Ramblin’ Road: King and I aren’t really in ‘Nomadland’

Phyllis McCrossin

by Phyllis McCrossin

Since the release of the movie Nomadland last year, I’ve found a lot of people kind of raise their eyebrows when they learn King and I live full-time in our travel trailer. They assume we are destitute or some such thing.

The movie, based on real-life nomads, depicts the lives of those who live in vans, cars, and converted cargo trailers. In reality there are a variety of people who find themselves living full-time in a home on wheels.

The first are those who purchased huge travel trailers, fifth wheel rigs or motor homes. They may travel from place to place, as King and I do, or they may have a brick and mortar home and travel during the winter months, heading for warmer climates when the temperature dips.  They stay at modern RV parks with all the amenities – pools, wifi, clubhouses, golf courses and more.

I once ran into a friend in a grocery store who fell into this category. She hadn’t changed much from the days when our kids were in 4-H together. She is one of those people who never listened when another person was talking. After telling her King and I lived in an small, rehabbed travel trailer, full time, she proceeded to tell me she and her husband had just purchased a larger fifth wheel as “our old trailer was too small for the two of us to live in six months of the year.”

I smiled and said something about how it must be difficult to live in a cramped space.

I have another friend who travels in their small travel trailer during the winter months, stays in remote campgrounds (it’s call boondocking) and enjoys hiking, kayaking and biking during their travels.

On the other end of the spectrum are those depicted in the movie – those who can no longer afford to live in what the majority of the population believe is the norm. They are the ones who travel from place to place looking for work and living on part-time job wages and Social Security (if they are eligible). They stay at more rustic campgrounds, work as campground hosts, and often find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

King and I fall somewhere in between the three.

This is our adventure and we don’t plan to go broke doing it. We did the normal 9 to 5 career thing, raised our children, welcomed grandchildren, retired.  We tried our hand at being caretakers on a hobby farm for grins (it was fun) and decided to become wanderers.

We spend our winters in southern California mostly because we want to help our daughter with day care. We travel to Michigan in the summer so King can play golf. Our savings would make the more conservative retiree cringe, but we make it work. Last summer I worked at a retail store in South Haven. The jury is out as to whether I will do it again. If I do, it will be more to help out a friend than for income (although I’m not noble enough to do it for free). King will probably, once again, work at the campground in exchange for a free site.

I don’t know how long we can do this. Right now our health allows us the freedom. I don’t know that it always will. We are very much aware that we won’t live forever.

But in the meantime, this week – our week off from babysitting – we did a little exploring. It doesn’t take much to keep us entertained. Just 10 miles from our campsite is the El Capitan reservoir. One would never know it’s there except for the small brown sign, bearing its name and an arrow pointing in the correct direction. The sign is just before the 7-11 where we get our gas and King buys his scratch-off lottery tickets.

The reservoir was created in 1935 with the completion of El Capitan Dam on the San Diego River. That same year, the reservoir was connected to San Diego’s water system via pipeline. San Diego is 30 miles away. According to the reservoir’s website it had the largest capacity in the city’s reservoir system until the San Vicente Dam project was completed in 2015.

To get there we drove through the countryside past some small farms and horse ranches. Then the road ended and turned into a narrow two-lane that twists around some mountains (no guardrails) and opens to a large parking lot. The fee to get in was $8, but there was no one at the gate, so we got out, snapped some photos and left.

The fishing is reportedly pretty good and we passed some trucks pulling fishing boats in as we were on the way out. A check at the website also indicates there is no swimming but water skiing is allowed. In my younger days I did a considerable amount of water skiing. There were occasions when I would take off from a dock, but most of the time I was in the water before taking off. Apparently in California being in the water before skiing is not considered swimming. When full the reservoir is 197 feet deep (it’s currently 118 feet deep), so perhaps treading water is also not considered swimming. 

Until next week, make all your memories good ones.

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