By Travis Naughton
Author’s note: I strongly recommend reading today’s column aloud, preferably in your very best Southern accent, if you please.
Begging your pardon, kind lady (or gentleman), but would it be too great an imposition to ask you to indulge, for just a moment, this poor excuse for a writer from America’s heartland as he endeavors to relate to you the accounts of a journey taken recently by he and his family through the heart of Dixie? It would be my pleasure, and a great honor, to entertain you thusly.
After a good deal of contemplation and a fair amount of deliberation, my family and I set our Midwestern sights on a Southern destination that might fulfill our desire for relaxation and recreation for this summer’s vacation. We decided to follow the nose of our motorhome all the way to the sun-kissed beaches of Cape San Blas, Florida, some 950 miles away. My friend, I am thrilled and relieved to report that at approximately seven o’clock (Eastern Standard Time) last Sunday evening, the Naughton clan arrived, safe and sound, on the narrow peninsula situated in the breathtakingly beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
Naturally, the journey was not without its fair share of misadventures, misfortunes, and mistakes. It would not be a Naughton family vacation otherwise. After a local repair shop relieved me of some of my wife’s hard earned money as compensation for making operational the generator mounted in our recreational vehicle, we were all excited to be able to operate the generator-powered, roof-top air conditioning unit of our camper as we travelled down the highways of America’s hot and humid south. In the sixteen months that the motorhome has been in our possession, the generator has never worked without the vehicle being plugged into an external, fixed power source—which in my humble opinion defeats the very purpose of having a mobile power plant.
An intelligent person such as your self has likely already surmised that the generator failed us once again. During the first day of our journey, a five-hundred mile trip from Ashland, Missouri to just south of Nashville, Tennessee, the in-cabin temperature hovered around ninety degrees for the entirety of our drive. The dashboard air-conditioner worked, but was barely able to keep me from passing-out due to heat exhaustion as I negotiated the harrowing rush hour traffic of the Music City. (You might recall, loyal reader, the horror of last year’s R.V. gauntlet through the sweltering, hellish plains of Kansas when both the roof-top AND in-dash A/C units failed, forcing us to drive with the windows open at 70 miles per hour in 100 degree heat, which created a vortex of air pressure inside the vehicle that sucked the noxious gases from the on-board sewage tank into the passenger compartment. That was, a southern gentleman might say, as unpleasant as drinking unsweetened tea while listening to “Yankee-Doodle” and being forced to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide football team lose to Harvard.)
Nevertheless, we eventually made it to our destination, which was a perfectly delightful R.V. park about an hour south of Nashville. There I was impressed with the layout of the campground, the verdant environs, and the cleanliness of the facilities. Perhaps I was still a bit at-odds with the universe after the ordeal of the long, hot drive, because when I spotted a sign above the sink of the on-site restroom that warned, “Do not use hair dye, Do not wash your pets,” I shook my fist in righteous indignation and shouted, “Do not tell ME how to vacation!”
With a shock of freshly-colored, hot-pink hair and the cleanest schnauzer south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I prepared to disembark the following morning, setting my sights on the sugar sand beaches of Florida. Dreading another nine-hour day of sweating while cursing our faulty A/C, I decided to try, one last time, to get the generator running. It started on the very first try. Quickly, I climbed behind the wheel and steered the thirty-foot long rig onto Interstate 65 South, eager to bask in the glory of the cool, refreshing wind blowing through my hot-pink hair. For the next thirty-three minutes, I was the happiest man alive. Never has a human being been more content hurtling down the highway in a house-on-wheels. Then, as inexplicably as it started, the generator died. Because of course it did.
But when, eight and a half hours later, I saw the looks on the jubilant faces of my children as they dipped their toes into the ocean for the very first time… Well, you’ll have to grab some sweet tea and a copy of next week’s Journal to read about that.