Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Westbound and Down, Loaded Up and Truckin'
I found some things that I really like about TEXAS and I'm so relieved. My past experiences, though few, have been memorable but mostly for the wrong reasons.
To start I'll tell you where we are now. Actually I don't know where we are now because it has been so long since I've seen a town or a burg or anything but an expanse of nearly flat ground peppered with little juniper trees. I know we are past Junction, TEXAS and are not to El Paso yet and won't be for several hours. But given the terrain, with a set of high powered binoculars I could probably see El Paso from here.
Next I'll tell you what I really like about TEXAS. I like to start things on a positive note. San Antonio is a beautiful city. We went to a H.E.B. grocery store in Boerne (pronounced "Bernie" by the locals...we had it all wrong) and found the nicest grocery store I've shopped at in years. I had a ball shopping. We stayed at the San Antonio Rose Palace showgrounds last night. The SASHA show was going on and we had a nice time visiting with everyone there. The show manager was so welcoming and helpful and we met some great people. We even got offered a free steak dinner by a nice gentleman restaurant owner the next time we are passing through the state. Such hospitality!
Right now we are motoring along on a nice highway where the speed limit is 80 miles per hour (cool!). It is so quiet in here that we feel almost peaceful floating down the road. The skies are clear and there is an occasional wind gust but it's mostly pretty nice. We stopped at a rest area to take Breezy for a spin. When I got out of the coach it felt like spring and the air was sweet. So far I have to say that the people that we met in TEXAS are mostly as nice as the TEXANS that we already know. And they are very helpful...thank God.
Now I'll back up to the point where we crossed from Louisiana to TEXAS and try to recount what happened. When John suggested that I blog about this my immediate response was that I didn't think I wanted to re-live it but half way through the day yesterday we began to see some humor in all of it. In fact John was reduced to hysterical laughter just driving down the road. I didn't have to ask what he was laughing about. I knew. Breezy stood between our seats and watched as his hysteria over took me and we convulsed with laughter, gasping for air and drying tears
Okay. We were bouncing and bumping along on Interstate 10 late in the afternoon on Friday after leaving Florida that morning. We thrashed down the highway while I was frantically searching for a place to park Mary before we got to Houston. My best advice was that we stop before Houston because at the rate we were traveling we would have met Friday night rush hour head on. But I couldn't find a park or campground that had a space much less one that could take our big coach. I called five parks and all gave me the same answer...sorry, full up. The only KOA listed was right in Houston. Not going to work. The wind had been gusting at 25 to 35 mph all day long and John was worn out with wrestling Mary around narrow beat up, torn up, horrible Interstate 10 so we were considering a Walmart or a rest area or a truck stop...anything just to get off of the road. Finally I picked up "The Next Exit" and one entry grabbed my attention. It was an exit in Baytown, Texas and it has a KOA listed. I Googled "Baytown KOA" and came up with a number (it wasn't in the KOA directory because they apparently ditched the KOA to be an independent park). Yes! Things were looking up. I dialed and got a nice woman on the phone and asked her if she had space. There were two left that would accommodate a coach the size of Queen Mary so I made the reservation and she gave me some brief directions to get to the place. We were re-energized knowing that we would soon get off of I-10 for a good night of rest.
As we approached Baytown we realized that we were considerably closer to our destination than we thought. John asked me to call the woman and get specific directions. So I did. She gave them to me and said it was fine if we arrived a little earlier than we planned. As we got closer John asked me to call the woman back again so that he could get the directions from her personally. No problem. I dialed and she answered and I gave him the phone. She repeated that we would need to make a U turn under the highway (this is an odd thing that I've never seen before...frontage roads all over the place and quirky on and off ramps that leave you wondering what direction you are going. And instead of driving over the Interstate you pass under the Interstate. I know this shouldn't be a big thing but when you are driving a BIG thing and can't back up without tearing the front end out of the Camry it is important that you don't get into situations where you have to unhook the car in order to get out of a mess.
