Marie-Hélène and I disagreed on pretty much everything, when you think about it. She is the soul of discretion: I have a big mouth. I rarely worry about what others might think: she rarely forgets what others might think. I spend: she saves. We lived with these fundamental differences, most of the time, and adapted ourselves around them, essentially agreeing to differ. But there were a few topics which were simply impossible to live with while we were together. One was RVs.
We bought our first motor home on credit early in 1998 when I was offered the job at Wilson Sonsini. It had been a rough year, losing our furniture and Nick and Tom, and I wanted a treat. RVs are one of my quirky favorites, like steam trains. As soon as it became clear that revenue was sure for at least a while, I succumbed to the American dream of buying on credit, made a ridiculously small down-payment, and borrowed most of the price over 15 years. The payments were only about $580 per month, and the interest was tax deductible as the RV was considered a second home for tax purposes. “I love America,” I sang to myself the day that I drove it home, “especially American financing.”
Back in France, before we moved to the US and before we got married, Marie-Hélène had rented a small RV with me to go to Normandy one weekend. She had appeared to enjoy herself on that short trip, even when the storm hit on the Saturday night with the rain pounding on our rented roof. Here in California, a year or two later, she was more reserved, as you can hear in the name that she spontaneously christened the RV: “Edgar.” The Edgar whom she had in mind was the butler in the Disney film “The Aristocats” who tried to poison his mistress’s cats. Not an auspicious origin for the name, and Edgar’s role in the household was less than auspicious.
Our first family trip in the RV was timed to coincide with Nick and Tom’s April 1998 visit during their French school holidays. I enthusiastically drove us all up to Truckee and Lake Tahoe in the snow for some winter sports. Beautiful snow, warm late-season skiing, the idea looked great to me. And here was a way to share my hobby with all the family! There were eight of us, including a three-month old baby, sleeping in the motorhome.
Okay, so you women are starting to see the germ of a problem!
Not me. I was thrilled with my new toy. When my long hours of work at Wilson Sonsini made an hour’s commute each way every day almost impossible, I parked Edgar in a trailer park only a 15 minute commute from the firm and lived in it during the week. It was the internet bubble period, and eighteen hour days were the norm in Silicon Valley’s largest high-tech law firm. I saved real money relative to the excessive cost of a studio apartment near the firm, if one could have been found.
In short, I did not see any problem with Edgar, at least not at first. The opinions of the stuffy people who laughed at me for spending my work weeks living in an RV did not preoccupy me. Not everyone understands RVs, and I’m fine with that. There were beds for seven of the family, and Alex slept in his baby bed. The dinette in the photo below turned into a short but double wide bed for two of the children, and the sofabed was a queen for three. The slide, visible from the outside in the photo above and from the inside below, created a real sense of space inside, even with us all in there.
The children loved Edgar. Even before they figured out that they could watch TV or play video games in the rear bedroom on long drives, they loved it.
But it was a love affair that was doomed. The beginning of the end came during a trip to Yosemite about a year later. We were cruising East while Marie-Hélène was preparing a baby bottle for Alex, which spilled as we went over a bump. She was furious, a feeling which was not improved when I suggested that she could have asked me to stop before making the bottle! Her coffee ended up half on me and half all over the floor and seat of the motor home. “It was warm,” she used to say when describing the coffee as we recount this little family tale to our friends, “not hot!”
There were a few wonderful trips, notably one in February 1999, again during Nick and Tom’s visit, on the Coast Highway (California Highway 1) up from Disneyland and Los Angeles. We parked on night just above the ocean below Hearst Castle and the children went rock scrambling before breakfast. But the trips were too few and too far between.
There had been a kind of premonition that motorhome life was not going to work out. Edgar was typically parked at the bottom of the driveway at home, where there was plenty of space although the trees overhead created problems in keeping it clean.
Which is nothing like the problem the trees caused when one of their number was no longer overhead! The photo to the left shows the sorry result of a Bay tree that fell during a storm. We had only owned the RV for less than a year when that tree fell. The insurance covered the damage, of course, even the cost of cutting the tree off the RV, but ouch!
By 2001, as our use of the RV diminished and it became more and more of a bone of contention, I realized that Edgar would need to be sold. Its sorry story continued for over another year. The final straw was the sale itself. After only three years of payments on a fifteen-year loan (that of course is why the payments were so low), the best price that I could get was a couple of thousand dollars less than the outstanding balance on the loan. Edgar sold finally online through http://www.rvonline.com/, and its final act was costing us real money. You can imagine how that was viewed at home!
We continued to have great vacations, of course, including the occasional great road trip, great skiing, great trips to the likes of Vancouver BC, New York or Florida, but some of us still miss Edgar a teeny bit! Maybe some day . . .