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 http://www.saddlebredsales.wordpress.com/ 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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ozona to L.A.

Sunrise in Ozona, Texas

So Ozona was okay. "Okay" is high praise against the vision that my mind had created for a spot for Mary to spend the night. After the skylight debacle in Tampa we had a broken neo-dome but a sparkling clean coach. I had visions of dust storms embedding grit in every nook and cranny of Mary's surface. The RV park in Ozona was positively utilitarian and a little like spending the night on the moon. Rows and rows of hookups on a flat piece of graveled ground with a grassy spot in the middle for the dogs to do their business on. It was a little noisy due to a small truck stop a quarter mile from the entrance to the RV Park. We had been very healthy, eating light and doing all of the right things until we got to Ozona where we fell off the wagon and went to the Tex-Mex truck stop restaurant and chowing down on a salt laden, fat globbed meal, topped off with sugary lemonade. Yum. We went back to eating healthy the next day after dragging our shell socked-systems out of bed before sunrise and getting back on the road. All in all Ozona wasn't the worst place we ever stayed. Remember Wildwood? Better than that.

John and the kids on the moonscape in Ozona

Next stop was Las Cruces, New Mexico at our all time favorite KOA. We spent the day crossing West Texas as Mary hummed down the road. It was a little windy but not nearly as bad as last year and diesel is at an all time low since we started traveling with Mary. Late in the afternoon we pulled into the little campground which is hosted by the nicest people and parked overlooking a valley that twinkles with lights at night. The backdrop is the Caballo Mountains and when the sun goes down they turn to a burnished brick color. It's really beautiful. After we set up we took the dogs for a walk and then I started dinner while John took a well deserved nap. As I was cooking a big new coach pulled in next to us. I watched the sides expand and the gentleman who was driving got out and sorted out the hookups. I was watching a movie and cooking away when I looked out Mary's front window and saw the couple standing outside of the coach, each with a beer in their hands, gazing glassy-eyed at their coach. I recognized the look immediately...new coach owners. If there were bubbles over their heads revealing their thoughts this is what they would have said. The woman: "Holy shit...we really did buy this resort on wheels." The man: "Holy shit. I need another beer." I told John about it when he woke up and we laughed remembering the first night that we had Mary.

We were in Wakarusa, Indiana very close to the northernmost border and not far from Chicago. We drove the Camry up so that one of the local shops could install the transmission pump and towing apparatus to the front end. We spent part of two days in the shop taking a crash course (no pun intended) in how to operate Mary's systems and then we both drove her in a school parking lot. It was January and it was ice cold and spitting snow. I remember having nightmares about our first trip in Mary being in a snow storm or worse, on ice. The nice people at Monaco assured us that we would be fine so off we went to the transmission place to pick up the Camry. After that we spent the night at the hotel we had been staying in being as Mary was winterized (her water systems were full of anti-freeze). I got up in the night and looked out the window in both awe and horror (the look I saw on the faces of our new coach owner neighbors in Las Cruces) at Mary, under the lights of the parking lot. She looked like an office building on wheels. But she was beautiful. Very early the next morning we got up and found a light blanket of snow on the ground. We put our things in Mary and John fired her up. The first thing that we had to do was to get on a turnpike which required that we drive over an overpass. When you first ride in a big coach it is a little hard to assess where your sides and wheels are in relation to the side of the road and the center line. I spent a good deal of my ride to Lexington with my butt puckered thinking that we were driving on the shoulder of the road or in our neighbor's lane. Try that going over an overpass! The next thing that happened was a discussion regarding the directions that Tom Tom (remember our GPS headaches?) were giving us about how to head south. We listened to Tom Tom and John ended up driving Mary through downtown South Bend...another seriously butt puckering experience. The last mistake was a trip through downtown Versailles which is a tiny town near Prospect Lane, the farm where Mary resides when we are in Kentucky. That little jaunt made the trip through South Bend look like a drive down a super highway. A few days later we were at a dinner party with some horse people when a friend of ours told us a story. He said he was driving through downtown Versailles the other day when he looked up and saw this huge coach working its way down through the narrow streets. He said he thought some rock star must have made a wrong turn. Then he got close and said, "Wait a minute. I KNOW that woman! And that's Johnny driving that big bus!"

When I think about how much we didn't know about this coach when we took off for Florida the first time I shudder. Now we are pretty comfortable with all of the systems and John drives her like he's been doing it all his life.

