Monday, December 21, 2009

Of Mice and Men and Women

Okay. So I hate mice. A lifetime of working in barns and living in climates that drive mice indoors in the fall has left me with a near phobia of creatures that dash across the floor at the speed of light and without fail end up under the stove or refrigerator in the kitchen...conscious-less critters that seek only to terrorize, eat and poop. The only critters that I fear more are their super sized cousins, rats and the Godzilla of all rats, opossums.

Before I get on with the saga of rodent control in Mary I have to tell you a story that just jumped out of my memory bank. Several years back I took a major detour in career and decided to become a hair dresser. I met so many nice people and had so many fun experiences and a few not so fun ones. I probably could write a book about the things that happen when you stand behind the chair for a living but this one is a standout.

It was 1993. I had just begun my career and I was working for Jana, a really nice woman who owned a small three chair salon in St. Helens, Oregon, an old dying mill town that sits on the Columbia River and has a perfect view of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. The salon was at the far end of the downtown core. She also had a manicurist, Jackie who worked three days a week. It was August and the afternoon temperatures had been pushing to the mid-nineties all week. The little salon did not have air conditioning so we would prop open the front door and the back door to keep air circulating. If you stood in the front door you would look over a roll top desk into the salon area and from there into the back room where there was a washer and dryer, sink and storage for our supplies. It was a straight line of sight from the front door to the back door and probably only 25 feet or so.

View of Mt. St. Helens from Oregon

On a sweltering afternoon I had a break in my schedule so I went downtown to get a birthday gift for my sister. When I returned I parked outside on the street so I walked into the front of the salon. Jana was getting her nails done and she and Jackie were gabbing. I got to the front of the roll top desk when something caught my eye in the back room. The door was open in the back so it was well lit. The voice in my head whispered "rat". The hair stood up on my arms. "Ah...ah...ah..." I stuttered as both Jackie and Jana looked at me with puzzled expresions.
Apparently I had lost all color in my face and my eyes were standing out of my head. My brain replayed what I saw, a King Kong dark brown a ra-ra-rat had just danced across the floor of the supply room. "RAT!" I screamed and before I knew what I was doing I was standing on the deck of the roll top desk with my little gift bag in my hand. Jackie jumped on her manicurist chair and Jana jumped into action. I was stunned to watch her march into the supply room and slam the door that separated the salon from the back room. Jackie and I looked at each other in complete and utter terror. We heard crashing and banging in the back room. Then it went quiet. The door opened and Jana came out with a broom in her hand. "He ran under the supply cabinet and I can't get him out," she said in a very calm tone. I was thinking that this was the bravest woman I ever met. In a quivering voice Jackie said, "I'll call Brad." That was her boyfriend. Inside of 20 minutes Brad arrived to save the day. He chased the filthy rodent out of the supply room and we all sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. It was quiet for a minute and then I said, "Does anyone find it odd that a rat showed up in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day and decided to take refuge in a salon with no air conditioning?" We all looked at each other with blank expressions.

I went home that night and recounted my story to my ex who said, "I hope it wasn't rabid or something." Multiply a large number of those thoughtful sentiments by 13 years and you'll understand why he is my ex. I spent the night tossing and turning and having RABID RAT nightmares. The next morning I went to work.

View of historic hotel in St. Helens

I had a 9:00 frost and haircut to do on a client who was Jana's best friend Jill (Jana didn't do color). Jill arrived and I draped her in a dark purple cape. She was eating a cup of vanilla frozen yogurt for breakfast. I put her frosting cap on and started pulling strands of hair through the cap with a crochet hook until she looked like a big purple cactus (frosts are not a pretty thing when you are doing them).

Jana came in and decided that it was getting too warm so she propped the front door open. I thought is was getting too warm too but given the events of the prior day I was willing to sweat it out. The waiting area which was situated by a large window in the front of the salon was full of white wicker furniture and was visible from where I was standing. Jana was on the phone at the desk while I was busy chatting with Jill when out of the corner of my eye I saw a rat run past the desk, make a hard left under the wicker couch and then ran the perimeter of the salon finally dashing into the back room. This happened so fast (and at the same time in slow motion) that I barely had time to register my disbelief in my what my eyes were seeing. I remember thinking that I was still asleep in my bed and this was part of my succession of "Willard" nightmares. Not possible my mind screamed as I recorded the vision of the hugest rat I had ever seen. Of course it was the only the second rat (in less than 24 hours) I had ever seen in person which probably added to the drama of the moment. He had to weigh 30 pounds if he was an ounce and had a tail that was at least 10 feet long. He was demonic gray with shark like beady eyes. And fangs. Big fangs. It's amazing what your mind can create when you are terrorized. Apparently while all of these thoughts were playing out in my head I again screamed "RAT!". I jumped on Jana's salon swivel chair (crochet hook in hand) where I moved around in slow circles trying not to fall off. On one of my trips around I caught a glimpse of Jill. I'll go to my grave with this picture in my head. She was standing on my salon chair (which I had locked so she wasn't spinning), her blond hair standing at attention (sticking out of the frosting cap), purple cape hanging to just below her knees with melted vanilla frozen yogurt streaming down the front of the cape. I think when flight syndrome kicks in still shots are forever emblazoned in your memory.

Okay, so the rat is in the back room and Jill and I are standing catatonic on the chairs. Jana calmly hangs up the phone and then runs to the back room and slams the door BEHIND her. We hear clattering and crashing and then heard the back door slam. Jana walks out and props the broom against the wall. "He's gone," she says. "Are you sure?" Jill and I chimed in unison. "Yeah," she says as Jill and I climb down from our perches. "How can you be so calm?" I asked her. She said, "I had a pet rat when I was a kid." I couldn't stop myself, "Jana, these are not pets. These are wild sewer rats roaming the streets in broad daylight. Something isn't right with this." I truly thought I was living out a horror movie script. With that I got on the phone and called the city of St. Helens. I explained about two rats in two days and asked if there is some reason that rats are roaming the streets. The nice woman said, "Oh yes. They are doing sewer blasting downtown and it is running the rats out of the sewer." I shivered. "Thank you," I said and hung up. The next week at work was pretty tense and very hot because pet rat or not I refused to agree to an open door policy in the salon until the blasting was done. I have not seen another rat since then (there is a God) but I've seen tons of mice.

So after I discovered that there had been a mouse in the drawer in Mary I took a deep breath and started opening drawers and cupboards throughout the galley. This mouse had been everywhere. I filled the sink with blazing hot water and soap, got the spray disinfectant and went to work cleaning and washing everything that was in the drawers and cupboards. This mouse actually ate the end off of the spatula that I used to make scrambled eggs! I declared war. And I needed a comrade to do the tough stuff. John. Two hours later we loaded up and went to the local grocery store and bought four of the old fashioned mouse traps and a jar of peanut butter. We bought two containers of D-Con which I hate because I'm always afraid that a mouse will eat it, go outside and die and a bird will eat the mouse and die. Besides, I hate mice with a purple passion but that stuff is poison and not a quick kill. But I agreed to use D-Con as a last resort. John set two traps (not before tons of snapping traps and cussing) inside of the cupboards and put two in the bays of the coach. He said, "Now what?" I said, "You will need to check your trap line every couple of hours or so." He cracked up. "Trap line?" Oh yes, this is serious business.

Later we were getting ready to go out to dinner. It was about 5:00 and as I was rearranging my hair I heard the trap in one of the cupboards snap. "Got one!" I hollered. John came out of the bathroom. "Where?" he asked. "In the cupboard." He slowly opened the pan cupboard. He closed the door again. "He's still in the throws," he said. "I'll get him out before we leave." The goosebumps made their now now routine trek up and down my arms. One of the bad things about having a mouse in a confined area is that I'm sure I see them dashing EVERYWHERE. I'm constantly jumping out of my shoes because I'm sure I saw one running across the floor. Most often it is my paranoid mind. I sat down with Ransom and we had a talk. "Now I know your heritage is part rat terrier and mice are probably beneath you but if you see one..." Ransom slept through the entire mouse experience.

