In this pleasant work of nonfiction, author Nathan Pettijohn decides to get away from his routine life by exploring parts of America in an RV.
In the pre-pandemic days of October 2019, Pettijohn, then 31, had been married and divorced and is coming off another bad break-up and an annoying neighbor, when he decides to take Hafa, his German Shepherd puppy, on a road trip. Renting a Fleetwood Southwind for three-and-a-half weeks, he makes only two campground reservations, one for the first night in Zion National Park and one for the midway point to keep him on track to return the RV on time. From his home in Hermosa Beach, California, he loops through states such as Utah, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, with stops to see friends and relatives along the way.
Pettijohn doesn’t realize what he’s in for: over-crowded parks, leash laws, parking regulations, not to mention wrestling a bus-size vehicle through wind, rain, and snow. The upside, however, is that he finds soul-stirringly beautiful spots and meets some interesting people, such as the college student who introduces him to the famous huckleberry milkshakes of St. Regis, Montana.
In truth, the book is more suited to a daily blog than a book. After all, three-and-a-half weeks on the road isn’t long, and readers may find Pettijohn’s contemplative musings overblown, given the timespan. Post-trip, he reflects on everything from the pandemic to the powers of being anonymous, whether in a car, on social media, or even dating online. Ultimately, it’s hard to discern how much the trip effected changes in his life and whether he attained what he was looking for.
He concludes his story by sharing the well-known mantra: “to live as if today is your last day on earth, and to live today as if you’re going to live forever.” Readers for whom that includes the dream of renting an RV and hitting the road should enjoy going along for the ride.
Also available as an ebook.