Late last month I was invited to the Washington Parks Foundation’s Get Outdoors Expo. My neighbor Lisa, who works for the Foundation, told me this year’s theme was “Adventure Awaits,” and I could give tours of Nellie and promote my blog. The Expo took place on the Capitol Lawn in Olympia, and it was an exceptionally hot day, especially for June.

Vendors and booths were setting up along the roadway when I arrived. I noted immediately the ubiquitous white pop-up party tents being placed on the pavement instead of the grass, and I grew immediately concerned; in my prior life as an attorney, I defended a case in which a canopy at a farmer’s market had not been secured, and a gust of wind picked it up. It flew like a kite into the crowd, blinding a little boy in one eye. I also had personal experiences while camping, when canopies which were not staked and/or tied down went airborne. Please, please: if you cannot use stakes and tiedowns for these canopies, at least use sandbags or water weights to keep them on the ground.

From my vantage point at the end of the drive, I saw two of the tents rise up in the air. People rushed to their corners to bring them back to earth. I grabbed my tool chest and walked toward the crowd, recommending to an organizer that the canopies be placed on the grass and staked down. Just as he was asking me if two stakes per canopy would suffice, the wind rose and two more tents flew across the roadway into parked cars. I had been a little annoyed by waiting at the end of the drive while others set up, but at that moment I was very relieved that Nellie was parked well away from the fray.

For the next few minutes I carried my hammer from canopy canopy, pounding stakes into the ground. When the roadway cleared I parked Nellie, opened her slides, and got ready for the crowds.

The crowds never really came. The Expo was well attended, but people were not stopping by the motorhome. I think no one was quite sure who I was or why I was there. Perhaps they thought I was an RV salesman!  I was also asked to park on the drive instead of the grass, which made it appear that I was simply parked there and not a part of the Expo.

At some point it was suggested that various mascot actors change into their costumes in my rig. I don’t think that was the purpose of my invitation, but that’s what transpired nevertheless.

First came Smokey Bear. A large black box the size of a steamer trunk appeared next to my RV. A few minutes later a park ranger and the young man who would be Smokey were at my RV door. But the box, containing the Smokey attire, would not fit through the door! I suggested that the costume be taken out of the box and brought into the RV, when they both shook their heads vehemently. “The suit can never be seen unless it is being worn,” said the park ranger. The duo headed off the find a more suitable locale for the furry transformation.

A few minutes later, another couple appeared at my door. This time it was for the mascot of the National Wildlife Foundation. Thus began my steamy afternoon with Ranger Rick.

Given the weight, material, and lack of ventilation of mascot costumes, I learned that most of them are now outfitted with built-in refrigeration units and fans. However, one 20-year-old Ranger Rick suit without such modern accoutrements survives, and it is assigned to the Pacific Northwest. After all, it rarely gets above 80 degrees, right? I recalled another case I defended in which an actress donned a spacesuit costume for a video game commercial, which included a helmet held together with fresh epoxy. As she hung suspended before a green screen, with no ventilation in the helmet and breathing glue fumes, she passed out and slumped, seemingly lifeless in her harness. Thankfully there was no permanent harm, although she would have had us believe otherwise. Small settlement.

Back in the RV, I watched a young man in a tank top and boxers be strapped with ice packs on elastic bands all over his body, including his back, thighs, soles of his feet, and head, before donning the get-up.  He shivered and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. All furred up, he exited Nellie and schmoozed the crowd for 10 minutes – the maximum time allowed because of the temperature. The liability lawyer in me approved. He and his handler returned to the RV, where he stripped down, soaking wet, the packs melted and warm and useless. He looked like a terrorist, if that terrorist was in his underwear and strapped with water bombs. For another 10 minutes he stood under the strongest air conditioning vent in the RV before repeating the process with new ice packs.

It quickly dawned on me that I would not be able to talk to attendees about my blog and give tours of Nellie if Ranger Rick was going to be in my rig every 10 minutes! And Woodsy Owl was still en route. Plan B!

I told the Ranger Rick duo that Smokey Bear had found alternative accommodations, and suggested they find out where Smokey was gearing up. They understood and were quite polite about it, freeing me up to visit with attendees and my friend Karen, who made a special trip to see me and snapped this photo.

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This was right before the awning incident. And you know the rest of the story.