Sunday, October 25, 2009

More relatives and lots of music.

So what happened next, Carolyn?

Funny you should ask.

We drove through Indiana to General Butler State Park in Kentucky. Again, we arrived after dark. This was not the plan. No one who drives an RV will say this is a good idea. It happens pretty much every time for us. I'm practiced at calling RV parks and saying, "We'll be arriving late . . . is that okay?" They're all really nice about it. But no one comes in after us.

Before we got to the park, we went to Erin's house. Erin is Ross's niece. Her husband Robbie was in South Carolina -- but we got to visit with her, her cute kid Ethan, her sister Tara, along with Tara's cute kid Maddie, and their mom, Diana.

Between Erin's house and General Butler, we drove on the craziest, windiest road in Kentucky. We had split up again -- this time Jane Honda and I were following. Ross and I have radios, so we can communicate . . . I kept telling him I thought 25 mph was plenty fast. Yikes!

Just another adventure!

We met all the same relatives for dinner the next night -- plus Mike, Tara's husband. What a nice bunch of people!

Our next stop was James Powell's house -- Ross's brother-in-law. We stayed in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, that night. No more adventures. (But don't get complacent. Just sayin'.)

We drove to Ross's mom's house in the far northeast Tennesee. We didn't have reservations anywhere, because Butler, Tennessee, isn't near anything -- certainly not an RV park.

The plan was to park in her front yard. (Seems a little odd, doesn't it? Yeah. Hold that thought.)

We unhitched Jane at the bottom of her hill. I'm following Ross. (Feeling a sense of forboding yet? Hearing some horror movie music here?)

He radioed me: "I see a stake in the neighbor's yard. But I'm going in."

The stake was not a problem.

The wet ground however . . . was.

Imagine my dismay, as I watched the back wheels spin in the mud, getting deeper in the mud. I didn't even see the left front tire sink up to the hubcap. Oy.

The good news was that it took only 45 minutes for the guy to come and winch us out. And it was only about $150. Have I mentioned our personal connection to the economic stimulus program? We drive down the road throwing twenties out the window.

AFter that, we parked on the street.

Other than that, it was a pleasant few days in Butler.

Next came the musical portion of our trip. First Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. Not as corny as it sounds. Even though we're not that into country music.

Then Memphis. We stayed at the Graceland RV Park, just behind the Heartbreak Hotel. Seriously. The Jungle Room isn't as tacky as it sounds.

We visited Beale Street to listen to blues music. That was definitely as fun as it sounds. I could go back there real soon.

We finally drove out of the rain in Oklahoma, on our way to Ross's brother Jack's house in Lawton. Which is where we are now!

I should mention that da boyz have been real troopers through all of this. They are good with being left in the RV when we go out. They were even fine with being left in Jane Honda when we make quick trips to the store or go out to eat when the RV was in the shop.

Which is a good thing, since we bought this RV for them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aaah. That's better.

I left you hanging with that last post, didn't I? All gloom and doom and more than a dash of self-pity.

Well, my batteries are recharged (pun intended) and life is better now that we finally got out of Montana.

We left Montana a couple of weeks ago . . . but I still get shivers thinking about how much that state tried to get us to stay. Bad luck and bad weather made us wonder if we should just tuck our tails between our legs and turn back.

The nice people in Missoula fixed our coolant leak and put in a new alternator -- but it took a couple days and we got the RV back at 5 p.m. We had to race to get to Bozeman. We unhitched Jane Honda and I drove, too, so we could go faster. With a tow car, you're not supposed to exceed 65 mph. We got to the nice RV park very late. It was freezing cold (remember, bad weather) with snow on the ground.

We saw a couple of deer on our way out, in the dark, early next morning. We felt pretty confident we were finally over the hump. And we made it all the way to lunch! We stopped for half an hour at the Glendive Pizza Pit (not as glamorous as it sounds). When we got back to the RV, the alternator clearly wasn't working like it should. I got on Google and my cell phone and found a place one exit behind us that said they could help.

Our new alternator was bad.

Four hours and several hundred dollars later (alternators are more expensive in Glendive than in Missoula), we were racing to Bismarck. Again, Jane Honda, the dogs and I were in the lead. Ross and Destiny were close behind.

We got there around midnight. Ross was setting up in the dark when something else went wonky with our electricity.

Remember my previous posts? 4. There's something else weird wrong with our electrical system, so the coach battery isn't working either.

