somebody forgot to plan this vacation. Little things, like campground reservations at the height of camping season, calling relatives to tell them we’re driving 780 miles to see them and checking to see whether the water pump that runs the toilet, sinks and shower in the Good Humor Truck works- or not.

When we finally got on the road five hours late and drove for two hours I said, “Say! There’s the exit for Kalamazoozoozoo! That’s where sister, Betsy lives. Don’t you think we should go visit her?” Betsy is more planful about life in general than I am plus she has better editorial skills- she teaches these for a living while my editor is most often out to lunch- and she has no (wild) children. We lived through many of the same childhood experiences but remember them entirely differently plus she was one of those really beautiful babies while I was scrawny, pale and did a lot of projectile vomiting. And we both like things just so. So, being so similar and so different, we sometimes butt heads. Nevertheless we pulled off and drove to her charming house with the most lovely and under-control gardens to visit her and husband, Andy. You can imagine our horror when we arrived to discover that her home, for inexplicable reasons, was cordoned off as a crime scene. Crime_scene_2 We knocked and no one was home except her cat, Fang, who we decided fit into the crime scene aspect of things in some fashion. This is a vicious animal who only cottons to Betsy and Andy. They go through cat sitters the way other people go through toilet paper because no one will come in more than once to feed this animal. It’s like a bad Stephen King novel.

Anyway, we waited and Abby got bored (she’s been bored a lot thus far on the trip),  I smelled Betsy’s beautiful roses and we waited some more and then we said goodbye to Fang and left.BetsyshouseWaiting



Railroad Tracks State Park

A couple hours later we arrived at Warren Dunes State Park near the Michigan-Indian State line where Ranger Rick fell over laughing when we asked him where we might park the Good Humor Truck for the night. Ha-Ha-Ha! We’ve been booked since last February.Next time go to www.…
We politely asked if there was any place within 100 miles where we might camp. Ha-Ha-Ha!

I’m not easily deterred so we drove on and I kept an eagle eye and soon, in the pitch black of night, I saw a sign that said, “Tourist Information/ Museum and it had a big parking lot behind some buildings so I said we should park back there and no one would notice and if they did we could say we were just waiting for morning ‘til the museum opened. So we quickly made up the beds and settled in for the night. We were asleep for about 12 minutes when the most astonishing noise since Mt. St. Helen’s exploded threw us screaming from our beds. The RV shook, rocked and trembled as a freight train blasted its horn and raced by with every car clacking like canastas embedded in our ear drums.

It seems the museum was THE TRAIN MUSEUM located right on the main trunk of the East-West line for every train in the United States and we were conveniently parked 8 feet from the  railroad crossing. 17 trains went through during the night and it’s simply amazing how quickly the human brain  becomes acclimated to such noise levels. After the first few we were all aware of passing trains but mostly felt well rested in the morning light.Trains

GPS with attitude.

I can’t drive the Good Humor Truck. I’m confident I could drive it if FG would give me a whirl around a parking lot or two but he’s a control freak about the whole thing. So, I’m the “everything else” person. And I don’t mean to be rude about this but frankly this is just big time marital discord material. The problems that arise fall into three categories.
1) FG: “Could you please get me a bottle of water ( my cap, the Cheetos, some juice, close the curtains on the side window, open the side window, close all the windows while I run the AC, plug in my phone while I run the generator, some gum)?" This all involves a lot of lurching around and stumbling and tripping for me as the Good Humor Truck rolls along on curves and hills at 70 MPH.
2) FG: “WHAT WAS THAT?”  At home he looks askance if I fuss too much about tracking in mud, using the living room as a putting green or stuffing and pulling linens hither and yon out of the linen closet. Here, in his home on wheels,  he acts like it’s the frigging Louvre. A bottle rolls, a map book shifts, the door mat gets too much sand on it and it’s “Hey! Hey! You’re messing that up!” “LIFT and pull the drawer or you’ll break it!” “AYE! What’s that noise???” Today’s classic line, in response to my telling him to calm down a little: “This is a delicate machine!”
3) FG: “There’s a toll booth! What’s the toll? Do you have the toll?” “Why yes, dear.  I know the toll roads so well here in the land of cheese curds, where I HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE, that I know that the toll will be exactly 1.70 cents for this delicate machine and I have precisely the right change!”
4) FG: “Okay, how many miles until I turn onto I35N?” “Well, it looks like you need to take I694 for about 20 miles first…” “No! I’m supposed to turn on I35N! What exit number is it?”
“Well, I think, by this lovely Crapquest Map, you take I694 first and then…” “No! Let me see that! I’m driving! Can’t you  help me out here?” Pause, while FG sputters and looks at map while weaving wildly about the road. FG:  “Okay then.! Just tell me in advance when the road is I694 before it’s I35N. Okay then. How many miles to the next Mobil gas station?”

One time we rented a car that came with one of those talking, programmable GPS systems and FG spent three hours programming it to drive 14 miles with two stops along the way. Those things are good for people like FG, who want to know precisely where they are and where they are going because they talk to you and say such things as, “turn left in 2 blocks on Center St.” PING! “You are now approaching Center St.” PING! “Turn here on Center St.” PING! They do not tear, wad up and throw maps and call the driver a hopeless moron. (Here, I would like to note that today FG gave me a chance to drive the big rig for the first time between Mora and Duluth. It’s a lot of fun until you have to stop.)

