Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

April 1, 2004. On my own at last!

Iím finally on my own, camping with Matilda at a county park outside of Charleston, South Carolina. My first night really traveling in a van, without moving all my things inside to sleep in someoneís spare room or spare apartment. I love it. I got to this park at noon, pulled into my space, plugged

into the electricity, and lit the stove for the first time to cook myself (well, okay, heat up) some soup for lunch, while listening to the local NPR station on the radio. For the first time I feel like Matilda is my home, not a cumbersome form of transportation. I asked a courteous man in the adjacent campsite to help me raise the pop-top so I wouldnít have to unload the kayak Ė that may turn out to be the easiest way to deal with that problem. And then I headed into Charleston on my bike to see what I could see.

Iím not a very good tourist, really Iím not. I didnít have the energy to try to understand Charleston as I tried to understand Savannah. I knew I only had one day to poke around there. I just donít care too much about historic houses, and while the gardens are pretty Iím not really interested in paying a lot of money to see old furniture and more displays of azaleas and wisteria, even though they are all quite lovely. I dutifully biked around the

shoreline, checked out the battery with its cannons and fortifications on the sea, the waterfront park, the city market, and a few other things, but it left me dragging. I traipsed through a lovely cemetery next to a Unitarian church, then found a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee, and then gave myself permission to head back out on my bike and return to the park.

I did a few laps around the campground on my bike, initially to look for other vanagons (none), but then to gawp at the RVs parked in the other sites. Amazing. Those things are HUGE! There are people driving oversized buses, trailers that pop up, forward, and sideways, arrangements that expand with awnings and tents. They have strings of lights trailing around their campers, lights over their doors, decorative balls of light in pink and purple, large-screen TVs inside, satellite dishes on top. One has an illuminated head of Christ that glows in their windshield in the dark.

Another has a big tent coming off the side of his vehicle, under which he has a table with a proper lamp and what looked like an office chair next to it. A family with a huge vehicle expanded in every direction also had a screened tent off their side entrance filled with luggage and a separate screened dining room where a table was set for dinner for six.

And they all sit inside their big vehicles and no one seems to talk to each other. Whatís the point? Maybe Iím too young for them, though Ė this is a very retired-looking crowd. Like the tourists in Savannah and Charleston, all AARP members, white-haired couples visiting in retirement the places they never had time to get to before. They seem to travel in groups, too. Two couples stopped me in Charleston to ask for directions Ė I had to laugh as I asked them if I didnít look like a tourist myself. I hope I get to talk to some of them more Ė they seem to live in a world quite different from the one I live in now, or am ever likely to live in.

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