Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Magic Bus

The View from Mary in Springfield

First, I apologize for taking so long to blog. It won't happen again...I promise. We are fine. We didn't drive off a cliff (but got very close to the edge a few times).

We are in Oregon and as it is every time we come to Oregon we have been busy as bird dogs...or Border Collies. My family lives around the Portland area and we have several friends there as well so we spent a week attending parties, dinners, lunches, get togethers and a horse show. It was an eat-a-thon, lots of fun but not too good for the waistline. I surely didn't get to see all of the people that I wanted to but we will be back in Oregon before summer is out and I hope to be able to cover the rest of our list of very important people then.

Last Saturday we left the Singing Hills Stables and the hospitality of the van der Walts in Oregon City and moved down to Springfield to visit the Arcuris at their farm. At the moment Mary is parked in a pastoral setting with a view of green pastures, grazing yearlings and miles of white fences. And she is just a few miles from where she was made.

About two weeks ago (or was it three...I've totally lost track of time) we left Gilroy, California, the garlic capital of the world, and drove north through the hills around Oakland and on to the Siskiyou pass and Mt. Shasta. It was a day of ooo's, ahhh's and "Look at that!"-s. Through our last days of travel and our week parked at Singing Hills Stables in Oregon City we have discovered something about our Queen Mary. Every time we find a problem that we think will need attention from a Monaco technician and we say "Write it down," she fixes herself. Not only that, her magic powers seem to have transferred to the Camry. The words, "Write it down," translate to the vehicles as "Abracadabra!" and POOF! the things miraculously fix themselves. It worked on the door (the seal was working intermittently), it worked on the washer, it worked on the television, the satellite system, the brake light on the Camry and most miraculously it worked on the transmission monitor. Well to be truthful we figured out that if we remember to start the Camry in the morning and let it run until it is warm the transmission monitor stops howling at us and we begin the day sane. There were other magic things too but the point is that this is not only the smartest coach on the road...way smarter than her owners... she is a magic bus too. We had the opportunity to have dinner with the lady who was responsible for us owning Mary two nights ago. I'm sure we bored her to tears with our stories of life on the road and gushing over how much we have enjoyed our magic bus and how great the people at Monaco have been to us. All true.

I'm a little schizo when it comes to traveling in Mary. After we have been on the road for several days I look forward to stopping for a rest. It only takes five minutes to set up once we stop but making reservations at new places every night, finding those places (nearly always something of a hair raising event after Baytown, Texas) and worrying over whether we will be able to see American Idol or not wears on me a little bit after several days of travel. So when we stop and set up for a period of time I'm relieved. But then when we stop we are always busy...crazy busy. That's when I put on my business hat and go to work on collecting mail, paying bills, tracking everything and lately working more on coach paperwork issues. And there's the taxes. I'll spare you the soap box moment on what I think about how the government spends the obscene amount of money that they demand from us each year. It is safe to say that there is no high approval ratings for Uncle Sam. So after we have visited everyone, eaten our way into an additional size of clothing and I've whipped the paperwork back into its cage I'm ready to roll again. Once we folded up our camp at Singing Hills and we got on the road for the short two hour drive to Springfield John and I looked at each other and grinned. "It's great to be back on the road again isn't it?" he asks me. I'm looking down the road at the panoramic view, floating along in my leather reclining copilot's seat with my laptop and camera within reach and Breezy by my side and nod my head. "Yep! It's great!"

