I looked out the window to see a young man wandering the campground eyeing a few of the camping spots across from us. Knowing that it was late for the campground owner to be around, I thought I would go out and offer any assistance I could. I walked up to the young man and asked if I could help.
He told me that he wasn’t sure that the site they picked would be okay and wanted to know if he should move his van over to this spot.
“Is something wrong with the other spot?”
No, he assured me, he just didn’t want to park where he shouldn’t. I told him that where he was would be fine if he was comfortable there.
He also asked me if I knew of a place to get to the Internet, via modem or WIFI. When I told him the campground had free WIFI, he was stunned. “Really? But it’s not free. How much is it?”
I assured him that it was free, especially since I installed it. Totally free.
He almost burst into tears and gave me a huge hug. “Really free??”
He was so thrilled, and impressed. I know life on the road without an Internet connection sucks, but this was a joy uncontrolled. It felt so good to know I had a little bit to do with bringing this kind of happiness to a fellow camper.
He wanted to take me over to meet his mother. As we walked, he told me he was from California and had taken six months off to travel around North America with his mother. Thinking “mother”, I was amazed at the incredibly young looking woman stepping out of the van.
Both were oriental, and maybe this woman was “old” but she was lovely. She grinned and nodded and I introduced myself. “Your son says that he is taking you on a long tour! How wonderful!”
She grinned and in clear, but very precise English, explained that they had traveled for one month so far and had seen “many, many things and places”. Before I knew what was happening, she pulled out a little notebook of photographs and was showing me pictures of her family, her daughter and her family living in Thailand, her son, and then some of their adventures along the road. Pictures of her standing in front of the Grand Canyon, among the rocks of Mesa Verde, in the caverns of Carlsbad, high in the mountains and in the low deserts of the south. In all of them, she looked vibrant and alive, her spirit soaring with joy. Her son looked tired, but determined to have a good time.
Over the next few minutes I learned that her son, Yung, had quit his job in California, bought this van, and was determined to show his mother their adopted country in six months. They’d spent their first month, since it was still winter, in the south, through Arizona to Texas, and across to Florida, then eventually up to Alaska and back down through Washington, Oregon and then home to California.
“It must be a challenge, traveling with mother.”
“We do okay,” he humbly admitted.
“He is good boy. Work hard.” His mother added with a huge grin.
Yung pulled out a notebook with their itinerary, put together in a spreadsheet based upon recommendations from Expedia and other online travel sites. I looked down the list and was amazed. Brent arrived to find out why I was still missing and to offer help, and the two of us went down this list with memories flooding over us.
We had such a list. Our list was three days here, six days there, two weeks here, a month there…all over two years of travel across North America almost ten years ago. Somewhere around month six, the list was lost and we’ve hardly looked at it since. We ended up going where we wanted to go, following only a basic seasonal plan (avoid snow, hurricanes, and tornados). We looked at this list with jaded “been there done that” eyes.
And we were stunned. This was no ordinary list like ours was. Their list was one day here, two days there, one day here, two days travel, one day here….every place, basically a one day, overnight and move on. We flipped through the six pages following the calendar. Familiar locations connected by dates that rolled along like a flip calendar. Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and down the list, each day a different place.
“When do you rest?” I asked.
His mother, now fishing around through the clutter I could see in the back of the van with the side door opened, turned and hissed with a smile, “You tell him. Too fast. We go too fast. See too many things. No rest.”
I looked at the handsome young man, already dark with exposure to the southern winter sun, and he grinned and ducked his head.
“Honestly, you need to slow down. You will enjoy the trip so much more.”
“We have time to rest. It’s on the list.”
I flipped through the pages, noting the checked off dates on month one. I turned another page, and another and then Brent spotted it.
Yes, indeed. On day 84 of their trip, somewhere near Calgary, Alberta, the activity for that day was indeed labeled as “Rest Day”. Amazing.
We chatted some more and then I went back to have dinner and came over later in the evening to check on them. Yung had done another high speed and short trip around the world in 1999, landing in Israel for a few days along the way, so we talked about Israel and the difference in visiting and living there, and tried to solve the “Middle East Situation”, of course. He was great to chat with since I find few intellectuals lately. He really wanted to give back to his mother who had worked so hard to get he and his sister out of China and bring them to the United States to live and have a better life. It was wonderful.
The two of them were delightful. They have already collected a ton of knickknacks and “stuff” along the trip (even one month into it) and it fills the back of the van. To sleep, they take everything out and stuff it into one of those instant pop-up tents set up outside the van, zipper it up, and then crawl in the van and sleep. Come morning, everything is stuffed back into the van and the tent folded up and they are on their way.
I tried to convince them to stay another day or so to see the sites, recommending a few local attractions, and they said they would think about it. The free Internet was definitely an attraction. Unfortunately, the next morning they were off on their next adventure, but they did stop in to say thank you and good-bye and they gave me a little Oriental charm, a carved bead engraved with “Blessings Upon You and Gratefulness” (or something like that) with a bright red tassel. I thanked them and told them that it wasn’t necessary, but they insisted. How sweet.
I waved them off, sad to see them going so quickly and wishing I had more time to get to know them. What fascinating people. The story of his mother escaping from China would have been a wonderful story of courage and faith to hear. His life growing up in America would have also been interesting to learn more about. But they are off on their mad dash around the country and there just is no stopping them.
When Brent got home from work that night, he asked if they had left. I told him they had.
“Could you believe that schedule?”
“Hey, don’t poke fun. We were there once. They will learn.”
“We weren’t that bad. Was that really his mother? She was so young.”
“Yes. And can you believe that she told me she is 67 years old?”