The only place we could find a campsite near Pagosa Springs on such short notice was called, no joke, The Last Resort. It was a dumpy little place tucked away in a secluded valley about twelve miles beyond the city limits.

No Wifi.

No cell signal.

Those particular details weren’t part of the bargain when we made our reservation. Before we parked the caboose we briefly considered our options, which weren’t many.

“It will be good too unplug for awhile,” I said.

“For two weeks? What about the cabin, the house, getting updates?” Chels asked.

I told her we’d go into Pagosa every day and soak up some free Wifi at some café, it would be like living off-grid. She smirked. That smirk faded as soon as she discovered the campground owners closed their laundry facilities due to COVID, forcing us to do that in Pagosa as well. But before she discovered that sad fact, we met Becky.

From the moment we pulled into the campground till the moment we left, Becky the owner and her state trooper husband were constantly up in everyone’s business, especially ours. It began when Becky was attempting to help me back the caboose into a tight spot that was directly adjacent to their house. That was an exercise in confusion because Chels and I already had a system, not too complicated but one that involved two-way radios and hand signals, which was a hell of a lot better than shouting at each other and getting into an argument. All that hollering is a great way to meet the new neighbors and get the dogs barking, right? Anyhow, as Chels got out of the Sequoia to help me, Becky launched herself out of her rickety golf cart waving her hands, “No, I got it, I got it!” Already yelling.

Well, she “helped” me, alright. The trailer was able to reach the connections just fine, the slideout was fully extended, everything was level. But we were so close to our neighbors, who lived in a rusting old fifth-wheel, we could hear them fart. And worst of all, our caboose door opened almost directly over their sewer pipe – which never maintained a tight enough seal to stifle the stench that would all too often vomit in our nostrils to the effect we would have to run inside, close all the windows and vents, batten down the hatches, and wait till the Shitwinds of Gehenna passed us. Thanks for the help, Becky.

Once she got back in her golf cart and stomped on the pedal with a loud clank, it seemed we never stopped hearing the sputtering of Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang as she and her husband constantly circled the campground, craning their long necks to scan every site with squinted eyes and furrowed brows.

Made me think, Who the hell they have staying at this place?

I would soon discover the grizzled old cop had good reason to keep a close watch on the joint. Not everyone at these cheap, extended-stay places are on a family vacation, to put it mildly.

My worries seemed to multiply overnight. Though we spent the first week in Pagosa still active and doing fun things, the excitement began to fade.

Truth is, the fun had faded weeks ago.

Truth is, while I put on a smile for the kids and posted adventurous photos on social media, we were struggling. All of us were, especially Chels and I. The stresses of fulltime RV life and being in Housing Limbo were wearing on us.

Truth is, I had been under so much stress it was taking a toll on me physically. Without knowing it I had been tensing my jaw so hard that one evening in June, while reading a bedtime story to Aspen, I felt a muscle spasm in my neck and pull my damn jaw right out of its socket. I’m not kidding and not exaggerating, the left side of my jaw just unhinged itself – and stayed that way for nearly eight weeks. The pain was maddening. I could barely chew my food, hell, sometimes I could barely talk.

Did I mention we had to rush Cooper in to get a molar extracted? Poor kid woke up one night with an abscess that had to be taken care of immediately. Where were we, Wyoming?

Did I mention I had to replace the rear axle on the Sequoia? Was that in Arkansas?

Did I mention Becky, proprietor of this advertised “family friendly” campground who started yelling at the kids because there was a duck waddling near the swingset they were on? Apparently they were “too close to the duck”- not that the playground next to a pond had anything to do with the situation. That same evening Cruella Deville yelled at Indy for hitting a shuttlecock out of bounds, getting it stuck on her roof. The volleyball net they were playing at was literally set up right next to the lady’s house but she started bellowing, “YOU DID IT ON PURPOSE! I SAW YOU! WHAT, ARE YOU SAYING MY EYES LIED TO ME?” Chels had to go over and stop the raving.

Did I mention the whacko asshole at this same campground who stormed into my site like some crazed baboon shouting at the top of his larynx some crazy nonsense about the kids riding their bikes through his “private” campsite? Once his spittle hit my cheek I punched him in the mouth.

Just kidding. The kids were watching.

But I’m not kidding about the night sweats. Not the kind you wear to the gym, the kind that make you freak out at 3 AM in the throes of a panic attack.

Life isn’t always Instagram-worthy, which is why it’s no coincidence there’s no photos in this post.

Living the dream was turning into our worst nightmare.

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