As the temperature reached a very comfortable (for a cactus) 103* outside yesterday, I sat with an ocsilating fan perched on a box of record blowing on me. The AC had gone out in the “Emergency Living Unit” that we bought a few weeks ago.
I know, I know, “Emergency Living Unit” seems like a really harsh term for a perfectly nice camper, but whenever I grasp at the camper door, my eyes can’t help but be attracted to it. A sticker, directly next to where you have to wrap your fingers around the white metal that opens the door, reminds you that this is not a typical RV. Stated on the same sticker that says “Emergency Living Unit” is the phrase, “Not suitable for recreational purposes”. Great no, fun is allowed to be had in the old E.L.U.
I know enough to know why, but it’s still quite amusing to me. This plain Jane tin box was a purpose built bumper pull unit from Gulf Stream Coach, right in Napanee, Indiana. For those that have been reading my junk for a few years, this location might seem familiar. For those that aren’t seasoned veterans of “The Adventures”, I’ll just summarize it this way, I spent a hell of a lot of time in Napanee, picking up RV’s for transport. This white unit that I’m calling home at the second made somebody very happy and secure at one time in it’s life.
I did some research into this particular model, the “Emergency Living Unit”, and found that it was produced in response to Hurricane Katrina. The amount of units that were available in contrast to those that were actually produced was astounding, which many people being put on a waiting list months long. Gulf Stream put their profits aside for a while and worked with FEMA to produce low cost, home like bumper-pull models to house those displaced and pretty much homeless. It is very likely that this particular unit saved someone from homelessness.
When we first set eyes on the E.L.U, I could tell it wasn’t a stereotypical RV. After looking at probably close to a hundred RV’s while doing transport, this one lacked so much complexity. Doing a once over, I realized that it was built to be an actual house, not a thrown together weekend warrior toy. The floors were actually solid and made of a decent material, the electrical was ample enough to meet the demands of a person needing a real housing unit. Hell, even the storage makes sense. Although these were not built to travel to Yellowstone and create a picture perfect family vacation, they’re damn well built (except for the windows, but that’s another story).
Broad strokes here, some people look at my decision to move west, pioneer new ground and live in a camper as reckless. Moving across country, to place that has incredibly hostile weather, full of strangers, and without having a place to live right away wasn’t really a pleasure trip. It wasn’t the first time I’d done it before though either. “Why there?” “What’d you move there for?” and my personal favorite, “When are you coming home?” are some questions I’ve been fielding for the extent I’ve been gone.
A better question for you is, why are you still there? Why didn’t you move? What keeps you in Colby, Kansas? Why are you so keen on staying in Missoula, Montana? Are you really that happy in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Granted, this whole trip could have been plotted out a little bit better, fine tuned around some corners and I could have honed in on a career BEFORE moving, but hey, when the road calls, I listen.
Take the van for a second, Tan Van, we’ll call him (because he’s so much more than such a van. This son-of-a-bitch toted almost 4,000 pounds of U-Haul trailer with his over 40 year old body. It’s questionable as to how many miles he had when we started the trip in South Carolina, but my approximation is that we’ve put at least 7,500 miles on him with side adventures to all states surrounding us and the whole California trip. The 318 four barrel decided it was up to the job, grumping a little bit at times, but never gave up. “Oh, you want to go up that hill, that’s cool, but I can’t sprint. We’re going to have to hang with the big trucks.” Mechanically, that damn van made me proud, and maybe gave me the feeling that everything was going to be okay.
The fan persisted to perform, when hell, I’d probably have given up. Countless bottles of oil, puking out the main seal, a transmission leak that seems to never be fixed, and those same four bullet holes we started with just make him more loveable. I mean right now I’m looking out the window at it, haphazardly parked at an angle next to the E.L.U and he looks like he’s smiling.
He’s fucking smiling at me. A goofy, toothless grin that you’d see at a family reunion or something. He’s a friend right now. I hate him at times, but if that van had a set of arms, I’m promising you it’d offer you a hug. He has lasted 40+ years of god knows what sort of owners, what sort of weather he’s driven through, and just think about the number of times he’s probably been pooped on. He hasn’t given up. People might have given up on him, which led to him being sold, then sold again.
The legend is he lived on an Air Base in New Mexico. Legend is he was owned by a teenage girl with dreadlocks. Stories have been told that he toted a young man to California and back with his lady friend and newborn child. Word on the street is he’s been seen in a few cheesy 70’s movies. Will I ever know the real story, no. Does that make me love him less, absolutely not.
