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Travels with Maybell: Looking for ‘normal’ in an RV

This engaging article is by By Michael S. Hopkins, beautiful photography by Melanie Stetson Freeman for Christian Science Monitor.

Call her “Maybell,” which is just dowdy enough. She is 22 feet long, and looks like a box stapled on a U-Haul truck. Bed in rear (queen!), another over the cab, “full” bath, stove-top, banquette table, fridge. A sailboat-style miracle of space planning on a platform so jangly you wonder whether rivets will pop on the highway.

True, she is not the Instagram-ready little camper van we’d sought to rent. (Cool, Maybell isn’t. Cool, however, is an extra $100 a night.) But she is ours. And she is about to ferry me – with my wife, Monitor photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman – through four states in five days during our pandemic summer of 2020. We have flown at dawn from Boston to Denver, and now are relieved when our little recreational vehicle is handed to us smelling of disinfectant and open windows. Without fanfare we are given a manual, some pointers, and solitude. We’ll have to sort out our relationship with Maybell on our own. So we wrangle her through surface streets to a supermarket for provisions, then turn west. Which means over the Continental Divide. Which means climbing. Not, it turns out, Maybell’s favorite pastime.  

“Can’t we go any faster?” asks Melanie as we crawl upward, traffic pooling around us. I pin the accelerator to the floor. Maybell’s engine roars. Maybell’s speedometer stands still. We crawl on.

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