Every coach owner that we have spoken to nods in recognition when we outline the dreaded scenario in which you have to back up and can't. "Been there," we hear. "Oh yeah, done that," says the next person with excruciatingly painful expressions. Well we are determined to be so careful that it will NEVER happen to us.
But I forgot about Murphy. He was vacationing on the beach in Florida for a few weeks, spiffing up his tan before he packed his bags and stowed away in Mary for a trip to his homeland. When we entered TEXAS he woke up and started celebrating...at our expense.
Currently we are still heading toward El Paso. Haven't seen much. A few dead critters in the road. A tumbleweed. A few picnic areas. Call me crazy but I find it strange that anyone would want to picnic along I-10 in west TEXAS.
Back to the story...
So I heard John ask the woman to repeat the directions to the campground three times and he thanked her and hung up as we took the exit. We pulled up to the traffic signal where we were supposed to take a left. But there were two ways to make a left. I'd never seen anything like it. Neither of us was sure if taking the first turn would take us where we needed to go because there wasn't a sign. Anywhere. About anything.
I think in some states you need to be psyhic to get around.
In this case we needed to get to the frontage road. The choice was A or B. We chose B. We quickly realized that we should have taken A. Thanks Murphy. So we drove on down a road saying, "Uh oh"..."Oh shit"..."We screwed up" and lots of things like that while we searched frantically for a big parking lot big enough to turn around in. Finally we saw a church with a circular driveway that would work. John made the turn and we eased around as he asks me to call this woman again. Again? I'm feeling resistant at this point but I do it and hand the phone to him. He wants me to talk to her. I refuse. He takes the phone. He's trying to explain where we are (how the hell would we know where we are...there are NO SIGNS) and what we did wrong. Then before she finishes explaining how to fix it John sees an opening in traffic and says, "I have to go now!" and hands me the phone again as Mary lurches out onto the road and we head back to the same intersection where Murphy got involved in our lives. I apologized to the woman for making her start over again and for being such a pain. By this time I know she thinks we are total idiots (and if she didn't think so by then there couldn't have been one doubt left in her mind by the time we got off of the property the next morning). Finally I figured out where we needed to go. She repeats to me to be careful not to miss the driveway. Okay. We will be careful I say and hang up.
We found the entrance without a problem and John registered us for the night. It was a nice place but it was 100 feet from I-10 so it was a little noisy. And that's an understatement.
We just got hit by a gust of wind that felt like a miniature tornado. It rocked Mary half way out of one lane and into another. It's looking kind of dusty up ahead. We are trying to figure out which way the wind is coming from. I guess it doesn't matter. It's a annoying as hell and it is killing our already meager mileage. Oh well. As a good friend pointed out to us today, you can't take it with you so you might as well have fun. That we are doing!
Okay, so John started easing Mary into the park looking for the lane that we are supposed to turn down (lane D) while we discussed the desire to uncork a nice bottle of wine to have with our dinner when we see a utility trailer that was either left in the middle of the road or pushed there by a wind gust. There was enough room for us to get around it but by doing that we were cut too short to make the turn into lane D. No good choice.
Murphy must have been taking steroids while he was resting up in Florida. And drinking tequila all day while we were battling the roads and the wind.
John took Mary as far as he could take her which was about half way into the turn to lane D and stopped before hitting a big bus in front of us. We looked at each other. This was it. It was the thing that we were determined wouldn't happen. We had to unhook the car. It could have been worse (far worse). With the exception of being a pain in the butt we were inside the park and we were 30 feet from where we were going to rest, drink some wine and have a nice dinner. And there was just a little traffic using the lane that we were now blocking.
