"OoooooooooK........lahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
And the wind comes right behind the rain."
Rogers and Hammerstein got it.
Now I get it.
Because I'm blogging again it is obvious we did not get swept away like Dorothy and Toto by a tornado. I'm grateful for that. But we did endure torrential downpours accompanied by thunder and lightening, high winds and a some small hail. That was on Wednesday. I didn't leave Mary all afternoon choosing instead to continue my cleaning frenzy. Wednesday night the three of us went to the horse show. John told me it was a half block to the arena from where Mary was parked so we bundled up and grabbed the umbrella and Breezy and started toward the arena. Two blocks and gobs of rain later I was asking, "Where is the arena?" He says, "See that brick building up there?" I saw it. "You have a different definition of a half block than I do," I say as I slog through the puddles soaking my socks and working to keep the umbrella from turning inside out in the wind.
I attempted to sleep that night but the Interstate had different ideas for me. Apparently truck drivers don't like to stop in Oklahoma City at night when it is pouring down rain because they roared down I-44 in a procession all night long. I'm sure my tossing and turning deflated the Sleep Number by 10. On Thursday morning I dragged my butt out of bed feeling like I had run a marathon.
On the up side of our time in Oklahoma City, I met and got acquainted with Mary Ellen and Mike Carlson from Missouri. John has known Mike for many years but this was my first introduction to them. They are salt of the earth, wonderful people and we had a great time with them. Meeting them made the stop totally worthwhile.
On Thursday, as Rogers and Hammerstein predicted, the wind came in after the rain. We got up to a sunny day but Mary was rocking and rolling to 25 to 35 mile an hour winds...all day long. I kept checking the weather reports. They said, "WINDY". They weren't kidding. I really needed to go out and do some shopping but as John is well aware there isn't much in the world that can piss me off faster or more than stepping outside and having the wind wreck my hair style. It drives me around the bend. He was out and about at the show and would drop in on me every so often, relieved when he found me still in the coach working on bills and paperwork. Mary Ellen came to visit and then Bill and Mary Lynn Whitley stopped by and we exchanged coach stories for awhile. It was a nice afternoon to be sure. We had dinner with Mike and Mary Ellen at a historic steak house and then it was time to go to the show again.
There was something weird going on with the sky in Oklahoma City that evening. The sky was yellow. We had never seen anything like it and kept commenting on it. At first I thought it was dust from all of the wind but then I remembered that we had four inches of rain resulting in a lot of flooding the day before. I still don't know what that was. It was very weird like being on Jupiter or something.
Because of the construction there wasn't any place to park the car so there was no choice but to walk to the arena...in the wind. By this time the wind gusts were up to 50 miles an hour. I arrived at the arena looking like I had done my hair in a wind tunnel. I'll leave my frame of mind to your imagination. Suffice it to say that I was ready to move on from Oklahoma City. We watched the show with Breezy, Mike and Mary Ellen, visited with some people and then headed back to Mary for what I hoped would be a decent night of sleep. When we stepped out of the building the wind was still blowing but the temperature had dropped by twenty degrees. Now we were being blown to kingdom come and we were COLD. We arrived back at Mary who was warm and cozy. We dropped the black out shades in the bedroom to block the light from the electronic billboard and settled in for the night.
I knocked another ten numbers out of the mattress tossing and turning to the sound of trucks and woke up in the morning feeling completely worn out. That didn't stop me from jumping into the shower, into my clothes, buttoning up Mary and having everything ready to go when John got back from the videographer. He laughed. "I take it you are ready to go?"
I need to go back a bit to our trip from Needles to Albuquerque. Fabulous. That's the best word I can think of and it doesn't cover the beauty of New Mexico's rocky landscape. I tried to catch it with my camera but I really couldn't do it justice. I will include what photos I took in the Picassa album. It was a pleasant sunny day of travel. We stayed at a KOA in Albuquerque and the next morning did our last leg to Oklahoma City. It included a trip across the TEXAS panhandle.