Tim and Jean set us up with a private spot on their 100 acre horse farm here in Springfield. It is beautiful and quiet. As she was at Singing Hills, Breezy is in dog heaven going to work every day at the barn with John and Tim and Ryan and hanging out with me in the afternoons while I work away on the computer. Breezy has her choice of several playmates, some of which are her breed, but she has fallen in love with the cutest Basset Hound on the face of the earth. His name is Buddy. They romp and play and he chases her while she works the round pen. It's pretty cute. Since we have been here the weather has been wonderful, cold in the mornings, warm in the afternoons and tons of sunshine. They have made us so comfortable that we think we might just stay here forever. Okay...I'm joking. Actually we are leaving to return to Kentucky tomorrow via Oklahoma City for the Oklahoma Centennial Horse Show. I got an email from Emily Lee yesterday and she said that Kentucky is in full spring bloom and the Keeneland race meet starts tomorrow so we are feeling the pull back to the bluegrass. I will be chronicling our trip back as we move along. I got sidetracked again. It is April 5 and we are on our way home and I have stories to tell. I just re-read this post and it is pretty boring but I promise the next one will be more interesting. Thanks so much to Gene and Annalize and Bill, Tim and Jean and Ryan and Brita for a lovely time and beautiful places to keep Mary while we were in Oregon. And Rickster, we're so happy that things went so well for you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In The Stone Age

Pacheco Pass

Welcome to Gilroy, California, garlic capital of the world. No vampires live here. This is a fabulous country.

We were talking yesterday and I told John that the Camry may be the best traveled Toyota in history. It was made at the Toyota plant in Kentucky and shipped to Oregon. I bought it in Oregon and drove it back to Kentucky. Four years later I drove it to back to Oregon, stayed for an extended period and then drove it back to Kentucky. Actually I made that trip from Oregon to Kentucky in three days blasting through Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa at warp speeds to get home. Now we have dragged the car across the country behind Mary and will drag it back sometime next month. It has failed me twice in 145,000 miles. Two dead batteries. At the very least the car deserves a medal. Perhaps it should be the first inanimate object in history considered for sainthood.

Okay. I'll call and make the appointment to see the therapist.

We traveled from Scottsdale to the Barstow area via Highway 60, to Highway 93 to Interstate 40 to Interstate 15 to Yermo, California and into the Yermo KOA. Our only issue came when we fired Mary up in the morning in Scottsdale. The new transmission pump monitor...the one that we replaced in Mesa and was supposed to actually work, went to howling and screeching worse that the last one. We did the drill (cuss, shut Mary off and start her again, start the car and let it run for ten minutes, cuss, sigh heavily, hook and unhook and re-hook the car repeatedly, shut Mary off again and start her again, cuss, sigh heavily, plug our ears, holler "What??!!" every time one of us tries to talk to the other, and cover Breezy's ears as she looks at me with that pleading look that makes me want to rip the unit out with my bare hands). Finally in desperation we just took off knowing that the pump was working but unsure what would happen if by some unhappy accident the pump actually stops working. Well, my mind has the entire scenario all ready rehearsed. It has a lot to do with replacing the transmission in the Camry in some backwater "Deliverance" burg in Mississippi on a sizzling humid day, swatting swarming mosquitoes and flies, and waiting for days for parts to be delivered from civilization as tobacco chewing toothless men leer at us...there's more but I'll spare you. So we drive. And we pray. Fifty full minutes later the monitor finally shuts up. Breezy, John and I breathe a collective sigh of relief.

John wants to call Remco again which is the company that makes the monitor. So far I've managed to avoid that confrontation through distraction ("Look!! Isn't that a Sasquatch!!" and "Rattlesnake!!!" and things like that take his mind off of chewing on some unsuspecting Remco employee who happens to have the misfortune of picking up the phone on that day). But it is coming. As it should.

Believe it or not the campground near the ghost town in Yermo was kind of cool. I thought we might have trouble finding it because when I entered the address in the GPS and in Mapquest and Yahoo and Google Maps they all said "Sorry, no such place exists". So I wrote down the instructions from the website and we drove right to it. The KOA had tall hedges between the pull through spaces so when we extended Mary's four slide outs we were looking out of the side windows directly into the bushes. There was a huge area in the back for Breezy to play Frisbee. For dinner we had talapia and rice and sweet peas and watched the last segment of Lonesome Dove. We started watching it on our way from Kentucky to Florida. That was about ten years ago wasn't it? Anyway, we did that and slept well in Yermo.

The next morning we go up and pulled Mary together in preparation to leave. John fired her up and once again the transmission monitor started whining. We did the drill and hit the road with my hands over Breezy's ears. This time it only took thirty five minutes and two more Sasquatch sightings to stop driving us nuts.

