10 May How I Blew Up the Water Tank in My Camper Van

I could have used another week to get ready for my 66-city book tour in my custom camper van. But, most likely, I would have said this no matter how much time I’d had to prepare. As it was, I got on the road after only a few hours’ sleep. Packing everything I might need for a month — into the tiny nooks and cabinets of my camper van — took longer than I had expected, even though I had started packing three days before taking off.

This first leg lasts one month and takes me down to New Orleans and back. Cleo, our basset hound, is with me. She’s such a good sport, always wagging her tail, always ready to hop out and explore. Right now she’s curled up on her bed just outside the van — on the asphalt. We’re parked in a Walmart lot and I’m writing this at the table of my tiny kitchen. It’s 1:00 AM and the lot is all but deserted. In the distance, I can hear the sputter of an RV’s generator. My generator makes no noise because it is solar-powered: four big panels on the roof. I’ll tell you all about the RV Walmart scene at another time.

It’s been a rough first few days because, as I said, I got started without sleep. Then a TV show I had lined up in Charleston changed my appearance date, so I had to drive from Raleigh, NC, to Charleston, SC for a 3-minute TV interview to promote my Thursday appearance in Charleston. Then I drove back to Raleigh for another reading — a seven hour round trip. So, for the second day, I once again got only a few hours of sleep.

I’m not much good when I’m sleepy. This may explain how I came to blow up the water tank under my camper van. The van, by the way, is very cool and everything is working well, except now I have no water — which means I can’t use the toilet. I hate having to hunt for a toilet.

I connected a hose to my water tank in order to fill it for the first time but I forgot to open my faucet, and so the pressure (65 PSI) built up in the tank. Before the tank was 1/4 full, it burst, sounding like the muted blast of a small cannon. Vaporized water drifted like smoke from the tank’s ruptured seams. I was so weary, I reacted with no more than a shrug, as if to say, “Oh, well, I guess I f**ked up.” My welder says he can fix it when I pit-stop in Baltimore at the end of the month.

As for other complications, my May bookings are half-baked because too many of them were late or last-minute due to the fact that, in booking May, we were relying on the book stores to be more responsive. Too many of them were very slow in getting back, which meant we were late getting to the preservation societies, which meant that there was little or no room on propsective supporters’ calendars. Which means that the people who should have and would have come out to see me were not able to. In short, May taught me to by-pass the book stores for subsequent bookings and go straight to the preservation socieites, which are really responsive and eager to support an event like mine.

Delayed bookings put everything behind, which means I didn’t get time to send out e-mail blasts and mine social media. I’ll scramble to do that this week. And what exactly is “an event like mine”? It’s a comic monologue with a slide show. It’s entertaining and of wide appeal. I say that in all modesty. Not only would you like it, but your mother and her friends would like it too.

I should mention that, as I’m traveling to 66 cities in 30 states, I am making a documentary called “Preseving America,” about preservationists and their work. Which means I’m video-interviewing these people. Not that I have time for that. But it does make the trip more interesting.

Finally, my plan to stay at campgrounds will not work, I have discovered, because state and national campgrounds close at night. Did you know this? I mean, they shut their gates at 9:00 PM. That means that, after my reading, I can’t get back to the campground in time, especially when most campgrounds are about 10 miles from town. I could stay in commercial campgrounds but they cost $35-$50. a night. I can’t spend that kind of money to park someplace. So here I am, at Walmart.

Tonight I’m in Charleston. I got good PR here — TV, newspaper, etc. — so it should be interesting to see what the turn-out will be. Should I mention that last night at the Columbia, S.C., Barnes & Noble not a single person showed up?