sign of the times

I’m slowly getting back into my routine here at the farm. It’s been cool and rainy, so I’ve just been out for one walk through the fields. Sabrina has begun to forgive me for being away for almost five weeks. The first night home, she made a fuss over Don but pretended I was invisible. By morning, she had decided that I did, in fact, exist once more. Yesterday’s walk in the fields seem to break the ice and her nose isn’t so out of joint. I guess that’s what happens when you abandon a post that you’ve steadfastly maintained for a number of years. It sends everyone into a state of shock — including your dog.

Anyhow, back to the above photo and subject of today’s post.

While on the road, I often photograph old buildings, signs, posters and other cultural objects. On this trip, I couldn’t help but notice the number of abandoned buildings — particularly old motels — around the countryside. It seems a sign of the times that the old motels are closing down. Everywhere we went, RV parks seem to have sprung up in towns where none existed when I last visited in 2000. The roadways and state and national park campgrounds were filled with RVs. It’s something of a phenomenon to me as they are not nearly so popular up here — although that seems to be changing. I can’t help but think that the rise of RV culture has probably contributed to the demise of some of the motels. In rural towns, many seem to have closed down. In the cities, those along the strips seem to be engaged in billboard wars with signs boasting of free wifi, free breakfasts, microwaves, fridges, kingsize beds, jacuzzis, and all sorts of perks along with the “lowest” room rates in town. In spite of this, “Vacancy” signs were lit up everywhere on most evenings. Perhaps it was the time of year, but I suspect not. The RV parks were certainly still quite busy. Will we be seeing more signs like the one pictured above?

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about RV culture before this trip — and for that matter, I still don’t know a heck of a lot. I became a little more acquainted over the past few weeks of travel. On a few nights, we camped in state parks — in sleeping bags with a tarp that we pulled over us at night to keep the dew off. It was great. My friend and I had campfires and cooked out on the picnic table, star-watched, and listened to owls hooting. As much as possible, we chose sites away from the main campground. One night, we slept just a few feet from the rush of a fast-moving stream. Other nights, we slept beneath the shelter of the redwoods. In contrast, a good many of the other sites in the park were occupied by large motorhomes that pulled into campsites during the late afternoon. We barely saw the occupants as they must have prepared their meals inside. In the morning, they ran their vehicles for awhile — I guess to generate some power — and must have cooked breakfast inside before rolling off to some new destination. It seems such an odd way to travel the country, although there’s no denying that it must be more comfortable than sleeping under a tree when the night temperatures are dipping close to 0C (32F). Still, it doesn’t appeal too much to me. Seems too much like traveling around like a snail with an over-sized shell. (-:

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5 Responses to “sign of the times”

  1. Peter Says:

    I was reading the other day that alot of the “old highway” motels are going under as most people tend to travel the big freeways now.

    Can’t say I mind a tent though, to keep the biting bugs away while I sleep, but an RV ruins half the fun. I can understand why some do it though.

  2. Mark Says:

    I agree that the interstate highways are killing off older motels located along what used to be main roads. Also, trips that used to take two days are now done in one, so there is less need for all of those small-town motels.

    As to the RV culture, I fully understand it. My parents had trailers and motorhomes for about 20 years after they retired. They often spent two or three months on the road. They would putt along for a couple of hundred miles, then stop for a while. Their stop might have been in a small town or a national park, in the US, Canada or Mexico. They spent time wherever they stopped, mostly not in the trailer, but certainly sleeping every night in their own bed. There was no way my mother would ever have camped in a tent, much less slept on the ground. The RV allowed her to do and see many, many things that she otherwise would not have. I have spent more than a few nights camping with or without a tent, but if I want my wife with me, it’s going to have to be in an RV from now on. But I think the RV culture will be a short-lived one, at least in relative terms. Eventually only the very wealthy will be able to afford the fuel for a big RV.

    I find even among the RVers that there is a certain air of superiority about who is experiencing nature in the proper way and who is not.

  3. burning silo Says:

    Peter – It’s certainly true that people seem to stick to the main freeways. My friend and I chose to drive on backroads and old highways most of the time so usually encountered very little traffic. One thing that we did notice was that some of the older hotels were busy if they were in interesting areas such as bordering a large nature reserve which attracted birders or hikers, etc…, especially when they were the “last outpost” going into the back country.

    Mark – I think you’re right about the probable future of RVs. I can’t even imagine how much it must cost to fill the gas tank on some of the larger motorhomes that we saw on the highways. As it was, my friend and I traveled in a compact car and felt much like a mice among elephants on the roads as we were outnumbered by at least ten to one by big RVs, SUVs and pick-up trucks almost everywhere we went.
    Regarding your comment that your mother and your wife would not care much for tent camping — while camping in a few of the parks, I met very few women at the washroom-shower buildings with the single exception of one night when we camped next to a group of young people who were traveling in a VW van and tent-camping. I did see the odd woman around the campgrounds, but most seemed to be in RVs. In general, it seemed that many of the tent-campers or people camping in the back of a VW bus or other vehicle were men. On the other hand, I noticed a few RVs with just women and kids in the parks. Kind of interesting to consider the demographics of travelers.

  4. robin andrea Says:

    Roger and I have not tent-camped in a very long time. We gave the tent and sleeping bags to his daughters a decade ago. I bet new gear these days is lighter and more comfortable than the old stuff we were using. We have fantasized about building a homemade camper to go on the back of our pick-up truck. An old boyfriend and I traveled for a summer in 1973 in a fine, funky homemade camper. We cooked on a Coleman stove outside, really did everything outside, but sleep. It was comfy.

  5. burning silo Says:

    Robin – We have a small van and temporarily fix it up as our “camper” when we’re on the road. 2nd and 3rd row seats come out and then we put the mattress off of the Ikea roll-out bed-sofa from our living room into the back. We have one of the AC/DC coolers that plugs into a power jack in the back of the van to keep our food cool when traveling. It all works well and the van gets reasonably good mileage. For all we know, that may be how we end up spending the next phase of our lives — camped out in our van somewhere in the back country. (-: