Inside of her fifth wheel camper, Jessica Vieira pours a cup of sugar over a pot of red cranberries. There's something about canned cranberry sauce she just doesn't like. A pumpkin pie bakes in the toaster oven, filling her quaint home with warmth and a soft aroma of holiday spices. The turkey sits in a pan on the small oven, waiting for its turn.
"A toaster over is better than using propane," said Vieira, who doesn't feel safe using propane in the trailer.
While not everyone can imagine living in such tight quarters, Vieira has made a home in the Stockton Lodi RV Park. She and her fiance, Eric Vieira (whose last name she uses), have lived in the park for about two years. A barbecue and folding chairs sit outside the door under a camouflage-colored awning. Inside, the TV, couch, a lounge chair and kitchen are within feet of each other. Everything is a little smaller: Mini-refrigerator, a more compact stove, little small countertop - but it's home.
Christmas tinsel and Santa decorations line the window sill and sit on top of the large TV that broadcasts the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
Vieira is proving that all you need to create a Thanksgiving feast are the best ingredients, a few stove-top burners and good organization.
In local RV parks, families and friends are celebrating Thanksgiving with big meals inside of their campers, on picnic benches and in community dining halls. Some bake turkeys inside because it also heats the trailer. Others set up camp, of sorts, outside and deep-fry, smoke and barbecue their turkeys. Others go for the unconventional: Barbecue ribs or a case of beer.
Mark Phillips, one of Vieira's neighbors at Stockton Lodi RV Park on Eight Mile Road, is busy cooking six turkeys that he'll eat with his family and share with those who will dine in a communitywide feast. Behind his spacious 32-foot fifth wheel, Phillips places charcoal and mesquite chips in a smoker and Weber barbecue.
At some parks, like Stockton Lodi RV Park, management organizes a Thanksgiving dinner for those who don't want to do their own cooking. While many are choosing to eat alone or have plans to visit family, at least 15 people signed up to bring side dishes to the community dinner.
As the coals heat in the smoker and barbecue, Phillips pulls two marinating turkeys from an orange bucket. He lays them on a platter, stuffs them with thyme and sage and rubs it down with vegetable oil.
"It's like being a massage therapist," he joked. "When you cut into this, it will be like ham - it'll even have the pink to it."
Phillips is the resident chef - at least his neighbors wish. He's won three awards for his chili and Eric Vieira says Phillips' chicken tortilla soup is the best.
"He's like Betty Crocker," Eric Vieira said.
Even if he had a huge house to cook a turkey dinner in, Phillips would probably still go with smoked and deep-fried turkeys.
Jim "Jimbo" Durant, assistant to the owner at Stockton Lodi RV Park, says cooking turkeys in a variety of ways introduces people to something they might like better than the traditional oven-cooked.
"It's so good it'll make your grandma cry," he said of deep-fried turkey.
In Lodi for work, Sherry Stith and her family opt for barbecued pork ribs on Thanksgiving. It's not turkey, but it's definitely better than the convenience store hot dogs they had last Thanksgiving while they were traveling.
At the Flag City RV Resort, most rigs are quiet, as many people are at nearby family members' houses. But sitting around a picnic table under an awning, seven river dredgers from Oregon laugh and drink beer while they wait for their wives and girlfriends to drive down from Oregon. Justin Fuller joked about his Thanksgiving dinner and carried out a 30-pack of Coors Light on a turkey platter.
A few RV spaces down, Clara Carter cooks a turkey breast in her large motorhome, thankful that her husband is now home from the hospital. Her two birds, Mokie and T-Bird, squawk inside, hoping there will soon be a bone to chew.
For Carter, cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a camper is no different than cooking in a large kitchen. But, she's kind of gifted that way.
"(In Mexico) I made Thanksgiving dinner for six people in a boat, too," Carter said.