Our Sundial camper is a rare beauty, a vintage ’66 VW Bus sporting an aftermarket Freedom America bubble-top. Her fold-down Z-bed, which serves as sofa, dinette seating, and full-size sleeping quarters, came to us with a new mechanism, cushion, and cover, attesting to the action it has seen over the years. In the “up” position, the Z-bed is the back seat. Our dogs curl up on it when we travel and occasionally share space with a hitchhiker, if we are inclined to pick one up. At dinnertime, we cozy up beside the little Formica table for grilled cheese and tomato soup, hot off the camp stove. In the evenings, we add a few throw pillows, kick back, and listen to some tunes, play Scrabble, or stargaze through the skylight. People always want to know if it’s a magically delicious setting for romantic action. The short answer is yes. Well, sometimes.
I’ll never forget our first foray in that Sundial. We picked her up in late summer and towed her cross-country on a U-Haul dolly that threatened to self-destruct if we dared exceed 52 exact miles per hour. Creeping through flat, boring Kansas in the far right-hand lane of the interstate was near-hypnotic, and became fully so after darkness fell. We made a plan: when the driver got tired, the passenger would take over. As the night wore on, our shifts behind the wheel grew shorter and shorter.
At 3 am, eyelids drooping, we spotted a gift from God–an open parking lane at a roadside rest area. Breathing a sigh of relief, we sandwiched our tiny rig between a FedEx truck and another eighteen-wheeler. As I made my way to the restroom, the FedEx driver zipped past me with a spring in his step that ought to be illegal at that hour. When I returned, both he and his truck were gone.
I folded down the Z-bed and spread out our sleeping bags. With the camper’s rear wheels jacked up on the trailer, the mattress was far from level, but it would do for the night. I opened the side windows, praying for a brisk cross-breeze to relieve the pent-up heat and humidity. The light scent of the mister’s aftershave wafted through the screen as he approached. He flipped off the dome light and we snuggled between the puffy layers of nylon. He had just slipped his hand into a magically delicious location and whispered something about “christening” the new Bus when the growl of a diesel engine announced the arrival of a newcomer. The driver rattled his cargo into the space vacated by the FedEx truck and within seconds, an overpowering stench muscled its way into our nostrils. We sat bolt upright, nearly knocking ourselves out on the low ceiling. We frantically cranked the windows shut, but it was no use. The unforgivable odor of that truckload of hogs hung in the air, suffocating any notion of romance or shut-eye. Hot ideas and heavy eyelids be damned, we needed to relocate, and pronto. Sadly, our dreamy rendezvous with the Z-bed would have to be postponed.
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