Photos from the David McQuivey family unless noted otherwise
1. Buy a vintage RV off Craigslist from Frank.
To create an authentic Griswold Family vacation experience, buy a 1989 Lazy Daze RV listed on Craigslist from a man named Frank. Meet up with Frank in his remote California town and hand over $7000 in cash. Make sure you eat Frank’s grilled cheese breakfast sandwiches and fold the Goodwill bedsheets he has given to you for your trip. Don’t forget to ignore any RV “issues” Frank may have mentioned to you. “The RV will be fine,” you may say. Line up your family next to Frank and record your proud ownership moment on camera. Wave out the window as you drive away in your blue-and-white aluminum box. Stop and pay $100 in gas and start your journey toward Texas.
2. Sleep in a Wendy’s parking lot in Los Banos, California after killing the radiator.
Exit for gas at Los Banos (The Bathroom), California and watch as green radiator fluid leaks from your RV. Call for a tow truck and discover the tow company cannot come until the next morning. Save money for your water pump repairs by sleeping in the Wendy’s parking lot, across from the Flying J. Semi trucks will hum next to you all night. Wake with the rising sun to find fast food Dave’s little red-headed girl watching over you. Wrap up in a blanket because you can’t turn on the engine to run the heater. Jump out of the RV door into the parking lot and make goofy faces to pass the time. The next day, while the RV is being repaired, create a travel guide to Los Banos, by watching two movies back-to-back at the local theater, and eating lunch at a Japanese cafe full of flies.
3. Hitch a ride in a flat-bed to Tucson and play chicken with semis.
Travel from Palm Springs toward Tucson, Arizona and approximately 30 miles from Tucson find a dilapidated, out-of-service nut factory. Drive your sputtering RV to this exit. Stop at a mom-and-pop mechanic shop across the street from the nut factory. Agree to have the mechanic call a flat-bed semi truck to haul your RV. Wait for the tow truck. Play a game of chicken with passing semi trucks. Park, by accident, your stalled RV on a one-way gravel drive leading to an “Adult Boutique.” Watch as a bright pink, neon sign of considerable height beckons the truckers to it. Block the sole road to trucker’s porn as freeway cars hum by and stifling Arizona heat permeates your aluminum box on wheels. Cringe as they try not to hit you.
4. Live in a hotel biosphere for three days and go for the continental every morning.
Hitch an RV tow from the nut factory exit to a Tucson mechanic. Good news: The shop mechanic has the ability to siphon 40 gallons of gas from your RV tank, and replace your gas tank. And you can stay in the hotel across the street for three days as he repairs your RV. Save money at the hotel by eating several plates of slimy scrambled eggs and greasy sausages from the continental breakfast buffet. Rent a car and visit Tucson’s Biosphere 2 where a medical doctor and researchers created a structure of life systems based on five areas of biomes, and lived in the earth-like biosphere for two years. Avoid getting snippy at the mechanic when you return to your hotel biosphere and find he has not finished your RV repairs. Be careful you don’t make the mechanic mad. Months later your gas tank may drop onto the ground while you are driving.
5. Meet a narcotic dog at the Texas border.
Pull up to the Texas border at one in the morning and stop. Watch as Fido the narcotic dog circles around and around next to the door of your RV. Answer the patrol agent’s question, “Do you have drugs in the RV? The dog says you do.” Deny the claim and try not to cry as you sit in the border control building with your slobbering teenage children. Don’t expect your children to be aware of your possible arrest for drugs that are not yours. No, this experience belongs to you and your husband. Show the border patrol agent your bill of sale from California as you wait for the narcotic dog to sniff out your RV. Panic as you have no idea if there are drugs in the RV. After all, California has legalized medical marijuana. Texas hasn’t. Ask yourself, “Did California Frank forget to take out his pot?” Hurry and pile into the RV as the dog has found you to be clean. Sigh in relief and listen to the border agent’s advice, “You may want to thoroughly clean the RV before the next time you drive it.”