Travel on the Fringe: Gay Rodeos, Caravans, and Gypsies Oh My!

Posted by - July 14, 2011 | Category: Peculiarities

For quite some time now, I’ve struggled with a rare strain of motorhome mania (Latin: caravanus envyitis) and being up close and personal with them recently only triggered a flare-up.

There’s a certain romance associated with the caravanning lifestyle – open road, drifting from campsite to campsite (or Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart as it were), not knowing, or caring, where the next rest stop leads you. It’s the call of the wild…on wheels.  Granted. it is not for everyone though.

Whatever floats your road-boat, right?

Old-fashioned Trailer

I even considered for an all too brief moment that I might abandon my S.E. Asia trip, buy myself some form of RV, and head out on highway.  “Project Roadway” I would call it.  But then I pondered the logistical landmine that lay ahead. Would my car be able to tow such a thing? What about the motorhome tax, I would need a good service to arrange it? Would I be wasting my days combing through the fine print of a motorhome insurance or motor trade insurance in case you fix your mobile home regulary, quote instead of braving tuk-tuks and pounding pad thai down my gob?  And just where does the poo go?

What would I do with my poo?

These are the questions that haunt me. And so just as quickly as it materialized, the road romance disappeared. Straight out that tiny hand-cranked window.

Shagin' Wagon Tire Cover for Trailer

What sparked this curiosity? Why, a gay rodeo of course. How else does one follow up announcing quitting your job to travel the world.

Seems on the verge of outrageous yes, but I assure you, I am not aiming to be the blogging equivalent of Sue Sylvester.  Happenstance (and 40 kilometres of asphalt from Calgary) led me there.

ARGRA Gay Rodeo Opening

The Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association (ARGRA) held the annual Canadian Rockies International Rodeo over the Canada Day long weekend, and I attended some of the events on Sunday.  Unfortunately, most of it was cancelled due to severe windstorms and a tornado warning, and everyone was evacuated into the civic centre.  Oh the drama.

Ominous storm clouds at rodeo

What surprised me most about the rodeo was not the number and diversity of the attendees, but the number and diversity of the RVs — campervans, caravans, motorhomes, trailers, and other forms of land yacht were there in full force. Hence the trigger, short-lived as it was.

Trashy Trail sign

So what’s the appeal?  Aren’t they really only a travelling trailer park?  A mobile mobile-home?  Plenty of retirees embrace the lifestyle.  And it seems like a great way to while away your twilight years.  But why should the blue-hairs have all the fun?  Where are the younger set?  Why do people my age not consider caravanning a lifestyle choice?

I blame the gypsies.

The Romani, Roma, Irish Travellers, and the Dom nomadic peoples, as well as several other groups in Europe, India, and Asia are often referred to, in the most negative of tones, as gypsies.   Most of the above are fine, upstanding folk – loyal to their families, as hardworking as the next, the “salt of the earth” as they say.  The thing is, as goes one forum comment I read, those are not the ones you are likely to meet. 

I will only use the term gypsy when referring to people from the above groups who tried to steal from me. 

Gypsy Girl with a Basque Drum

Woman in Venice with rug draped over arm concealing a child who tried to snatch my camera?  Gypsy. 

Snot-nosed kids waving magazines in my face trying to make their way into my pockets in Rome?  Gypsy.

Smiling woman holding baby in doorway in Florence?  Romani.  Had she thrown the baby at me?  Gypsy. 

See how it works?

Rome Colliseum

Gypsies have given caravans a bad name. The traditional gypsy wagon, or vardo, was both elegantly and intricately designed, and a practical mobile-living quarters.

Vardo Lars Elling Lunde

Over the years though caravans have lost their lustre. I chalk it up in part to the doings of a few rogue gypsies, and the western view of their lifestyle.  No obvious employment + no permanent address = they must be up to no good. In the eyes of many at least. Some folks feel that if you are not a retiree, and you live in an RV, you are mostly up to no good. 

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, Bangkok is a go, and the Airstream road dream will just have to wait for another day.