So we pile out of the coach and John starts to unhook the Camry but because of the angle of the turn, the car wasn't straight on the hitch so it was binding on one side. He struggled and jerked and finally broke the hitch loose. I jumped in and put it in Park so I could start it while he stowed the hitch on Mary. I reached up and turned the key and................nothing. Zilch. I turned the key back and tried again. Zippo. Nothing. It was dead. I opened the door and hollered over the roar of Mary's diesel engine, "It won't start!" He can't hear me. "WHAT?" he hollers back. "It's DEAD...the battery is DEAD!" A look of understanding...and disbelief replaces his look of questioning. "We'll have to push it out of the road," I say. I jump in and try to put the transmission back in neutral. It won't budge.
Thank you Toyota for adding such a great safety feature to your cars. I'm really safe sitting in traffic with a dead battery and no way to move the car unless I'm strong enough to pick the son of a bitch up and carry it to the side of the road.
End of soap box speech.
John shakes his head and gets in to the car to try it himself. I guess he thought I didn't hold my tongue just right. He shakes his head again and swears. And sighs. "Okay. Let me park the coach and we'll figure this out." He backed Mary up while I directed him around the front of the dead car and then disappeared into the park. I hung out with the Camry until he came back with Breezy on a leash and handed her to me. Then he started flagging down men driving pick up trucks through the park to find someone who had jumper cables.
This is a strange phenomenon...men and jumper cables. I've seen it all of my life. Just mention that you have a dead battery and you get swarmed by men with jumper cables. They will fight to win the right to jump a dead battery. If they have a dead battery and jumper cables they have to find someone to lend them a battery to jump. Women don't run down the road with jumper cables in their cars. We carry AAA cards and call an 800 number and have men with jumper cables come and jump our dead batteries. No muss no fuss. Most of the time anyway.
So I decided to take Breezy for a needed walk while three men with trucks and jumper cables huddled gleefully around the car discussing how to move it while it's stuck in Park. It looked like a man in a gray truck won the battery jumping contest. I saw a grassy area where Breezy could do her thing. I stepped off of the pavement on to the grass and sunk to the top of my clean white tennis shoes into TEXAS slop...and Breezy is into it over the tops of her little white feet. "Yuuuuuuuucccccccckkkkkkkkk!!!!" I holler and start looking for a puddle of clear water to clean our peds off. The wind was still blowing at 35 miles an hour and it was COLD. Out of the corner of my eye I see the little Camry heave forward in one big jump. My hair stands straight up. Apparently they found a way to get it out of Park. I didn't want to know what it was. I cleaned my tennies and Breezy's feet and cussed the wind.
They jumped the battery and John drove the car in behind Mary and parked while I got out my AAA card and went to work on the phone. I reached a nice lady who told me that they would send someone out in 45 minutes to replace the battery at a fairly reasonable cost. "That was painless," I said as I hung up the phone. "Are you going to open the wine or am I," John asks as he sinks into the booth of the dining table. "I'm on it," I say.
I probably should step back a minute and mention that when John had the Camry serviced at Valvoline just before we left Kentucky they tested the battery and tried to sell him a new one because they said it was on the verge of dying. He did what I would have done under the circumstances...say no thank you and find someone that you actually trust to test the battery and then buy a reasonably priced one if it was needed. We both meant to get that done before we left on this trip. I do remember saying that it would be a major pain if the battery were to go dead while we were traveling and that the Diehard that was in it had about 85,000 miles on it so it was probably due for one. Did we listen to ourselves? Nope. We just hooked the car to the coach and took off.
Back to the story...
So we are having a glass of wine and I had started dinner when my phone rang. "It's probably AAA telling me when the guy will be here," I say as I answer it. It was AAA but they were calling to tell me that no one in Baytown, TEXAS was participating in the "Battery Replacement Program" that AAA offers. I'm not surprised. I'm having a glass of wine and we are no longer moving so I'm not upset either. I explain that the car is now hooked to the coach and that we will be in San Antonio the next day so we will either call them again the next day or just buy a battery when we get there. Simple.