More of our Sierras drive
I told John about the last time (and the first time) I drove through the TEXAS panhandle. I had come from Kentucky via Tulsa on my way to meet my friend Nancy in Phoenix. It was a pleasant drive until I got to the TEXAS border. For some strange reason I just assumed that there would continue to be gas available along Interstate 40 into TEXAS. I had about a third of a tank when I headed out into the vastness of TEXAS. I drove and I drove and I drove. I kept driving but I didn't see any gas stations that were inhabited. I drove and drove some more. The needle on my fuel gauge kept getting lower in tiny increments. Finally like a mirage I saw an exit with a gas station. I pulled off. I drove up to the station. It was abandoned. The pumps were still there but no one was home. I looked down at the gas gauge and sighed. I looked in the back seat at my sweet dog Tag (the Border Collie who graced my life for 14 years before Breezy) and said, "I don't know Miss Tag...I hope this Camry has a good reserve because we are about to test it." She looked at me with her big brown eyes and then curled up on the seat to prepare for what ever bizarre situation that I might get us into. She endured a lot of adventures with me in 14 years. We hit I-40 again in search of fuel. I drove and drove and drove some more. My gas gauge was getting very close to E and finally the fuel light came on. My imagination went to work as I visualized Tag and I hitching along I-40, thirsty and hot (it was August and scorching) waiting for the serial killer to come and pick us up. I was getting pretty worried. Then I encountered a bug storm. Massive big black kamikaze bugs with massive wing spans and huge gobs of guts impaled themselves on my windshield, wiper blades, grill and antenna. It was disgusting. After the flurry of cussing Tag decided that riding on the floor behind my seat was a safer place. Finally off in the distance I saw a sign. It was one of those state road signs that advertises gas and food and lodging. There was no food and no lodging but there was a mini market with gas. I pulled off and found that it actually had fuel and thankfully a window cleaning squeegee/sponge thingie so that I could clear the bug guts off of my windshield. After I filled the tank I gave Tag a drink of water and a handful of doggie treats and we blasted across the rest of the panhandle. At one point I looked off into the vastness of the flat barren landscape and I saw something sticking up on the horizon. A few minutes later I could see it more clearly. It was a HUGE white cross. I was sure that it was only five minutes away but I kept driving and driving and I could still see it. And the farther I drove the bigger it got. Finally I thought that I'd never get to that cross and that it must belong the hugest church on the planet. I drove and drove some more. Finally I came to the cross. It wasn't a church but more like a monument. I never forgot that TEXAS size cross.
As we drove down I-40 through the panhandle the other day I remembered the cross. It was in Groom, Texas. I saw it as huge and white as ever way before we got to Groom. I looked it up on the Internet (typed in Google "Texas panhandle big white cross"...what would we do without Google?) and came up with the facts. It is 19 stories high and it took 100 welders in two shops to complete it. It has been there since 1995. I don't know much else about it except it is huge and the panhandle is as flat as a pancake with nothing to block the view so you can see it for miles. I wondered what aliens landing here eons after we are extinct would think of such a thing standing there... I know. I wonder weird stuff.
So we finished up on Oklahoma and took off on Friday morning for Little Rock. I'd never been to Arkansas and was surprised how much it looks like Central Kentucky. Neither of us slept much during out stay in OKC so we made a short day of it. We found a nice little KOA off of the Interstate...but not far enough off of the Interstate. It was charming with nice owners but noisy and I didn't sleep much again. Even though I was pretty worn out from lack of sleep I decided that it was time to go shopping. The cupboard was really bare. John wanted to watch The Masters so he tuned in and I looked on the Internet for a grocery store. I found a Kroger about seven miles from the KOA. Feeling like I needed a back up to my driving directions I programmed Tom Tom and took off for Kroger with the bike rack and one bicycle on the back of the car. Believe it or not Tom Tom took me right to the store! I made the left turn into the parking lot and realized that even though it was the correct turn it was the wrong turn. The parking lot was full...full of demolition derby cars, nothing newer that 1980s and everything beat to hell. There were derelict people laying in front of the store on the sidewalk and a guy and a thrashed up Caddy. The black paint had peeled off of the sides and the front bumper was hanging down. He was trying to park it and was having trouble putting in the parking space. It was a diagonal pull in space. Not rocket science. A two year old could have put that car in that space. At that point I determined that he was probably somehow impaired and so were the rest of the people wandering in the parking lot and that I needed to go directly back where I came from. When I got back to Mary John offered to help me unload the groceries. "No need," I said. He looked at me funny. "I didn't go." He said, "Couldn't you find it?" I said, "Oh, I found it. But if I had gone into the store and been lucky enough to come out the bike would have been gone, the bike rack would have been gone and the car might have been up on blocks and the wheels gone." He went to the KOA office and found out that there was a new Super Walmart three miles from the KOA. We got groceries. We left Little Rock, me totally sleep deprived and John driving expertly and quickly toward Kentucky. We had planned a route through western Tennessee up US 51 to Paducah. When I was checking for KOAs I noticed one at Lake Barkley. Hmmm...a night at the Lake might be kind of nice after all of the noise.
I must say here that we have stayed in KOA campgrounds all across the country and back. Our experience at Wildwood was an isolated one and most of them are great places to stop for an overnight when you are traveling. Our best one was at Las Cruces, New Mexico. They are so convenient. You can find them on the KOA website, book the reservation, pay for it and specify exactly what you want. Most of the KOA owners are very nice and the parks are conveniently located, easy to get to and easy to find. I like that. But most of them are pretty close to the Interstates. So when we started talking about taking a day out before we get home and spending some time at the Lake it sounded like heaven to me. As I type we are parked lakeside. We are under some trees and parked next to some bass fishermen who are here for a tournament. The people across from us are nature lovers. They have to be. It's 4o degrees out, windy and they cooked out beside their coach and sat outside wrapped up in layers of clothes until dark.
