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Quand l'homme ne fait qu'un avec sa caravane...

J’ai trouvé dans le Washington Post du jour une chronique délicieuse de la femme de l’Ambassadeur d’Allemagne aux Etats-Unis.

Cette femme aimante décrit avec une langue douce-amère la lubie qu’a eue son mari de tailler presque 1700 Kms en camping car, pour se rapprocher de l’Amérique profonde.

L’humour est bien sur le décalage entre l’univers feutré et luxueux entourant habituellement un haut diplomate et sa famille, si bien décrit par Ferrero®, et l’univers du camping, croqué avec talent par Franck Dubosc.

La conclusion explicite est délicieuse de décalage : pour réussir des vacances au camping, il faut avoir des amis milliardaires accueillants disséminés sur le chemin.

(Quelqu’un sait de quoi « RV » est l’abréviation ?)




The Ambassador & the RV
The Diplomatic Handbook Didn't Cover Dumping a Septic Tank.

By Jutta Falke-Ischinger
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 18, 2005; P01


It is one of those typical Washington fundraisers in a windowless ballroom: black tie, long dresses.
"Is it true?" one woman addresses me. "You and the ambassador are renting an RV for your summer vacation?"
That's what we want to do, yes, I say.
"My God!" She can hardly speak. "But who is going to drive you?"
"Wolfgang? That is sooo wonderful," she replies, her expression betraying her true feelings.

Yes, this trip is my husband Wolfgang's idea. He is the German ambassador to the United States, and we've been living in Washington for four years. It's not that we haven't traveled around the country: Our official trips have taken us from airplanes and limousines to hotel rooms, dinner tables and ever more conference centers. But the real America, we felt, was happening somewhere else. Clearly without us.

That's how the RV idea was born. We decided to drive up to Haliburton Forest in Ontario with our 11-month-old daughter and the family dog, exploring Upstate New York and New England along the way -- a 2,800-mile round trip from Washington.

Wolfgang has done this before, renting an RV 30 years ago and touring the East Coast. He just loved the freedom, he said, even though the car roof was shaved off in an unfortunate encounter with an underpass. It's not something I'm particularly keen on experiencing myself.

This time Wolfgang is not leaving anything to chance. He has established a promising correspondence with AAA, which has sent us road planners and lists of campgrounds almost every day for the past two months.

Having successfully avoided camping all my life, I watch the preparations with some skepticism. "Stop worrying, campgrounds in America are not as cramped as they are in Europe," my husband says. "You don't even see your neighbor!"

* * *

On Aug. 1, after a nine-hour drive from D.C. in our family SUV and a night in a pet-friendly hotel in Newport, R.I., we pull into the KOA Campground in Middleboro, Mass., where our RV rental agency, Cruise America, has offices. Parked in front of the building is a huge motor home with "Cruise America" and a photo of a family at the Grand Canyon printed all over it. My chest is tightening. It is 10 a.m.

We unload our car and store our belongings in the 25-foot RV. Its interior is a mix of faux wood paneling and plastic. We tuck the baby in the safety seat, and Rocky, our Australian shepherd, under the table. Wolfgang takes the driver's seat. He tells the agent we do not need a navigation system because we have me.

At 2 p.m. we finally get going. We are headed for Peterborough, N.H., the first stopover on our 19-day trip. Wolfgang fights to hold the steering wheel steady, and the sound of rattling pots and cutlery is hard to get used to. But by early evening, we are driving up the dirt road to the home of our friends the Kaisers, a German American couple. Karl teaches political science at Harvard; Debbie inherited the 250-year-old antiques-filled farmhouse from her parents. "You must be excited to sleep in the camper," Karl says with a grin. "Or would the baby prefer a proper bed for the last time?"
"She would love it," I reply, before Wolfgang can say anything.

Next morning my husband insists on leaving early. Karl gives us a final goodbye, his mocking smile accompanying us in the rear-view mirror until the dirt road bends.

