“Okay, we’re rolling,” Dan said as he pushed the record button on Steve’s smartphone. “Alex’s birthday message- take 1.”
Steve, Dan, and George were attempting to record a birthday message for Alex about her party. They lived in a small house complex just outside of the southeast Arizona desert, but to them it was like a community. George was the lead villager, there were seven other villagers that lived there as well, including Steve, Dan, and Alex.
Alex was currently out on one of her explorations, so the guys wanted to send her the message before she got back. Dan panned the camera over to Steve and George, “Happy birthday, Alex,” they both said. “We know how hard you’ve been working on your hobby of collecting all sorts of raw materials,” Steve said, “so we thought it’d be fun to surprise you with a little party.”
But they didn’t nail it the first time, so Dan deleted the video and they started over. “Take 2,” Dan said and began recording once more. But the second time didn’t go much better. “To celebrate your birthday,” Steve began, but was interrupted by a phone call. “We thought we’d throw you a small–hold on, that’s the DJ!”
“Hold on, DJ?!” George exclaimed as Steve reached to answer the phone.
In the third recording, Steve admitted to some of his mischief. “Okay fine,” he said, “so it might be a medium-sized get together.” Suddenly, George came into Alex’s house. “Steve,” he exclaimed, “did you hire someone to build a half-pipe in the middle of the village?”
“Of course not,” Steve replied, “the party planner did.”
“You hired a party planner?” George asked. Just then, the woman Steve hired came into the house and into the recording. “No he did not hire a party planner,” she said, and George replied, “oh, thank goodness. For a minute there, I-”
“I am an event planner,” the woman interrupted.
“Oh boy,” George muttered.
By the time Steve, Dan, and George were able to make their fourth video attempt, The main Square of the village was filled with party people, a dance floor and a half-pipe with skateboarders doing tricks. People were going in and out of the villagers’ houses to use their bathrooms. Cooks hired by the event planner were serving food and setting up giant buffet tables.
The guys went outside to the entrance of the village to be somewhat away from all the commotion. When Dan started recording, the video showed George pacing nervously back and forth behind Steve as he talked. “Alex, it’s all good,” Steve said calmly, “just us, nothing too crazy.”
At that moment, Dan accidentally hit the flip camera button, and it captured the whole scene behind him. “Oops,” he exclaimed, and said, “Hi Alex!” into the camera. He was a nice person, but definitely not the smartest one you’ll ever meet.
Finally, in their fifth recording, they had to reveal what Steve had done. Dan got one of the cooks to film them so he could speak to Alex, too.
“So the guest list got a little out of hand,” Steve admitted.
“A little?!” George shouted, and looked around to see the village full of people on the dance floor, on the skating ramp, in the pool, and eating. There was even a sign over the entrance to the party saying, Happy Birthday, Alex.
George leaned into the camera, “Alex, I had nothing to do with this!” At that moment, Redfoo jumped in front of the camera and shouted happy birthday. “Redfoo is here?!” George said, shocked to see the one and only Redfoo.
“Yeah he is, because I got him here,” the party planner bragged. And that was the end of the fifth recording.
The sixth one was when the party was about to start for real. It began with George on camera, saying, “Well, there’s no way to sugar-coat it Alex. The cops are here!” Then Steve shoved George out of the way and yelled, “and they are having a blast!”
The camera-man panned over to reveal two policemen vibing out in a group of people who shouted, “Happy birthday, Alex!” Then the camera went back to Steve, Dan, and George. “This party is the least we can do for you, Alex, after all you’ve done for the village!”
They ended their final recording as the music cranked up, and more people hit the dance floor. Someone went flying off the half-pipe on their skateboard and into the pool. And a bunch of pizza delivery guys arrived at the entrance, greeted by Dan and George. “I got 40 cheese pizzas here for Dan,” said the delivery guy.
“Pay the man, George!” Dan shouted excitedly. George made a very sad and overwhelmed face, as if he’d just found out some really bad news.