Recipient mouse pasture at dusk

John disposed of the dead mouse (my hero), reset the trap and we went to dinner. When we got back I got the dogs and took them for a walk while he checked his trap line. As I as coming back I saw him coming out of the coach with a trap in each hand, dead mouse in each trap. THREE MICE. He jettisoned the mice into the pasture and then pulled the traps out of the bays. Two more dead mice. FIVE MICE. They must have put the word out to the entire mouse population of Springfield! I could see the bulletin: "Calling all mice! There is a giant luxury motor coach located at 37691 Upper Camp Creek Road. It's heated and there is FOOD for the winter. Only two freaked out humans and two lazy dogs. Come one, come all!"

We killed off an entire family of mice that night. The word of the massacre must have spread like wildfire through the mouse community on Camp Creek Road because after the initial five mice we didn't find another mouse in the traps and no sign anywhere close to it. Before we folded our tent and headed for Arizona we had a former employee of Monaco Coach come and help John replace a torn awning, adjust the entry door and work on the air compressor that levels the coach when it is parked. We were satisfied that Mary was fixed. Boy were we in for a surprise.

I have to tackle a list of things to do for Christmas. If all goes well I'll be back soon to fill you in on our adventure to Arizona! I hope the holiday season has been fun for all of you so far! And HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE!!! The days get longer from here! YAY!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chapter Two

Okay Brookie. Here we go. Your suite is spotless and ready for a visit by the way :-)

Perfect day on the Oregon Coast

When I left you we were having a perfectly wonderful dinner at King Estate Winery with the Arcuri family. The following morning we loaded up our coaches (they just took possession of a new Monaco Dynasty...beautiful thing!) and headed to the Oregon coast. Last year John and I spent two days at Outdoor Resorts in Newport. It was where Ransom found freedom from the leash for the first time since we adopted him and is without question the nicest RV resort that we've been to anywhere. Once again we had perfect weather and a beautiful view of the ocean, lighthouse and coastal range. And great company! John, Ryan and Tim played horseshoes, we all walked on the beach and the dogs all had a blast.

Horseshoes on the coast

On Tuesday we got up and drove back over the Coast Range to Junction City to drop off both coaches at Guaranty RV Service. Tim and Jeanne's coach needed work on the satellite television and Mary had a long list of issues that had piled up over the nearly two years that we have had her. As we traveled I compiled the list. At the bottom I added, "Vibration in center of coach." John read the list and when he got to the bottom he gave me the skeptical look. I honestly felt like a terrible nag about the whole thing so I told him that if they look and don't find anything I will shut up about it. Then I added that I KNOW something is wrong because all of that shaking isn't normal for any vehicle. Okay. So we pulled into the Guaranty parking lot and a nice man named Dean arrived with his clipboard to go over our list. One by one he jotted the issues down on his sheet. When John got to the vibration issue I almost cringed. John said, "My wife says...and I know she is probably right but...she says that there is a vibration in the back when we are traveling down the road. I can't feel it but she says it vibrates." Dean immediately said, "I believe you have a ridite issue." Puzzled I asked, "What is ridite??" He smiled. "Ride height," he said. "When I walked up to your coach I saw that it is leaning hard to the right. When it isn't level it torques the drive line and you can experience a severe vibration." I had to smirk. I really tried not to but I just had to. And I was immensely relieved that I hadn't lost my mind and imagined the shaking. He told us that leveling the airbags would probably take care of the problem.

Sidebar: I drove the Mercedes home from Florida in July when we sold the house. I followed John, Mary and the Camry roughly 900 miles from Vero Beach to Lexington and a couple of times I mentioned that it looked as though the coach was leaning to the right. I didn't get a response. I mentioned it again when I looked at her parked in her spot at the farm. "The ground isn't level." Okay. I mentioned it again when we left for our trip and I drove behind her to hook up the car in Indiana. I got a scowl so I didn't mention it again until we got to Joseph and I followed her into the campground. "It's really leaning to the right." I was also pointing out that there was a severe banging noise in the engine so the "leaning to the right" thing fell on deaf ears.

So we got into the Camry and drove to the Arcuri's farm where they so graciously put us up for the three days that it was supposed to take to fix Mary's laundry list of problems. Dean also said that they would do a free roof inspection while they had her there. Great!

Three days later we were headed for Junction City again, not to pick up the coach but to pick up some more clothes because they didn't expect to have the work done for another three days. When we arrived Mary was in the shop. We got our things and left, planning to spend part of the upcoming weekend at the Arcuri's home in Terrebonne, Oregon with some friends of theirs. We expected to pick Mary up when we got back. John called first thing on Monday morning. She still wasn't done but he was assured that the work would be done very soon. "How soon is very soon?" I asked. He frowned and said, "I don't know but they better get it done SOON".

In the next three days John's mission was to harass Dean at Guaranty to get the work done on the coach and get it back to us. I know he called at least three times a day. Every time he called he got another reason why the work that yesterday was "being done right now" was actually not done and there were still five things left to do. It was frustrating and bordering on ridiculous.

Pocket Arcuri

Nine days as house guests of the Arcuri's was making us feel like freeloaders (they were so gracious) not to mention the problem with Ransom and Andy the cat. Ransom being the little ratter that he is just can't resist chasing things that will run (remember the rabbit up in Pennsylvania?). Well Andy is a wise old black cat who lives in the house full time. Arcuri's have several dogs, one of which lives in the house (her name is Pocket and she doesn't have any teeth) and Pebbles, a highly energetic Border Collie type who sleeps in the kennel but is a house dog when Jeanne is home. So Andy gets dogs. But neither Ransom nor I knew that.

So the first day we moved into the guest room Jeanne was gone and I was busy unpacking with the guest room door open when out of the corner of my eye I saw Ransom and Andy squaring off. Ransom was locked on and Andy's hair was standing up on his arched back. Arcuri's house is a multi-level home with lovely hardwood floors throughout and lots of small landings and steps. The guest room was at the top level and the master bedroom and living room at the bottom level. I opened my mouth to warn Ransom to leave the cat alone but before I could utter a sound he took off after Andy. I jetted after the two of them, hollering "RANSOM YOU STOP NOW!!!" but before I could catch up with them they disappeared into the master bedroom. All I heard was the sound of Ransom's toenails on the hardwood and Andy's growl and then it was quiet. "Ransom!!!" I hollered repeatedly. Still dead quiet. I had visions of him with nothing but Andy's tail hanging out of his mouth as I stormed through the bedroom looking for him. I found him cowering in the walk-in closet and Andy was no where to be found. "Get your little ratter ass out of this closet!" I pointed at the door and he scampered out and made a dash for the guest room.

Ransom "Ratter-Catter" Jones

I couldn't find Andy. I was panicked. Where was the poor cat? Was he permanently traumatized by my prison-escapee dog? How would I explain this to the Arcuris?

A little later I went out to the kitchen to fill the dog water bowl and there was Andy sitting on the top of the breakfast bar. If I didn't know better I would say that he was smiling. I looked him over and he looked fine.

When Jeanne got home I explained what happened and how sorry I was that Ransom behaved so badly. She just laughed. And laughed some more. Then she explained that if Andy didn't want to be chased he would have held his own with Ransom. I thought she was being polite. The Ransom/Andy scene played itself out two more times in the next two days. I was mortified. Finally I was home when Jeanne brought Pebbles in the house. Pebbles is about the size of Breezy but a little lighter weight. She and Andy went to boxing and playing with Pebbles knocking Andy around and then Andy smacking Pebbles around. After that I would keep Ransom with me and Andy would come around and tease Ransom. I know he knew that Ransom would get into trouble if he chased him and that became the game for Andy...get Ransom in trouble. He succeeded on several more occasions before we got Mary back.