We decide to have a short look at the center of Peterborough, which Thornton Wilder portrayed in "Our Town," but our vehicle will not fit in any parking lot. So we continue west on Route 9 through Vermont and then north on New York Route 22, turning south after Fort Ticonderoga and heading to Lake George, N.Y, on a smaller road flanked by green pines. A steamboat with colorful flags is making one of its daily tours, and boat rentals line the shore. "Looks like a mix between Lake Starnberg in Bavaria and Lago di Como in Italy," Wolfgang says. A few months later, in October, a tour boat will capsize on this lake, killing 20 people. But now the water is alluringly blue and peaceful.

We arrive at Lake George Escape campground in late afternoon. According to our tour books, it's a five-star site with two swimming pools and "full hookup": electricity, sewage, water. There's even cable TV and Internet access.

Milky twilight is settling in. Men leaving the camp store with firewood in their arms walk along the driveway. Lake George Escape combines the traits of a super-size parking lot with an entertainment complex, intermingled with trees. RV next to RV. You don't see your neighbor? The truth is: You hardly see anything else. Smoke from more than 300 barbecue sites fills the air; clotheslines block the last bits of free sight between the cars. The only safe bet is to look up: The sky will remain our only view of nature for the length of the stay. Nothing is as I had hoped.

I keep these thoughts to myself. Night is falling, and the blue light of television flickers out of every motor home. We put hamburgers on the fire and eat in the glow of the yellow insect candle.

Next morning we look around. Our home is squeezed in between super-vehicles, some with tents serving as sunrooms, some with plastic porches decorated with living-room lamps and garden gnomes. Most of the license plates are from New York.

"Something has truly changed in the past few years," one of the Cruise America guys in Boston had told us. "People don't have much money to travel far. They come from nearby."

The scent of coffee is filling the morning air. Girls in bathing suits are cruising around on their bikes. Next to us is a party of 10. Grandpa and Grandma, each weighing more than 250 pounds, enjoy their first cigarettes of the day in camp chairs.

We undo the hookup as fast as possible and head for freedom: Route 28, which will take us across the Adirondacks on our way up to Ontario. The farther away from the campground we get, the better we feel. The road along the eight Fulton Chain Lakes showcases the Adirondacks at their best: pine trees on both sides, water sparkling through the woods, fishing boats hiding among the reeds. There are signs to the "white otter game fishing camp" or to a Boy Scout camp. We decide to pull in at a little hidden campsite on the last of these lakes. It is described as "primitive camping," meaning no hookups. This turns out to be the real thing: few RVs, many tents. It's your typical father-son-fishing-bonding situation.

Our site is only a few feet from the lake, and trees are the only neighbors. Wolfgang and Rocky embark on a canoe trip in the last beams of sunlight as the birds hum their evening chorales. It's time for a sundowner, I decide. Baby Josie gets a bottle of milk, and I a glass of chilled Sancerre.

Next morning we head northwest. Wheat fields, black-and-white Holstein cattle, green hills and silos: This northern tip of New York state feels like farmland back home in Europe. In the village of Copenhagen, we stop to take a photo for my Danish sister-in-law. Soon we pass Watertown and cross the bridge over the St. Lawrence River to Canada.

Eleven hours after we set out from Lake George, after a long drive through thunderstorms on Canadian Route 62, we reach Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve in Ontario.

Peter Schleifenbaum, with whom I played ring-around-the-rosie in a German kindergarten many years ago, is a professor of forestry and rules over 60,000 acres of land, including more than 50 lakes. He offers every activity wilderness fans dream of: survival training, canopy tours, a wolf center, sled dogs in winter, hunting, mountain biking and more. Visitors can stay in the base camp or cabins along some of the lakes.

But we are lucky: Peter sets us up in his father's old log cabin with a big stone fireplace. After several nights in the vehicle, it feels good to breathe the scent of cedar wood instead of the plastic from the RV. A few feet down from the deck lies the lake. No Internet, no phone, no cell phones, no TV. Instead: bears, raccoons, lumberjacks. We get up at 9, brew strong coffee, take the baby and the dog for a swim, eat, sunbathe, explore the lake with the canoe. It's Scandinavia with an Italian climate.