Steve came up onto the stage where Redfoo was controlling the music, and they started playing his classic songs. By now the party was in full swing, and a bunch of people started dancing when the music changed. Even the villagers got in on the act.
By 10:00pm, things began to get out of control. Dan brought down the house with his own solo moves on the dance floor. Another person went flying from the half-pipe and into the pool. One of the villagers, who was with George, asked him if it was safe, and he replied, “No, it is absolutely NOT!”
Meanwhile Alex had made her way back to the village on foot. She preferred to walk instead of drive. She was quite shocked when she saw how many cars were parked in front of the village entrance and what was happening in front of her house. As she entered the party, George made his way to the top of the ramp that people were using to land in the pool. “Excuse me, young lady,” he said to the girl on the skateboard, “the launch ramp is closed.” He put his foot on her skateboard so she couldn’t move it. But doing that was a mistake in front of a bunch of party animals, who were all looking up at them. Someone shouted, “Hey! George is gonna go!” And they cheered.
George continued to stand on the board and shouted down to the people, “No no no, I’m not going!” and the crowd started chanting his name. “I was just explaining that this is really…” then the skater girl let go of the board and George flew down the ramp. When he landed in the pool, he didn’t come up right away and that worried the spectators for a few seconds, but when he emerged at the surface, he yelled, “That was awesome! I’m definitely going again.”
The crowd cheered.
Things were also crazy on the dance floor. Dan was in a dance battle with another villager, and Steve had started a chant from the stage.
By now Alex had surveyed the scene and made her way into the party area where she pulled the plug for the music, shouting angrily at Steve.
“Um… surprise?” Steve said with guilt in his voice.
“Party’s over,” Alex said as she showed the guests in her house to the door.
“Were you surprised?” Steve asked.
“Yes, and not in a good way,” Alex replied.
“Really? You were?” Steve was confused. “Because #Alexsparty was trending on twitter.”
“You know I don’t check my phone while I’m mining for the mythical treasure in the desert.”
Unlike Steve, Alex hardly used her phone at all.
“Look, I know my work schedule is tough,” she said, “but I thought you guys could handle the village without me. But I guess you’re not mature enough for that.”
“That’s insulting,” George replied. “I own this place.”
“And we are very mature,” Dan added.
Alex sounded upset. “Well, right now you’re acting like a bunch of animals who just threw a giant house party without my permission!”
“Does this mean you’re going to go back to work all day tomorrow?” Steve asked, even though he really wanted her to stick around.
“It should, and, normally, it would,” She answered.
“But you’re gonna hang with us for once instead, right?” Dan said.
“Look,” Alex replied, “selfishly I want to spend as much time with you guys as I can before I have to go to the gold-miners convention in Miami.”
“We’re going to Miami!” Steve shouted excitedly. “Get our speedos, Dan!”
“No speedos,” Alex snapped. “I’m going to Miami. I only got a plus-one, so it wouldn’t be fair to pick favorites.”
Steve came over to her and whispered, “Shhh, we both know I’m your favorite.”
“Steve…” she groaned.
“Tied for favorites?” he asked, referring to Dan and the other villagers. “You don’t even have to say who,” he prodded. “Blink once for Dan, twice for George.”
But Alex just walked away from him.
“Got it, no favorites!” Steve called after her.
The Central Arizona Inventors’ Convention was almost over. It was almost time for the judges to pick which invention they liked best. Ben was nervous he wouldn’t win. He loved creating inventions, but was always shy to share what he’d created because he was afraid of getting made fun of. He knew, however, that his home was a safe place to invent things and share them, as his friends, Alex and Steve, who lived in the gated community with him would never tease him.
One of the judges of the convention came up on the stage to announce what the prize would be before they picked the best invention. “The best inventor will win…” the judge paused and pulled back the big curtain behind him. “…a brand new RV!” A white RV with a yellow roof sat parked on the stage where there had once been a red curtain. It was about 22 feet long, so not super big..But to win an RV was a big deal, but Ben didn’t have time to look after a camper in addition to working as an inventor. This prize didn’t help his nerves.
