We were driving through New Mexico and had just reached the foothills of some mountains and then we were in this valley. The trees had just started to bud out, there was grass coming up, the morning sun was throwing shadows across the road, and I thought, “This is so pretty.” I could almost imagine living here.
Traveling with a camper is different from traveling between motel rooms. For one, it’s a lot cheaper to bring your own bedroom/kitchen combo along with you. Steve and I were interested in “dispersed camping” which is camping in Bureau of Land Management land or in National Forests wherever you can find a level spot to park your camper, basically.
When you camp like this, your scenery is definitely upgraded. No parking lots, no expressways. You look out your camper door in the morning and you might see a jackrabbit, or some birds, or deer. You definitely won’t see housekeeping staff out there.
I could do it some more, except I’d really like to be able to park somewhere and just be for a few days. Since we were on our way to Steve’s brother’s place in Tucson, we had to pack up and go every day. It’d be nice to just hang out and explore for a while. Sigh. Next time.
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It could have been worse. It could have been assassin bugs or spiders. If it had been assassin bugs or spiders, I probably would have made Steve drive back home and never slept in the camper again. But it was stinkbugs. They don’t bite and they’re kind of comical. They toddle rather than creep, half inch long odiferous shields with legs. I thought they smelled like raspberries. Steve thought they smelled like Jolly Rancher green apple candy, but then, he’s a chemist and he’s got a much more discerning sense of smell than me.
We were on our way south to visit our son, some friends, and also to pick up some of my artwork. We took the camper to save some money. On the first night we happened across few stinkbugs sleepily wandering around in it.
“Hey, there’s another one!”
“I found two in the bathroom. Out you go, little stinkbugs.”
They were easy to catch, slow moving and tickley in the palms of our hands. We lobbed five or six of them out the door of the camper and congratulated ourselves on how merciful we were being.
“Go hibernate somewhere else, you little pests! Haha.”
Things get (b)ugly
Two nights later, in a state park in Ohio, I woke up, heart racing, because I’d felt something crawling on my face. Earlier, we’d found about a dozen more stinkbugs hiding in the folds of the curtains that enclosed the bed. Steve was gently snoring next to me. There was a little light coming through the camper window but I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t feel anything. I probably just dreamed it, I thought. I pulled the covers over my head, just in case, and went back to sleep.
The next morning, I stared at the camper mattress and thought, “I wonder how many stinkbugs would fit under there?” I picked it up and looked underneath. Turns out the answer is lots and lots.
We immediately began hurling them outside by the handful.
There’s a limit
As we got farther south, we found more and more stinkbugs. They flew out of the AC unit in the ceiling, they crowded together in the storage areas under the seats, they were hiding behind the valances over the windows. It looked like a stinkbug rave party. It felt like a plague. Around North Carolina, we started to question the wisdom of letting them live.
“Should we be killing these things? Are stinkbugs an invasive species?”
As usual, when squishing insects is required, I cede all control to Steve, who is the man and supposed to take care of these things.
“Hand me a paper towel, please? I found some more.”
“I hate stinkbugs.”
We ended up leaving a trail of stinkbug corpses in every state between here and Orlando. I feel bad about this, but not that bad.
The trip wasn’t completely dominated by stinkbugs, fortunately. I got to have dinner with my favorite group of homeschool moms. Steve and I stayed on his friend’s cattle farm for a few days and I did graphic design work on the deck in 70 degree weather. My favorite part of the trip, though, was seeing our son, Nick. He looked really good, healthy and not starving at all, plus he taught us an obnoxious card game that we can’t wait to inflict on friends and family up here, just as soon as we remember the rules.
My friends, as always, told me in no uncertain terms what I already suspected was true, which in this case was that I had to quit sending my kids job listings via email. My son also imparted an important lesson to me, showing me he was fine and that all the stewing that I do in the middle of the night, whether brought on by actual bugs or merely what’s bugging me at the moment, is all about me and not him. He looked pretty wonderful, and required no help, just love, thankyouverymuch. I’m glad we went to see him. It was worth all the stinkbugs just for that.