Thursday, October 28, 2010

Geritol Posse Rides Again

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I spent a wonderful few days in one of Arizona’s most beautiful “Sky Islands”, high above Green Valley, Arizona. Being winter, we enjoyed sunny warm days and cold nights in Madera Canyon’s Bog Springs National Forest Campground. We love these out of the way, hard to reach, NF campgrounds for the solitude they offer, the beautiful locations, and the dark quiet nights. 
The problem started when we left our mountain utopia and ventured into the valley below. The land of “Oscar the Grouch.” We decided to stop at the Green Valley, AZ Library Book Sale to find some reading material. It was early in the morning and we found a huge mall type parking lot behind the library. The sign said it was the White Elephant Thrift Store, but other buildings looked like Sheriff, Road Commission, county type stuff. We were the only vehicle in the lot. I parked horizontally, taking up five spaces, way out at the edge of the lot in nobody’s way. It was an hour until the library would open so we ate breakfast. Over the next hour, every lot slot in the parking area filled. We were amazed. A line was forming at the White Elephant Thrift door. Soon the Golden Girls blocked me in from the front and Archie and Edith blocked me in from the back.
When the hundreds of lot slots were filled, people started parking out on both sides of the street.
I thought I was just imagining the looks we were getting from people walking by. Could my five spaces be that important in a sea of overflowing vehicles that clearly had to flood the nearby roads whether I was squatting here or not? I went on a recon mission. I discovered they were all here for the White Elephant Thrift Store. It wasn’t a once a year sale. This thing goes on six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. It is more popular than Walmart at Christmas. When I got back to the motor home I discovered I had not been imagining the “LOOK.” The head of the Geritol Posse knocked at our door. At first I thought it was the Sheriff. Brown shirt with official arm patches, khaki pants, shiny gold badge and radio. My first clue she was White Elephant Security was the fact that she wasn’t packin’ any heat. 

She said, “You have to move. You are taking up five spaces.” I could see the panic in my wife’s face. She thought I was going to go into my raving jailhouse lawyer mode. It was true that I was breaking no law. I had every right to be parked where I was. I could have given this female Broderick Crawford much grief, but I could also see the strain in her face. Coming out and telling me I must move was the last thing she wanted to be doing, but the Golden Girls and several other complaints forced her from her better judgement. I could have unhooked, parked the car and motor home separately and vertically. That would have really blocked the lot. I know that would have sent her into a panic. So instead of being Mr. Hyde, I decided to be Dr. Jekyll. I told her I couldn’t squeeze out until she had one of her complainers move their vehicle. The word was out. I had been evicted. Cars were already vying for position to take my five spaces. When she got the car behind me moved, I still could not exit the parking lot until she made those crowding for the slots, like vultures on a fresh kill, move on past. They did not want to lose their positions. Because of poor eyesight, I could tell many had taken their Vytorin in combination with their Viagra at breakfast and it had hardened their hearts. They wanted to string me up but couldn’t find a tall enough cactus. We finally eased on down the road and found a gas station that said we could drop the rig for a couple hours. We went back to the library and later explored the White Elephant store. I saw my Rent-a-Cop friend and told her I had parked down in Nogales, Mexico and wondered if that was far enough. 
It still bothers me that I rolled over for this insinuated parking infraction. I feel I may have weakened RV Parking Rights when I cooperated and left my spaces. Should I have hunkered down, stood my ground, forced legal action for the benefit of all other RVer’s who might need several spaces to park in the future? Am I getting soft? Could I be losing my debating will? 
--Violated in Green Valley 

Dear Violated:
There is no doubt that you had a rock solid case for parking where you were. I find it very compassionate on your part to accept the inconvenience of moving to relieve the stress of the security guard who had the thankless job of asking you to move. For you to recognize her uncomfortable situation and defuse it is commendable. I don’t think this indicates you are losing your edge. Instead you may be honing your relationship skills. If you never see that look of panic on your wife’s face again, that could signal a soft patch in your abilities to dole out attitude adjustments to those in need. For any damage you might have inflected on future RV Parking Rights, you more than made up for in goodwill with the Green Valley, White Elephant Law Enforcement Division of Arizona.
Keep Smilin’, Dr. R. V. Shrink


Friday, October 22, 2010


Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have just started living the RV lifestyle and immediately the price of camping caused sticker shock. My husband now wants to do what he calls “stealth camping.” He likes to park in crazy places when we are traveling that cost little or nothing. I know many people spend nights at Walmart and other retailers who seem fine with short term camping, but my husband is now starting to look at hospital, church and VFW Hall parking lots as his personal KOA’s. He claims “we pay our taxes” and pulls off into fields that he thinks are government run public lands. I am as nervous as a squirrel in a bird feeder most of the time. I can’t relax when we are parking in suspect spots. Maybe I watched too many horror films when I was young. Every time I hear a noise I think it’s Eddie Scissorhands at the door asking us to leave. I swore, one night in Texas, I heard a chainsaw outside our rig. I keep telling him, “If we can’t afford to stay in RV parks we shouldn’t be traveling.” Please give me some ammunition to argue my point. Often times I don’t think we are safe.
--Sleepless in Seattle
Dear Sleepless:
Stealth Camping, Boon-Docking, or whatever else you want to call it, is fine to a point. It sounds like your husband might have an addiction to free camping. Safety should be your first priority. Walmart is a great pit stop when making time and looking for a safe harbor for the night. Most have security and welcome RV’ers for overnight parking. If your husband is insisting on staying in areas you feel are not safe, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to let him know that you are not going to continue this practice. My suggestion would be to become efficiently involved in finding reasonably priced RV sites. Use, various campground books, start a database of nice places you find and places other campers tell you about. Most are not actually free, but very reasonable. Invest in discount camping services, get your senior camping pass from the government if you are seniors and US citizens. Some states, for example New Mexico, sell reasonable annual passes for state park camping. There is a whole host of ways to save money and camp in amazingly beautiful, safe places if you work at it. There is a difference between frugal and free. There is safety in numbers and usually if it’s a good idea, some other RV’er has already figured it out and will be there camped alongside of you. If you are nervous about being asked to leave in the middle of the night, ask in advance. Many Walmarts will not allow overnight parking because of a City Ordinance. You have to help your husband understand that there is a difference between an RV’er and a person who is homeless. Don’t let your husband sleep soundly while you are up all night worried about every little sound you hear. Wake him up and say, “Did you hear that?” He didn’t, of course, because he was sleeping and there was no noise. After you do this a dozen times a night he will think twice about parking in places where you can’t sleep.         
 --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R. V. Shrink