Finally the day came to pick Mary up. We were both so happy. She would be all fixed and we would have our space back and not have to be under foot at Arcuri's house. I drove John over to Guaranty and followed him back to the farm. After we pulled out on to Hwy 99 a little voice said, "The coach is still listing to the right." I said out loud, "Shut up. It's fine." We got on the freeway and the voice came back. "It's not level." I shook my head hard to silence what my eyes and brain were telling me. We parked her and moved back in. It felt great. The next day I got out and looked at her from behind. Not level. But I wasn't going to say anything.

Arcuri's left for the Morgan Grand Nationals in Oklahoma City a few days later and John took over working the Saddlebreds and a few of the Morgans that were left at home until they got back. One day I went to town to get groceries and when I came back I found John sitting in front of Mary with a completely dejected look on his face. I got out of the car. "What's the matter?" I asked. "I"m beat. I'm whipped. I can't deal with this anymore," he said as he led me around to the driver's side of the coach and pointed up to the top. "Look," he said slump shouldered. I squinted and when I saw what he was pointing at I felt weakness in my knees. The roof is put on the coach like a cap with the edges attached six or eight inches down the side and then covered with a bead. From the middle of the cap on the driver's side all the way to the back (keep in mind she is 42 feet long) the cap had pulled away from the coach. There was a big space between where it used to be attached and where it was now located. It appeared to me that the cap was coming off. More visions of disaster loomed in my mind. Cap peeling off...water getting into the sides of the coach...thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. I said in a weak voice, "It might not be as bad as it looks," while my internal doomsday voice screamed, "This thing is going to bankrupt us!!!". John made some calls to try to figure out what in the hell was happening but in the end we were left with only one option. Guaranty...again. Dean was kind and said to bring her in first thing in the morning and he would look at her. When we sat down for dinner that night I looked across the table at John and said, "Gee, I'm sure glad that they did that free roof inspection. They resealed the skylight over the shower (the one that our coach washer stepped through and broke in March) for $650.00 but missed the fact that the f**king roof is peeling off." It was a lost night for sleep.

The following morning I followed him back to Guaranty again making note of the fact that the coach was not level. When we arrived Dean came out, looked at the roof and told us not to panic, that it may not be as bad as it looked. By this time I had brought up the fact that they needed to check the ride height again so Dean made note of it and we left to go back to the farm. John worked horses that day and then we got the call. It truly was not as bad as it looked. They blamed it on Monaco for not putting long enough screws in to attach it securely. They also said that they checked the ride height and it was fine.

"No it isn't," the voice in my head said. "Just shut the hell up," I said back. "This thing is going to drive me into the nut house before it is over," I said to my other voice. No shit.

View from Mary at Arcuri's farm

We settled in for two really beautiful weeks on the farm. The weather was so cooperative and the fall colors were stunning. I got to see lots of my family and friends and we just enjoyed the stay so much. And then it happened.

A day before we were supposed to pick Arcuri's up at the airport I got up in the morning and did my usual thing. I started the coffee, took the dogs out for a spin and fed them. When I opened the utensil drawer to get the can opener out I froze. Goose bumps ran up my arms. "Uh oh." John was sipping his tea and his head snapped around. "What is it?" I stepped back and pointed to the drawer. "We have a mouse." He must have been sleepy because he asked me an odd question. "What do we do about that?" I looked at him and said, "I don't know about you but I'm moving out." I slammed the drawer shut and willed my goose bumps to go away. They weren't cooperating.

I have a long history of mouse encounters. They are not my favorite creatures in the world. To say that I loathe mice is the understatement of the universe. They are filthy, can get in anywhere, will eat anything and poop all over EVERYTHING.

I'll stop here and take up with the mouse saga next time. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rx for the RV

Wallowa Lake, Joseph, Oregon

We left Kentucky the day before the All American Cup in Indiana, early in September. We stopped there to see the weanling class and then raced across Interstate 80 to Oregon. We only slowed down when we got to Utah and decided to smell the roses a bit on our way to Arcuri's farm.

We began having a few problems with Mary in the summer, like the motorized steps on the entry door quit working and a dozen other little things. She was due for several systems services so we made an appointment with Guaranty RV's service department in Junction City, Oregon for September 22. More on Guaranty later.

Chilling in Joseph
We were on a bit of a timeline to get to Oregon because we were due to be in Springfield on the 18th of September for Jeanne Arcuri's birthday and wanted to stop in Joseph, Oregon to see my aunt and uncle not to mention a weekend trip to the coast with a return on Monday so we could drop Mary off for her repairs. The day before we left Kentucky a bolt vibrated out of one of the big fan belts and Mary had to be rushed to the local diesel repair shop to be fixed. That's when they discovered a squeak in the other belt but told us that it would hold until we arrived in Oregon. It did hold...but it squealed every second of our trip across the country. It drove me nuts so I can only imagine how the dogs felt about all of the noise. John is effectively deaf to high pitched noises so he drove blissfully while I took pain reliever for the headache.

Deer totally unconcerned by our presence

Most RV parks and parking areas have the name and number of a mobile RV repair person (I'm learning that there is very good reasoning behind that) so when we were at the Indiana Fairgrounds we paid a guy to come out and see if he could fix our steps. John had purchased a mounting block (for non-equine types this is a molded plastic set of steps that you can use to get on a horse) from Chuck at World Champion's mobile tack unit. It is a rather giant step up and/or down from Mary without steps. Anyway, the repair guy came and spent a few minutes and then told us that they didn't work. We knew that. And that would be $153.00 please. An RV tip: Some of the guys that service the RV parks are really good and reasonably priced...some aren't. So John stowed the red plastic mounting block in a bay and had to jump out and get them set at the door so the dogs could negotiate getting in and out. We were pretty proud of the whole step idea...pain in the ass or not.
So we were driving along Interstate 80 after we left Indianapolis listening to the fan belt squeal when we both heard a beeping noise. John searched the cockpit area for the source of the warning noise and spotted a red light on the dash board with tiny letters that said "Step Out". We looked at each other and both of our eyes bugged at the same time. I dove onto the right side of the dash board to look in the side mirror to see if somehow the step motor had started while we were driving and they were indeed hanging out there at 70 miles per hour. There are rather dire warnings in "The Bible" (the Monaco users manual) about traveling with the steps out and what the ensuing damage would be to the side of the coach if they got hung up on something at high speeds. They paint a vivid picture for you. John kept asking me, "Are they out?" and I kept answering "No, I don't see any steps." We repeated that question and answer cycle as the beeping continued until I looked at him in total exasperation. "NO. THE STEPS ARE NOT OUT," I said. "We better pull over," he replied. "Fine," I said and plopped down in the co-pilot's seat. It turned out that the motor was trying to work but didn't have enough umph to push them all the way out. In order to stop the beeping he took duct tape (yes, he really put duct tape on the outside of the coach) on the steps.

Remember when the water bay door handle broke off in his hand when we were in Oregon last year and he had to spend hours trying to figure out how to get the door open and when he finally did he came in to announce his success and the weight of him stepping into the coach jarred the bay door and it fell shut again? Well the bay door handle broke again when we were spending the weekend at a national park in Kentucky in early August. Anymore when he says, "You're not going to believe this," I brace myself. So he figured out how to keep the bay door closed with a bungee cord. Once again we had a light on the dash board and a beeping noise telling us that there was a bay door open all the way from Western Kentucky to Lexington. When these things happen I hear a lot of big sighs and I know we are in for a lot of roadside stops for adjustments. He ordered a new handle (probably should buy them by the dozen) and it was delivered to us in Lexington. He couldn't find anyone to put it on so we drove across the country with a bungee cord holding the door closed. The water bay is where you empty the holding tanks so the bungee cord got a pretty good workout from Kentucky to Oregon.