Our only problem was a conversation that I had with the woman in the office. We found the KOA but couldn't determine where the office was. That's unusual. So I called the office as we sat in the road poised to make a right hand turn toward the marina. There was no traffic so we decided to just stop before we did something that would require that we back up (still touchy after Baytown). So I called the woman. The conversation went something pretty close to this:
Her: "KOA Lake Barkley. How can I help you?"
Me: "Yes, this is Karen Jones and we have a reservation for tonight for a 42 foot motor coach and we are sitting by the sign that says "Ramp" to the right and "Camping and Lodging" to the left. Can you tell me which direction we should go to the registration office?"
Her: "You're where?"
I repeated myself.
Her: "Just a minute." (I hear rattling) "Is that YOU sitting out there in the big tannish colored motor home?"
Me: "Yes, that's us."
Her: "You can't go up there. The owner's house is up there."
Me: "That's fine. So where do we go, to the right?"
Her: "You're gonna hafta back up. You're goin' to the owner's house. You can't do that."
Me: "Ma'am we can't back up. We are towing a car. We can make a turn. Can you tell me which direction we should go?"
Her: "Well can you see the yellow car in the parking lot?"
I scan to left and then to the right and see a blazing yellow car.
Me: "Yes. Do we turn to the right? We can make the turn without backing up."
Her: "Do you see the flag pole?"
Me: "Yes. It's by the yellow car. Now, do we turn right?"
Her: "Come down by the little wood lookin' buildin' with the green metal roof."
I look to the right again.
Me: "DO WE TURN RIGHT?"
We have been sitting there for five minutes and I can't get an answer to one simple question. Do we turn to the right, YES or NO.
Her: "Just drive down by the flag pole and pull in front of the little building. Come in and I'll give you your packet."
Me: "So we turn right and drive by the flag pole and the yellow car and pull up in front of the wood building with the green roof." I didn't want to ask any more questions but I had to be sure that we were parking in the right place. "So we don't pull into the parking lot?"
Her: "You'll have to turn your motor home around after you register."
Me: "So we do NOT go into the parking lot."
Her: "Pull in front of the building."
Me: (I gave up). "Okay, thank you very much."
Apparently "yes" and "no" are not part of her vocabulary. She probably thought I was the dumbest person on the planet too. Oh well...
We drove about six miles off of the main highway to get here. After my exhausting conversation with the woman in the office John went in and paid for two nights and came back fifteen minutes later exhausted from trying to talk to the woman. Then in KOA fashion the manager came out in his golf cart with his little yellow flag flying on the top. We unhooked the car and I drove behind Mary while the little golf cart guided her to our spot. We wound around on narrow roads and big trees and then he guided John into this treed area right next to the lake. John has earned his Master's degree in coach driving in the last six weeks. I believe he could parallel park her in downtown New York City if he had to. We are almost home and I still haven't driven it. There is future post on the repsonibilities of navigation. I promise. So the KOA guy disappeared from my sight behind Mary as he guided her back toward the lake. I sat there and held my breath with Breezy hanging over my shoulder in the Camry as I watched her back tires get closer and closer to the bank of the lake. She stopped on the edge and I let out my breath. I thought after this long journey of learning and fun and panic and laughter and old friends and new ones, and every emotion known to man it would be a bad ending to put her in the lake. But between the KOA guy and John's expertise she is sitting on the pad overlooking the water and we are settled in for a day of rest before we go home and resume our daily duties of life.
I'm sure reflections on this adventure will come as the days pass. We are already planning our next trip toward the end of May. It will probably include a trip to the Carolinas and then a drive to Pennsylvania to the Devon horse show. We are also talking about going west again after the show in Louisville in August, this time taking the northern route through the Dakotas and stopping at some shows and stables along the way. And if we need a little quiet time we can just take her and disappear into some nice campground somewhere close by and have a retreat! Mary and the Camry are due for a good bath and some service for their next trip. They are both covered with bird crap, bug parts, dust, mud, cinders, muck and who knows what else. It's been driving us both nuts since we were in Oregon.
I'm anxious to get home to Lexington and enjoy the spring in Kentucky and sad that the trip is nearly over. As many people know better than we do owning a motor coach can be a challenging experience and some present such problems that they can drive people to do things totally out of their character. We've heard some horror stories that were unbelievable but believable at the same time. We were so fortunate to have gotten this coach with the help of some good friends. She's a good one too, beautiful and smart and solid as a rock. We have had lots of help from the Monaco people and we are so grateful for their assistance along the way. John called Dennis the other day to tell him that we survived the storms in Oklahoma. I realized after he hung up that he didn't ask Dennis one question. Not one! That doesn't mean that we don't have a thousand more to ask but that we jumped in the deep end and learned how to swim with it. Thankfully the coaching gods have been very good to us!
Here is the address to the web album of photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/tagfish1/FloridaToOregonToKentucky2008?authkey=LV-MrZqG-xA
The tall one lasted until last night. Perhaps now that we are somewhat calmer about Mary the short one will make it through the summer!