The downside: Whenever we want to go somewhere -- watch the wolves feeding, buy sunscreen or T-shirts at the base camp, have dinner at Peter's beautiful log home -- we have to travel in the RV, which somewhat disturbs the feeling of being out in the wild.

One attempt to do without is not exactly successful. When we walk over to Peter's one evening, he drives by in his Jeep and drags us in. "Didn't I tell you just yesterday not to walk too far because of the bears?" So much for that.

We stay as long as we can. But then withdrawal symptoms in my ambassador husband cannot be ignored any longer, and our trips to the base camp (which has a good phone connection to the embassy) become more frequent. Finally we move on, heading southeast across New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, then back to Massachusetts and the RV's home town. Still several hundred miles to go.
At Cornwall, we cross the St. Lawrence River back to the United States. Nobody checks the vehicle to see if we are hiding any terrorists.

It is raining, and the border region of New York seems deprived: decayed houses, sheds without roofs, abandoned stores. Vermont looks much greener. Our campground in South Hero lies on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain. When we check in, it is still raining and we have to eat in the RV. While a teething Josie cries incessantly, Wolfgang cooks spaghetti and garnishes it with Newman's Own pasta sauce. We eat under the neon light from the car ceiling. At 10, the electricity is shut off and we climb five feet up to our mattress, which is over the driver's seat. Josie occupies the queen-size bed in the back of the vehicle, the only place where her travel crib fits without blocking the bathroom door. Our "bedroom," in contrast, is blocked by nothing; only a thin curtain hangs between us and the void of the vast RV.

We survive another night and take Interstate 89 south. After a stop near Montpelier, Vt., we head for Maine on Route 2.

Everything on Route 2 is about cars: car dealers, new cars, used cars, auto body shops, repair places, wrecked cars under sun umbrellas, garages, scrap merchants. It all seems to symbolize a mobile, throwaway society.
In Germany, people seem to be less ready to give up old things. Here you start something, give it up and go somewhere else. Buy, sell, tear down the old, build up the new. Are we in Europe too attached to the past? Wolfgang and I discuss these issues for 200 miles while the baby sleeps. Driving is good for talking. No escape. Or as the diplomats say: In together, out together.

We reach Maine's Atlantic coast and Mount Desert Island, my favorite stop of the trip. It's like the Norwegian fiords and England's Cornwall all in one. We stay in a beautiful, big old house on the ocean that belongs to a dear friend. Neighbors come by in their boats. Lobsters all day long. We have a great time. The success of such a trip clearly depends on one essential: to be equipped with a long list of friends. "You can park in our back yard," they would say, not knowing what they were getting themselves into. Because in the end, only the RV would stay in the back yard.

One campground and one visit to a friend's home later, after almost three weeks on the road, we return the RV, retrieve our car and take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. We've rented a house there, and at dinner parties we share our vacation stories with British aristocrats, football team owners, Washington power brokers and writers who live on the island year-round. They all stare at us in disbelief.
"You did what?" one gentleman bursts out. "All alone, no help, with the baby? Thank God you did not bring the vehicle on the island!"
Yes, it is true, I do not lie sleepless in my Vineyard bed longing for the motor home or the campgrounds. But I wouldn't have missed our road trip. Let's face it: Between professional socializing, embassy functions and fundraisers, how else could we have ever felt so cut loose, so independent and so mobile -- so American?

Jutta Falke-Ischinger worked in Berlin as a political journalist before coming to Washington as the wife of the German ambassador.

13:20 Publié dans Web | Lien permanent | Commentaires (2)


RV pour "Recreation Vehicle".
(Je n'ai pas grand mérite, j'ai des amis étasuniens qui sont partis du Maryland en juillet en "RV" pour visiter les USA après des années de direction de programme chez un équipementier aéronautique. )

Écrit par : Jacques | 18/12/2005

Grand merci, Jacques!

Écrit par : lawrence | 18/12/2005

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