Breezy lounging in Scottsdale

So we left Las Cruces and drove to Scottsdale on Monday. We met Tim and Ryan Arcuri there in the afternoon and took off to our favorite haunt, Earl's Restaurant for a light dinner. The week in Scottsdale was great. The weather was fabulous, in the mid to upper 70's all week and we had a very relaxing week with our friends. They had a great horse show and on the following Monday morning we left to head farther west to Los Angeles. But first we decided to make a stop in Palm Desert for a couple of days of rest.

The red boulders heading into Tucson

There is an Outdoor Resorts in Palm Desert. That is the same name as the RV park that we stayed at in Newport, Oregon that was so beautiful...we thought. In Newport we overlooked the ocean and the spaces were huge and private and it was just plain heaven. So we made a reservation for two nights and happily headed down the road. When we arrived at Outdoor Resorts Road (pretty impressive to have a road named after your business) we made the left by the incredible landscaped entrance and pulled into the park. John registered us and we passed through the gates into the park. We had a map of the park and my eyes bugged when I saw all of the spaces. It was landscaped impecably and there was a golf course that ran through the property...twenty seven holes! We drove in and I promptly blew a fuse and got us lost. The roads through the place were narrow and it felt like we were going the wrong way on a one way street for the entire ten minutes that we drove looking for our space. After winding all over the park we finally found space number 850. Yes, eight hundred and fifty. There are actually 1,213 spaces in the park and it is nearly full, mostly with fifth wheel trailers, golf carts and bicycles. Honestly, I have never seen so many golf carts of so many different descriptions and full of so many well...old people in my life. They swarmed together like herds of impala and when they passed by Mary it was a virtual parade of the goofiest golf carts I've ever seen. In the mornings they were loaded to the gills with golfers, all dragging wheeled golf bags behind them. The empty spaces are rented out at anywhere from $66.00 to $77.00 per night with the space owner collecting 70% of the rent. The association fees are $319.00 per space. Do the math. Holy cow. The spaces are stacked in like cord wood and the people are highly social. You would have to be highly social to be stacked on your neighbors like bees in a hive.
We decided that we wanted to eat out on Tuesday night before we left. We were lounging in our chairs, under Mary's awning enjoying the desert air (it was fragrant with orange blossom...fantastic) when our neighbor drove in and got out of his car. John asked him for a recommendation on where to eat in town and he said a place called Oceans 111. His wife came out and suggested that we go early because it was St. Patrick's Day and everyone would be out. That struck me as a little weird. I never considered St. Patrick's Day to be a big night out unless of course you are Irish. So we went early and drove up to this restaurant which is built into the side of a hill...like a cave. It had a nice look about it when we walked up to the door. Then John pulled the door open and I was bowled over by a bad smell. I leaned toward him as we were approaching the reservations desk and said, "I hate to say this but this place smells a lot like a nursing home." He shrugged my comment off as we were seated. We ordered a nice bottle of wine and the waitress, who was very sweet, gave us our menus. John had been craving steak for the last two days so he ordered prime rib and I ordered sweet and sour chicken. We had an ahi appetizer that was really good. Then the waitress came and delivered the bad news about the prime rib. All they had left was the end cut. I looked at my watch. It was 5:30. Who ate the rest? So he got the menu again and ordered the herb roasted chicken. Great. A healthier choice. She delivered our dinners and John tried to put his fork into the chicken. He couldn't pierce it. He stabbed and dug while I ate my sweet and sour chicken and rice. Finally he gave up and set it aside. We shared my entree, which was fair at best, and ordered desert. Between the wine, the ahi and the desert our dinner was salvaged. As we exited the restaurant in the Camry at 7:00 I commented to John that there was no traffic. I mean zero traffic. I think we saw five cars on our way back to the RV Park which was about five miles. I said, "I figured out where all of the prime rib went!" John said, "Where?" I said, "They start serving dinner in the middle of the afternoon so people can be in bed by 7:30." He said, "No, I think it was leftovers from yesterday." We had a good laugh as we were entering the park.

In the land of the pink bus (click on the photo to enlarge it...it's worth it!)

We got past the gate and I turned left. John said he thought I should have turned right. I said no, that we turned right with the coach and were lost. He said, no, we turned right then right and we should have turned right and left. We were lost within 60 seconds. So we drove around the park marveling at the fact that there were St. Patrick's Day cookouts going on all over the place. I think as we get older we must look for any occasion to celebrate and toast our continued good health and good fortune. The thousand-plus people at Outdoor Resorts in Palm Desert are havin' a good time regardless of the bleak economic forecast!