And, even before that . . .
After a couple of hours of sitting around, playing on the computer, watching TV . . . the lights started to fade and the heat went off. The outlets weren't affected, though. Weird, huh?

Yeah, that was still going on. But until then, it was a minor inconvenience compared to alternators going out. So we were used to using battery-operated lanterns at night and a space heater.

Now we were in Bismarck at midnight and the whole electrical system seemed to go kaflooey. Ross tried all kinds of things to restart the "new and improved" invertor/convertor, but nothing worked. We ended up shoving a long extension cord through the window to operate the space heater. And we slept just fine under our two sleeping bags. (You have to admit, Ross is prepared for just about anything!)

The next day, October 8, we met our friend Dale Ahlquist in Aberdeen, South Dakota, around lunchtime. We were now officially back on schedule! Woohoo! We drove to Dale's house in Minnesota and had a wonderful time seeing his family again. We parked the big rig right in his cul-de-sac -- and that extension cord came in handy again.

Meanwhile, I had delegated a research project to my brother in Racine. Find us someone who can repair RV electrical systems! And he did.

We got to Racine on October 9 -- our birthday -- and dropped Destiny off for another round of repairs. Randy graciously let us stay at his house and we took full advantage of his washer and dryer, among other things.

It was great to see the family. I even went out with a friend from high school. We connected again on Facebook after mumblemumble years.

They finally cured Destiny of her electrical woes. It was an installation error with the new system. Now everything is running perfectly. Pretty much. At least with the new inverter/converter. We've had some small issues. The new macerator stopped working a couple days ago. Turns out the ground wire came loose. The water pump also stopped. Again, I think it was another loose connection.

Bouncing along all these roads does tend to shake things up.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I admit that I am powerless.

When you hit bottom, there's no place to go but up. We're now at 3,200 feet here in Missoula. I guess that means things are looking up.

The bottom? Yesterday, we found ourselves at the side of a country road with a dead RV, a dead tow car and no cell service.

Ross can explain better than I what happened, but here's how I understand it.

1. We had a coolant leak, causing the RV to overheat.
2. The leak shorted out the alternator, so the chassis batteries weren't getting charged.
3. Because the batteries were dead, we couldn't start the generator.
4. There's something else weird wrong with our electrical system, so the coach battery isn't working either. (Don't know why, yet.)
5. I accidentally left the fan on in the car all day while it was being towed, so its battery died, too. (Lesson #2: learned.)
6. There's perfectly good cell service in St. Regis, Montana -- but not three miles away at Exit 37.

Ross thought he was going to have to walk those three miles back to St. Regis -- but, fortunately, the only car we saw on that road we pulled off on, stopped to jump-start the Honda. That's when things started looking better.

We called the RV towing service we signed up for and they sent out Sam, who got the generator started on Destiny. Then we made a little caravan to Missoula with me and the dogs in front in the Honda, Ross driving Destiny in the middle, and Sam the tow truck guy in the back -- for moral support. And he came from Missoula anyway. We did need him along the way, so thank goodness.

We stayed overnight at Jellystone RV Park. Yes. Really. It's not as glamorous as it sounds.

The RV towing people found us a repair place and they're working on Destiny now. We're staying at the La Quinta.

I was able to spend all day working -- first at a restaurant with wi-fi and now here at the hotel. So at least I got some stuff done!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nothing is ever easy.

My friend Martha says I've used up all my sympathy points, but -- because I brag about the fun parts -- I ought to be honest about the difficulties of this trip, too. Don't you think so?

No one should be surprised that getting ready to leave was exhausting. I have no one to blame but myself for that. I've been collecting things (books, wine and other fun stuff) forever. And I put off the inevitable for too long. Packing (and tossing out and giving away) took waaaaaaay too long.

As mentioned before, we had our RV fixed up. You kind of hope after all that time and money everything would be perfect.

Yesterday, we were ready to go at 10 a.m. That's only an hour late, which is pretty good for us. (Don't remind me. I know we had an extra 24 hours.) When Ross tried to start the engine, it wouldn't go. Dead battery. I guess neither of us heard we were supposed to turn off the inverter when not plugged into "shore power." (D'oh!) We had to call AAA, so we didn't leave until noon.

Lesson learned.

Last night, we pulled into our RV park, unhitched Jane (Jane Honda. Get it?), and settled in. After a couple of hours of sitting around, playing on the computer, watching TV . . . the lights started to fade and the heat went off. The outlets weren't affected, though. Weird, huh?