The judges had already looked at everyone’s inventions and were ready to announce the winner. Ben held his breath. “And the winner is…” they paused for a drumroll. “Ben’s robot servant!” They shouted, referring to Ben’s invention. Ben couldn’t believe he’d won, but now he had to figure out what to do with his new vehicle. He came up on stage and the lead judge handed him the keys to the RV.
“Enjoy it, she runs well,” the judge said to Ben. He took the keys because he didn’t want to be rude and not accept his prize. He figured he could at least take the RV home, and then sell it on CARMAX or something.
Alex was packing for Miami. She had a fight to catch at noon. “Where’s my–” she started, when Steve popped up and scared her. “Plane ticket?” Steve said, handing her the thing she was looking for. “Thanks,” Alex replied hastily.
But Steve wasn’t finished. He had prepared a form of bribery to get Alex to take him with her to Miami. “So Alex, this is my friend, Spooky,” he told her, pointing to a statue he’d created by putting an old jack-o-lantern on the body of a scare-crow. “And he really wants to go to Miami, he’s been wanting to see it his whole life, Alex.”
“He’s just a statue,” Alex shook her head.
“Don’t call him that. He’s very sensitive to that name!” Steve replied.
Steve was a strange person and sometimes childish. To him, Spooky was alive. To everyone else, Spooky was just a scarecrow or statue.
“How can you resist the face,” Steve chided.
“I don’t have time for this,” Alex walked out of the house. “Where’s Ben? He’s supposed to drive me to the airport.”
At that moment, Ben pulled up to the house with his new camper. “Hey you two,” he called to Alex and Steve as he rolled down the window. “Any chance you would be interested in a free RV? I won it at my convention but I can’t keep it. I don’t have the time to look after it.”
“Congratulations on winning, Ben, but I don’t think–” Alex began, but Steve interrupted, “This is perfect! Now we can all go to Miami!” Steve shouted, pointing to Spooky and his dog, Rufus.
Then Dan came over. “That thing can tow my house to Miami,” he exclaimed. Dan lived in a small trailer and was always hoping to take it somewhere but didn’t have the proper vehicle. Or a valid driver’s license, for that matter.
“Come on Alex,” Steve begged.
Alex didn’t want an RV, but she knew Ben was busier than she was. “All right, I’ll take it,” she said with a smile.
Steve and Dan got very excited. “Miami, here we come!”
“I can’t take all of you with me,” Alex said, gesturing specifically to Spooky and Rufus.
“Yes you can,” Steve replied. “There’s tons of room in the camper.”
“Okay, fine.” Alex gave in. She didn’t have time to argue with them.
A little while later, Steve had packed all his things. Alex had repacked her stuff adding a few things because the camper had a huge storage room in the back, but when Steve went to load his oversized suitcase, it took up the entire storage space!
“Steve this is too much,” Alex exclaimed. “What’re you even carrying in that thing?”
Then Dan came over without any suitcases or backpacks or anything. “Dan, where is all your stuff?” Alex asked.
“I don’t need to pack anything because my house is a trailer, so we can tow it along,” he answered.
“Fine,” Alex said. “But only if you agree to let us put some of our boxes of stuff in it.”
Dan’s trailer house had enough space to fit the rest of Alex’s things. There was a kitchen table in the front, a little oven and sink, a bathroom, a set of bunk beds, and a TV. The floor in the middle of Dan’s trailer had space for Alex’s things, so that’s where she put them.
After everything was packed, Steve, Alex, and Dan surveyed the RV. There was a big table to sit at, a kitchen area behind the table with a sink and a stove, a bathroom with a shower in it, a loft above the storage room in the back with a bed, and some extra space above the driver’s cabin that was also for sleeping.