Once the bay door was secured we decided that the repair could wait until we got to Oregon and Guaranty RV service could do the tricky work of replacing the door handle. Before we would have relied on our friends at Monaco Coach but they went broke (yep), reorganized, sold the company and reopened recently but don't have their service department up to speed yet.

Our last stop before heading to Oregon was Louisville for the World Championship Horse Show for a week. For that show we take two cars because I travel back and forth from the KOA to home to water the plants and pick up the mail during the week. So John took off with the coach and the Camry and I came about an hour later with the 4-Runner and the dogs. When I arrived at the KOA he met me outside of the coach. "You're not going to believe this," he says. My shoulders slumped. "What now?" I asked. "The front passenger-side slide out won't slide OUT," he said. So we piled into the coach (the steps still worked at that point) and he said, "See," and pushed the button that extends the slide. I heard the motor working and the front part of the slide was sliding but the back bottom part wasn't and at a certain point it was torquing the entire slide. I waved madly, "STOP!". I had visions of a badly bent slide out and massive repairs. Of course every man in KOA who noticed that we were having a problem wanted to conference with John about it and every time they thought they could help if they could just see it work so the torquing went on three more times before my nerves couldn't take it anymore. When that happens I must get a particular look on my face because I looked at John and he said, "Okay. I'll stop." We decided that we needed to find someone to look at it. As it turned out the KOA had the name of a repair guy who moonlights from his day job at an RV agency. John called him and scheduled him for the next day when he was going to be showing a horse to someone. The guy showed up on time and he was pleasant and I explained what the slide was doing. He tried it and when it started to torque he stopped and said, "That's not good." No kidding.

So the repair guy opened a low cupboard, removed a panel in the back of it and peered into the area where the slide's mechanical parts are located. His pointed his flashlight this way and that saying, "Humm," and "Wow," and "Weird," until I couldn't take it anymore. "WHAT do you see in there?" I asked. "The entire thing just fell apart," he said. "Fell apart?" I replied. "Yep. It looks like it just VIBRATED loose and the hardware in on the floor," he said as he contorted himself into a pretzel and retrieved the parts. In 30 minutes it was back together and working. I wrote him a check for $112.00, he threw in an adjustment to the shower door and was on his way. He was a good RV repair guy.

View from the tram going up to Mt. Howard
As you probably noticed I emphasised "VIBRATED" twice in the last few paragraphs. This would be because since last spring when we left Florida for Arizona I've been noticing and complaining (which turned into pleading and then into nagging) about a bad vibration in the body of the coach when we are traveling. I spend a good deal of time in the front doing my navigational duties and enjoying the scenery but every so often I make a trip to the back to grab a snack or use the bathroom and when I do I notice a serious vibration. The cushions on the couch vibrate off and the silverware in the drawer rattles and the dining table bounces to the point where I can't keep my fingers on the keyboard of my computer. Once I tried to lay down in the back and it was like someone started one of those old Magic Fingers machines that you used to get in hotel rooms (drop a quarter in and your bed vibrated until you nose itches). I've mentioned this vibration often enough that it has been looked at twice, wheels and tires and alignment checked and each time they have told us that there is nothing wrong with the coach.

Our first pleasant discovery on our journey was a small town called Garden City in Utah. It is the home of Bear Lake and the area and the lake are spectacular. We spent the night at the local KOA where we thought we would enjoy a peaceful evening. When we pulled in there were mostly empty spaces and after sleeping along I-80 for two nights we were ready for some peace and quiet. So we got set up and I made dinner and after dinner as I was finishing up the dishes John came in and told me that he had set up our chairs outside and suggested that I come out and enjoy the evening. That sounded like a great idea so I finished tidying up and stepped into the doorway. Before I could get one foot on the mounting block to exit the coach I discovered that John was visiting with two guys that were parked next to us. One was holding an adorable little puppy. I stopped in the doorway and sat down while they talked about their trips out west and told us about their puppy. They were very nice but extremely chatty and before it was over was giving them the tour of Mary, who wasn't as neat as I would prefer for guests. Just my neurosis at work. When they said goodnight and left it was dark out and I realized that I never did get out of the coach. John put the chairs away for our early morning departure and we went to bed.

One view from Mt. Howard
Another RV tip: If you value your privacy you probably don't want to buy a coach or fifth wheel unless you own your own remote RV pad somewhere. RVers love to share their experiences and

So we left the next morning and had a beautiful drive through the mountains, down through Logan and onto Interstate 84 on our way to Joseph. We decided to stop in Baker City, Oregon for the night and then drive the three hours or so to Joseph the next day. While we were in Baker City we discovered that the rubber around Mary's windshield had popped out on the driver's side. John fixed that and we were off to Joseph.

Joseph, Oregon is probably one of the prettiest, most peaceful places I've been in my life. I grew up in Oregon but Joseph (former home of the Nez Perce Indians) is way up in the northeast corner of the state. I managed to get into my 30's before I ever made a trip up there. They say it looks as much like Switzerland as anyplace in the U.S. We arrived at the far end of Wallowa Lake and located the RV park where Mary was going to stay for two nights. It was a nice park but VERY tight to get around in with that big bus. John snaked around until we had to stop and take the car off so that he could negotiate the turns into her space. When I jumped out of the coach (no red steps) the first thing I heard was a loud banging noise coming from Mary's engine. Once she was parked I mentioned it to John, who really wasn't in the mood to hear about any more problems with Mary. He just groaned. Then he listened. And then he groaned again. "Add it to the list," he said.

We spent to wonderful days in Joseph. We took the tram up to the top of Mt. Howard, a 15 minute ascent and the longest tram ride in America (seriously). We ate lunch at the top at the Summit Cafe and took photos from various view points. Twice we hiked up to a gorgeous waterfall with the dogs and took in the incredible mountain air and the sheer beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. We also took a tour of Valley Bronze, a local foundry that produces the work of sculptors from around the world. It was fascinating to learn the painstaking process of creating a mold that will reproduce long hours of work by the artists. Artists themselves, the foundry workers are pleasant and forthcoming with answers to questions about how the work is done. And then I got to see my aunt and uncle who live a good hour and a half north of Joseph. They own 80 acres in a beautiful valley that snows in during the winter. They have lived off of the grid for 15 years (way before it was popular to talk about much less do), growing a lot of their own food and enjoying a life in an area that is nearly untouched by civilization as most of us know it. We had fun catching up with them over lunch in the little town of Joseph.

Larger than life size bronzes outside Valley Bronze
From there we loaded up and headed down the Columbia River Gorge to Portland to visit with my 81 year old father. Mary squealed and banged all the way down the River, which was every bit as spectacular to me as the first time I experienced it. I just marvel at the sheer size of it as it works its way down to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived to a cloudy and rainy evening in Aurora. We grilled steaks in the rain and had a few scotches and had a wonderful visit with Dad before we turned out the lights and attempted to sleep to the sounds of Interstate 5 and a nearby trucks stop. Translation: Not much sleep. In the morning we took off for Springfield for two days at the Arcuri's farm and a birthday celebration at King Estate Winery with the Arcuri family. This establishment is difficult to describe without using "Wow" a lot. The winery sits on top of a giant hill where in any direction you look you see grape vines rolling and snaking over hills. The food was fabulous, the wine wonderful and the company was the best. We sat outside and the weather cooperated to the fullest with mild, shirt sleeve temperatures all the way into a moonlit evening. It was!

And like a total moron I forgot my camera.

