Kindness in America

Musings as my year-long RV journey comes to a close.

If you’re not comfortable asking for help, don’t travel by yourself and certainly don’t travel in an RV. While technically I may have been solo on this adventure, I was far from alone. Assistance was abundant from strangers and family, friends and acquaintances, blog followers and mechanics.

Three Wise Men

It turns out you can love men whom you barely know. I have no idea how these particular men take their eggs, but I do know that they are kind, caring, and honorable. And I know that without them, my trip would have been exponentially more stressful.

  1. The Tire Guy–Kieran at Gran Turismo in Chamblee wouldn’t hear of me having the tires rotated and balanced at some retail chain. Gasp! Only independent shops where the owners are mechanics–like him. So he asked me to be in touch at maintenance time and he would contact his tire distributor to find the equivalent of his shop–wherever I was. One such place told me that a tire pull should be covered under warranty and to go to the dealer. Ford was having none of it and confusing me, so I called Kieran. He in turn called the dealer, and suddenly the replacement tires were covered under warranty. I swooned.
  2. The Transmission Guy–Scott at Mr. Transmission on Lawrenceville Highway in Decatur amped the transmission in preparation for towing the trailer over hill and over dale. I called him with questions at the beginning: can I use cruise control, how fast can I go, please explain shifting gears. Then the transmission pump valve broke, leaking fluid and making acceleration, well, impossible. He diagnosed from Atlanta while I was in New Mexico and he called to check in before I had the chance to report to him about what transpired at the dealer. I felt supported.
  3. The Hitch Guy–Bob at Hitch House didn’t just install a hitch and brake; he taught me how to drive with a rig. We tested side mirrors; I called to find out if I could sleep in the rig while it’s hitched (sometimes you pull into a campground when passing through and don’t set up camp); can I drive in the rain; is this RV repairman legit or selling me a load of crap? I felt relief.

I can’t wait to see friends and family. And I’m just as tickled to give each of these men a huge hug!

People with a Sixth Sense

Folks who are former and/or current RVers are excellent contacts. I sent many frantic emails to my friend Seth, Mom’s friends Penny & Trez, and Dad’s friend-of-a-friend Alan. Beyond the obvious gift of their patience, what’s incredible is that even with my ridiculous descriptions, they understood.

  • The water smells even worse that usual.
    • Are you at the beach? If so, then it’s ok. (I was at the beach)
  • The “warning” light above the fridge is on but it won’t tell me what to be warned about.
    • Did you turn off the fridge and/or refill the propane tank? If so, mash every button related to both and the light will clear. (I had filled the propane tank)
  • The light for the water heater is going dim. Does that mean the panel lightbulb is burning out or something’s going wrong with the heater?
    • It’s the panel. [We] leave the water heater on all the time. Ignore and continue life as normal.

This is talent, people. And there’s a possibility that I may now serve this role for cousins who leave on their year-long RV journey in a few weeks. Wowza.

Are You Dead?

The kindness of strangers is not mythical and it’s not just a bumper sticker.

  • It was over 100 degrees and I hadn’t left my camper all day. An AC that sounds like a plane inside is surprisingly quiet outside. My campground neighbor was concerned, so sent her husband over to make sure I wasn’t dead. We were equally stunned to see each other at the door.
  • This city girl gets excited about crops and flowers–and shockingly gets things wrong sometimes. You fine readers educate me–and each other.
  • An inexperienced snorkeler, I was prone to hyperventilating as I acclimated to the mask. Poke my head up, swim to the nearest human, and ask if I can hold onto them while I catch my breath. They always said yes, and always waited patiently.

Facebook and My Father

  • Jonathan and I haven’t seen each other since a post-high school encounter in the Blockbuster parking lot. But he lives in Mexico and advised on safety for visiting Big Bend National Park. Ardy is a cousin I recall meeting only once, but there must be other times–we’re of different generations and she lived in Hawaii for decades. So she helped me plan that month-long trip.
  • Facebook has been a G-dsend. It keeps me in touch with friends, and is an awesome way to get opinions about destinations. Plus, when there’s confusion about technology or, well, it’s always technology, my friends from today and from 30 years ago generously share their knowledge.
  • My Dad researched SUVs and RVs; I call to talk about the romance of mile-long trains and to ask why water towers are so tall; there are panicked moments when the black tank spilled (use kitty litter) and there’s been an accident of a different kind (the woman didn’t drive when the light turned green and seems to be faking an injury). Mom says that all of my calls to him have brought him on the trip in a way. It’s a romantic notion.

When we live in our bubble world of daily life, we may not realize how often we ask for help–because we already know who to go to. How lucky to have an innate support system. How wonderful to be able to take it for granted–just don’t take it for granted. And we likely don’t think of strangers as kind, because they’re just those idiots in traffic, and people who move slowly at the grocery store. But I’m willing to bet that they’re neighborly almost all the time.

Americana the Beautiful. Americana the Helpful.

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Who was helpful to you today?

16 Responses

05.12.13

Howdy! Loved this post. What a fun adventure.
I didn’t venture out of the house today, but my hubby was helpful to me as I am trying to fight off an evil GI virus.
I love finding strangers that are nice. I love good people. I agree that they are most everywhere. Hugs!

Betsey/Ellie – your house has had too much tummy trouble. Glad you had kindness at home – even that should be honored!

05.12.13

Your blogs are always helpful to me :). And so is captain morgan 🙂

Jef – your humor is always helpful to me. And so is vodka.

05.12.13

I love this post! I have always found people to be helpful and kind in my travels across this country. On our trip from Chicago to Reno, we met some of the most amazing and kind people. I am a bit bummed that you are going back, but I understand, and I cant wait to hear about the next phase of your life. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey!

Danielle – glad that you found kind people, too!

05.12.13

Lovely, tear invoking post. Admire your attitude and appreciate how appreciative you are. Glad to hear that when you needed to depend on the kindness of strangers that they were not strange but definitely kind. Will miss your blog, your travels, and your insight into both places and people.

Raye – thanks for the anticipatory miss of the blog. But fret not, while this one ends, another will begin. Stay tuned.

05.12.13

Your Comment
Dear Paula

I am sure you see the world differently now
a year of learning,
a year of awe
a year of humility
but most of all
as Blanche said :’ i am dependent on the kindness of strangers’
you have depended
and have truly found the kindness of strangers
a lesson learned not just for you
but for those of us who have tried to follow your Journey
see you soon!!

Monica – beautifully said.

05.12.13

Your Comments So when is the book coming out?

Roberta – when is a book coming out? I don’t know! We’ll see what time brings… Thanks for the enthusiasm!

05.12.13

Lovely to hear that there is still good in the world! And while I do believe this to be true, it helps that you are who you are. Who wouldn’t want to help you? 🙂

Debbie – what a sweet thing to say!

I’m glad to hear that you will probably still be sharing your experiences and thoughts in some fashion. I think you can just continue on so you don’t confuse your followers. Some of us confuse easily. 😉

Your observations had me flashing back to that Anne Frank quote written in her diary in the secret annex, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I guess to perhaps an astounding degree, that’s true—but there is evil out there and sometimes goodness gets overwhelmed for awhile in some people.

What are you going to do with your trailer after you return home? Do you still have a home of your own?

Suzanne – the trailer will be sold. realities of budget. And no – i don;t have a palce of my own–sold my house to pay for this trip. I’ll live with family with a 3-month curfew and then find an apt.

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