The rest of the evening proceeded without anymore interference from Murphy. I think he wore himself out. With the exception of feeling like we were sleeping in the middle of I-10 it was fine.
The next morning we got up and had breakfast and prepared to leave for San Antonio. It was sunny and nice out and we were looking forward to getting to the show. We fired Mary up and pulled out of our space around 8:30 in the morning. As we approached the exit to the park John's phone rang. It was Tre at the barn and they were chatting along as we were creeping toward the exit.
When we got Queen Mary we had a discussion about talking on the phone while driving. We agreed that it would be good to use the Bluetooth and not to make or take calls when we are in situations where total focus is needed. That worked well on the first two trips. But this time he is feeling more confident and deservedly so. He is doing a great job of driving the coach. But I still have trepidations about his answering or making calls when he needs to be focused on what he is doing.
So on this morning he is negotiatomg the turns out of the park while he is chatting it up with Tre and telling him how he is really getting the hang of driving this coach. He stops at the exit on the frontage road and says to me, "Which way to I go?" It is a two lane road and I look to the left and to the right and I say, "I'm not sure." So he goes back to talking to Tre and starts to turn the wheel to the left and eases forward. Then I see it...a sign with an arrow that says, "ONE WAY"...pointing in the opposite direction that we are turning. I said, "John it's a one way." He keeps talking and turning. I yell, "It's a ONE WAY!!!!" and he keeps talking and turning. I bounce up and down on the seat pointing and hollering "ONE WAY, ONE WAY, WRONG WAY!!!" I now know what "an eternity" truly feels like. Finally he realizes that he is turning the wrong way. He slams on the breaks. Mary's breaks let out a big CHHH!!! and everything in the cabinets shifts forward. I have my hands over my eyes at this point and I'm at a boiling point. I can feel the stresses of the learning curve and Murphy's interference breaking my self control down to the last thread.
"Tre I'll call you back. We're in a bit of spot here." He hangs up.
Yes. A bit of a spot...
We jumped out of the coach and ran to the front of her assessing the situation. She is sitting in the middle of the road blocking one lane entirely.
I've been told at least a hundred times since we got Mary that you can not back the coach with the car hooked to it. At least a hundred times. Maybe more. John says to me, "You direct traffic around the coach and I'll unhook the car and back it up so we can get the coach out of the road." I nod. I realize that I'm not breathing. He runs to the car.
I'm standing out in the road, the wind is blowing again (the wind makes me crazy) and I'm directing cars around the front of the coach. Then I look up and see a gray truck coming and it is signaling to get into the park. I start to direct it in when I realize that it is one of the same guys who helped us with the Camry the day before when the battery was dead. He is grinning. I want to dissolve into the pavement. Then I hear John yell, "I can't get the car unhooked from the coach. The hitch is in a bind!" I run back and see that it was sitting at too severe of an angle to get it off of one side. He had been in the car and had started it (by some miracle it did start) tried to move it to loosen the hitch and then shut it off again. He says, "I'm going to have to back the coach up." My eyes stood out of my head six inches. He says, "No, it will be fine. I'm just going to back it up a little bit so I can get the hitch off." He takes off for the coach. I run out into the road again and watch (praying and begging the car gods to be gentle with the little car) as he backs the coach up a little ways and then gets out. We both go back to the car. He still can't get the hitch off. In fact it seems to be bound tighter than ever. He tells me to get in and guide the wheels so that he can back the bus out of the road. He assures me that things will be fine. I'm really, really skeptical. We are having this conversation over the roar of Mary's diesel engine so there is a lot of hollering going on. And this is in front of the campground office where I'm sure that the woman that I talked to ten times the day before must be sipping her morning coffee while she is watching this clown act out the window.
So under duress and against the advice of my little voice (you know the one that tells you when you are doing something really stupid?) which has gotten very loud in my head I get into the car and take hold of the wheel while he gets in the coach. I glance down at the transmission to be sure that it was in Neutral and to my absolute HORROR I see that it is in Park! He backed the coach with the car up in up in PARK. I had to use both hands to wrestle it out of gear and into Neutral and when I did the whole front end heaved and dropped about six inches.