I was actually kind of dreading the leg of the trip to Bakersfield. It had been nearly thirty years since I'd been out that way and all I remembered was how desolate it was. I was pleasantly surprised to find the desert green and full of wild flowers. The mountain views were beautiful and the trip through the pass at Tehachapi was really pretty. There are lots of wind farms set up in the desert and in the pass and it was fun to see the wind turbines all lined up on the horizon, ready to produce energy for electricity when the wind blows. We passed Edwards Air Force Base where they land the shuttle. It stretches for miles and miles. There were views of several snow covered mountain peaks in the distance. It was really a nice drive. Until we got to Bakersfield. The birthplace of Buck Owens. The Bakersfield Flash.

When we got Mary, Monaco installed a neat new radio that was satellite compatible. John already had a small satellite unit that could be moved from vehicle to vehicle along with a subscription to XM Radio. We made countless trips from Kentucky to Florida and back in the 4-Runner while the XM Radio was entertaining...John. The problem I see with satellite radio is that you kind of get stuck on one station and that's it. John got stuck on a station called "America". I'm not a huge country music fan. I know a lot of people are and that's great but I'm just not. Some people like white wine and some red. Some like vanilla ice cream and others prefer Cherries Garcia (yum). That's life. I like some of the newer country music but mostly I'm from the stone age of the 1960s and 1970s and I tend to like that old rock music. John loves country. So I figured we could compromise on the music listening to some of what he likes and some of what I like. The problem was that I was always writing when we were traveling down the road and he was always stuck on "America". I would set it to the 60's decade and five minutes later it would be back on "America". It is a station that features music from the really old country genre, like Little Jimmy Dickens, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and yes...Buck Owens. John mistakenly thought that because I was typing I went deaf.

Okay, I can do a little bit of the old country stuff without it grating on my nerves. Darn little. In fact one of the things I remember about working for John (back in the stone age) was that I would set the radio station to a local rock station in the morning when I got to the barn. When he came in he would change the radio to a country station. He was the boss so I didn't complain...outwardly. I would just get a horse ready, take it to the arena he would take it and I would do a fifty yard dash to the radio and change it back to the rock station and ready another horse. He would come in, I would take the horse and strip it while he changed the radio back to the country station. Then the cycle would repeat. This went on all day. We never discussed it.

Nothing much has changed in thirty years. So finally after making a few straight-through trips to or from Vero Beach (at 15 hours each) listening non-stop to "America" on XM I couldn't take it anymore. I was "America-ed" out. Endo "America". Breezy (as a puppy) obliged me by chewing the antenna wire in two, twice (apparently she was sick of it too) and I neglected to replace it the second time solving the problem. So when we got Mary and I found out that the radio was compatible with Sirius Radio I dashed to the Internet and scrolled through the stations and to my delight I could not find one like "America". Now we listen to one called "Outlaws" which plays a variety of country and rock music that is very entertaining. And of course, political junkies that we are, we listen to CNN Ballot Bowl and The Situation Room every day. Jack Cafferty is my favorite political commentator. Very funny guy.

Back to our trip.

Old 99 is a miserable mess of a road with pot holes and ridges and joints creating a noisy difficult drive. I was actually looking forward to crossing over to Interstate 5 via route 46. Normally the thought of I-5 through the central valley of California is enough to make me groan but after twenty minutes of bumping down 99 it was looking better and better.

