What would you do for the shot? What lengths would you go to for the purpose of getting something accomplished? When I noticed that the Maryland RV (Recreational Vehicle) show was coming in February, I thought it might be a good idea to go. I am always interested in going to see what is new and innovative in the RV industry. For those that have never been, it is like a car show. For those that haven’t been to a car show, you should get out more. It’s good for your brain. It was a two - weekend event and I was out of town the first weekend so I decided to try to make a go of the last weekend. I mentioned it to Thomas and he was down.
I sent a few emails to the contacts listed on the website about filming at the RV show and immediately received a response. I called the one contact back and he mentioned several times that it would ok to film and it would be a great tie-in since it was the 50th anniversary. He said it a few times and I didn’t understand why he kept saying this. Brain ticking…wait a minute… the Graham’s first trip was in 1965 - 50 years ago this year. *Math. Go figure. Use it or lose it. Now, we definitely have to go. As some very wise people in my life have said, the “stars are aligning.” Even though I am not exactly sure if this footage or topic will make an appearance in the end, it just makes sense to me.
Initially, I wanted to document the “what” of the RV world; what is available and what does a RV offer its enthusiasts in 2015? The second thing I wanted to document was the “who” of this: who attends RV shows, who are these enthusiasts? 50 years have passed since my grandparents purchased their first RV and I wanted to know if the notion of an African American couple purchasing a trailer lost its exceptionality in the mainstream RV world. I felt confident that I knew the answer. As you may remember, my parents own a trailer, therefore in full disclosure; I have been to this particular RV show before over the years. Although it had been a while, I was assuming that based on my prior experience at this show and while camping, that things may not have changed too much in regards to hard core RV ownership and “interest” statistics by race. I expected to see a mostly white crowd. I knew that there would be a few people of color, but overall, it would be at least 98% white.
Friday afternoon, I noticed that the weather was beginning to look a bit concerning. The weather for Saturday, our scheduled day to shoot, was getting some bad press for later mid day. Not at least until 2:00 pm or so. At least that is what the consensus local weather people said about when things were going to happen. I texted Thomas about amending our meet time; I have already had two “scary driving while winter” incidents that have turned me into an overly cautious driver. At this point, I thought we should arrive earlier than planned to beat the snow and get what footage we can with the time we had and get out of there. The RV show ran until Sunday but I knew Thomas was not free to shoot, so this was our one shot. He agreed and 11:00 am it would be.
That night I stirred in bed thinking of what my plan should be and what the objective was for filming, especially with the potential time constraint. I wanted to be prepared with questions and have a plan but I stopped when it felt too worrisome. Final decision was to wing it. I wanted to at least get the general feel for what the show was on film for those who were not familiar with the RV consumer scene. If I would be able to get interviews, I would, if not, I would film them later and add them. So be it.
Saturday morning I grabbed the things I thought that would be useful for filming and interviewing and the last Kind Bar. I brought along my project bag that contained the photocopied travel logs and my laptop for showing images if needed. Surprisingly when I left, the snow had already started which ultimately was not a good sign. The snow that was falling was a fluffy white that whirled in the wind without ever seeming to settle on the ground. I arrived at the fairgrounds before Thomas and paid for our admission.
While I waited, I started to look at RVs and scope for potential interviews. Almost immediately, I spot an older black man accompanied by what I assumed were his 2 sons casually going in and out of the RVs. I decided that I must overcome the shyness and seize the moment and approach them hopefully without the scary stalking feeling. I crossed paths with them again and make the pitch. I singled the older gentleman and told him why I was there and asked if would be interested in being interviewed. I couldn’t tell if he was interested in participating but he did tell me that his parents had a trailer when he was growing up and that traveling was a large part of his childhood. He stated that they made a trip to Canada and cross- country. I would have to put them on the back burner because Thomas soon arrived and I wanted to help with the gear.
By the time we go back to his car to get the gear, the once fluffy snow is getting heavier and Thomas made sure to cover all his equipment. We didn’t return to the first building where we met. Instead we headed over to the main building that was larger and had the majority of the vendors. I had forgotten how huge this place was. From as far as the eye could see, there were RVs of all sorts and booths with lots of smiling talking faces in button down or polo shirts. We do a scan and find a spot where we stowed our items so we could set up and meander.
As usual, once a camera is in view, everyone looks curious. I find the contact for filming and he appeared to be in mid negotiation with a couple for an RV purchase. In the meantime, we start wandering. Anything you could think of on wheels was represented; everything to the modest to the obscene, rows and rows, building after building. We walk around and film to get the scope. The attendees were mostly white, with a rare person of color. This unfortunately underlined my theory about who would be there. The RVs may have changed significantly, but it appears that proportionately the buyers and aficionados have not. I would even guess that due to our age and race, Thomas and I were quite the oddity.