You can imagine what my obsessive mind was doing with this whole scenario. I was positive that the car would be undrivable, that the transmission would be toast, that the front end would be toast, that we would have to abandon it at a local junk yard and be forced to take a cab to the grocery store.
I have, some would say, an unnatural attachment to this old car. I bought it about five days before I left to move to Kentucky and put well over a hundred thousand miles on it while enjoying my new life there. It has been the most reliable, great little car. It is comfortable, economical, quiet,and a pleasure to drive. When we bought the coach I was relieved because I knew the Camry would have a job and I would still have it to drive. And if for some reason it got beat up or DAMAGED we wouldn't feel so bad because it has more than paid for itself. But obviously that theory doesn't pan out. When ever I think we might have damaged it I freak out. Probably time for a theapy session.
John backed the coach out of the road while I did my best to keep the wheels of the Camry straight. I got out and looked at the front wheels and they were canted off to a strange angle that I had never seen before. John came around the end of the coach to see if everything was okay and I lost it. I totally lost it.
Neither of us brought up the "incident in the road" for an hour or two. Finally as we were driving down the highway in silence, out of the blue John started to laugh. We disintegrated into fits of laughter both visualizing what it must have looked like while we were having our crisis in the driveway. We dried our tears of laughter and promised that we would try not to panic and do silly stuff the next time we got into a bind with Mary.
Anyone who knows me well knows that it takes a lot, more than a lot, it takes tons and tons to push me to the point where I lose it and fly off of the handle. Murhpy had finally beat me and I did lose it. I started hollering, "YOU BACKED UP THE CAR AND IT WAS IN PARK!!" Confused, probably more by the fact that I had turned into a screaming meemee than by what I was saying he said, "It was in neutral!" I scream, "It was NOT! It was in PARK!" This conversation went on for another thirty seconds with me throwing my arms around and jumping around he driveway acting like an insane ape before I slammed the door car and pointed to the wheels. He got in the car and started it and turned the wheels so that they were pointing forward and then put it in Neutral and followed me into the coach telling me that the front end looked like that due to something about the power steering. I'm really, really, really skeptical. After the door closed in the coach I remember saying with emphasis something about a "Come to Jesus" about the phone business and then had to walk the length of the floor seven times to start to ease the adrenaline rush that had me shaking like a wild woman. Finally I sat down in the co-pilot's seat took a deep breath and we proceeded to go back to work finding the on ramp for the Interstate.
We made it to San Antonio without any more problems and when we got there John started the car and drove it around the parking lot. He came back and announced that by some miracle it was fine. It too had forgiven us our errors in judgement. We took it into Boerne and it got a new battery and starts like a champ now. We added to our pre-launch checklist to double check that it is set up correctly before we move the coach anywhere and to triple check that Breezy is on board. Anything after that we can handle.
Now we are in Tucson. I'll write a much more benign post next time (I hope) about a perfecly beautiful spot in Las Cruces, New Mexico and also here in Tucson. The coach gods decided to cut us a break and allow us to enjoy our time at least for a couple of days. Tomorrow we will be in Scottsdale where we will be for about a week. It was 85 degrees when we arrived in Tucson today. Perfect!
I'm on my way to a good night of sleep. Goodnight Murphy...where ever you are (hopefully home in TEXAS!).
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Comfort Dog
In front of me on the dash is a road atlas of the United States, an Interstate directory called "The Next Exit" (a must for anyone who drives a lot), the Trailer Life Directory that includes the Good Sam approved campgrounds amongst many others. Good Sam is one of the many RV clubs of which we are card carrying members. To my right is my phone, a note pad and pen, my camera and a bottle of water, in my lap is my computer and in various places rest my glasses (I can't see my computer screen with them because of the glare but I can't see down the road without them) and to my left is my husband who is asking me questions at the rate of about one every five minutes. I feel like a reference librarian.
