“Hopefully, the pig is friendly,” I muttered to my wife as we started walking toward the outdoor bar area. We were deep in Texas and staying at an RV site that had award-winning pulled pork, apple pie fries, and a giant pig named Minnie Pearl. She was really friendly and loved to be cuddled. She was surprisingly chatty even for a pig.

As two lesbians traveling full time in an RV, there are places where we fear that our homosexuality may incur the ire of those who disagree with our “lifestyle”. When this happens, we walk a few feet away and act like “we’re just friends.” This was one of those times.

Near the bar, we fanned ourselves out and behaved casually. Taking in our surroundings like undercover operatives in enemy territory, we had our heads turned. We saw two women glancing at us without trying to be discreet. “This should be interesting,” I muttered under my breath.

To our surprise, as we approached, the ladies shook hands and welcomed us to the bar as if we were old friends. He invited us to have a beer and sit at a neighboring table. We were shocked and relieved because the last thing we expected to see in a small town Texas bar was another gay couple. You never know what you’ll find when you’re on the road.

When we decided to sell everything and move into an RV, we were looking for a weightless life. We both retired early from stressful careers in health care and yearned for a relaxing pace free of responsibility. Not a week goes by when we don’t acknowledge how lucky and privileged we are to be able to choose to retire first. We’ve been on the road for over a year now and we’ve had some unique and incredible experiences.

The author and his wife with pig Minnie Pearl at the Lone Star Bar in Fredericksburg, Texas in October 2021.

Courtesy of Kim Kelly Stamp

Recently, at a campground in Grand Canyon National Park, we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My partner was planning to do a one-day, 26-mile, rim-to-rim hike, and we arrived a few days early to enjoy the area before his grueling adventure. We were awakened on our first morning by a strange, almost harmonic sound.

Rolling out of bed, I threw on some clothes and opened the shade of my camper to look around. “Holy shit,” I yelled. “There are two elk with huge racks right outside.”

The bulls were about 50 feet away, and some females were grazing outside. I fumbled with my phone, trying to get the camera up without the help of my glasses, and stumbled to our teardrop trailer to video the unfolding scene.

The bulls were trumpeting and looked strangely like whales under the sea. The cow nearby was meowing in response. The bulls began attacking each other, slamming their massive racks together, stopping only when the female cried out. These animals were so close that we could see the mist of their breath swirling around their snouts as they trumpeted. The rising sun filtering through the trees adds to the spectacular display of nature.

We envisioned epic moments like these when we decided to bail on the traditional American dream to live a life of adventure. We gave up our jobs, homes, and the semblance of security we had previously taken for granted. We idealized every part of full-time RV living with little thought to the potential drawbacks.

We didn’t imagine dealing with an overflowing septic tank at a random dump station, with waste spilling out of our black tank onto the ground. We never considered handling strong winds on the side of our trailer when driving through The Gorge in Oregon. And we didn’t spend much time thinking about how we might be perceived in conservative areas of our country.

The author and his wife at Garrapata State Park Beach in California in April 2022.
The author and his wife at Garrapata State Park Beach in California in April 2022.

Courtesy of Kim Kelly Stamp

Before we left on our trip, we lived in a liberal western Washington town that celebrates diversity like it invented it. Pride flags and Black Lives Matter posters are displayed in businesses and homes throughout our city. Being a gay couple in that environment convinced me that being gay was widely accepted and supported. I should have known better, but I was too busy being idealistic.

There is little diversity within the RV and tent camping communities. We don’t see many people of color and rarely run into gay couples. We’ve noticed that conservative, straight, white guys predominantly enjoy RVing, and we often feel eyes of judgment and disdain when it registers with our campground neighbors that we’re gay.

It’s not uncommon to see RVs flying Trump flags, and we once spotted a camper adorned with a life-size window decal of Trump’s smiling face. It’s common to hear disparaging comments about liberals and even more familiar to see people trying to avoid eye contact with us. We quickly learned to be as stealthy as possible.

I can’t imagine the luxury of enjoying RV life as a straight couple. I wonder what it would feel like to take an after-dinner walk through a campground or RV park and feel like you fit in. For straight couples the sense of belonging can be so pedestrian that they are unaware of their independence.

When we set out on this trip it didn’t occur to me that I’d feel the need to hide who I was again. It took me nearly 50 years to come out of the closet, so it’s frustrating to feel that my safety is at risk until I close my homosexuality. We’ve seen too many YouTube videos of lesbians to consider holding hands during our evening walks when camping in the South.

A few months into our grand adventure, I started to feel cranky whenever we came across an RV park. I used to judge people by their license plates, deciding in advance who would accept us and who would not. I had assumed that Texans would be critical and reluctant even before the Longhorns entered the state. Which is why our experience at The Lone Star Bar in Fredericksburg was so amazing.

The author and his wife at Bryce Canyon in Utah in September 2022.
The author and his wife at Bryce Canyon in Utah in September 2022.

Courtesy of Kim Kelly Stamp

We sat down with the gay couple who welcomed us to the bar and had a great time. They were regulars and circulated the story of how a local woman became the owner of the bar. We hear how each of them ended up in Texas and why they decided to stay. And he encouraged us to introduce him to the resident (giant) pig, Minnie Pearl.

Over beers, pulled pork, and apple pie fries (the only reason to visit the Lone Star), we swapped stories with our new friends and felt comfortable and connected. Late at night, after a unique moment with Minnie Pearl, we went back to our trailer with full stomachs and happy hearts.

As we climbed into bed, we talked about the irony of the situation and how our preconceived beliefs were shattered over caramel-drizzled apples that were sliced ​​and fried like french fries. We have accepted our tendency to judge others who we think will judge us.

Yes, gay people are still in danger in this country because of who they are. Frighteningly, with “Don’t Say Gay” bills passed in several states, anti-trans sentiment running rampant, and more new threats surfacing regularly, it often feels like we’re going backward. But it is a big country with good people everywhere.

We know we have to be careful – and we are. But we have also had pleasant surprises on our journey, and we are challenging ourselves to be more fluid in our thinking and to foster an openness that is nothing more than a license plate behind a license plate. Waits and watches before making a decision on the grounds. RV

Kim Kelly Stamp is a writer, essayist and espresso enthusiast. He travels around the country with his wife in a 21-foot teardrop trailer. You can follow her on Twitter @KimKellyWrites Read more about his work medium.com/@kimkellyrights,

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