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55 comments - add one
  1. Oh the stories you could have told us with the RV….lol but I will look forward to your humorous posts from Bangkok instead. By the way, I have friends living in Bangkok if you need additional insight.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I am going to try to meet up with a couple of other bloggers, and apparently my sister-in law’s cousin lives here. But if they ditch me (or they are whack-jobs), I will come a knockin’! 🙂

    1. I drove to Vegas from Calgary once with my brothers and my nephew. We stayed at Motel 6’s though. Not the same experience at all. Unless you count the couple that let their baby jump into the pool, and the mullet twins we saw at the amusement park in Sandpoint — now that was very trailer-ish… 🙂

  2. *AHEM!!!* I’M in the younger set! and there are more of us than you think- hipsters even- who are doin’ it before we’re blue 😉 oh, but maybe we’re all up to no good?? lol. well you just go on then and enjoy yourself some SE asia, and don’t worry, i’ll tell you what happens with the poo! 😉 love this!

  3. My husband, 2 dogs, and I just embarked on “Project Roadway,” as you put it, a bit over a week ago. Our funds should last 6-7 months, but we’re trying to make them stretch farther, obviously.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and will assure you that we are not Gypsies – though, I’m not sure what our demographic really should be labeled… road vagabonds doesn’t sound much better.

    In any event, I’m thrilled to have found your blog and hope you enjoy our exploits of the road vicariously, as we follow yours in SE Asia.

    Cheers!

    1. Thanks Allison! I had a peek over at yours and am now folling you on “the Twitter” — very funny stuff!! Your “Jesus Christ — an Albino Raccoon!” post is one of the most entertaining I’ve read lately!

  4. The “airstream dream” will always be there for you–roads and Walmarts ain’t going nowhere. Beth and I have wrestled with this same dream too. We still kick around the idea of the RV, but for now we have also decided to go abroad. Luckily, we’ve all got Lorna, who we can live vicariously through. Viva la Chinook!

  5. i look forward to the life of a “gypsy” moving across america, possibly in an rv once i am retired. of course always planning abroad ventures along the way. i don’t think i can stay in one place anymore. i crave adventure!
    stay safe in bangkok
    sandi

  6. You sure know how to catch your readers’ attention. Not only is this a very humorous post but als an educative one. Love it, thank you.

  7. This post made me laugh, funny stuff.
    Got robbed by gypsies once. that sucked.

    And I love being on the road! Must be the Irish in me. I took a long road trip – drove up and down Highway 1, that was the only plan. No time limits, no schedules, it was wonderful. Then my money ran out and I went back to college. I’d go back on the road if the opportunity arose.

    1. I came close, but was never actually robbed by gypsies. The only time I was robbed was by a German junkie in a Dutch hostel. he stole my shaving kit. Prick. 🙂

      One day I hope you get to head out on the open road again. But I have to admit, I’ve been to Costa Rica, and that’s about as good as place as any to lay your hat…for now. 🙂

  8. I would love to partake in the airstream dream and I’m only 28! There is something fantastic about it’s vintage walls – what has it seen?!

  9. HAHA… omg. It’s so true though – there’s something sketchy about RV’s – but then you have the fairly wealthy people who travel/vacation via RV’s rather than live in them.

  10. I have to say, reading this post is the most laugh (or even smile) I had since landing in Shanghai a few days ago. But you were too hard on the gypsies. I think they’re rather misunderstood. Tossing babies aside, I aspire to be like them soon.

    1. Oh I understand them perfectly when they’re all up in my business trying to nick my wallet. True though, that is only the rogue few that ruin it for the rest…

      Thanks for the compliment! Glad I’m brigtening the streets of China with smiles! 🙂

  11. Great stuff, Raymond. Actually love road trips of all kinds — always have. How cool would it be to have an old vardo?? Enjoy SE Asia — there will be plenty of time for road trips when you get back

  12. When I was younger and backpacking, I stumbled on an enormous RV camp where everyone had different themes and nights were ridiculously hedonistic and fun.

  13. Thanks for your informative post. Hope this will help others who are seeking this types of information.

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