The other day when we pulled out of the service center in Wildwood I had my glasses in my left hand, a pair of binoculars in my right hand and my computer in my lap. I looked to the left, to the right and then at my lap and started to laugh. "Six eyes" I said out loud. The term used to be "four eyes" if you wore glasses. I've added a new dimension to the term.
John actually called Dennis Bowen yesterday. They haven't spoken in a few weeks. We were driving down the road when the ABS light came on. A trip to the Bible told us that it didn't mean break failure but that it may need to be looked at. We were in the Flying J pumping insanely expensive fuel when John decided it was time to call our friend in Wakarusa. When Dennis's phone began ringing the ABS light went out. "I called you to ask about the ABS light being on but when you answered it went off. Just the sound of your voice scared it away," he said. They laughed and chatted like long lost friends for a few minutes and John reassured him that we had not driven off of a cliff and were doing fine with our travels.
We just crossed over the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Apparently the Atchafalya Swamp is the largest swamp in the world. The bridge is 18.2 miles long (thank you Wikipedia). It is really cool to be driving down the road, see something that captures our interest and look it up on the Internet. When I'm not trying to figure out where we are or where we are going or where we are staying tonight I can answer questions about what we are seeing. It's cool.
We spent two nights at the Tampa Fairgrounds and had an enjoyable time at the horse show. We are discovering more and more perks about traveling in Mary as go. We arrived in Tampa on Tuesday and set up. On Tuesday night we had dinner in the coach and prepared to walk over to the arena to watch the show which started at 6:30. I looked at my watch and hesitated. I said, "American Idol starts at 8:00." John puzzled on that for a moment. "We'll sneak out and come back before it starts," he says and we giggle and headed for the show. For those who are not hooked on the program like we are it airs three nights a week until they whittle the number of contestants down. So we were in for sneaking out of the show for two nights and then stressing out about finding a place where they had cable last night (the satellite doesn't get local channels). The second night at the show we weren't shy about telling people that we would be bugging out for an hour to watch the program. I ended up staying in the coach after it was over and John went back to the arena where where he was greeted by someone who said, "I heard you and your wife went back to your coach to watch American Idol!" It's strange what people gossip about. So anyway, along with having our own bed, bathroom and kitchen, never having to pack clothes or figure out how to work the shower or the alarm clock (thought I had that one worked out with the Blackberry before I took a shower at 1:25 in the morning in California), we have the added benefit of never missing American Idol!
Last night we stayed at another KOA. I know...why would we do that after our experience in Wildwood you are wondering. Well I was looking for a place to park Mary somewhere near Pensacola and found this KOA that boasted that it was rated the best campground in Florida. Rated by who, I'm not really sure. Maybe that is someone's job...rating campgrounds. Isn't America great? Being as we had a good experience in Cartersville at the KOA we decided to give it a shot. Once we turned off of I-75 we were both in new territory so we drove along taking in the scenery. We found the KOA and checked in without a hitch. When John came back from the office he announced that this was an entirely different outfit than the Wildwood KOA. I glance out of the front window in time to see a man in a tiny green golf cart position himself in front of Mary to guide us into our space like a tug boat towing a barge. Mary had a pilot cart! He buzzed us right into our space on Gulf Pines Lane. The roads in the campground were paved...perfect for exercising Breezy and ourselves on the bikes. It was full of nice coaches like Mary but none as classy as she is for sure. We set her up and got ready for a pleasant evening with cable TV to see who got kicked off of American Idol. Life was good.
We got a few emails from people concerned about impending weather conditions. I assured everyone that we would be extra careful and pull over if we ran into any problems and reiterated that we had all of the technology needed to know if there was a problem. That is all fine and good when you are awake. We opened the windows in the bedroom for fresh air, locked Mary up, turned out the lights and fell into a sound sleep.