I remember when they built the new Interstate 5 through central California. It was back in the 1970's (the stone age) and when they laid all of that concrete my mother thought they had made a personal racing surface for her and her 1971 Corvette. The car was made just before the lemon laws were put into effect. Too bad. It was a lemon of epic proportions. One time she made a trip down that new strip of Interstate 5 and got pulled over by a California State trooper who informed her that she had been traveling at 120 miles per hour and that it took two cops to catch her. They tag teamed her. She smiled, feigned innocence (with a rotten spoiled French poodle and a hand gun in the passenger seat...if you never met my mother you missed quite a character) and explained that the speedometer in the car didn't work. She went through 5 or 6 speedometer cables but the agency apparently kept putting the wrong one in and they kept breaking. It worked for her. She talked her way out of numerous speeding tickets with that excuse. And she knew how fast she was going. No question about it. I tried that one once and all I got was a lecture about keeping my vehicle in good working order and a fat ticket. Oh well. So the cop refrained from hauling her to jail, issued her a speeding ticket worth two weeks pay and sent her on her way. The beast had a 454 cubic inch engine (it loped at stop lights...made me crazy) in it and got the same mileage that Mary's 400 Cummins diesel gets pulling this bus, a car, all of our junk and us...about six miles to the gallon on a good day. She used to joke that it would pass anything but a gas station. True. At least Mary holds 150 gallons of fuel. But she was paying .50 cents a gallon for gas back then and yesterday we paid $4.11 per gallon for diesel in the central valley (now we're doing 120 miles an hour toward the poor house!). Think of that...back in the stone age when I started driving gas was actually .35 cents a gallon. Okay. I feel really old now.

So we drove across route 46 to Interstate 5 and made the turn onto the entrance ramp. That's when I realized how many years it had been since I'd been on I-5 in central California. It looks like a little old two lane cow trail and like old 99 it is full of pot holes and ridges. And there are no mile markers! They have the little posts up there but it appears that someone stole the little green mile marker numbers. John kept asking me where the next rest area was and I kept looking in "The Next Exit" but without mile markers it is pretty useless for distance. I would say, "Well if I had a clue where we were I would know where the next rest area is."

Soap box moment: When the presidential candidates say that the infrastructure of this country is falling apart THEY AREN'T KIDDING. We have seen it first hand. But there is massive construction going on in Texas. Go figure.

Okay, so we find ourselves Brailling it along I-5 looking for a rest area for poor Breezy who is looking a little desperate to get out for a pit stop. As far as the eye can see to the east and as far as the eye can see to the west there is nothing but grass and fruit and nuts and berries and more grass and goats and sheep and a giant concrete river to carry water to all of the fruit and nuts and berries and grass and goats and sheep. We bumped along in mind numbing boredom and finally found a rest area. Breezy and I made a dash for the dog walk area while I watched a man walk slowly around Mary and the Camry looking her up and down shaking his head. I guess they don't see too many of them thar buses in the central valley. I understand why. There are no decent roads on which to drive one. So Breezy and I are wandering around the dog area when a wind gust wafts by us and my nostrils fill with the smell of...cow shit.

Harris Feed Lot. They feed 180,000 head of cattle in one location. You can imagine the smell. We were somewhere between five and seven miles (who could tell without mile markers!) from the feed lot and I could smell it. The closer we got the stronger the smell. It took us five minutes to pass the concentration camp of cattle. I remember that in the summer the central valley gets up over 100 degrees every single day and that feed lot is identifiable much farther away. Mary filled with the smell and I was mentally freaking out that she might stink like a giant cow manure pile for the rest of her days. I'm sure that they can fertilize the entire valley from that one feed lot. They call it the fruit basket of the world. But it doesn't smell like fruit!

The stench finally left and we continued on our way toward Highway 152, Pacheco Pass. Our drive down I-5 was about to be rewarded. We made the turn toward the coast and the road widened out and smoothed out and the foothills lay before us. The sun was out and the sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. As we climbed into the foothills it occurred to me what it is about the west that is so impressive to people who don't spend a lot of time here. It is huge. Everything is BIG. The eastern part of the country is equally as beautiful but in a different way. It has gentle terrain and beautiful low deciduous trees. The "hills" that we passed through on our way to the garlic capital of the world were nothing less than breathtaking. Giant emerald green hills, each one higher than the next were covered with big gnarly black oak trees. We passed the San Luis Reservoir stretched on both sides of the road as we climbed through the pass. It looked like something out of a painting, soothing and captivating at the same time. They don't allow development around the reservoir so it is pristine. Mary handled the hills handily passing trucks that were grinding up the immense hills.

