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More Dogs on Main Street

I spent last weekend in Springdale, hiking in Zion and riding some great bike trails around the Hurricane area. Things were sloppy mud around here, too cold and wet to do much outside, and yet too nice to be comfortable inside looking out. So there was nothing left to do but pack up the VW bus and head south. It was perfect. It was a little cool in the mornings, and there was one day of rain but, mostly, it was just fine in a T-shirt and shorts. It was the last gasp of the season down there, and Springdale was closing up. Restaurants were closed, shops were open but without merchandise to sell. On the one rainy day, I discovered that I hadn’t packed any rain gear. So I set out to add yet another of those $25 waterproof pullovers to the extensive collection that was left at home. It couldn’t be done. Everything was sold out.

Some friends from Ketchum were there, and we connected despite the best efforts of the cell-phone system. I’ve been getting ads that my phone carrier will soon be providing video service on the cell phone, so I can listen to music and watch videos on the phone. While driving. I guess that’s interesting, but what I’d really like is cell-phone service that will complete a call without disconnecting, and "instant messages" that are delivered more or less instantly. I’ve been home for a week, and I’m still getting messages from Harry telling me which trail they are hiking in Zion and that I should meet them at the I-Max theater for the penguin movie.

My friends from Ketchum are interesting people. They spent most of their lives in Hawaii, which as you know, is an island quite a ways away from anyplace else. Yet you could drop them on Mars and within about a half hour, they would have run into several people they know, and she would pull a plate of hors d’oeuvres out of thin air. So the meeting in Zion ended up including two other couples from Idaho, another friend from Park City and a couple from Vail. Plus some other people in the campground who just joined in when they saw a plate of food.

They travel in style. For all the years I’ve known them, they have had a big travel trailer, usually an Air Stream with all the bells and whistles. They drag it all over the country, spending a month here and a month there with all the comforts of home. This year, they upgraded to a big motor home. I’ve never really looked at one of those up close before, and it is a different world. It’s not the trailer your Uncle Jim drags up in the hills for the deer hunt. They have one of those Greyhound bus-based things. The technical term for it is a "Class A" motor home. It’s basically a five-star hotel suite on wheels. The interior takes its cues from yachts, and is all beautifully done woodwork, with ceramic tile floors, granite counter tops and leather seating. The campground provided high-speed Internet connections as well as water, sewer and power. The thing has two bathrooms, which is more than I have in my house, a big bedroom, well-equipped kitchen, washer and dryer, and a refrigerator bigger than my van.

The mechanical systems on it are as complicated as a submarine. It would run on normal utility connections at a campground, on self-contained tanks and generators, or in emergencies, on the nuclear reactor in one of the compartments under the floor. It was a pretty amazing piece of equipment, and retails for about the price of a mid-range house in Park Meadows. Then you add in a place to store it, insurance, tires, 150 gallons of diesel per fill, a car to tow behind, and before long, it’s clear that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

They travel around and make extended stays at places that, to the untrained eye, look like trailer parks. I was pretty skeptical of moving from the campground in Zion to the RV "Resort." But it turns out that when you cluster about 50 of these rolling Ritz-Carlton suites together, you end up with something that feels a lot like the Ritz-Carlton, only there are big tires in the lobby. There was a concierge, a host who arranged (and shuttled) interesting hikes for the guests, a hot tub, pool, game room, party room, and pet care. The weather forecast appeared under the windshield wiper every morning. This was not your Moon Mullins trailer park. Everybody there had a complete set of teeth.

For those of us sleeping in the VW van (which most assumed was the servants’ quarters), it was still a luxury experience, though the bathroom was a bit of a hike. For visitors who did not come equipped with their own shelter, there were cabins for rent. These were basically Tuff-Sheds with an air conditioner stuck in the wall. The couple from Vail ended up in one of the Tuff-Sheds, and found it to be, well, tuff. But what do you expect when you come to a campground not prepared to camp? Nobody said it was a hotel.

They are staying there for about a month. Many of the other people in the park live in their motor homes full-time, spending a month here and a month there, modern nomads in search of cheap diesel fuel and mild temperatures.

The drive home was headlong into a raging blizzard of potato chip snowflakes. It was a shocking change of climate, from 70 degrees to 0 over night. But with one last desert weekend behind me, I’m ready for the ski season to begin.


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