Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Walls Are Closing In

This was the best morning of the trip - nice and warm. It was pleasant to lie in the bunk over the RV cab and listen to the jets take off from Dulles International Airport.

With Shenandoah and Manassas under our belts, we were ready to head back. We hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike and started gobbling up the miles.

High-mileage days like this are tough on Benny, who doesn't appreciate the single-minded rush of a 10-hour trip. We tried to stop for exercise - it was a beautiful day, after all - but turnpike service plazas aren't exactly toddler-friendly. Each plaza featured clusters of restaurants and stores surrounded by miles of asphalt. Since we were in the RV, we had to park with the trucks, which meant scurrying across the massive park lot, holding onto a squirming, protesting Benny, who hated to be carried.

So exercise for Benny meant racing around a deserted restaurant with Ron and I posted at each end of his makeshift track. Then we piled into the RV and tried to make another 100 miles before Benny went nuts.

Exhausted, we left the turnpike just west of Youngstown, Ohio, seeking some fabled campground in Leavittsburg. It had cable TV, a rec room, a volleyball court - sounded awful. But the lady at the toll booth had a better idea. She recommended the campground at West Branch State Park. The facilities had been recently expanded and renovated. Ron disliked crowded RV parks anyway, so we took her advice and drove 13 miles off the highway, the RV rocking and moaning all the way. I'd stuffed my computer's wrist rest through the handles of some particularly troublesome cupboards, but the window over the table still rattled and a haunted door near Benny's bed still creaked open at odd times.

West Branch's campground was beautiful, woodsy and sweet-smelling, with a lovely lake near our site. Ron built another fire in a faint, cool drizzle while Benny sat nearby in the dirt and provided a running commentary: “Fire, hot! Fire, hot! Daddy builds fire, hot!”

I served leftover spaghetti and corn for Benny and microwaved soup for Ron and myself, and we ate outside, lingering in the soft air until the rain picked up. Then we all bedded down for our last night in the RV.

I woke at about 4 a.m. in a state of panic. I'm not prone to claustrophobia, but suddenly the ceiling above me felt frighteningly low. I was in the bunk over the cab, against the wall, with the ceiling inches above me. Trying to fight my mounting panic, I herded Ron aside and climbed down. I stood beside the large, open window over the RV's table, panting.

It was a full 10 minutes before I could breathe calmly, with Ron almost beside himself with worry. I'd never been claustrophobic like that, just never. Finally I calmed myself (and Ron) and climbed into bed with Benny, whose ceiling was much higher. It still took a long time to fall asleep.


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