We dropped into Gilroy and found our way to Gilroy Garlic USA RV Park (for real). It sits next to a garlic farm and behind a shopping center. It is our first experience with a Good Sam approved RV Park. It is like a big parking lot with hookups and a patch of grass for Breezy to use. It's nice and sterile but I think I like our KOA parks better. They have character (and characters!). I'm on my way over to the shopping center to pick up a few supplies for Mary so that we can hit the road tomorrow and head to Oregon. We will pass through the Siskyou pass past Mt. Shasta. I'll try to get some good pictures and put together another photo album of our travels for my next post. We're off to Oregon!

Wagons hoooooooooooo! (that's from an old TV program called "Wagon Train" that aired back when I was a child, back in the stone age).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chillin' in the Desert

We have been in Scottsdale, Arizona (the above photo is daybreak at West World) since last Tuesday enjoying the beautiful desert, perfect weather and best of all the company of good friends. I guess after our experience in TEXAS the coach gods decided to cut us a break. Thanks coach gods!

When we left TEXAS we stopped at a KOA (yes, another one) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was the best one yet. It is situated on a bluff overlooking a valley and with a perfect view of the mountains. Once again Mary was escorted by a pilot golf cart into a pull through space so we didn't even have to unhook the car. It was all gravel and had a nice dog walk for Breezy. And it was so quiet you could hear the morning doves cooing on the breeze. It was heavenly. We had a drink and dinner and just soaked in the quiet.

In the morning we fired Mary up. She purred. The transmission monitor screeched. And red and green lights flashed. Did we get all upset like we did the first time? Nope. After our experiences in TEXAS we were cool as two cucumbers. Well...there were a couple of big sighs and a few little cuss words but after shutting Mary's engine down and starting her up a dozen or so times we decided that it was due to the crisp cool weather, which was what we thought the problem was when we were in Georgia and got the red light and the green light and the screeching noise. John listened to the Camry and determined that the transmission pump was actually running. Then he called the company that makes the towing system and they said that there were some faulty monitors out there and suggested that we start the Camry's engine and pull it running and then stop in Phoenix when we got there and have the system checked. We did that. Eventually the screeching in the unit stopped, much to Breezy's relief, and we hummed across the desert to Tucson.

As we approached Tucson the mountains got more prominent and we passed through some beautiful country. We had arranged to have dinner with the Ruxers in Tucson so I went to work to find a campground or parking area that was close to where they live. The best I could do was a "park" at the exit where the road takes you to their house. We took the exit, immediately crossed over some railroad tracks, made an immediate right and we were there...sandwiched in between I-10 and the railroad tracks. We figure we can do anything for one night after staying at the Wildwood KOA. We set Mary up. She looked a little out of a Rolls Royce at a demolition derby. But we can do anything for one night. Except sleep.

We went to the Ruxer's lovely home for a cocktail and some good conversation and then they took us to a wonderful restaurant high up on a mountain with a heavenly view and great food. Once again the very best part was the company. We had a wonderful time and then they delivered us to our "park". We said good-bye and settled in for the night.

About an hour into our slumber we were snoozing restfully when all of the sudden we were both jolted out of sleep by the sound of a train whistle. "Holy cow," I thought, "the dang thing is going to blast right through the bedroom!" That scene repeated itself eight or ten times (I lost count) through the night. The "park" was just a hop from 1-10 and the train tracks crossed the highway so I guess it is a law of the railroad that they have to blow their whistle before they cross the road. I had no idea that there were so many different styles of blowing a train whistle. Some conductors blow the whistle in several short little spurts. Some just hit it once or twice and pass through. Most of them lay on the whistle for three long blasts. Or two short and one really, really, really long one. A couple of times I wondered if Mary decided that it was time to end it all with her novice RVers and had moved herself to the tracks while we were sleeping to commit hara-kiri and take us with her.