So, today, Ross had to call a guy to come out and see if he could see what was wrong. That meant Ross didn't come with the rest of us this morning and left after lunch to come back to meet the guy. So, he missed out on some of the fun. Plus, the guy was just as confused as we were. So it's still not fixed.

It's not huge -- since, we still have computer access and we have lanterns. But it's another awkward thing to deal with.

We're figuring it out as we go along. Sometimes stuff catches us by surprise.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still here.

Just couldn't get it all done in order to leave this morning. In fact, we're still not completely there -- but we will be by about 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. So . . . a day late and a peso short, I guess.

We picked up Destiny on Monday, with all her new equipment and facelift and everything and parked her in a storage lot. On Tuesday, Ross braved driving her through the narrow streets of Wallingford and parked in front of our neighbor's house where there's a Y in the road and it's a bit wider. (Lola graciously moved her car around the corner for a couple of days.) So now we have our next home parked by our current home. That makes moving stuff a little bit easier.

We also have a storage pod parked in back. If you're not familiar with them, it's a pretty cool idea. It's a big box they bring to your door. You can put anything you want in it -- furniture, boxes, whatever. Keep it as long as you want. Call them when you want them to pick it up and they'll bring it to their warehouse and store it until you call and say, "Bring it back."

We've had it for months, it seems. They're coming to get it on Saturday. They say you don't even have to be careful about balancing the load. They pick it up from the top or something. Which is great. Because we loaded all the books first. Piled to the ceiling.

These last few days, we've had all of these omigosh! moments. Omigosh, I have to cancel Comcast! Will we still have the same email address? Omigosh, I need to transfer our phone number to Vonage. Will they let us keep it? Omigosh, I have to change our address with everyone. How does that work?

I think we've remembered most of the important stuff. If not, they'll have to forgive us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Mail has been my life and my livelihood since . . . who can count that high. Today I scared myself by turning in the wackiest change-of-address ever.

Last year, when we started this Mexico experiment, I had a heck of a time adding our names to the "Do Not Mail" list. I don't know if I've publicly confessed this before. It felt really disloyal and wrong.

The next step was to go to a Web site called "Catalog Choice." Every catalog I got, I went online and said, "Don't mail this to me anymore." It was strange.

But the weirdest was signing up for Earth Class Mail. I am forwarding all our mail to a new address: 93 S. Jackson St., #13711, Seattle, WA 98104.

It's a real address, but not really. I don't live there, but it's now my mailing address. They'll get my mail, scan it and email me the scan. If I don't care about it, I'll tell them to recycle it. If I want to know what's in the envelope, I'll tell them to open and scan it. If I want it sent to me, I'll have to figure out where they can send it.

Instead of sorting your mail over the recycle bin, you do it online.

This whole process started a while ago. Hardly anybody mails me anything really interesting anymore. My Mom is online. So is the rest of my family. I've already asked every biller with the technology to send my bills straight to my bank, where I handle them online.

I feel like I owe a lot to the US Postal Service and now I'm pulling the last rug out from under them.

Things change.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting ready to get ready.

Since you last heard from me, we've been (1) enjoying Seattle's most spectacular summer ever and (2) fixing up the house to sell it.

That's really about it.

Summer was so wonderful that we really didn't get to the whole house thing until far too late. But we finally did get the place pretty enough to list it a week and a half ago. There have already been three open houses and another one is coming up in an hour. There's nothing really to do but wait for that one hour to pass . . . so I thought it was the right time to relaunch this wacky blog.

Destiny, our RV and home for the month of October, has been in the shop for weeks and weeks. She needed some extensive body work. The other stuff required ordering parts. And since we weren't going to go on the road until October 1, the deadline for getting her back slipped out to tomorrow.

That means we haven't had her available for loading yet. We'll be doing that Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yeah. That's pretty insane. We (and by "we," I mean Ross) are going to be tired before we start. But we have a lovely itinerary planned across these United States. We'll be visiting family and friends along the way. We'll be taking our time. And that will be a little different, too, from many of our past trips.

We'll be hauling the Honda behind us. They say that doesn't make an enormous difference in how you drive -- except you can never, ever back up without unhitching the car first.

And, of course, the dogs will be riding with us -- soaking up the scenery, napping in the sunshine, chatting up the people at the rest stops.

I sure hope the house sells quickly!