Around 3:00 I was awakened by a vibration in the coach. It woke me up just enough to register that there was a vibration but not enough to alert me to any problems. So I went back to sleep. A little while later I heard rain pouring down and the wind was howling but I was still unconcerned. At 5:00 I felt the coach vibrate hard and then saw a flash of lightening. I guess all the years that I lived in Oregon must have set a relaxation mode to kick in when I hear rain on the roof because I still didn't react with any concern. I've slept through so many thunderstorms in Kentucky that I now move into semi-consciousness, say to myself, "Another thunderstorm," and go back to sleep. It has to be pretty severe to get me up. John didn't wake up until 5:30 when we started to get up and around. We had coffee, showers and turned on CNN to find out if what tricks Hillary had pulled in the overnight hours. As I was munching my Shredded Wheat and listening to the reports that oil had hit a new high overnight and the price of diesel had hit an all time high (we just moved into the passing lane to the poor house) the weather woman came on and pointed to a line of thunderstorms passing through northern Florida. "Where in northern Florida?" I ask. "It must be near Jacksonville," John says. And then the weather woman says that it is directly over Tallahassee...directly east of us. It passed over us complete with tornado watches and warnings and we all slept right through it. If the three of us should make a trip over the rainbow in Mary you will know why!
As I finish up this blog post we are in TEXAS. We just pulled into the San Antonio Rose Palace to visit the SAHSA horse show. When I worked at USEF I used to approve the prize lists for a lot of these shows so it is kind of cool to actually visit them and see what they are like. San Antonio is a pretty city and the terrain is quite nice compared to Houston...one of my least favorite cities in the world. In my next post I will describe our adventures in TEXAS so far. It has been challenging...to say the least!
We hope you have a terrific weekend!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
If Queen Mary fails we have the Camry. If the Camry fails we have the bicycles (click on the photo and check out the back of the Camry).
We left Wildwood yesterday and drove our miracle of modern engineering seventy-five miles to the Expo Center in Tampa for the Tampa Charity Horse Show. Mary is all fixed with a new awning and several of her mysteries are solved. We worked with a technician to answer some of the many questions that arose on our maiden voyage. Things are looking up...we did not consult the Bible once on our way here. Okay, I realize it is only seventy-five miles but still...I think this is progress.
We only had one minor near miss and that happened before we left the Monaco Service Center parking lot. The technician had the bus parked in front of a dumpster in the parking lot behind the shop building. I had just returned from a shopping trip to the largest Walmart in the country (in Wildwood...go figure) and once I finally found Mary in the sea of Monaco coaches I parked the Camry next to her and unloaded it. Our technician went to lunch so John decided to go ahead and hook up the car so that we could leave for Tampa as soon as the guy came back but he needed to pull her forward so that there was room for the car. I was sitting at my station (where I am now at the dining table) with the window shade open when he fired up the coach. I could see from where I was sitting that he was doing his pre-launch check of gauges and lights and bells and whistles. He had his head down and he was concentrating hard to refamiliarize himself with everything. I focused back on my computer and then something outside of the coach caught my attention. It looked like a tree was moving slowly by the window. I had a funny sensation...like we were moving but John was just sitting there. Then I heard it; a horn blaring continuously in the adjacent employee parking lot. Everyone at Monaco goes to lunch at 11:00 for an hour. They shut down the plant and they all go eat. As I was sitting there working on the computer I had observed that some of them go to their cars in the employee parking lot and eat their lunch. Well apparently it was Mary moving and not the tree (duuuhhhh Karen) and the employee in the parked car saw her heading for the big dumpster and laid on his horn. I hollered, "Are we rolling????!!!!!" and John hollered back, "NOT YET!" and I hollered, "I think we're rolling!!!" and I felt him hit the break.
