Walkabout On The Wild Side

The Walkabout has inspired a general response. “Wow, that’s going to be crazy fun and adventuresome!” I’ve only heard one other response….not sure it counts because it was my mother’s. This goes back to the pre-camper acquisition and the visit I paid my parents while my grandmother was staying with them.

My folks went to L.A. for ten days to visit friends and visit my 90 year-old grandmother. The same grandmother that dear dotter is going to be living with rent free for, I hope, the first year or so she’s striking out on her own life change. There’s too much background into the crazy to go into here, but you’ll get a tiny glimpse into this alternate universe.

I’m a believer in due diligence. We travel to L.A. pretty much once a year to see the wonderful Aimerito clan….I LOVE YOU AIMERITO CLAN! We always find the time to swing by my grandmother’s for a quick visit. It’s all she can stand. She’s not a people person. A quick lunch at our favorite taco joint, Macho Cafe, perhaps a run to the grocery store and short visit is her limit. We end up staying with my aunt and uncle hanging with all of my cousins (this includes their terrifically cool spouses and children). It’s one of our favorite places on the planet.

My parents have estranged themselves from this extended family in so many ways and for so many reasons it feels like a David Lynch script. Our visits are a sore spot for my mother who launches into a “I don’t know what I’ve done….” rant, when she knows what the deal is and has deluded herself into believing in her innocence. Whatever…that’s my mother, revisionist historian. Back on track….dotter and I drove to my folks’ place to put in a dutiful visit. Just a quick overnight thing, I was sure given the timeframe the crazy would be limited. It’s a three and a half hour drive. I spend the night because a single day round trip seems dumb to me.

We arrived lunchtime and honestly had a great afternoon. My father admitted he either turns his hearing aids down or “forgets” to change the batteries on a regular basis. Now I know how he’s managing my mother’s rapid transformation into the exact replica of my grandmother. For those of you wagging your fingers and saying, “It’s inevitable…we all become our mothers so you shouldn’t throw stones.” I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours in therapy to prevent that exact thing from happening. Thousands…did I mention the thousands? James L also drinks when I’m there…I don’t think he can justify drinking as much when it’s just the two of them. The other great thing was going through two enormous boxes of old photographs of our family.

Photos of my grandmother young, happy and madly in love with my grandfather. That went south quickly. Photos of me as a baby…notice dotter looks exactly like me, so much so that several times she said, “I don’t remember this.”

“Uh babe, that’s me.”

Photos of my uncle Frank as a boy where he looks exactly like Son 1 and so on…. it was great. Dotter and I were oohhing and aahhing. My mother was trying to remember who was who and when was when and my grandmother was caught up in the bitterness and down side of all of that history. The only nostalgia she feels is for my uncle Frank, who sadly passed in his forties of Cancer. We sat on the back porch, it was breezy and pleasant. It was a good time. There was some dinner discussion. My mother always wants to eat out, especially if I’m cooking. I’m a great cook….she likes to avoid hearing my father say, “This was delicious, why don’t you make stuff like this?” Our choices were Red Lobster and Carino’s. I’m a foodie….I’ve raised the kids to be foodies. Our idea of fish is great Sushi. The lesser of two evils was Carino’s, mind you, Dotter is lactose intolerant and has a wheat allergy. I’m grain free with a wheat and grain allergy. My father just finished treatment for colon cancer and Celiac runs in the paternal family. Pasta it is.

On the way out, my grandmother looks at Dotter, who’s wearing the cutest, black minidress and at 5’9” is all leg and says sternly, “Are you wearing underpanties?” I could tell this has been bothering her all day. Little bit of funny crazy, Dotter solemnly says, “Yes Grandma.” We share an eye roll. Dinner was fairly incident free. Carino’s has a gluten-free menu….hazzah! My grandmother only asked for butter four times and I was able to intercept the waiter before it turned to blows. Dotter and I split a meal….father and I enjoyed two for one happy hour. It was all good.

After dinner, visiting with old friends, my Walkabout plan was revealed in full. P, a boisterous and opinionated guy who means well and likes to stir the pot, laughed and balked about me taking the girls.

