“This is Nowhere: Destination Wally World”
BOISEweekly, October 9-15, 2002
by Bruce Fletcher
“Have we been here before, or did we just see it on TV?” -RV traveler
High Plains Films, a Montana-based independent production company, is on a roll. Director Doug Hawes-Davis just returned from New York, where the organizers of the prestigious 24th IFP Market and Film Conference invited him to participate and showcase his documentary, Libby, Montana. Set for completion early next year, the work focuses on hundreds of people living in the town who are sick and dying from exposure to asbestos. Hawes-Davis also recently finished his 3rd feature-length documentary, This is Nowhere, a four-year project that takes the viewer on an utterly fascinating journey to examine the motivations and philosophies of RV travelers.
Much has been written about the homogenization of America, and the inevitable post-war rise of faceless suburbs and huge strip malls. Regional differences are gone, and Miami and Portland have chain stores with exactly the same floor plans. It is possible to explore the world without entering unfamiliar territory. Why should one have to endure any hardship at all? The 21st century features a new breed of traveler who wishes to “camp” in absolute comfort, without the messy dirt, fire, outhouses, trees or animals.
The Census Bureau labels the more than 2.8 million people who live in motor homes, campers, and trailers as the “affluent homeless,” but they refer to themselves as “full-timers.” Usually (though not always) retired, they have no fixed address, but live in the lap of luxury. You have to be financially comfortable to keep 80 gallons of gas in the tank as you tour about the countryside. Most of the RVs presented in the film are fully loaded with multiple TVs, VCRs, satellite dishes, washers, dryers, marble floors, and computers with GPS systems. One of these behemoths actually coubles in size when the owner pushes the “expand” button. An extremely popular destination, along with the ubiquitous theme parks, ghost towns, battlefields, and even national parks, are parking lots at Wal-Mart.
You’ve probably already noticed them - a colorful assortment of out-of-state license plates on huge vehicles parked together in a corner. Wal-Mart signage states that “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense,” while another sign designates the proper spot for “RV parking.” With an ironic nod to National Lampoon’s Vacation, these chain store gypsies refer to themselves as the “Wally-Worlders.” Of course, the store is a willing host for these wealthy nomads, because they spend a lot of money when they park. They even created a special Wal-Mart edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas that includes a 23-page list of the addresses, highway exit numbers and services available at every Wal-Mart store in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Wally-Worlders love it, even if they don’t get the RV out to Puerto Rico or Hawaii very often.
Montana Public television will be presenting This Is Nowhere, so hopefully a few well-placed requests to Idaho Public television will get it on our screens as well.