Golf Course Road...it's something like the Yellow Brick Road!
We are now at Los Angeles Equestrian Center being buried in that grit and grime that I was concerned about in Ozona. It is gorgeous here though and the place is just hopping with equestrian activity. We have enjoyed our stay, visiting with the people at Bennett Farms and walking the trails in Griffith Park. Today we got a behind the scenes tour of the Los Angeles Zoo and both of us got to pet a full grown giraffe!
We are leaving in the morning to head back to Kentucky. We were going to make the trip to Oregon but apparently winter won't surrender on this first day of spring and they are closing mountain passes to buses and RV's. I'm disappointed that we won't get to see my family but really anxious to get home and enjoy the spring blossoms and all of the new foals in the pastures around Lexington. I'm getting reports that the dogwoods are in bloom and the grass is coming up green and beautiful. I can't wait to get home! I hope you all had a great week and enjoy the first weekend of spring!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Return to Baytown

The scene of last year's melt down in the road

I woke up in Baytown, Texas this morning...with a 'fro. The humidity here is playing unflattering tricks on my hair and curling the pages of our books and magazines. I slept under an open window last night and when I looked in the mirror this morning I nearly screamed at my reflection. My bangs looked like two big cork screws. For a second I thought I might have accidentally stuck my finger in the wall socket in the middle of the night.

It was near 80 degrees yesterday as we were approaching Baytown, the site of last year's one-way-street disaster and my subsequent melt down in the road. To recap, John was talking to Tre on his cell phone as we were pulling out of the RV park, "I'm really starting to get the hang of driving this coach," he said as I'm hopping up and down in my seat pointing at the one-way sign dead ahead of us (pictured above) and hollering "WRONG WAY, WRONG WAY!!" Check out last year's March blog post if you want to re-live all of the gory details.

So this year I tried to get us into another park so we could avoid a repeat of the entire circus act (dead battery on the Camry, Breezy and I sinking into Texas muck over the tops of our feet and such) but Murphy wasn't having any of that. After emailing the other RV park in town asking for a reservation and not getting an answer, I called and got a recording that said they were full. So I was forced to call the Houston East RV RESORT (that's a stretch) where we stayed last year . John was amazed that I remembered the details of the roads and the turns and the park. I'm not. When you are in a heightened state of stress those details brand themselves into your brain. So when I called the Houston East RV Resort the same nice lady, who I know thought we were the stupidest RVers in the history of RVers last year (and we probably were), answered the phone. I let her give me the details on how to drive under the Interstate in a U-turn lane and into the park off of the one way service road. I knew how to get there but I was trying to behave as though I was new to the park so that I wouldn't jar any memories loose and she would think, "Oh no, THOSE idiots again." We made the turns correctly this time and made it into the park and into our space without incident. When John it the air brake and shut Mary's motor off he laughed and said, "We've come a long way baby!" No kidding.

So we are traveling west through Texas now. We passed through Houston earlier this morning and I snapped a few pictures. The repair on Mary's skylight is holding even through some pretty hefty winds and thankfully we haven't had to test it in the rain...yet. It is cloudy and they are calling for some scattered thunderstorms today. If Murphy takes a snooze we may get through without rain.

Houston. Click on this photo and read the sign in the lower left corner.

Yesterday we traveled on the roads from hell through Louisiana and east Texas. The trip from Milton, Florida to Baytown was a bit of a Deja Vu. I was hopeful that some work had been done on the roads but they looked and felt exactly like they did last year...terrible. I got up this morning and had to get some dog food out of one of Mary's lower bays so I jumped out and the first thing I noticed was that we lost another hub cap...the same one that we lost last year on the same stretch of road. If we continue to make this trip I'll have to start buying them by the dozen.

That brings me to the continuing saga of Monaco Coach Corporation. Just for the heck of it John called their number again yesterday. Now they have a recording saying that they have filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy law. They guided us to their website for contact information. So I went to their website and found a place to email them and ask to please allow us to buy a part for Mary's broken skylight. I haven't heard back from them yet. I would imagine the load of emails they got yesterday probably overloaded their server. If I get a hold of them I'll add a dozen hubcaps to the order.

I wouldn't have thought that the altitude from Tampa to Baytown would have been that much different. I'm puzzling over that at the moment. Mary has one of those two sided Sleep Number air beds. I like mine set on 50 and John's sleep number is 85. 85 feels like plywood to me. Funny how men and women are so different. So we had our dinner last night and settled in to flip channels and at 7:30 I looked over and John was fast asleep in his recliner. He woke up at 8:00 and shuffled off to bed. I stayed up and watched a little more television and at 9:00 I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer so off I went to bed. The room was stifling hot so I opened the windows and turned on Mary's Fantastic Fans (that's really what they are called) and got into bed. I thought the mattress felt a little firm but I was tired and fell asleep pretty quickly. Then I spent the rest of the night flopping around like a fish out of water. Every time I'd flop it went through my half-awake mind that I must have made a mistake and fell asleep on the dining room table instead of the bed. I woke up sore hips and shoulders this morning and a little cranky from disturbed sleep...not to mention my terrifying image in the mirror. When I checked the Sleep Number on my side it said "100". Murphy again. I wish the little bastard would take a powder and let us alone for a few days!