I'll end the post here and take up again with our trip to the Oregon Coast the day after our wonderful dinner at King Estate Winery and tell you about Mary's visit(s) to Guaranty RV. To give you a hint I'm still dealing with Guaranty RV and we have been in Lexington since just before Halloween. And I'll fill you in on how the mystery of the VIBRATION was finally solved.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Travel Log Coming

Fall at Arcuri's farm

Shame on me for not keeping this blog up during our trip out west! We traveled through 13 states and were away for 8 weeks. We visited the mountains, the coast, the valley and the desert. We had a wonderful time and some interesting experiences. I had some problems with my air card so Internet connections were a problem which makes publishing this blog a pain but now I'm home and I will get it caught up!

Arcuri's farm in Springfield

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's That Time Again

Anarchy, a yearling colt

As of yesterday we are staying at the Louisville Metro KOA for the week attending the Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show. We don't have anything showing this year because we sold what would have shown here. Not a bad thing! John is feeling a little strange without horses here. We had dinner with the Brookshires last night and he mentioned that he won at least one class at this show every single year that he showed here since the early 70's. Phyllis replied, "That my dear is why you were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year." Quite an accomplished and storied career. Anyway, once the Arcuris arrive tonight and the show starts I believe he will feel less strange about not having horses here.

I just realized that I haven't blogged since May! I apologize for taking such a long time to get back here. When we came home from our last long trip I was ready to stay put for the summer, enjoy being home and the summer weather and I pretty much have accomplished my goal. The mares and babies are doing very well and the yearlings have begun their early training which we are excited about.

Illegal Tender (left) and Critical Asset (right), yearlings

John and I went up to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to a family wedding in June which was a really nice trip. We took Mary and the dogs and stayed at the Swamp Fox Farm where he started his horse training career many years back. It is a beautiful spot. Breezy and Ransom loved it too. Especially Ransom. The farm is a haven for rabbits and squirrels and Ransom, being the little leaping hunter that he is, found the entire experience exhilarating. He jerked me around on his leash for two days. Every time he saw a rabbit it was as though he got an electric jolt. Finally on the third day we took the dogs for a walk on the back of the farm and John said, "Poor little guy. Why don't you turn him loose." I said, "Because we may not see him again until the snow flies." He said, "He'll come to my whistle now. Turn him loose." I said, "Okay. If he disappears into the woods and doesn't come to your whistle you are going to have to hunt him down." The woods up there are thick with under brush and the trees are very dense. So I unsnapped his leash and he was off like a race horse breaking from the gate. He was so excited to be on the hunt that he couldn't focus and he bounded right by a squirrel and two rabbits without noticing them. He had also turned off his hearing in favor of his pursuit of ground critters. We did finally retrieve him and when I put him back on the leash he commenced jerking me around the property again until we got back.

Miss Breezy enjoying her summer

On the fourth day we were getting ready to fold up the coach so we could head home. I decided to take Ransom and Breezy for a little walk so I put Ransom on his leash and took Breezy off-leash. She is so good that we don't worry about her where the are allowed to be off leash. We aren't there yet with Ransom. So John was outside of the coach as the dogs and I strolled off across a beautiful mowed green field toward the woods. Unbeknownst to me there was a rabbit sitting behind a big rock in the field. I was lolly gagging along, communing with the peacefulness of the farm, at one with nature and noticing a bit of sprinkling rain when rabbit madness overtook Mr. Ransom and he bolted, jerking the leash from my hand. It is retractable leash and it was locked at about four feet. I screamed, "RANSOM!" as I watched him dash after the rabbit at warp speed with the handle of the leash bouncing on the ground four feet behind him. It didn't faze him. The rabbit was very fast and so is Ransom. I screamed "RANSOM!!" again and took off running after him as the sprinkles turned to full fledged rain. I glanced back to see John running in our direction but he was too far from us to help so he stopped and started whistling an ear splitting sound that stopped me in my tracks but not Ransom. Poor Breezy was completely freaked because she knew that Ransom was committing the worst crime of all, running away when being called. She glued herself to me and we ran as fast as my short legs could travel (which I promise you isn't fast) after Ransom and the rabbit. Finally one of John's whistles stopped Ransom for a split second, just long enough for the rabbit to slip into the under brush of the woods and then Ransom lost his mind and dove in after him. I stopped and in between panting hollered, "RANSOM you little shit!!! Come back!!!". I stood there in the rain, out of breath listening for him but I heard nothing. I looked at Breezy and said, "Go get him Breezy. Go get Ransom!" She took off and bolted up a bank and stopped at the edge of the woods. She turned and looked at me as I lumbered up the wet bank. I screamed for Ransom again with some additional expletives informing him that if I caught up with him he was going to be in the dog house permanently. Breezy just stood still. When I got to her I bent down and looked into a small opening in the brush and there I found Ransom with his leash tangled in the brush.

I had to crawl into the brush, in the rain and untangle his leash. He was looking at me with an expression that said that if he had a choice he would rather spend the rest of his life in the woods than to deal with me. I got him out of the brush and we marched back to the coach where I found John in hysterics. "What's funny?" I asked. He just pointed at the three of us and cracked up again. Finally he explained that if I could have watched the whole scene from his vantage point I would have found the humor in it too. Maybe...

The little shit :-)

Something interesting has happened to Ransom. When we rescued him a year ago he had one ear that stood up and one ear that flopped over. I thought it made him unique. We decided that when people asked what breed he is we would tell them that he is an Uno Lop. About a month ago his stand up ear flopped over and it now matches the other one. So now we tell people he is a Duo Lop. Or sometimes we say he is a Tasmanian King Chihuahua. That one always gets lots of oooooh's. What ever he is we love him all to pieces and couldn't be happier that we have him in our lives. I learned from him about how to overcome a blue day. Just jump! When something has you down, jump for joy! He does it all of the time and he never ceases to make us laugh.

John has been busy traveling this summer. He went with Bill Field up to the Midwest Charity Horse Show in Illinois for a week. Then he flew out to Oregon to attend the Summer Showcase horse show with the Arcuris. After that he and Bill and Bill's grandson Walker took the coach and went to Gettysburg, Antietam and Harper's Ferry to tour the battlefields. Walker is nine and he lives in Utah. I dropped John off at the coach the day that they left and they were all excited and ready for their adventure. I thought to myself that neither of them have spent a week with a nine year old in awhile and probably never in such a confined space but if the stars were properly aligned it could be fun for them anyway. I took the dogs and went home for a productive week at home. I got reports on their adventures several times per day. Each day John's voice was a bit more frazzled but he was having fun and really enjoying the battlefields and Bill's company.

A week after they left I drove back out to the farm where Mary lives to pick John up and when I arrived and walked up to the coach Bill staggered out with an arm load of luggage. He looked beat. "So how was your trip?" I asked. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "This trip may have been the biggest challenge that John and I have ever undertaken together," he said as he threw bags into the back of his car. Walker was busy playing with Breezy and Ransom so I went up the steps of the coach and found John looking equally harassed. "Whipped by a nine year old?" I asked. He nodded. He told me some of the stories and I laughed until I couldn't breathe. They really did have a great time but the energy of a nine year old boy was a little much for the two of them!

Lt. William Field (left) General John T. Jones (center) and Walker

We sold our Florida home and closed on the property on July 1st. Given the amount of time that we spend in Mary traveling it didn't make much sense to hang onto the property especially since the Florida market tanked. We keep saying to each other how amazed we are that we don't have any seller's remorse and don't miss the property because we both really loved it. But then it occurs to me that we will most likely miss it in January.
I admire people who make their living in real estate. Selling a home is an emotional experience and with the market the way that it has been for the last year many people are having to give up their home involuntarily so the entire experience is a trauma and makes ours look like a walk in the park. Agents must need month long retreats and occasional psychotherapy to decompress from the roller coaster ride of buyers and sellers of real estate. From our perspective we ended up with a buyer who was just slightly insane. The only people made crazier than us over her weird behavior were her agent, who went missing midway in the process and our agent who deserves a medal of honor for not killing her. I won't drag you through all of the details but by the time we handed the attorney the keys we were more than ready to head north to Kentucky and not look back. Until January.