“You think I can’t do it?” I demanded.

He laughed, “Jules, you’ve been camping all of your life. I’ve no doubt you can do it. It’s just going to be hilarious.”

We discussed camping options, trailer options, hitch classes and towing weights. We debated routes and my trailer search. Out of nowhere, James L. pipes up and says, “I’ll find you a camper.”

“Really? James L. that would be fabulous. You look and I’ll look. We’re bound to find something that’ll work.”

Note my post for details on the clean up project.

I went to bed thinking that it had been a nice visit and felt a bit guilty I wasn’t staying longer. I even said to the dotter, “That was nice.” She agreed and promptly started snoring.

It didn’t take long for me to collapse. It was the first night’s sleep I wasn’t interrupted by puppy, Son 2 or snoring hubby. I slept so hard that I woke up groggy. I stumbled to the bathroom and debated going back to sleep. I opened the door to tumble back into bed when lo and behold, I was accosted by my mother and grandmother. They’d been waiting until some sound of my stirring signaled their joint assault.


My mother leaned in, “Are you taking protection?”

My mind had been gearing down for more sleep and the first place I went….yeah, you’re all going with me, I know it…was, “Condoms?” Now that ship sailed a long time ago, I have three kids. I didn’t need another. I’m wonderfully and happily married to a terrific man. The idea of ‘protection’ confused the hell out of my sleepy brain. After a bit of sluggish processing, it dawned on me.

“Mom, do you mean a gun?”

I grew up with guns. James L. had a shot-gun, a 22 rifle and a hand gun. I’d learned to shoot the rifle and shot-gun, but they weren’t the focus of attention. As my parents have aged, my father’s taken to carrying a handgun. He has a concealed weapon permit. My mother recently received her permit….that’s terrifying. They’ve also jumped on the Tea Party/RANGO/They’re coming to take our guns train. Note, I’m not anti gun. Hubby has several guns, some he bought, some he inherited. They’re locked in a gun safe. We’ve both toyed with the idea of getting our concealed weapon permit. Mostly because if you own a gun, you should know how to handle a gun.

I was a teacher entertained by the idea of putting guns in the classroom after the Newtown shooting. Yeah, more students would be shot by teachers than intruders….just saying. In any case, I answered as neutrally as I could.

“No mom, I don’t have a permit to carry. It would be illegal.”

“You could carry a Bowie knife.”

“No mom, a knife that big is a concealed weapon.” I turned to make my way back into the guest bedroom.

“You’re wrong, I’m going to have Dad look that up.”

“Okay mom.” I gently shut the door. Dotter was curled up with the covers up to her chin. I nudged her.

She started laughing. She’d been playing opossum.

“Brat! Get up….we’re out of here.”

She giggled the whole time we were folding up sheets and pulling our overnight bags together. Dressed, I peeked out the door.

“You’re not leaving already?” My grandmother was waiting in the hall.

“We’re just getting things picked up Grandma.”

In the kitchen, James L was engrossed in his paper.

My mother took a different tack. “You could take a bat.”


James L interrupted from deep behind his paper. “No room in a tent camper for her to swing a bat.”

My mother was irritated. “She could take a mini-bat.”

I reigned in my eye roll. “That wouldn’t be much of a weapon. Mom, I’m taking two large dogs with me. I’m tattooed and pierced. Hell, even the people at the grocery store won’t look me in the eye. Apparently, I’m scary.”

Dotter was carrying things out to the car avoiding eye contact.

James L opened the emergency exit. “Zubokovich opens early.” Zubokovich was the guy who ran the local RV storage yard. It had been proposed that he might have a line on someone interested in selling their camper.

“We should head over there.” I hugged my mother and grandmother. I hugged James L who was reluctant to come out from behind his paper. Dotter and I did stop at Zubokovich’s, took his card and his promise to keep an eye out for a camper. I made a much-needed stop for coffee and we headed north.

My mother called five minutes later. “You’re dad saw a listing in the paper for a camper. He’s going to go look at it.”

