There is some kind of weird mojo that happens when you buy a caravan. I think you put out a scent that other caravaners pick up on or something because all of a sudden, whenever we are out in public, we hesitate in a step, and we are surrounded by caravanners, slapping us on the back, telling us their life stories, and showing us pictures on their phones.
Everyone is “Del and Betty” or “Bernie and Sue.” They have cute little names for their caravans, matching shirts, and they know everything about caravanning. Except …. everyone’s “everything knowing” is diametrically opposed to everyone else’s. It’s a three ring circus minus that flying monkeys but with a really freaky sideshow.
We start hearing stories about the dangers of “some of those idiots” out there. These are stories about the very young, the very wealthy, and basically anyone who doesn’t do it like they do. People warn us about things get stolen, how some parks cheat you and how people siphon diesel. People warn us about “Al and Barb from Queensland” driving a later model Jayco, who you can’t get rid of if they latch on to you. They talk caravan dealers and tell you tons of horror stories about your dealer, reciting the same crap you hear 90 million times at the caravan shows and dealers. They usually start with things like “You won’t find another dealer who makes their hinges like ours does . . . “
What the heck is it with everyone and their stupid hinges?
Then we hear about the modifications they have made, the places they have been and I have to stand back because in a pissing contest of these proportions everyone is in danger from the spray . . .
It actually was kind of scary, initially because the first wave of caravaners that found us tended to be the loudest, most colourful ones in any given crowd. It was the guy with a beard to his large belly, without a shirt on, shorts hanging off his butt and no shoes – not even thongs hanging off his deeply yellowed toenails. The wife was in a muumuu or a bathing suit cover-up that she decided was probably good enough to pass for a dress, but it isn’t. They all know one another. And they hug . . . a lot. And they reminisce about the great times they had at the park last February when they re-enacted Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
But even when you talk to non-caravaners, they have opinions. They warn us that 37% of all caravanners are wife swappers and that there is a universal code – a green triangle or something on the side of the caravan, that lets everyone know you are one of them. I immediately began searching through the pics I had taken of the caravan, scouring every inch to see if there were any green anything anywhere . . .
I think Derek disappeared down the green decal aisle …
I did begin to wonder if we did the right thing.
Derek kept talking about how awesome it was going to be and he led me to the stores where we began to shop for everything we would need. Of course, Australia has a “rubber store” which rivals any fabric or craft store you have ever seen. The rubber store had shopping carts and aisles. I just followed Derek, looking at everything and asking “why?” We went to other stores. We ran through the aisles throwing in toasters and coffee makers. We were like kids running through the house grabbing things for our new clubhouse we had just built up in a tree. We were going to make it so awesome. We were going to make it ours. You have no idea how hard it was to keep Derek from wanting to pee on the caravan to mark his territory.
But I had so many questions and I was so confused. The wait was killing me, all that time to worry. We were going to be Grey Nomads, part of a group, our own senile gang of peeps, united by the fact we would be the most hated people on the road. What is a Nomad anyway? Is it just a mistake that “Mad” is part of the word? What were we going to name our caravan? Did Derek need to start growing a beard? Where could I buy a muumuu? Where does one get a Priscilla costume? Was there a sticker we could find that said “committed 63%er?” Should we both be drinking more beer? How was I supposed to figure this all out?
We scrambled to adjust our travel plans on the run. 5 days was now going to be more like two weeks, and while the resort we were staying in at Ballarat was happy to have us stay, it meant we would be doing a daily room shuffle except for one day when we would have to find accommodation elsewhere. That meant we had to check out by 11:00 and could not come back for the new room until 3:00. It gave us something to do. We became experts on packing and unpacking and allowing each other to live through the process.
The one day we had to find somewhere else, we decided, just for giggles to leave Ballarat and actually go and stay in Melbourne. So, we found a boutique type of hotel fairly close in and booked in for a couple days of immersing ourselves in the city we had been, up to that point, visiting a day here and a day there. In hindsight, perhaps we should have just slept in the car, in the parking lot of the resort.
Others in this series: Prologue 1: We Bought A Caravan.