We will be on the road again heading west in September. The tentative plan is to tour Utah before heading to Oregon for a long visit and then going to Arizona again for the fall futurity horse show. I hope you are having a wonderful, enjoyable, exhilarating, relaxing, beautiful summer where ever you are!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Babies!

New colt enjoying spring grass

This is just the best time of the year! We have two new babies on the ground, a filly and a colt, both healthy and beautiful, the grass is growing so fast that you need a speedometer to clock it and today the sun is out! We have had so much rain this spring that I've felt a bit like I was living in the Northwest again but today it is going to be 80 degrees and sunny. It's a walking day for Ransom and me for sure!

Later I plan to hit Lowe's and pick up some pretty flowers to put in pots on the patio. Yesterday I was looking at the area by the front door and thinking that I would like to work on it, move some little shrubs and thin out some wild hostas that are now taking up the entire area but I thought I'd better check with the Gestapo's rules on what I can do with it. So I dragged out one of the two three ring binders of information on our home and it's rules and started looking at the planting layout. I have three little reddish shrubs that are sitting behind a low hedge of green shrubs. I'm not sure who put them in there or why but they are out of place there. I thought I'd move them over in front of the dining room window. So I looked up what is allowed by the dining room window. When you open the binder that has all of the rule and regulations the first page on the top says, "WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD!" Under that is a list of now outdated phone numbers and names for the home owners association, information about paying our HOA fees and the website address. So I dug into the table of contents and found the landscaping section. They are in Rules Policy # 4 after PARKING rules, Pet ownership rules, and architecture rules. There are eight more Rules Policies with various exhibits, charts and diagrams following the landscaping rules including Rules Policy #9, Rules Enforcement Procedure. Apparently those are the rules about the rules. Sheesh.

If you have never lived in a community with an HOA I'm probably cementing the fact that you never will. I'll get to the upside of this situation a little later.

Breezy and Ransom enjoying some free time

So I finally found the diagrams for the landscaping rules. When they did the original landscaping here they did a basic job of trees and shrubs but left big empty spots that scream for something nice like hydrangea or azalea bushes, maybe some bulbs for daffodils and tulips in the spring months. I know that they don't want the landscapers to have to spend a lot of time doing the maintenance so that's why it is so basic and to be fair the uniformity makes it look really...tidy but it is missing color. Some of our neighbors have dressed their units up with annuals and perennials and they look really nice. Those are allowed in certain areas under certain circumstances. So I looked at Rule #1 (under Rule# 4). It goes like this:

No fences, bird feeders, or trellises

No hanging pots/baskets attached to the building (the patio is PERFECT for some hanging baskets)...shepherd's hooks are allowed in mulched areas

No window boxes

No landscape lighting

No water ponds, fountains or other water features

Nothing to sit on retaining walls or plants near the retaining walls

But they allow statuary so you could end up looking at some fat naked cherub in your neighbor's yard but you can't hang a flowering plant. Or a bird feeder.

Miss Rio Rita and her new filly

Oh, and no vines.

So I got into the landscaping plans and starting looking to see if I could move my three little red shrubs in front of the dining room window.


Okay. So can I put them in front of the living room window?


Okay. So can I put them in front of the office window?

That seems debatable according to how you interpret the rules. I'm familiar with rule interpretation after spending four plus years at the United States Equestrian Federation. What I learned is that a rule can be interpreted many ways. The English language is an interesting one when you start writing and interpreting law.

I interpret this rule to allow the shrubs to be planted in front of the window as long as they don't exceed three feet. There. That was easy. Wasn't it?

Two days old and her first day outside

Tomorrow I'm on my way out to the farm with my camera again to get more photos of the new babies and watch them work the show horses. In the next couple of weeks we should have two more new babies to brag about!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

On A Rainy Sunday

The Bark Pile

I feel like I'm living in Oregon again! Rain, rain, rain and more rain. It looks like The Land of Oz out there with the intensity of green grass and trees and colorful flowers. The difference is the color of the sky. I believe it was blue in Oz. Not here. The only sun I see on the forecast between now and the tenth of May is on Tuesday. Ransom and I are going to have to start walking in rain gear because we have been confined for way too long! I'm all pumped about planting flowers and an herb garden this year. Being as I'm actually going to be here all summer I can tend to my containers on the patio. The bark project is done with the exception of a pile of park in our guest parking. I think they abandoned it. If you drive around the complex there is some kind of construction debris, equipment, a dumpster or landscaping junk in nearly every guest parking space. I don't know who chooses the contractors for this place but I think that person needs to be replaced. They have been trying to fix a roof on the other side of the complex since the first part of April. Thankfully we don't have to bring Mary back here until June. If it the parking is still an issue then they can call John. He's ready for them. Heh, heh, heh...

Miss Breezy Jones

There is a new Picassa photo album of more recent photos and I'm going to get all techy here and see if I can embed it in this blog post. They are making it so much easier for us neophytes to do this stuff now. It makes me feel all computer savvy...which I'm not! Here it goes: It didn't work. Back to the drawing board. Here is the link:

It has some photos that I've published on this blog and some new ones as well. Next I'll try to add a little footage from the Flip camera. I haven't taken any footage worthy of this but I need to learn how to upload it. So here it goes...


It worked! I think...

We are going to a pot luck dinner tonight. I made three chocolate cream pies for this event. I haven't eaten any. Yet. This weekend blew the cleansing all to hell but we only had two days left. John lost 14 pounds doubling what I lost but he has been working 20 plus horses a day, six days a week so that would probably account for some of the extra weight loss. Even without all of the exercise it is easier for him to drop pounds than it is for me. The best part of cleansing is how great you feel and how clear headed you are. If you don't believe that we are what we eat try a cleansing. You will be a believer. Now the trick is to stay on healthy food with an occasional splurge. Tonight we splurge. Tomorrow we pay...and start back on healthy food again.

The PIES. Probably only a kazillion calories in those three little babies

Ransom huddled up on the couch

I'm off to start work on the scrapbook project. I have a million photos and articles and things that need to be organized into something besides the drawer and the miscellaneous manilla envelopes that they have been living in. First a lot of them need to be scanned into my computer.

I hope this Sunday has been a pleasant one for you!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Out and About


We arrived home from out trip out west and I've been running around like a woman with her hair on fire ever since. Today I'm in Columbus, Ohio in the coach with our two dogs while John is judging the Friday afternoon session of the River Ridge Horse Show. We got here on Tuesday afternoon and set up in the campground of the Ohio State Fairgrounds. It isn't a bad spot except for the train track that runs through it. I love the inside of Mary so hanging out in here is a nice respite from running around like a woman with my hair on fire.

Last night I went over to the show for the first time. I got to sit in the judge's stand for the evening performance. Many moons ago I did a little judging out west at some open shows which I really enjoyed but from that experience I realized that the view from inside the ring is much different from what it looks like from the rail. I was reminded of that again last night.

One of the fun things that happened was that I got to meet the horse show manager, a woman who I worked with regularly on the phone when I was managing the Breeds Department at USEF. Barb took over the show several years ago which was in need of some intensive care and she had a lot of questions. I always liked helping horse show managers and secretaries when I was there (they have a huge job and USEF has a huge amount of red tape) and I particularly enjoyed talking to Barb. She struck me as a brave and bold woman, very bright and dedicated to making things work. When I met her I found a tiny woman with bright eyes, a great sense of humor and lots of pluck. I love pluck. She does a wonderful job with River Ridge.

