Queen of the Road – A Book Review
The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own
by Doreen Orion
There are two kinds of fulltime RVer couples on the road. There are couples where both partners really love the lifestyle, and can’t think of living any other way. Then, there are couples where one partner loves it, and the other was dragged on the bus kicking and screaming. Some couples’ personalities fit perfectly into fulltime RVing, while others try it, then put their RV on the market before summer’s end.
If you happen to be the reluctant RVer, Doreen Orion’s book – Queen of the Road – is perfect for you.
“Barebones Camping”? In a Prevost?
Doreen’s book is a humorous, insightful look at how she, the reluctant fulltime RVing partner, handled living on the road for a year with her mellow, outdoorsy husband Tim, two cats, and a poodle in a 340 square foot custom Prevost bus. She writes:
“Bus? Well..I tried to convince myself (really I did) that my living on one was a natural fit. Although I love the idea of travel, in practice I don’t particularly like doing it; the closets are never big enough and there’s always the risk of ending up on a hotel’s first floor, which smacks way too much of camping for me. I loathe camping. In fact, my idea of “roughing it” is to stay at the Holiday Inn.”
For anyone who’s reluctant to go fulltiming, Doreen has some advice for you. In an email interview, she says:
“If I can do it, anyone can. I was a VERY reluctant road trip partner. In fact, when Tim first came home and announced he wanted to “chuck it all” and travel the country in a converted bus for a year, I gave this profound and potentially life-altering decision all the the thoughtful consideration it deserved.
‘Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?’ I demanded.”
Spoiled and Well Taken Care of
It’s hard to believe that someone like Doreen would even take a trip like this. The self-proclaimed spoiled Jewish “Princess from the Island of Long,” writes about her favorite hobbies; lounging at home in designer track suits, building up her shoe collection, and avoiding any kind of housework:
“I have always been smug in my position as role model for my friends. They marvel at how I get Tim to do:
1) all the cleaning (by existing the house in horribly wrinkled clothes)
2) all the laundry (by washing everything together, so his favorite baseball shirt turned pink);
3) all the dishes (by being incapable of stacking the dishwasher in an energy-efficient manner).”
Despite her aversion to leaving, a little voice in her head knew her husband was right about why they should go on the road; they weren’t getting any younger, and as two DINKs with established careers, nothing was holding them back from making a change like this. She agrees to go, but her social circle of like-minded women wasn’t exactly encouraging:
“Once we announced we were doing the “bus thing,” as we came to call it, my friends started viewing me with disgust. They insisted I’d let them down. As their husbands eyed mine with envy and tried to get him to divulge his secret recipe for spousal capitulation, the wives shunned me as if the decision to chuck everything and live in a glorified tin can was a symptom of some contagious insanity.”
“What Am I Afraid Of?”
As a professional psychiatrist, Doreen writes a book that is less a book about fulltime Rving, and more a memoir about adapting to life on the road. While her narrative covers their entire route, Queen Doreen makes reading about it more fun than the usual travelogue.
She paints vivid, funny pictures of her husband’s calm, rational demeanor, and writes humorous analyses of her own thoughts and fears about being on the road … especially as the fretful passenger during their first days on the bus:
“On the slightest downhill, I’d try to mind-meld with Tim, to get him to put on the engine brake, my foot stomping on air. At every turn, I’d clutch the seat, anticipating a rollover. At every dip in the road, I’d hold my breath, listening for the sound of bending steel, a portend of our imminent, albeit mercifully swift, midsectioning.”
What was I afraid of? I kept asking myself. The answer was always the same: careening off the road amidst the sound of our belongings crashing.”
Doreen gradually comes to grips with her fears, and her attitudes about “the bus thing” start changing too. Despite all of the things she felt she gave up to do this trip, sees unexpected positive changes in her life, and her relationship with Tim:
“After the sun set, we’d cook . . . er, thaw dinner. Then sit inside our home and talk. It didn’t matter what we talked about . . . feeling close and laughing with one another. Spending time this way, without any of the distractions I used to consider essential (TV, going out to fancy restaurants, wearing high-end clothes) made me start questioning just how essential they were.”
As their year goes on, Doreen isn’t the only one who’s benefiting from fulltiming. Her cats, Morty and Shula, used to fight constantly, but on the road, they called a truce and learned to coexist. And Miles the poodle, in true dog fashion, embraces the quality time while showing his humans what’s really important in life. In our interview, Doreen said:
“I joke that everyone on the bus changed – except Miles, our standard poodle, since of course, he was perfect to begin with. Our cats, Morty and Shula, hated each other and fought every day of their lives prior to our trip. But, on the bus, living in 340 square feet, they seem to have adopted a “do or die” attitude, and while there were certainly never any adorable cat snuggle moments, they did manage to come to a sort of truce. Really, if they could get along, anyone can.
As for Miles, it just became even more apparent on the road that he was all about simple pleasures: It was enough in life to have a bowl of food and a small, quiet place to himself, surrounded by people who loved him. Why ask for anything more?”
Do It Now
Most younger fulltimers are on the road because they understand why it’s so important to go on adventures like this while they are younger and more able to do so. Many have watched too many older friends fall into the trap of working for retirement, instead of living life in the now. Doreen’s husband, Tim, understood this, but it took her a few months on the road to concur.
“I didn’t want to do the trip because my life was comfortable, yet on the road, I learned that “comfort” isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
When we’re younger and just starting out, we’re constantly stimulated and challenged, whether by school or a new career. Then, at some point, after we’re settled into our lives and careers and we’re where we want to be, we have a chance to breathe, and many of us wonder, “Is this all there is? Is this what I worked so hard for?
She added, “Tim and I were certainly guilty of . . . spending more time supporting a lifestyle than with each other.
All the adventures on the road (and misadventures – fire, armed robbery and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park to name a few), put a certain spark back in my life I didn’t even realize was missing.”
For the reluctant road trippers out there, Doreen says “Go for it! Don’t wait: There is never a “good” time to do it. Just do it, keep an open mind and heart (yes, I know I’m one to talk), and see what happens.”
Funny, and Practical Too!
Queen of the Road is always funny, insightful, and gives some good information about great places to see around North America. Plus, Doreen’s inventive martini recipes at the beginning of every chapter are sure to get you in the mood to sit in a comfy chair and keep on reading.
“Every chapter of the book starts with a martini recipe which commemorates whatever disaster we had on the road,” she says. “One of my favorites includes Midori, which is a very versatile – and tasty – liqueur:
- 1 part rum
- 2 parts Midori
- 1 splash pineapple juice
- 1 splash sweet ‘n’ sour
- 1 white-knuckled squeeze of lime
Pound martini shaker against emergency exit until window breaks or ingredients sufficiently mixed for tasty self-medication.
For more cocktail recipes, listen to Doreen’s Podcast #6, on the podcast page of her website.
To read the entire first chapter of Queen of the Road, check out fabulous reviews the book has been getting, to see pictures and videos of the trip or to contact Doreen to call in to book clubs, visit her at QueenoftheRoadTheBook.com