Which is the same attitude I have towards the E.L.U. I place myself in the shoes of whomever needed this damn camper, who was going through some heavy shit and was more than likely sleeping on a cot in a gymnasium somewhere. Flood, hurricane, tornado, whatever displaced the people that needed this are so much larger than what I’m facing right now. I can imagine the fear going through the natural disaster, the aftermath of seeing the destruction, then the attempt at rebuilding a new life. The need for a healing space was absolutely crutial, and I feel like this particular FEMA camper did it’s damn job.
Traces of small nail holes plague every single flat surface, which leads me to believe there were framed family pictures everywhere. The floors themselves, although old, have been treated like they’re made of gold, with actual floor wax and a shine better than we can put on most cars. Even the toilet looks like people scrubbed it with toothbrushes. This was not taken advantage of, this E.L.U wasn’t just a Unit to someone, it was home. A safe place to heal from the storm.
Although I complained about the air conditioning going out, it was temporary. All of my memories that I packed along in a Merrill shoe box was in tact. My dog was happily sleeping on the couch, a little hot, but happy. My health is paramount, I have taken up running again, all of my faculties are in order. Beer is cold in the fridge. When I think my life is rough, I take a moment to look outside and read those words “Emergency Living Unit” and life isn’t that bad all of a sudden. It could be different, we could still be living in the van (not in a bad way, I mean, the van had all the facilities that the E.L.U does), but something good things happen and you can’t explain why.
We accidentally found the E.L.U, due to my need for a beer on a hot day. Great, right? Upon stopping in a roadside tavern and being nice to the right people, opportunities started opening up. The E.L.U was right next door, needed a new family to take it over for a low, low price. Although we weren’t in an “emergency”, we sort of needed a “living unit”. At this very moment, I’ve had more productive typing time on my old machine in the E.L.U than I have at my real desk back in South Carolina. Something about peering out the window at the Black Mountains give me motivation. The cold beer in the fridge I can access without leaving my chair is pretty handy too.
As of right now, after digging into the E.L.U, I’ve found that we’ve been living in a toxic pit. The same era of emergency was the same era of urgency. They produced a shit ton of toxic domiciles, which were stickered as “dangerous for habitation.” After peeling a sticker off, these campers were moved to less conspicuous locations and sold as-is. This is our case right now, an investment in a toxic camper. Oddly enough, since we’ve been here, it’s been a roller coaster of issues. Something inside reminded me I knew something about these trailers, my nosebleed made me dig deeper.
I know I posted the fiction piece, and perhaps that was a bit forward on my part. The donation link wasn’t supposed to be a “cyber-beg” and for anyone that took it that way, I’m incredibly sorry if that’s how it came across. I don’t look for handouts, and love being able to provide entertainment in prose form. I am still going to be doing restricted content posts, but again, it’s not begging, it’s business.
Enough with the jabber, how about another rousing fun edition of Where’s Nikki? Since it’s so hot, I’m going to feature something really cool.
- Let’s talk about a little town, that was a whole lot of nothing for a really long time. Unlike many towns that we’ve covered that got excited when the train came to town, they could have cared less. People didn’t flood the town square and built stations. The train came, and a few years later, that’s when the town folks came in, around 1902-1910 to be more precise.
- Being an area ridden with extreme climates, pioneers weren’t really in love with the territory. In fact, the settlers that decided it was the place for them couldn’t have chosen something more polar opposite than they were used to. The majority of the settlers were Croatian, a few Serbians fell into the mix, but not many. These settlers, pioneers really, were less than educated, most males lacking more than a four year education and women with less. That didn’t slow the community of blue collared workers, though, they flourished.
- Tourism is slim to none in this area, lacking anything to really write home about. Vast terrain and wide open spaces offer nothing for the outdoors enthusiast and the nearest “big” city is at least an hour away. Located on a stretch of highway dotted with tiny towns, there are no neon lights to point you here…unless you’re attracted to oversize tacky roadside attractions. This town is home to the largest, ahem, statue of it’s kind (he might be related to my fire plug friend, I’m not sure). Cheesy selfie-fiends find themselves roadside snapping shots with this attraction. No fee is collected, aside from the taxing boredom of travelling through this town.
Comment below with your ideas as to where he is. After the location is properly selected, I’ll post the picture of me with the big landmark that made this town famous.
*Update, the mystery as been solved, the location is Kenaston, Saskatchewan. A lovely little nothing with an even lovelier snowman!
in the mean time, make sure you follow us on the Instagram (not really, it’s a crock of bologna, but the tan van wanted a site) LecroyMoDetail, it’s the site, check it out if you like photos of old tan vans and an ancient Beagle mutt.