Ben came over to see them off and quickly went over a few of the RV’s features with Alex. Steve grabbed Spooky and pulled him in through the side door. Then he called his dog. “Have a good trip! And good luck at the convention, Alex!” Ben called as Alex climbed into the driver’s seat. Moments later, the RV was hitched up to Dan’s house and pulling out of the driveway.
When they started off, Steve was super excited about the camper. He said that they could save money on the way to Miami, because the reason vacations cost so much is by staying at hotels and eating at restaurants. And the camper would take care of both those things. He explained how they could stop for the night whenever they wanted, and cook for themselves, too.
Alex reminded Steve how they only have three days to get to Miami on time, since he’d talked her into driving instead of flying. That got Steve talking about all the fun things he and Dan could do in Miami while Alex was doing her job. Dan wanted to go to South Beach. Steve was going to say something about getting a fancy hotel room for himself when Alex stopped him.
“Why don’t you enjoy the sights we have right now,” she said. “Isn’t that part of what makes a good road trip?”
“There’s not much to look at right now,” Steve replied. And he was right. They were just driving on a highway in a desert. Steve just sat in the passenger seat and was quiet for a little while. Then he asked Alex, “Are we there yet?” the way a child would.
“Do not make me regret letting you come on this trip,” Alex snapped. “And don’t forget that I only got a plus-one so you’re lucky I’m bringing both of you.”
“Just go to your dumb convention party by yourself,” Steve told her. “They won’t even know the rest of us are in Miami with you.”
Then Steve went to the kitchen table where Dan was sitting to see if he wanted to play a card game to pass the time. They sat at opposite ends of the table and played Uno for almost an hour. Rufus the dog napped on the floor. Everyone was eventually starting to get used to the idea of RV travel. Steve mostly just thought it was cool that he could use the toilet while cruising down the highway. But when he was sitting there reading a magazine when the camper hit a bump, that was the end of that.
After another two hours of driving, Steve tried to get Alex to take a rest. “You look tired, take a break. Spooky can handle the driving,” Steve said, bringing Spooky up to the front seat.
“I’m not letting a statue drive the car,” Alex replied.
“Trust him.” Steve pulled Alex out of the driver’s seat and put Spooky behind the wheel. He made its arms grab the steering wheel and angled the bottom part to work the gas pedal. Alex sat down at the table in the seat that faced backwards, so when Steve made Spooky press the gas, the RV jerked forward as it sped up and slammed Alex into the table.
She looked over at Steve, who just sat there in the passenger seat. Spooky wasn’t alive, and with no one steering, the RV started to drift from its lane. The driver of a huge tractor trailer honked the horn. Startled, Steve grabbed the steering wheel. “Stay in the lane, buddy,” he said to Spooky. Alex slapped her forehead.
When the vehicle started to sway again, Alex got up and walked over to Steve and Spooky. She tried to get Spooky out of the driver’s seat, and Steve fought to keep him there. “He knows what he’s doing!” Steve exclaimed. Alex didn’t give up though. Steve was one of those people who was very hard to cope with.
In the meantime, Dan had been using the bathroom, and he came out to see what all the commotion was about, but he tripped over Rufus who was lying on the floor in front of the bathroom. Dan fell forward and bumped into Steve, causing him to smack his face on the windshield. The whole time, the camper was swerving all over the place.
Alex grabbed Spooky and threw him into the living area, then hopped into the driver’s seat. Once Steve sat back down, he tried to speak, but Alex didn’t want to hear it.
Alex drove for a while, and Steve started looking online for places to stop and buy lunch, but Alex wanted to get to Miami as soon as possible, and didn’t want to stop. “Check the fridge,” she told Steve. “I put food for lunch in there.”
Steve opened the fridge door and found a bunch of Alex’s health foods. She hated things people considered “real food”, so he should’ve expected this. Steve figured it was better than nothing though, and he went up front to give Alex her meal, then sat down at the table with Dan. They choked down their meals quietly. Steve didn’t want to risk her kicking them out on the side of the road after everything he’d done because by now they were too far away to walk home.