When we got home from out trip it was tax time. I'm a word person not a numbers person. I do the bookkeeping entries monthly and email them to the accountant. Every year I think I have finally done a good job of not missing things and not confusing poor Margie at the accounting office and every year I find out that I missed some things and confused poor Margie at the accounting office. She is slated for sainthood from working with me, a non-numbers kind of person. We have a similar sense of humor so I'm able to get it done without her wanting to kill me. I think.

Moms getting ready for foaling time

During tax time I decided that it was time to get myself on a cleansing diet for a week. I did it once about 12 years ago guided by a doctor and at the end of the diet I felt like brand new. In between starting it and ending it I felt like a refugee from Ethiopia. Twelve years dimmed my memory of how bad you can feel when releasing toxins from your system but even if I had remembered how crappy I would feel I probably would have done it anyway. To say that we have had a lot of fun in the last three years is a wild understatement but we also ate our way around the world and in the process we both got a little...pudgy. Not terrible but enough extra weight that my wardrobe went from skinny clothes and fat clothes to skinny clothes, fat clothes and just cover the %#!@!! blubber clothes. It's bad news at Black Rock when your fat clothes are too tight. So it was time to feel better and lose a few pounds. I tackled it while I was tackling the taxes. Not too smart. John took cover for a week.

The diet allows only fruits, veggies, fruit and veggie juices, herbal tea and broths made from fresh veggies. No bread, no salt, no sugar, no caffeine, no starches, no wheat, no eggs, no dairy, no alcohol...none of the things that are or were a part of my diet. The second day I dragged myself out of bed with a pounding headache and achy joints and cement in my legs. Five days into it I was feeling like I was ten years younger and thinking "just two more days and I'll be done and can go back to eating some real food again." Donnie Brookshire says that you can do anything for a week. John went on eating like normal (my cooking) and saying, "I don't know how you can do that. I could never do that." You can do anything for a week.

Colts playing on a sunny day

On that fifth day of cleansing John had his first appointment with my naturopath so I dropped him off and went unenthusiastically to do some shopping for more fruits and veggies. As I was pulling into the parking lot to wait for him to get done my cell phone rang. It was John and he said, "Where are you?" I said, "I just pulled into the parking lot." He said, "Come in here please." So I got out of the car thinking that she had found something dire in his blood work and when I walked in he was joking and having the best time. On the desk in front of him was a cleansing diet. A 28 day cleansing diet. Ha!

I would have bet the farm that he wouldn't be able to stick to this diet for 28 days. Not that he isn't determined or dedicated. His career proves all of that. It's just that he made such a production about what I did for a week and he loves good food so much that I thought he would weenie out and give up.

I was wrong.

He is on day 19 today. Week one was more liberal than my week one and to be helpful I said that I would do it with him. I was feeling terrific and his week one included some organic chicken, fish and lamb which sounded like a feast to me. Week two on his diet was like week one on mine only with brown rice and protein powder so I told him he would have to go it alone and that I'd stick to his week one diet while he muddled through. He suffered the detox symptoms but kept his nose to the grindstone, went to A.J.'s barn every day (he has been helping A.J. because he broke his hand while we were out west) armed with a protein drink and an apple in his pocket. He has followed this thing for 19 days without wavering...not without whining and complaining (which I did a lot of as well) but has not cheated once. We are both feeling like kids again. John has lost 12 pounds and looks wonderful. I've lost six pounds and am clipping along toward my skinny clothes again. Tonight is the first time we can add back meat so we are having roasted game hens for dinner with wild rice and steamed broccoli. Wahoo!

After taxes, doctor appointments, diets, a trip out to see our yearlings and a lot of spring cleaning at the house we left for Clemson, South Carolina for the J.D. Massey Classic horse show. Donnie and Phyllis Brookshire were inducted into the hall of fame so we took Mary and the dogs and drove down to the show. We had never been there before and when we arrived we found a really nice show facility in the country that is part of Clemson University and a beautiful little town. We had nearly perfect weather for the weekend too. We met some really nice people and had lots of fun with the Brookies and then we motored home for two days before we repacked and headed up here to Columbus.

Two of our yearling colts at A.J.'s

After Clemson we arrived back at our townhouse late last Sunday afternoon with plans to leave on Tuesday around noon for Columbus. We live in a condo complex which means that we are "governed" by a home owner's association. I've come to believe that home owner's associations are fashioned after Hilter's Germany but that's just my opinion. We have one in Florida to which we pay obscene amounts of money for what I'm not sure. The landscaping company employs Marilyn Scissorhands (if memory serves me there is an earlier blog post about Ms. Scissorhands) who regularly butchers the landscaping around the pool. That is until we had a Waterloo over the whole thing. Now she has gone passive aggressive and won't trim at all. Our HOA in Lexington isn't expensive but is far more restrictive than Florida. Up until recently I think I may have irritated them a bit but in general haven't had much problem with them. Also the neighborhood is full of retired people, most of which are very nice but don't have much to do except watch the comings and goings of their neighbors. Given our lifestyle I'm sure we have given them tons to chat about.

Two weeks before we left for Clemson the HOA had the landscapers come in and start the yearly bark project. They bring in dump trucks full of bark and dump it in inconvenient places and then a truck with a blower on it is loaded by little critter with a bucket on the front. They blow the bark into the flower beds, over people's plants and flowers and generally make a hell of a mess. And they are SLOW. Before we left for Clemson they filled up our guest parking spot with bark so we couldn't park Mary in there. Normally that's where we put her if we leave her overnight. When we got home it was still full of bark (go figure) so John pulled her up to the curb in front of our unit and we unloaded her. I asked if he was going to take her back out to the farm and he looked at me like I had two heads. "I'm not taking her all the way out there for one day and then bringing her all the way back." I threw my hand up and said, "Okay. I was just curious." I suspected that we were going to raise the ire of someone in the complex. Mary is the size of a small office building after all.

Tuesday morning John went to the barn and I started my mad rush to get the coach packed, make a run to the grocery store (this diet requires that you shop several times a week to keep fresh produce in the fridge), go to the bank, pick up some more protein powder from the doctor's office, and a few other various things. Before any of that happened I had to usher a furnace repairman in and out of the house (long story that I'll spare you from). The wind had picked up that morning and it was icy cold. I made six or seven trips out to the coach with armloads of stuff, being blown from hell to breakfast between the curb and the front door so my mood wasn't exactly what I would call upbeat. Harassed would be a better description. Plus I knew that John would be home soon so I was trying like crazy to get out the door to get my errands done so we could get on the road. As I was flying through the house gathering my coat, purse, keys and Ransom I caught a glimpse of a red truck flying into the driveway. Before I could register who it was the doorbell rang...TWICE. It was a type-A ring. I was in no mood to deal with a type-A anything. I opened the door and there was a man there who introduced himself as the president of the HOA. The Gestapo had arrived. He launched into what I could only describe as a dressing down over leaving the coach parked in front of the house. I immediately felt like I was back in high school getting chewed out for skipping school or being late for class...which didn't meld well with my already harassed mood. I was in a hurry and I wasn't interested in the lecture. I tried to interrupt but on he went until Ransom dashed out the door onto the stoop. "Oh shit!" I said.

Ransom is a wonderful little dog but when he is fresh he goes deaf to my requests to come to me. He had been patient to a fault for two days without exercise because the weather was awful and I was once again running around like my hair was on fire.

