The Beast will eat you alive if you let it

Bil Bowden


You’re buzzing down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. 'Remember passing a lumbering motor home, about a football-field long, with a white-haired elderly man humped over the steering wheel? And you cussed, saying snidely, “I’ll bet the only wheeled vehicle he’s driven in the past five years is a walker.” ?

Well, welcome to my world. That’s me. I enjoy driving immensely, and this motor home--The Beast-- and I have finally forged a somewhat shaky alliance in the past week. My tiny mini-van, in which most of my excursions are made, is awaiting me at home.

To be sure, there are motor homes longer and even more massive, but that thinking leads to violent nightmares. I’ve always admired long-haul truckers, but now I almost worship them.

Here we are, The Ingalsbe Three ‘N Me, huddled in Grand Teton National Park, just having escaped the Yellowstone National Park human zoo. We traveled the giant loop around this scenic gem, past Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Canyon and the Mud Volcano. We made our way slowly up Mount Washburn--elevation nearly two miles-- and traveled down about as fast as the Starship Enterprise. It’s surprising that there isn’t a vehicle graveyard at the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

All this, of course, while in a motor home 35 feet long, with all the luxuries of home and then some. The Beast has a fancy-dancy convention oven, vacuum cleaner, electric step to help an old man exit, a GPS with the ability to show, well in advance, a low bridge or a sharp turn. Yeah, the last feature was buzzing on the beautiful and dizzying Mount Washburn. Fortunately, there's a motor as big and solid as the boulders hanging precariously on the road side. Take THAT, ‘steep incline’.

Sitting behind the steering wheel seems like a pleasant, calming experience. But after a few thousand miles of driving, my fingerprints are embossed permanently on the wheel, ala strangle-hold grip. Forearm cramps finally disappeared after crossing the first state or two.


Of course, The Beast has the usual motor home accoutrements, like a toilet, radios, lights everywhere, furnace, AC, curtains, bunk beds and a tele-transporter to get us to the point of interest.  Just kidding about that--it’s only on the high-end motor homes.

Slipping behind the steering wheel to drive is daunting. Or scary -- ----, depending on your vocabulary. The roads are twisting, turning for sure. But taking the 14-foot wide Beast through this asphalt maze of spaghetti frays the nerves because the road is only 10 feet wide. Just kidding about that too, but the roads leading to the most beautiful scenery seem to be wide enough only for roller blades and motorcycles.

It’s like wrestling an angry greased-up alligator. The Beast is taller than it is wide, and it rocks and rolls with every turn, curb, pot hole and speed bump. It feels like it’s going to tip over at any curve over 15 MPH.

Suddenly, I long for straight-arrow, straight-shot Indiana and Iowa. The mini-van left behind could go anywhere, park in any lot, and disguise itself as a Mom-mobile and no one could tell we were camping in a 'no camp' lot. It was much easier to climb the Mount Washburns of the world. And a bank vault cheaper.

That being said, the motor home experience is new to me, and parts of it are sheer joy. Sleeping in a real bed instead of a cold air mattress in the back of a mini van is enough to have you fall in love. Eating real dinners instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is pure heaven. Stuffed pork chops are hard to beat.

While the TV reception is spotty, there are days when the familiar buzz of The Today Show is calming, and a familiar way to start the morning. When we stop at a real RV park, plug in electric, water, wifi and sewer, and become friends with 1,000 of our closest strangers, we get cable television, sometimes including Native American NPR stations, which can open our minds to local cultures. It COULD.

So, we’re off to other points, who knows where? Really, because we don’t. We might turn right and wind up in Nevada, or head south and ramble into Utah or Colorado. Maybe Nevada or California. We don’t have to be in Albuquerque until October 8. The Beast will get us there, we’re sure.

For now, we head south into the electric yellow quaking aspen forests. Or on the other hand, this guy who doesn't drink, smoke, gamble, dance or party might find himself corralled in the dazzling bright lights of Las Vegas. Either destination, we'll find something worth seeing.

There is beauty and The Beast.