During this walking around and gawking at 6 figure motorhomes, I receive a phone call from my father. He informs me that it would be best if I left immediately or I would face the possibility of being stranded. Huh? Well it seems as though in this windowless building, we are completely unaware that the fluffy white snow that was once whirling in the wind, was coming down with a vengeance and beginning to cause havoc, leaving a small window of time to possibly get home safely. Of course, I assume that this is a bit of a parental directive, and a mere exaggeration. People are still coming into the building, so it couldn’t be that bad. I tell him that we are filming and will keep an eye on things and will make a decision shortly. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was true, but we weren’t exactly frantic.
About 15 minutes past and I received another call from my father with a much more urgent voice stating that I should in fact not go home, instead I should plan to stay at a hotel nearby because there would be no way I would get home. Needless to say, this information about the weather finally started to trickle into the RV show. While I was in line for some food, the nice folks working the stand heard the same information as well as people standing in line and in the vicinity. There was this buzz that almost all the major highways and roads were now or soon to be parking lots, including the one right in front of the RV show and the one to get me home. Thomas and I casually take a seat and eat our food. We are still nowhere near a window and have yet to seen any of this with our own eyes. There still seems to be no panic action, lots of talking, but no scurrying out. Once we see the vendors shutting down, this was the sign to head out.
We are packed up and the decision was made that I would leave my car there and not go to a hotel. Thomas a.k.a., the driver, felt confident that his trusty 4-wheel drive would save the day and get us out of there and I would crash with him for the night and be safely returned to my car the following day. As we walked to his car, it was as if we walked into another dimension. Somehow in that little span of 2 hours that we were inside, heavy snow had fallen and turned everything into a white, blurry blanket. There was no way I was even going to get my car over the snow that had now snuggled with the tires.
I have to admit, I trust Thomas with my life, but I was a little scared. I didn’t have a reason to not have this same faith that he had in his car, but I wasn’t completely sold. I guess he knows what his car is capable of. Thomas was able to get the car out of the snow pile that had now surrounded his parked car with no trouble. The trouble came when we were simply trying to get onto the street from the parking lot. In my 38-¾ years of life, I had never once witnessed what I did from that point on. This was in fact a parking lot. Cars that were trying to drive even an inch were going nowhere or everywhere with tires spinning. It was nothing but chaos. Thomas proceeds to bolt out with his trusty steed and we are off like the favorite at Preakness. He manages to maneuver and drive past all the stalling and spinouts like as we round the track of road and highway. The more people tried to drive the closer they were to going nowhere quick or the curb. Unless you had 4-wheel drive, you were going to have an extremely treacherous drive. It was like the Wild West, where everyone made their own rules- driving and zigzagging and going the opposite directions on the other side of the road. Only a few were successful, the majority was not. People were abandoning their cars, or dangerously helping people push their cars in once major thoroughfares or up hills. To sum up the harrowing drive, what normally is a 15-minute drive turned into a close to 2-hour drive. On the way in, we stopped at the grocery store to get provisions for the remainder of the evening for our snow pal wow (2 pals having a pow-wow).
There was so much snow I still don’t know exactly how Thomas was able to park in front of his home. I couldn’t even open the passenger door; Thomas had to shovel me out. Finally we are in the house. I make my calls to let everyone know that I am indeed safe and sound and that Thomas is a driver by all standards and that I was forever grateful. Movie time, project talk, Thomas retires upstairs and time to close my eyes. I wake up and hear Thomas stirring about later than I expected. It turns out that the reason that he was unable to shoot at the RV show on Sunday is no longer. This snowstorm had cancelled or at least delayed almost everything. The irony of it all is that we could have saved our hides and made the trip the following day and all would have been incident free.
What a difference a day makes. How things have changed. The sun was out, the snow was melting, and the sky was blue, all as if nothing had happened, except for the piles of snow quickly melting. Thomas does a very quick shovel and salting of the sidewalk and we are off. Kindly he returns me to my car. I couldn’t remember exactly where it was, but it became obvious quickly. There were tons of people in the now almost full capacity parking lot and in this one area, people were laughing and pointing at something. That spectacle was my car. Around my car was this halo of snow in a now completely cleared asphalt parking lot. Apparently, I may have been the only car that stayed the night and was there when the parking lot was cleared.
I called my parents to inform them of my current status. I got the answering machine. Next, I call my father’s cell phone before I rounded the corner because I had a sneaky suspicion. He answers and I tell him that I was back to my car safely and all was well. He than informs me that the reason I did not get them at home was because they were at the RV show. I laugh to myself and decide to join them and pull back around and park. We play a bit of RV tag and I eventually find them. Now that this is my second day attending, I am nothing but delighted to take them to all my favorites. I spend the next hour with them bewildered by all that is new in the world of RVing.