After lunch, Alex had to use the bathroom, so Steve took over driving. He got a little carried away, however,just like with everything else he does. When Alex came out of the bathroom, Steve had gotten off the highway and accelerated very fast along the road, but he wasn’t paying attention, and he drove onto another road that was closed and crashed through the barrier. The road went high and narrow above the ground, and on the side of a very steep mountain. Alex looked out the front passenger window and saw a bunch of destroyed vehicles at the bottom of the cliff that had crashed because the road was so dangerous they couldn’t stay on it.
“We gotta get off this road,” exclaimed Alex.
“No problem,” Steve replied. Then he hit a button Ben added that said press in case of emergency. The back of the RV opened and out came two rocket boosters. The RV went extremely fast, and Alex and Dan went flying from the passenger seat all the way to the back of the vehicle.
Then it turned and drove straight down a ledge where there was a flat area of rock that turned upwards, and the camper drove on it and shot into the sky. It didn’t fly for very long because Dan’s trailer was weighing it down. It somehow landed on all four wheels on a nearby road with the trailer still attached. Steve stopped the vehicle, and Alex was the driver for the rest of the day. In the evening, they pulled into a truckstop on the side of the highway.
Steve was confused. “What’re we doing here?”
“Stopping for the night,” Alex told him.
“But aren’t people with RV’s supposed to stay in RV camps?” Steve asked.
“Yes, but we’ve been going for 10 hours and there aren’t any nearby,” Alex replied.
“Whatever, I’ll just go into the store and grab us some dinner.” Steve got out of the camper and walked across the parking lot to the fast food restaurant and fueling station. He didn’t think Alex would approve of the food in this place, but they had to eat dinner. Steve ordered fast food for himself and Alex and Dan, then headed back to the camper.
“What is this?” Alex asked.
“They didn’t have anything healthy,” Steve said, looking at the hamburgers and a bucket of chicken wings he’d bought.
While they were eating, two big trucks pulled into the parking lot and parked on either side of the camper. Steve was annoyed about that, because it was a lot noisier than an RV camp. Alex said, “sometimes on a road trip, you gotta do what you gotta do. Especially in a camper.”
After dinner, Dan left the camper and went into his house. Steve and Alex got ready for bed. Steve took the bed above the storage unit in the back of the camper, because he claimed it had a more comfortable pillow. Alex slept in the loft above the cab, and Rufus the dog just stayed in his spot on the floor.
The sleeping situation wasn’t great. Alex didn’t like the highway for background noise, which didn’t quiet until around 1am. One of the trucks that was next to the camper started up at 6:00 in the morning, and it startled Steve awake. This is why we should stay at campgrounds, he thought to himself.
The semi truck made even more noise when it pulled away. Steve tried to go back to sleep, but Rufus came onto his bed and started whining. Steve had to take him outside the camper to use the bathroom. He tried letting Rufus go at the corner of the building, but people didn’t seem to like that very much.
Steve took the dog back to where the camper was. They went between the camper and the other semi truck so Rufus could have privacy, but the truck driver was inside his truck, and he banged on his window and started yelling at Steve. Clearly he didn’t appreciate what Steve had done there. Then Steve went to the restaurant to get breakfast and bring it back to the camper. They were serving muffins and breakfast sandwiches. Alex was hoping to get on the road as soon as possible, so she didn’t want to argue about the quality of the food in front of her.
When they hit the road, they drove for a long time, and eventually entered the state of Louisiana. Steve just sat throughout the drive and started thinking about why Alex had no interest in modern technology. She hardly went on her phone, and she preferred to walk everywhere instead of drive. She also was not a big fan of 21st century food.
Then Dan interrupted Steve’s thoughts. “Want to go to my house?” he asked.
“But how? The camper is moving,” Steve replied.
“Follow me,” Dan said.