We just stopped in one of Texas's Picnic Areas so the dogs could stretch their legs. We are somewhere between Houston and San Antonio at the moment. I snapped the leashes on the dogs and we stepped out into gusty wind, wet humidity and the stench of cow shit. Some of my favorite things. I have my hair double banded into a snug ponytail to keep from looking like an escapee from a local institution. The dogs sniffed around while the wind knocked me around the area and when I stepped back into the coach John looked up from eating a banana with peanut butter at the dining table and cracked up. "What's funny?" I asked. "You should see your hair," he replied. I smirked. "Having a PICNIC?" I retorted. I've never quite understood the whole Picnic Area concept along side of a busy Interstate in Texas. Then I walked into the bathroom and looked at my hair. I screamed and went back to my co-pilot's seat where we have resumed being blown all over Interstate 10 on our way to a place called Ozona, Texas.

We aren't stopping in San Antonio this year because we need to get on to Scottsdale so I had to figure out where the half way point was between Baytown and Las Cruces, New Mexico where we will go tomorrow night. It turned out to be Ozona. I vaguely remember Ozona from our trip through west Texas last year. It stuck with me due to the unusual name and because we had gone so long without seeing any civilization that I began to have one of those Twilight Zone moments where you wonder if you have entered another dimension and are going to spend eternity driving in a motor coach through blasting wind, eating grit and looking like Frankenstein's sister (it's the hair thing again). I remember wondering what it would have been like to grow up in Ozona, Texas. I called the RV Park office at the Super 8 Motel in Ozona last night to make a reservation. The woman who answered the phone laughed like I was some crazy foreigner who didn't understand how things work in the United States of America. "Honey, you don't need a reservation! Just drive on in here and park!" she said. I thanked her and hung up. Stay tuned for our Ozona experience.

Okay, that's it for today. If you think of us, think of John wrestling Mary across Texas in this wind. We should be at our destination by late this afternoon. It might be time to break out the Scotch bottle again!

Breezy and Ransom waiting for John to fill Mary up at Flying J

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Murphy Rides Again

Ransom sacked out in the co-pilot's chair

We are in Tampa at the Gasparilla Charity Horse Show and it is really cold! Temperatures are near freezing at night and only into the 60's during the day. If you live in the north I hear you saying "Oh, cry me a river..." but for Florida it is really chilly. Really.

We arrived on Monday as scheduled and met up with our friends the Whitley's who also have a coach. They found the best spot to park and saved it for us. When we arrived their coach was looking all shiny and beautiful, clean tires and wheels, sparkling paint and glass. It turned out that a nice guy named Eddie has a car and RV detailing business and he offers his services to RV owners who stay at the fairgrounds. John looked at Whitley's coach, gave the work his approval and priced the service. It was half what they wanted to charge us in Vero Beach and he said that they would wash and wax the Camry too. Done deal.

Yesterday morning we got up and rolling and John headed over to the arena to watch horses work. I showered and got things tidied up, bed made, dishes done. At 9:00 Eddie showed up with his crew to wash and wax Mary and the Camry. They did the car first (it looks like new) and next they tackled Mary. Literally.

I was in the bathroom trimming my bangs when I heard Breezy growl and Ransom streaked the length of the coach, from the cockpit to the bedroom and back in three seconds. Next I heard the footsteps on the roof. They started at the top (normal). There is a lot of expensive stuff on the top of a motor coach. I was thinking to myself, as I was cutting bangs with a sharp instrument and listening to them march around the roof like a small herd of buffalo, that I hoped they didn't do anything to disturb the satellite dish or the air conditioners, or the automatic vented fans, or the...."CRACK, SNAP!!". I jumped straight up and dropped my scissors. Breezy barked and my eyes shot up at the skylight over the shower about a foot from where I was standing. It was inverted and suddenly there was more light coming through to the shower. A lot more light.

I heard a voice say, "OH NO. OH MAN...OH NO!" I won't write what I was saying.

I ran to my cell phone and called John. "You need to get back here NOW. Someone just broke the skylight." He groaned and hung up. Within two minutes I saw him pedalling his bicycle at about 50 miles per hour and I heard his voice. "What happened?"