“Great! Tell him to call me.” I was genuinely excited.

Thirty minutes later, James L called. A quick rundown revealed he thought this was a great deal. I promised to talk to hubby and get back to him.

An hour later, Dotter’s phone beeped with a voicemail. “That’s weird. It didn’t even ring.”

I shrugged, “Dead spot.”

She listened to her message and started laughing so hard I thought she was going to hurt herself.

“You gotta hear this!” She replayed the message on speaker.

“Hey Lil, this is Nani. We’ve solved your mother’s problem. She can park the camper in police station and fire station parking lots. You’ve got to convince her that’s the best way. So yeah, that way she’ll be safe.”

I’m telling you….thank goodness for wacky families. I don’t have to make this stuff up! You know from Working Towards Walkabout that we bought the camper and James L has been meticulously going over it to be sure it’s ship-shape. I’ve received several calls in the last few weeks. My mother complaining about how much time my dad is in the garage working on the camper. Calling me from the gun store with the choice between pepper spray or a taser. No lie….I had to turn pepper spray down flat. I’ve pepper sprayed myself twice…the bottles were leaking. I also pepper sprayed myself cooking with jalapeños on a regular basis…you know, you forget you were slicing them up and rub your eyes or toss the seeds down the disposal with hot water….it’s a disaster.

I initially turned down the taser imagining that I would either be tasered by the dogs or taser them. Several friends have urged me to reconsider the taser. Hubby mentioned the possible uses on the teenage boys. The thing about selling a book is that I NEED TO MEET PEOPLE. Pulling into the campground, hoisting up the razor wire and setting up the gun stockade isn’t a great way to encourage an audience. There’s this other thing, I’m traveling with two young women, two large dogs. I’m not traveling the back roads alone.  Everyone I’ve spoken with at the campgrounds has been excited and enthusiastic about having an author on a book tour coming. The last thing to consider is this whole Florida epidemic of men shooting teenagers ( the one woman who was shooting at her abusive husband is going to do 20 years….she should’ve hit him for that long of a sentence).

People who carry guns, afraid of the world, often use those guns. In addition, gun owners frequently have their own guns used against them. The lovely thing about my dogs is that they’re not going to bite me….but they most certainly would and are capable of tearing an unwelcome stranger into pieces. Also, I can cuddle my dogs….guns…not cuddly. Nor do they love you, happily follow you anywhere and live for the moment you return. Oh yeah, I can take my dogs with me as long as they are leashed. No concealed weapon permit necessary.

I mentioned that I grew up camping…with my parents. We’ve traveled all over the States in several different sizes of campers….first a tent trailer, then a truck camper and finally a 37’ Winnebago. We stayed in campgrounds. Campgrounds are generally full of people who enjoy traveling. One of the things they enjoy about traveling is meeting new people and seeing new places. I’ve eaten meals, played cards and hiked with total strangers that we met while camping. There was no worry, no fear and certainly no guns involved. How do people become so afraid of the world? Am I being foolish? I don’t think so. I am after all taking two large dogs. Am I being romantic? Sure, the open road, my book and camping out. Will this be a three ring circus? Maybe a two ring circus….I am after all taking two large dogs with me.

Here’s the deal, I believe that there are more good people out there than bad. I believe that humanity is a great comedy…thank you W. Shakespeare….and if you spend it worried about the bad things that could happen, you’re sure to miss out on the great things that do happen. I’m selling my book…I’m a writer who wants you to read all of my books. I’m headed out on this journey with you in tow. Blog, vlog, dogs, photos, and words….it’s not a secret. Am I prepared for something to go wrong? Hell yes, bad things have happened to me…frequently. I’m not naive nor do I think I’m stupid. Silence in the peanut gallery. I’m going out to embrace the opportunity. I’m off on an adventure. Would I like hubby to join me? Yeah, but not because I’m afraid of being out there independently.

So July 28th we’re off and rolling…if you enjoy a good laugh, I’m sure I can accommodate. As I’ve mentioned…humanity is a wacky beast and never disappoints in serving up the interesting, entertaining and yes, the crazy.