By the time the sun started to come up we were grateful to get up and get going. It was our last day on the road for a little while and I think all three of us were looking forward to stopping. By the time we reached Arizona I was completely confused as to what time it was. I'm not sure that I know yet. We left the eastern time zone and moved into the central time zone somewhere in the panhandle of Florida. So we gained an hour. Then we moved into Mountain time on Sunday when we passed into New Mexico. We gained another hour. Then when we were in Las Cruces the time changed to Daylight Savings Time. We lost an hour. Then when we passed into Arizona we moved back into Standard Time. We kept asking each other what time it was. When either one of us would answer we would say, "It's twelve thirty (or what ever time it was) I think." It was like one of those dreaded story problems that we used have to solve in grade school math class. I was never good at those. And I was nervous about getting up to take a shower in the middle of the night again.

We only had about two hours to drive to get to West World in Scottsdale but we made a detour through Mesa to get the transmission monitor fixed. When we fired Mary up in the morning it went bonkers again driving poor Breezy to hunt for a quiet place to hide. It turned out to be a faulty monitor after all. It was quickly and painlessly changed out and we found our way to the show grounds. Mary has spent the last several days parked in a giant parking lot with other like coaches and people from all different walks of life. West World is a multi-functional facility so there can be several events going on at the same time. We spent the week grooming horses for Tim Arcuri which was a lot of fun. He brought three horses down for a client but didn't have any help so we volunteered. It has been years since either of us have done that kind of work (I actually groomed for John several years ago) and it was fun!

The desert is perfect this time of year. It isn't hot and the air is very light and dry. We are all a little static ridden, Breezy has the frizzies and John asked me last night why he has wings in his hair...very fly away. But morning and evening we were able to open Mary's windows and enjoy the fragrant air. My oldest friend in the world lives here so she and I were able to spend some great girlfriend time together (tons of laughing) and Breezy got to meet her cousin Brazil, a delightful little Border Collie/Australian Shepherd cross. It has been a fun stay. Tim had a great show and we had a terrific time with him so it has been a nice stay and we hope to come back to the show again next year and back to Arizona before the year is out.

Breezy has become a full fledged horse show dog at this show. We are parked a little ways away from the Equidome where the show is being held so John got up early every morning, got on the bicycle and peddled full out with Breezy running alongside (full out, ears bobbing) over to the barns where they helped Tim work horses. Then they peddled back full out. We used the bikes to get back and forth which was fun. While she was at the barn she would hang out around the tack room and keep an eye on all of the horses in the stalls and passing by the barn making sure that they didn't get out of line. When it was time to show we had to put her on a leash (she totally hates the leash) and take her to the warm up arena and then to the arena for the classes. She trooped right along and while it was very difficult for her she maintained her composure while the horses did their work. We feel so lucky to have such a nice, patient little dog to travel with us. She is a joy.

Tomorrow we hit the road again this time to cross the desert to Barstow, California. We are on our way to Oregon to visit my family and see some good friends and our broodmares who are getting close to having babies. By the time we make it around again they should all have little ones on the ground. I know that Barstow is kind of out in the middle of nowhere but guess what? Yep! There's a KOA in Barstow near a ghost town! We will be making the trip up Interstate 5 to Sacramento and then north over the Siskyou pass into Oregon. I'm sure there will be lots to write about along the way.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Murphy Was Born in TEXAS

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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

While We Were Sleeping...

The Comfort Dog

As I start this post we are traveling through Louisiana. It's very green and beautiful but the roads suck. This is the first time that I've had to get up repeatedly to pick things up that vibrated off of counters, tables and shelves. Mary has spoiled me but even she can't deal with the potholes, bumps and ridges. We just stopped at a rest area so that Breezy could go out and John could stretch his legs. I put on my light jacket (it's drizzling) and opened the door. We jumped out into cold temperatures. My Pacific Northwest roots have given me a fairly accurate built-in thermostat. My guess is in the mid to lower 40's. I guess I can't complain being as we heard from Kentucky today that they got six inches of snow, it was sleeting after that and they expect more snow tonight. Yeah, 40's sound fine.

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 of my least favorite cities in the world. In my next post I will describe our adventures in TEXAS so far. It has been say the least!

We hope you have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We're Rolling

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 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!