The Charlie Bravo Story

The MiniVan Gogh

The MiniVan Gogh

One of the reasons that we choose underrated methods of conveyance for our travels is that it allows us to fly beneath the radar. Never the flashiest or fastest motorcycles, as they tend to draw the most attention from thieves as well as the local constabulatory (now THERE’S an example of redundancy), but inexpensive but effective are the adjectives we look for in a vehicle.

Which is why we have a 2005 Chevrolet Venture in a stunning shade of Trailer Park Sunset Gold. A: the price was right(he was free) and B: we can park him almost anywhere and fade into the background like a four wheeled chameleon. The back has been gutted and refitted with a cot, window shades, laminate wood flooring, a heater, all the comforts of home if you’re a homeless person to begin with. We’re not homeless,, but we prefer to be hobos at times, so it fits our needs perfectly. The secret is to drive as fast and far as we can until exhaustion overtakes us, then stealth camp wherever possible, get up at daylight and keep rolling towards the next adventure.

This usually works, but has been known to backfire.

We were crossing the panhandle of Texas late one night, and after much face slapping and eyelid propping, had sought midnight refuge in a deserted parking lot. Charlie and I were buried up in the quilts, sleeping the sleep of the conscienceless, when I was abruptly jarred awake by the blaring of my radar detector going off at three in the morning. In my befuddled state, I believed for a moment that I was still driving, and had fallen asleep at the wheel. After peering cautiously over the front seats at what I was sure to see as my approaching doom, I instead realized that a local policeman had parked directly in front of the van.

He no doubt thought the van was abandoned, and was using it as cover to hide his squad car and run radar at the occasional traveler who had the audacity to cross his fiefdom; this is what had triggered my radar detector. And how occasional where the passers-through? Occasional enough that the officer had time to engage in a rousing game of Candy Crush on his phone between speed checks; I know this to be a fact as he was parked close enough for me to witness this electronic duel of wits from my vantage point inside the van.

As we were obviously undetected, radar or otherwise, at this point, I decided to let well-enough alone and crawl back under the covers. But I had not considered a key factor in the equation:


When she finally realized that there was someone parked that close to our vicinity, she erupted with a ear-splitting CHARK!!! I then had no choice but to emerge from the van in my sock feet, hands clearly visible, and explain that no, we’re not vagrants, just crashing here for a few hours until Maria’s Mexican Diner over in Texline opens up for breakfast.

“Oh, and by the way; you’re getting your butt whipped at Candy Crush.”

The officer turned out to be an uber nice young Hispanic guy; after we BS’ed for a bit, he told me to be sure and move on before sun-up, as the dry cleaners that I had chosen to park in front opened at 0700, and was remarkably inhospitable towards weary travelers with mouthy dogs.

It’s always a party at the Casa, even when we take the Casa on the road.

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