The rest of the day was a three ring circus. Eddie, who was completely mortified, tried to reassure John that he could find a replacement part for the broken sun shade dome. There was a flurry of activity, people up on the roof and down on the ground, John in and out of the coach trying to reassure me that we would get it fixed before the sun set. I know better than that. You can't buy anything for this coach at Camping World. But I had my hands full with a real estate deal that we have been working on. Offers, counter offers and conference calls with a real estate group. At one point the negotiations were delayed because the agent was bitten by his dog and had to go to the hospital for stitches. That's when I started cleaning.

When I feel like things are totally running out of control my way of feeling like I have some effect on life is to clean. I clean like a Merry Maid gone mad. I vacuumed everything, cleaned all of the woodwork (that is a LOT of woodwork) cleaned the sinks, counters, toilet, windows and all of the leather (that is a LOT of leather) all the while John is madly trying to find a part to replace the broken skylight. When Robert (the big guy with the big feet) stepped on the dome it cracked in half and the actual clear skylight (on the inside) inverted. It looked a little like my bumper did when the woman backed into the Camry in the grocery store parking lot. John popped it back and it didn't crack. That was the happiest thing that happened before the sun set.

Eddie spent the day going to every RV supply and dealer in Tampa and the surrounding area. In the mean time John got on the phone to call Monaco (the coach maker) to see if they knew where we could get a part. I must explain here that if we leave it like it is at the moment and it rains we are going to end up with some serious damage to the roof due to leakage. So this must be fixed somehow before we can leave. Or before it rains. We are scheduled to pull out tomorrow morning.

Shiny clean Mary

Spotless wheels and tires!

Okay, so John calls Monaco out in Oregon because our guy Dennis in Wakarusa, Indiana got laid off last year when they closed the Wakarusa plant. We miss Dennis and hope he is doing well. Between the fuel prices going through the roof and the downturn in the economy (hysterical understatement) the RV business has taken a bloody beating. Back to the story. John dials Monaco and gets a recording telling him that they are no longer doing anything but warranty work and that if our coach is on warranty (not) to go to a web address and email them.

John hung up and looked at me with a seriously stressed expression. "They aren't answering the phone," he says. I thought about all of the contacts that we had at Monaco a year ago, we are talking a ton of people, and my heart sank. Then I remembered that we have the cell number of the top customer service guy, the first person that we spoke to when we started thinking about buying a Monaco coach. John praised my memory (a rarity these days!) and got his business card out. He got him on the phone and got the low down. The top customer service guy had been laid off a month ago and on Monday (yes, day before yesterday) Monaco laid off 2,500 employees at the Oregon plant. They are nearly shut down except for warranty work. No parts. He said he would do what he could. John called him a good man and hung up with a seriously stressed look on his face. "They are effectively out of business," he says.

The rest of the day I spent between real estate people (not fun) and searching the Internet for Monaco parts or parts that would fit a Monaco. John called several places that I found and got some serious attitude about Monaco and their parts. A few people said that they would try and call us back but as of this morning we haven't heard from anyone.

Last night I saw John and Whitley with their heads together just before the horse show started. They concocted a plan that may work. It involves finding some heavy plastic and using the frame of the broken skylight to bolt it down. It could work. In the mean time our dear friend Tim out in Oregon is going to go to Monaco (he lives within 20 miles of the plant) to see if he can get the part that we need and bring it to Scottsdale, which is where we are headed if John can figure out how to temporarily fix the skylight.

So last night we had dinner here in our shiny clean Mary (Eddie made the service complimentary) and walked over to the horse show. We stayed until just before American Idol started and then came back to further our addiction to the program. We slept and got up and stared all over again today. John is on the phone, pacing up and down outside with his phone in his ear still working on finding the part. If that fails in the next few minutes he will head off to Home Depot for heavy plastic and miscellaneous tools to secure it.

Sparkling Camry!

Breezy and Ransom were unhinged by all of the intense activity and upset around here so I took them for a well deserved long walk in the sun. It has warmed up outside so we trooped around the grounds and now they are taking their naps. Ransom looks like his skeleton dissolved in the co-pilot's seat with his head draped off of the edge of the seat. He has turned into a regular comedian keeping us in stitches continuously. Dogs are great for stress relief...a prescription that we need at the moment! I got back to Mary and discovered that I had stepped into some kind of sticky calking so I spent 20 minutes picking it out of the treads of my tennis shoe. I read on the Internet that you can remove chewing gum with mayonaise so I smeared it on my shoe and it is sitting on the counter hopefully loosening the sticky crap. Fun.

The good news is that Eddie and his crew did a beautiful job on cleaning the coach and the car, we are healthy and happy and John is on the roof installing some kind of black rubber material over the skylight so that we can leave in the morning. Life is good!