11 Nov Jill’s Travel Trailer On the Road

During election week, Jill and I took our travel trailer on the road—to Assateague National Seashore and points south. The trailer isn’t yet fully restored. It’s a huge project, building (pretty much from scratch) a tiny house on wheels. I’ll post a complete profile of the trailer when it’s complete, probably in another two months. Still, it’s livable at this point: the beds are in, the stove and heater work, and, most important, so does the toilet.


As I drove, Jill read me all the news and updates. What a wild and scary ride we Americans took that week! Jill and I talked for hours and hours about how things could go; and we’re still talking, speculating about a very changed political landscape in our riven nation. It will take years, probably decades, to recover from the damage already done.


Foremost of our worries is the cost of healthcare. Next year my subsidized insurance expires (part of my retirement severance package) and Jill goes on the open market for insurance. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts: of those Americans who go bankrupt, 60% do so because of healthcare costs. The U.S. is the only “developed” nation whose citizens regularly, consistently, face financial ruin when they get seriously sick. As long as health insurance is big business–and big business is first and foremost dedicated to making a profit—the insurance companies will make sure we don’t get “socialized” medicine. The most recent bottom-line impasse we encountered was Cigna’s refusal to pay for a second PET scan, the most thorough full-body scan. Instead, they sent Jill for two chcaper (less accurate) scans.


Though Jill is walking with a cane, we were able to do some antiquing, which we love. We also saw some historic houses and toured Jamestown, where the English got their first toehold on the continent. Sadly, within a few decades they had murdered the native inhabitants, Powhattans, so that the English could move inland to better digs. The English were woefully ill-equipped for pioneer life. The Indians helped them at first but the invasive, importuning settlers kept wanting more. How American is that?


Maisie and Oliver traveled with us, of course. True to the basset hound’s low-key temperament, they had no reaction to the wild horses on Assateague. Their attitude was pretty much, So what? Our first evening, as Jill and I were walking to the dumpster, I fell behind to pull some thorns from Maisie’s paws. I had the flashlight. Jill was ahead in the darkness. The moon had yet to rise. When I caught up with her, we were startled to discover we were standing just five feet from an Assateague stallion. Any other dogs would have been barking madly at a large, wild animal. Not basset hounds.


We quickly distanced ourselves from the stallion but then he and one of his “harem” started pursuing us. Wild horses can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they think you have something they want, like the small bag of garbage Jill was carrying. I turned around, raised my arms over my head, and shouted, “Back! Back!” as if yelling at the dogs when they rush the front door before I open it. My shouting worked: the horses stopped and Jill and I returned to our camp site.


Our travel trailer is spacious enough to provide a seating area with a small table, as well as a long couch, a kitchenette, and a tiny bathroom. While I make dinner, Jill reads to me, sometimes news, sometimes an essay, and occasionally a poem. After dinner, we play old games at the table, like gin rummy and Perquackey. We also watch movies on our portable DVD player. Most campsites are so removed from civilization, you’re lucky to get phone reception.  Forget streaming. And that’s the point. But not everybody appreciates such removal. We stayed at one state campground that was little more than a large grass parking lot, the campers packed one next the other with no demarcation between sites. The place was crowded with squealing children, yapping dogs, wandering teens. We could see big-screen TVs blazing inside family-sized RVs. There were campfires too. And somebody nearby was enjoying a doob.


Vacationing at a campground like that is analogous to spending your summer at Ocean City, Maryland, a noisy, crowded tourist mecca. But, for some, that’s fine–it’s enough just to get away, especially now during the pandemic. Wherever you go, BTW, you need reservations at the campsite. Everywhere we went, the campgrounds were full.


Jill and I are planning other trips. But it’s hard to say how far we might go, since Jill’s cancer remains unpredictable and fairly incapacitating. If it’s a bad day, she can’t sit for long in the truck, for instance. Even though she’s taking pain pills throughout the day, sometimes I forget she’s on heavy-duty opioids in addition to her cancer medication. One side effect of the medication is painful neuropathy in her hands–a tingling that burns. Sometimes her hands are simply numb and she has to slap at them to revive any feeling. Just the other day she was digging into her purse for a pain pill and I thought, “Will I be taking her purse to Good Will someday soon? And that antique pill box, what will I do with that?” I hate myself for thinking such things but they come unbidden and shake me to my core.


We continue to “organize” our household, trying to slim down and get ready for whatever. Still, Jill likes looking for bargain antiques and continues to talk of our future, even in the face of her limited time. I’ll happily listen to whatever future she wants to imagine and I’ll nod my head agreeably when she says, “Maybe we can get some chickens?” I don’t discount maybes.


If you know of anybody who can help fund Jill’s cancer treatment, please send them here: Jill’s GoFundMe page