We need to clarify terminology before we go any farther. "Rolling" means two things to both of us. One is; on our way, as in "We're rolling down the highway." The other one is; moving, as in "Toward the dumpster where we will put a nice dent in Mary's back end, tear up the tow hitch and scrape up the paint, not to mention what we do to the dumpster. Oh and more scheduled time at the Monaco Service Center to repair the damage."
We haven't discussed this incident. I think we both think that the other one didn't notice that it happened. No harm no foul. But I would imagine there was a Monaco technician that had a story to tell when he got back to work.
The Monaco Service Center is an interesting place. People drive in from all over the country to have their coaches worked on. They have a nice campground area where coaches can be hooked up and we owners can stay while the technicians work on our buses. It is heaven for John because he just loves to talk to people and especially Monaco owners to find out where they came from and how they got into coaching. He always learns something new or gets a useful piece of advice on coaching. From the outside it looks like a modern office complex with a large shop area on the back and green grass stretching in every direction. The first time we drove up to it to meet with Caroline Champion, our contact at the service center, I expected to walk into a demure, quiet lobby and find a receptionist who would call Caroline down from her office. John went in first and then he waved me in. I walked into the lobby and stopped short. It was wall to wall people, dogs, employees, parts, tables, televisions, vending machines, coffee pots, couches and...well...mayhem! The miracle of all of this is that it works. The employees of Monaco are all just wonderful people. They have created a family atmosphere where everyone feels so comfortable that we can use their lobby like a living room. No matter how stressed out people get (and we know how stressful this coaching thing can be) they always seem to walk out the door happy.
Yesterday morning we were planted on a leather couch in the lobby with Breezy snoozing at our feet waiting for the technician to finish hooking up the satellite television when an elderly gentleman began asking John questions about Breezy. He had been sitting at a round table for thirty minutes or so eating some pastry, reading the paper and drinking coffee. When I say elderly I would have to guess that he is about 85. It turns out that he had Saddlebreds when he was a young man and was familiar with Lexington so he and John chatted for ten minutes or so about horses while I read "O" magazine. Then John asked him if he had a coach and he said yes, but that he was considering selling it. When John asked why he said, "Cause there's always somethin' wrong with the damn thing! This is broken or that needs fixin'. Never ends." John held his head and said, "Oh I really don't want to hear that!" They chatted for another minute or so and then the gentleman excused himself, wished us a successful trip and tottered slowly out of the door.
A little later the receptionist, who apparently overheard the whole conversation, got up to fill her coffee cup and informed us that the man comes in every day just to eat his breakfast and visit with some people and then goes on his way. Then she told us that he drives a motor home nearly as old as he is. Actually the thought of him driving any coach was a little disturbing but my heart was warmed by the fact that the people at Monaco give this lonely man a nice place to eat his breakfast and don't fuss at him for trashing motor homes to their customers. It made me smile.
Today John is participating in the golf tournament that is associated with the horse show and I spent the morning cleaning up the coach and arranging things in the cabinets. Breezy is keeping me company. There is more storage space, nooks, crannies and cubbies in this coach than you can imagine. I found another one under the step this morning when I was cleaning. Yesterday morning I was stumbling around in the bathroom at 5:30 in the morning (it happens that way for me at that hour no matter the circumstances) trying to remember where I put a new bottle of shampoo. John was lying in bed watching television...and me apparently. Finally after I opened nearly every cupboard in the bathroom I heard him say, "What did you lose this time?" and smiled. I smirked back and then started to laugh. It is a constant scavenger hunt now but I suspect that once we get familiar with her I will be able to find anything in a heartbeat. Or I may be delusional and will be driven mad by never being find what I need when I need it. Time will tell!
If all goes as planned we are going to begin our trip to Arizona in the morning. Our first planned stop in Pensacola. At the moment the weather is heavenly but we will be watching it closely as we go across country. With internet, satellite radio, weatherband and a CB radio I think we are sufficiently connected to the world of weather. We will be blogging as we go!