The Dream Machine

If you’re going to be taking part in SERIOUS work avoidance during the summer and driving all around America, then that could involve any number of stops in seedy motels, dodgy parts of town, or hiding in the toilet of a late-night bar and hoping you’re not disturbed until the following morning. With the 5-star hotel option having been dismissed almost immediately, that leaves one other possibility: why not take your home with you? Yes – just like a turtle!

Buying a motor home the size of a, errrrrr, well the size of a house I suppose, is all the rage in America. It hasn’t really caught on in England too much though; for a start who would want to drive around England in the first place? A family outing would be ten hours on the M6 sitting in traffic looking at the roadworks and admiring the picturesque sights of the Black Country before wisely giving up the plan to head for the Lake District and going back home instead. “Oh well kids, I’m sure it would have rained every day in any case, let’s go and visit Auntie Ethel in Clacton instead”. It’s enough to transform a stable and well adjusted 10-year-old into the next tabloid-famous psycho killer.

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Most people in America wait until they’re retired before splashing out on a motor home (well if I don’t manage to get another job, I suppose I HAVE retired!), but I thought I would see what was available. Once again the wonder of the Internet preserves sanity: no need to be lied to by numerous sleazy salesmen at car dealerships, no need to drive all over the state trying to find the best deal: just sit with your feet up and a keg of beer by your side and click to your heart’s content.

As with cars there is always competition amongst the manufacturers to think of the best names for their latest model. There are those that conjure up images of the great outdoors (‘Adventurer’, Independent’, ‘Weekender’), those that could maybe have done with a bit more imagination (‘Motorhome’, ‘Motorvan’), and the badly-spelled (‘Xplorer’, Hy-Line’, ‘Kamper’). But by far the best motor home name around at the moment is the ‘xxx Prowler’. Excellent! How are the other manufacturers going to top that? The ‘Ford Slightly Suspicious’? The ‘Dodge Rapist’? The ‘Toyota Acid Bath Murderer’? Unfortunately there weren’t any for sale locally. Shame: I could just see myself driving around in a ‘Prowler’!

Eventually I plumped for an ‘Xplorer’, drove it home, and spent a couple of hours painting an ‘E’ on the front of the name wherever I could find it so that it said ‘Explorer’ instead. Don’t want people thinking I’m thick (although the fact that I’ll be spending four months living in this contraption may be contrary to that thought!). And then it was time to load it up with everything I’m going to need while I’m on the road. Despite this ‘home from home’ having all mod cons such as a fridge, cooker, toilet, shower, etc., absolutely no thought whatsoever was given to food or toiletries. You can buy those at any of the stops along the way, right? The two essential items for a trip of this nature are, in no particular order:

Beer is self-explanatory. It’s not that I’m going to be shotgunning cans of Special Brew while I’m cruising along the highways, but when I find a suitable spot to pull over for the night I want to be sure that I am able to partake of a couple of cheeky snorters to aid restful sleep, especially if I am in the middle of nowhere when I decide that I have had enough of driving for the day. Okay, I suppose I will need to eat as well, so I’ll throw in a couple of packets of cheese slices. But the fridge is loaded up with beer in case of emergency. And so is the cooker. Oh, and the shower as well (I can always temporarily take the beer out while showering – there’s nothing worse than drinking soapy beer). The USA is also full of strange towns where their local laws prohibit the sale of beer at certain times, and in some cases it is banned completely.
“ Can I marry my sister?”
“ Of course you can”
“ How about setting fire to black guys?”
“ Sure, go right ahead”
“ And a pint of Guinness please”

Note to self: Don’t put this bit on the web site until after leaving the ‘Bible Belt’.

It is the very fact that I will be pulling over in the middle of nowhere from time to time that necessitates the storage of some weaponry. Rest stops in the USA are generally clean, well-lit and safe. But, according to folklore, that isn’t always the case. Some times a rest stop will be visited by people you would rather stay well away from. The trucker whose wife has just left him to run off with another woman. The psychotic hitch-hiker. The brother and sister honeymooning couple. So, just in case I’m woken up in the middle of the night by any of these dodgy characters, it’s useful to have a drawer full of knives, some pepper spray, and a few canisters of tear gas handy. Of course eating a potent curry before going to bed would provide more than adequate protection!

Anyway, back to the Dream Machine. This contraption has got it all – a fridge, a cooker (unlikely to be used), microwave, TV (that’s a television, as opposed to a transvestite, although I imagine I could have got hold of one of those if I had REALLY tried!), bed, shower, bog, etc. The front seats (which resemble a pair of armchairs) swivel round 180 degrees so you can talk to people behind you in comfort while you’re driving along, it’s got a generator, solar panels, wardrobe (my t-shirts have never known such luxury), blah de blah de blah. Quite a little home from home. In fact it’s so expensive to live in the Bay Area that when the trip is done it might well BE home – why pay a fortune to rent an apartment when you can just part in the street outside and have all the same advantages?

All of this of course assumes that the thing isn’t going to break down while I’m in the middle of the Texas desert a thousand miles from anywhere, but it seems to be a risk worth taking.

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