So I eased out the door calling Ransom and reaching for him. This man apparently had no clue that I was afraid that the dog would take off across the yard and dash out into the street. My mind unfolded the entire disaster complete with me running down the road hollering "Ransom come back!" while I was getting a lecture. I really wanted to say, "Just give me a ticket or something because I don't have time for this!" Instead my mother loomed in my head (she was a stickler for being polite) and I said, "I understand and it won't happen again," as I finally got a hold of Ransom's collar and put him in the house. We were good to go until he said that someone had complained. I felt the fire burning in my temper zone. Then he said in his self important voice, "And it has been here for three days." The fire turned into an inferno. "It has NOT been here three days," I said (sorry Mom). "Well whatever," he said. You are only allowed to keep it here overnight." We got home late Sunday afternoon and it was Tuesday morning. Do the math. So I said, "Oh! While I have you here there are some dying bushes on our lot that need to be replaced." I dragged him out in the cold wind to point them out. "That happens and I suppose we can replace them." It happened a year ago and while we are expected to keep up our end of the bargain and adhere to a three ring binder of rules and regs about planting and pots and bird feeders, PARKING and you name it, apparently they can look the other way when its time to spend money on replacing dying plants. Finally he told me that they didn't have a contact number for me. That would be because someone misplaced it because I spoke to the manager of the HOA last year about another issue (our patio roof leaking and peeling away) and she returned my call. So I invited him in while I gave him John's cell number. "You can get him 24/7", I said as I handed him the paper and gathered up my stuff to leave. Then he began questioning me about what we do with the coach. I explained that we use it for business purposes and some pleasure trips. From there a conversation ensued about his house on Hunterstown Road. Huh? Finally I promised that we would never leave the coach on the curb again (alright already!) and said goodbye. Sheesh. We are thinking a place in the country with room for our dogs and horses and Mary might not be the worst idea. Stay tuned.

For now I'm going to sign off and say happy spring to everyone. It is 80 degrees today and my old friend, the hair-wrecking wind is blowing like sixty blazes but I'm not cold and the fire in my hair has temporarily been put out. We will be home or close to it for the rest of the summer. I will continue to bore you with my tales of the neighborhood and life in Lexington until we travel again.
It's time to fix a chicken! YES!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Working Our Way Home

New Mexico

Spring in Albuquerque

Wind power...we saw tons of windmills across the country!

Tuesday, March 24

We are working our way across Interstate 40. And I mean WORKING. Poor John has been fighting steady 20 to 30 mile an hour cross winds with a 40 mile an hour blast about every three miles since yesterday around noon. Our trip out of L.A. went well and the drive across from Flagstaff through New Mexico was gorgeous and uneventful. We started out yesterday in Tucumcari, New Mexico after spending the night listening to the wind howl and shake Mary every five minutes. It wasn't a terribly restful night. When we hit the highway yesterday we had a strong tail wind making our morning drive a pleasant one and as an added bonus it upped our mileage by about a half mile per gallon. That gain was wiped out as fast as our retirement fund was when the stock market tanked. He battled to keep Mary on the road into Oklahoma City where we fueled up at Flying J. I haven't been to the grocery store since before we left Scottsdale mostly because I stocked up on a lot of things and while we were in Los Angeles we ate out every night but one. When we stop at KOA's we normally aren't close to a grocery store so by yesterday we had been out of sweet stuff for two days. EEEKKKK! So when we stopped at Flying J I made a run on the convenience store coming back with a bag full of peanut M&M's, wintergreen Live Savers and a small container of vanilla ice cream. The girl at the checkout had a funny smile on her face when I paid for our loot. Binge eater, sugar-holic or pot smoker...I'm not sure what she was thinking but I was happy Kamper (the KOA spelling of the word) as I leaned into the wind on my way back to Mary. I so love the wind. NOT.

We resumed our battle across Oklahoma in the sticky wind. Oklahoma has earned the top spot on my least favorite states list due to the fact that every time we have been through there the wind has been blowing at hurricane speeds, or it has been pouring down rain, or it has been so hot and sticky that you couldn't breathe. It is a pretty state but the weather really sucks.

At one point I touched John's shoulders and they felt like granite. Catching 45,000 pounds of motor coach once a minute was taking its toll. Our original plan was to make two very long days of driving and get home tonight. Ha! By the time we had gone 10 miles outside of Oklahoma City John said, "Please get on the internet and find us a spot to stop as soon as possible. I've had all of this that I want for one day." Well we ended up on Checotah, Oklahoma a fair amount of miles from Oklahoma City. At one point traffic stopped and John started fiddling with the CB radio to figure out what was happening. All he got was static (either it hasn't worked well since we got it or we haven't worked it well since we got it). He hung it up in disgust and said, "Probably a motor coach blown over on it's side." I kept quiet. We sat there for ten minutes giving him a bit of a rest and then traffic moved again. It turned out to be a pickup with a broken axle in the left lane. As we neared Checotah I looked up and saw something in the road. We were on concrete highway and out of traffic so I had a little time to see it before we rolled over it. It looked like a really long (like 3 feet long) strip of something, like trash, that stuck to the road and was being whipped around by the wind. As we passed over it John said, "That was a snake that someone ran over and was flopping around." He was tired and I was too so I resisted telling him that I was fine with my own interpretation of what I saw. Gross.

So we pulled off the road and eased into the Checotah KOA. It was a cool little country KOA and the people who ran it were very creative. Had the wind not been blowing at F-5 speeds I would have gotten some photos of some of the cute things that they did. Breezy and Ransom had been so patient all day but their little motors were wound tight so we tightened up our hats and took the mile long nature walk to the lake and back. At one point Ransom, who I have to keep on the leash because he is a total wild man if I turn him loose and it takes forever to catch him, cut loose with Breezy who was off the leash and they ran full tilt, chasing in a 16 foot circle around me until I was dizzy. They have been their usual wonderful selves during this entire trip. It is challenging for them sometimes because we don't always have the best place to exercise them. They ran and Breezy would pounce on Ransom, they would roll together and Ransom would pop up and run flat out challenging Breezy to catch him. He is faster than she is so it would take a few trips around before she would jig and he would jog and they would roll together in a furry ball and then Ransom would pop up and take off again. We both laughed until we cried. Finally worn down a bit we blew back to the coach for a light dinner and some ice cream!

Wednesday, March 25

I got distracted. Sorry. We are in Kentucky at the moment on the Bluegrass Parkway nearly home! As it turned out our day yesterday was spent being beat around on the highway by the same winds that we had on Monday. We managed to slide between two weather fronts first thing yesterday morning so we avoided rain. Come to think of it with the exception of today we avoided rain for the entire three plus weeks that we were on the road. Today we are testing the new neo-dome over the shower that John and Tim installed while we were in Scottsdale. John spent half of one day on the phone tracking one down. He finally got to the manufacturer of the dome. The nice man Dave said that the factory didn't sell to individuals and gave John some numbers to try. None of them worked. He called back and told Dave that none of them worked. He said, "Dave, please sell me a neo-dome." Dave said okay and shipped one by FedEx overnight. John and Tim got on the roof and spent some sweaty time in the sun securing the dome and we said some prayers for dry weather until the caulk was able to set up. They were answered and Mary is as good as new again! She has been a trooper through some terrible Interstate highways .The only casualties for her are a missing hubcap and another trip to the shop for wheel balancing. Interstate 10 and Interstate 40 and all of the Interstate systems in California are desperate for help so hopefully some of the stimulus money will find its way to our decaying Interstate system. We encountered a ton of truck traffic which seemed to both of us to be a good sign that the economy might be struggling back to life.

We spent our last night on the road in another KOA an hour south of Nashville. It was a little one in the trees by I-65. We had dinner and got to bed early so we could get up and get on the road home. John turned on the air conditioning in the front of Mary to keep us cool but mostly to drown out the truck noise on the Interstate. Today the wind is down and it is raining but we are so happy to be back in Kentucky that we don't care!

I put together a business blog for John that will have lots of photos of our horses once we get home and settled. I'll keep a calendar updated on our travels on it as well. The address is if you want to check it out. This blog thing is pretty cool!

Ransom looking in on his winter vacation
That's it for this trip. I think we may head down to the J.D. Massey show next month and John is judging River Ridge so we will be taking the dogs and heading for Columbus at the end of the month.