We may live and work in an altruistic hippy dippy summer camp for children—in Mendocino County, where it’s totally normal to order a hemp latte—however one hour in the opposite direction is Willits, a small town described on a large sign as The Gateway to the Redwoods. It’s also the gateway to another fine specimen in nature: the redneck.
Every summer, rednecks gather at a Willits campground called KOA.
When you kamp at KOA—that’s what the K is for, Kampgrounds—you find motorhomes that are larger than your own home even though they are called transient things like Weekender, late night limbo competitions and booming lyrics that you weirdly know all the words to.
Like, ‘C’mon feel the noise….’
Then there’s the pool. The rules are wonderfully clear. No diving. No bombing. No jumping. No running. No food. No shoes. No glass. The only thing that’s OK at KOA is beer. You can stand around in the pool and drink as many cans as you like or nurse a cold one from the comfort of your recliner while you bark at your kids to not run, jump, bomb or dive into the pool.
In waiver-heavy, quadruple-claused America this little spot is an oasis. Please don’t splash but go ahead and get wasted.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a kamping Dad from Reno, Nevada. He was outraged about a few things, the worst being his ten-year-old son’s recent refusal to eat McDonald’s. Apparently at their last drive through the cheeky little bugger said he would not eat a burger because it would take up to 48 hours to digest. I commiserated with the Dad. Outrageous. The son had a new BMX trainer who was full of lofty ideas. “He told my boy that his body was like a motor; put in bad gas in, get a poor performance,” said the Dad.
I asked him what he thought about that advice, about the body being a motor and all that. He said he hadn’t really thought about it.
“Hey, is that an Australian accent?” he asked.
When I told him it was New Zealand, he said, “Oh. I have some friends in Australia.”
I was a little disappointed he didn’t ask me if I knew them.
At KOA there’s no talk of yoga, organic, or debating the merits of home-schooling, everyone’s a terrible listener, and cleansing is simply not drinking booze before lunch.
And as for any kind of kampish behaviour, well that’s just plain dangerous. You wouldn’t chortle in the wrong direction at KOA. The Dimple lets his bristles grow before we go and I’m working on my own ‘tash. The ‘Dactyl has taken a keen liking to Guns N’ roses and Bob has mastered the art of not knocking over any tinnies.
It’s brilliant. And reminds us of home and that fine New Zealand version of the redneck: the bogan. Same fuck yeahs, same staunch stares.
But just like the tough city kids that come up here for summer camp, I love finding a place to connect underneath the cussing. In the bathrooms, a fierce Mum and I laughed about why it takes our sons 57 times longer than our daughters to poop. That McDonald’s Dad and I ended up talking about our livers because, he told me conspiratorially, that the pesky trainer might be right. “I don’t always put in good gas,” he confessed. “Same,” I said, as we clinked our drinks.
We’re constantly entertained by how different, yet the same, we actually are. Which is why, on our days off this summer, the Dimple and I cannot pack up our gigantic Chevy fast enough and leg it over to Willits.
…my kind of place…yeeha!!
That’s what we said …. “Where’s Uncle Mammoth?”
I’ve been reflecting on what you wrote & it reminded me of various conversations I’ve had in random places with random people, an Egyptian Mullah sitting by the Persian Gulf, a Militant leader in a bar in Nigeria & a Vietnamese prostitute in Singapore. We’re all connected by certain truths, obligations, needs and a myriad of universal goals. When we allow the noise of our own lives & points of view to take a backseat, it’s ironic how despite the differences, there always seems to be a point of reference we can relate to. I’m sure I’ve said it before, Your writing brings a heartfelt smile & a pause that leads to reflection.
Thank you. Yes, I totally agree—the best travel moments are those random ones with strangers, who turn out to be not so strange after all.