The RV Park on the outskirts of Amarillo Texas was just as beautiful as all the photos on their website. There was a modern building designated as the gym/aerobics/bathroom area and a wonderful community building where a free breakfast worthy of royalty would be served the following morning. The grass areas were lush and expertly manicured and the pool area sparkled and beckoned you to remove all your clothing and jump in immediately. Every promise stated on their website was met or exceeded. The only item cleverly left off their website was the use of the term "OUTSKIRTS OF AMARILLO". This phrase actually means in the middle of cattle country. And like everything else in Texas, this cattle country was done in a big way. With my eyes still watering from the wonderful aroma of OUTSKIRTS OF AMARILLO, I bid the park a fond adieu and head off looking for another park.
Ten or eleven o’clock at night is not the best time to look for an RV park. My eyes were still watering as I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot. There are a great deal of these places that allow the RV community to park overnight in their parking lots. The hopes being the next morning these travelers will buy food, supplies or gas in return for their free stay. I did research on this and was quite aware of this practice but never tried it. Tonight was going to be my first try right after I went inside to buy some food for my late night snack. As I browse through all the assorted air fresheners inside I started thinking about how spending a night in a Wal-Mart parking lot with five motorhomes, four semi trucks, three station wagons, two soccer vans and a specially constructed tractor trailer complete with tow along outhouse was not exactly the way my family would have traveled.
My grandfather was the first serious traveler in my family. Every winter he and my grandmother would go to Miami Beach and spend three or four weeks there. The people of Miami Beach could set their watches to the regularity my grandfather had on doing this. Since he was in the clothing business, his suitcases were filled with stylish cabana wear and sportswear designed strictly for vacationing people of well-to-do means. The hotel welcomed him fondly each year, put up with all his strange habits and practically threw going home parties for them when they left. One year my grandmother died and my grandfather took a new wife. At her insistence he skipped his yearly exodus to Miami and instead vacationed in Hawaii. The absence of my grandfather in Miami did not go unnoticed. His phone rang for nearly two weeks from people in Florida wondering if he had died. Upon his return home to Cleveland he told his new wife he was going to Florida the following year…with her or with whoever would now be his third wife!
As I finally get into bed I am amazed at how this parking lot has turned into a small city of travelers. They all follow some unwritten rules of Wal-Mart Etiquette (we will decide if that is an oxymoron in a later writing). The radios and TVs are all silently low in volume, all external generators are off and creating no noise and late arrivals like myself are all speaking in low tones as to not disturb anyone. And except for some local people of the night who have either missed their daily medication allotment or have sold them for drug money, the parking lot is not to bad of a place to spend the night. In the morning I will again go into Wal-Mart, get some morning food and then be on my way. I imagine my grandfather entering the morning restaurant, having freshly squeezed Florida orange juice delivered to his plate as the maitre‘d asks, "I trust your sleep was enjoyable and relaxing Mr. Felder." I am broken out of this trance as the cashier in her Texan accent asks me a second time, "I said Ya’all want paper or plastic?" As I tell her my response, I wonder if I would have been treated differently if I wore a cabana shirt and Panama hat. Maybe my grandfather did find the best way to travel!!