They walked into the storage room at the back of the camper, then Dan opened the door that led outside. Dan reached around and grabbed the ladder on the back of the RV, pulling himself onto it. Then he jumped down onto where the trailer was hitched and walked across it to his house, where he pressed a button on the front of it. The entire front end of the trailer opened, and Dan slid inside and sat on one of the seats at his kitchen table.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Steve called after him, still in the RV storage area.
“Yes, it’s much easier than trying to climb over to the side door,” Dan replied.
Steve grabbed onto the ladder and made his way to the hitch on the RV, just like Dan had. The hard part was crossing it. It was just as wide as his foot, and he never had good balance. Steve took a step forward, then made the mistake of looking down at the pavement rushing past at 70 miles per hour. It startled him and he hobbled forward along the rest of the hitch, grabbing onto the front of the trailer before going inside through Dan’s custom-made door.
“This is a weird entrance for your home,” Steve remarked.
“I built it back in Texas last night,” Dan said.
Once they were both inside and sitting at the table, Dan hit the button to close the front of the trailer. Then Steve asked, “why do you think Alex has no interest in the modern world?”
“I honestly don’t know,” was all Dan could think of to say.
“She just wants to get to Miami,” Steve continued, “and not bother with the best part of any vacation–stopping to see things along the way to your destination.”
“Yeah, this convention is really important to Alex,” Dan said, “and it looks like we’re coming up on New Orleans, but I highly doubt Alex is going to take us into the city.”
Just then, they felt the camper slow down and turn onto an exit ramp. Steve got all excited at first, but then he saw a parking lot and a gas station and realized it was just another pit stop. When the camper stopped moving, they left Dan’s house and went to see Alex.
“Time for lunch,” she said when she saw them. They all went inside the store to get food and ate it in the camper. All Dan got was a bunch of cheese. He had a weird obsession with cheese, and he often would mistake a sponge for cheese as well. The fridge in his house was full of cheese, and that was all he ate for lunch today. Steve and Alex didn’t care, though. The problem was that sometimes he would confuse other yellow objects with cheese as well. He was not very smart about that.
As everyone was getting ready to leave, Dan noticed a small yellow shuttle bus leaving the rest area, heading towards the highway. “Giant rolling cheese,” he said, staring at the bus in awe. Then he completely lost his mind, as this was one of the biggest objects he’d ever mistaken for a piece of cheese.
Dan pulled Alex out of the driver’s seat, then he jumped behind the wheel and shouted, “MUST…HAVE…GIANT CHEESE!” Then he slammed the accelerator so hard he broke it. The camper’s tires screeched on the pavement as it propelled forwards, and Dan followed the bus onto the highway.
It was a few cars ahead of them, and Dan started swerving dangerously around them to get to the bus. Dan’s house turned awkwardly as the camper towed it while swerving, and it smashed into another car and knocked the car into a ditch. Alex and Steve tried to stop him and grab the steering wheel, causing the camper to take a sharp left onto the wrong side of the highway.
Now it was pure chaos. Cars were turning to avoid them, and a big tractor trailer truck was headed straight for the camper. Dan turned off the road just in time to avoid a head-on collision with the semi. But the gas pedal had broken and it was stuck to the floor, so when Dan steered the camper off the highway, it kept going farther into the woods. He steered sharply to avoid trees, but then the camper started going extremely fast down a hill. Everyone screamed as the camper approached the bottom of the hill and finally came to a stop in a small clearing of trees. Dan’s house was still attached to the camper, and the camper’s engine had run out of fuel.
Steve grabbed Spooky and got out of the vehicle and Alex, Dan, and Rufus exited. All they could see around them were woods. They were probably a few miles from the highway by now, but maybe more because they couldn’t even hear the cars.
There were no buildings in sight, and no signs of civilization. Just tons of trees and woods. Alex tried to start the engine in the camper. But with no fuel, the group was stuck in the middle of nowhere, probably in a large wildlife refuge.
“We are in trouble,” was all Alex could manage to say.
End of part 1