BTW, This Delicate Machine smells like an outhouse

So, by the time we arrived at Railroad Tracks State Park the water pump was gone. It functionally left during the winter when the antifreeze wasn’t properly installed. This meant no flushing, rinsing, showering, dishwashing. And I’m the tidy sort about my personal hygiene. This also resulted in a bubbling up of water from the holding tank under the bed and the bedroom carpet getting soaking wet. Three days of that in hot humid weather and yes, we have a mighty stench of rotting carpet in the Delicate Machine. Temperatures were rising along with the stench and the flies. Abby was  on her fourth and last book and starting to whine about how she could have been spending these valuable last days before college drinking with her friends at home.Tdreads We devoted a good part of the day locating the Simpson Brothers RV Repair on County Rd. 24 N near Mora, Minnesota.Waterpump

Right after that things got a lot better  because the rest of the day was spent, where the women are strong, the men are handsome and the children smarter than average, visiting : Minnesota Relatives We Don’t Know but Love…(tomorrow’s installment )

9 responses to “The Stupids Go on Vacation

  1. Goodness! So many adventures already? I hope TD picked up more books at the Barnes & Noble.

    We miss you a lot. See how we squabble when you are not here? If it weren’t for Bonnie (The Voice of Reason), there’s no telling WHAT would have happened.

  2. I the only one still stuck on the crime scene tape?

  3. No, poopie, I really took that in and I think we need an explanation. Did the cat look forlorn? No notes? Yellow tape in an X across the front door?

  4. Whew…you checked in! Jim was being a contrarian!

    “You must never go down to the end of the town without consulting me!”~A. A. Milne

  5. Betsy here, Vicki’s sister of the crime scene house. A surprise to see these pictures! We were at a wedding in Muskegon and thus missed Vicki et al.’s visit, which would have been most welcome. Thank you all for your concern, but the police tape is courtesy our woodworker, who had just finished building and priming our new front steps. These replaced the steps Vicki, my husband Andy, and many others have nearly fallen to their deaths on.

    Regarding Fang (actual name, Hobbes), I’ll agree he’s fearsome enough to visitors that Vicki’s not alone in her opinion. He’s especially hateful to “cat people”; Vicki’s and my sister-in-law, shrilly exclaiming “cats always love me!” had him cornered and hissing under the table the first (and only) time they met. (She later publicly declared him “the worst cat I’ve ever met!”, which I found somewhat rude even if it may not be an isolated opinion.) We have a system. Our 74-year-old neighbor Joe is his sole cat-sitter; they have a truce. When other visitors come, Hobbes is lured to the guest room with deli turkey before they arrive, where he calmly takes a nap. After two hours, he’s set free. Since visitors are already in the house, he’s off the hook as guard cat and pretty much ignores them unless they come within his 3-foot personal space. His bad behavior with guests is embarrassing, but he’s an absolutely loving and gentle cat with us. He adores us and likes a scant half-dozen others: neighbors Joe and Louise, the Bud and Jan Show (frequent visitors in Hobbes’ youth in Houghton but, sadly, unlikely visitors these days), and sister Laurel. That’s it. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    Thanks for coming by, Vicki, FG, and TD — loved the photos but sad we missed you. Let’s do it again when we’re home?! The Dale Chihuli (sp.?) exhibit and installation at the Kalamazoo Art Institute starts in September and we get members only preview. Sound good?

  6. One more comment — I’m the “more planful” sister?? Yikes. This from the sister who quickly and successfully got through college, made a name for herself at local and national levels, has raised two incredible kids, and who’s had a series of stunning houses and gardens straight out of “House Beautiful”? Remember me? I’m the one who drifted off to be a forestry major at Michigan Tech in BFE because a car accident meant I couldn’t take my choral audition at U-M and hey, I really liked the U.P. anyway; spent 5.5 years getting a B.S. with two years on the dean’s sh– list; and then later took 10.5 years to finish a PhD (teaching full time but still….). I’ve owned three houses, the first two of which could kindly be called “quaint,” and while I had the extraordinary fortune to marry two smart, gentle, faithful men who are my best friends, I kind of forgot to plan children.

    As I approach 50, I feel as though my life so far has been a series of happy coincidences — paths I not so much chose and certainly didn’t plan, but which branched before me and which I stumbled into through sheer good luck or good friends or maybe good intentions and some intelligence on my part. I do share the unfortunate family trait of wanting to control my environment, but that’s pretty much just the minutiae of everyday life, not the big picture stuff. “Planful” seems an odd word to apply to me. “Fortunate” or “happy where I am now” is more like it, I think. And in that way, dear sister, we are very much alike.

  7. Betsy!! I like you already! Some intelligence on your part?! Modesty runs in your family, indeed!

    You write well! Is there a blog in your future? ;~)

  8. awwwww vicki! I really like Betsy 🙂 She seems fun just like you. I understand those types of road trips, which is why I always bring a series of CDs and such on road trips with family. I hope that TD got some more books.

  9. I’m feeling bad about wearing my shoes into the Goodhumor Truck. 😉 Hope you’re enjoying your first full day back. And Wisconsin IS MIGHTY close to Michigan!!! Do you know how CLOSE you were to me when you went truckin’ along that whole I694/I35N corridor??? I suppose you went right on through Hudson on the way there… home of my birth. I was probably sitting there having a turtle mocha frio at the time, wondering what to do next.

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