Sunday, September 19, 2021

America...You've Become Such A Habit With Me


We have a daughter that has been in the Air Force for about the last 11 years. Since joining, she has been stationed in a variety of places such as Texas, California (where she met her Marine husband), Okinawa,(where our grand-daughter was born), Arizona and as of right now, Spokane Washington. We have been fortunate to visit her at all her locations, except Okinawa.That was just a little farther than we could go. Over the years we have made several trips to visit her and her family. 

Over the past 3 years we have made attempts to go visit them and several things have gotten in the way. Things that are totally out of our control, such as transfers from Tucson to Spokane, and our biggest hurdle, Covid. Covid-19 confined us to our house for the most part of 2020, if not our home, our state. There was no travel advised or allowed. When we got our vaccinations we had high hopes of traveling again. And for the most part traveling is allowed again. We just carry masks whenever we leave the vehicle. Especially since it has been over 6 months since the vaccine happened and the effectiveness may be wearing out, I am more cautious. As for my Best Half, he wound up with Covid after his vacination and his antibodies are pretty efficient now, so he is feeling fearless, but still cautious.

But finally it has happened. We packed up the van, and set out for Washington state to see the family. Our grand-daughter has doubled in age since last seeing her in person. While Skype and FaceTime are great for keeping in touch, there is nothing that compares to a “hold you tight in my arms while tearing up at how big you are” grandma hug to my grand-daughter. For 4 days we can focus all our attention on her and her parents until we leave to head home. 

The drive out to Spokane was for the most part uneventful, driving all day and part of the night just to get there so we could spend time together before school started and the parents had to go back to work. We drove from sunrise until dark, which now is about 8 PM. At that point it got too hard to watch out for deer and other critters that go bump in the night. That is one of the things a Minnesotan is well aware of, animals on the highway. Every Minnesotan either has hit a deer or racoon on the road, or knows someone who has. It is typical to see several piles of roadkill on the highway by our house. Now picture the open range of North Dakota or Montana and you can see why we stopped driving in the dark. We pulled into rest areas on the way out. Our goal was to drive like crazy to get to Spokane and then take our time heading back home by way of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Every time we travel, I am always made aware of how incredibly vast and different our country is. And I am humbled at how small I am in the greater scheme of things. To my grandkids I am “Grandma who can do about anything and is really smart”. But looking out on the prairie watching the speck of a deer grazing off in the distance gives me pause to reflect on how small and insignificant I am in comparison to this vastness.

Along the 3400 mile journey, I watched as the woodlands turned to prairie and plains, and after some rolling hills along the rivers it turned into the Badlands which made me wonder if that was what the landscape of the moon may be like with the deep craters spanning the land. As we drove on, I could see the snow capped mountains and again I was just a speck in the greater scheme of this incredible creation. Each mile that we traveled changed in shape and form and color. I just sat there in the van speechless and in awe of the beauty and variety we have in our country. We can go from woodlands to prairie to craters and desert, and then to mountains and the ocean all in a few days' drive. I mean how cool is that. And it is no wonder I felt like such a speck within this incredible creation.

With the ever changing and diverse landscape we found along the journey, so are the people who live in the US. We met many people and had conversations about the price of gas, the changes in our culture since Covid hit, and just friendly conversations about life in general. What did I learn from that? Mostly that although as different as the landscape where we all live, we are all a part of this place called the United States of America. We are all survivors of all we have been through over the years: wars, gas prices, droughts, floods, hurricanes and Covid-19. 

I am reminded of an old Waylon Jennings song called “America          

  AMERICA

“Some have said down through history

 If you last, it’s a mystery.

But I guess they don’t know what they’re talking about.

From the mountains, down to the sea

You’ve become such a habit with me.

America...America"


Stay Safe Everyone

Sunday, September 12, 2021

End Times for the "Guzzler"

 


   The past 2-3 months have been spent trying to get road ready for when my Best Half retires this winter. Our plan is to take a few weeks every so often throughout the year and do some cross country travel. It maybe will even be a matter of throwing down a dart at a map to see where to go. 

For traveling from one place to another, such as the kids’ homes, we can pretty much take the minivan or conversion van and just drive straight through to get where we are going. Cheaper, faster and less fuss with packing. But when retirement happens, we will have time to stop and see things along the way and maybe even take some detours along the way if we see something interesting. With that plan, we want some type of RV. And so the dilemma continues.

A month or so ago we bought a Class A motorhome that we thought was the ticket to our extended travels. But after driving it 300 miles and spending $200 in gas we both finally realized that with “The Guzzler” as it became known, we couldn’t even make it to the Iowa border for less than about $350. As beautiful as that RV was, it just wasn’t going to work. As one person put it to us regarding driving a motorhome, “ If you have to ask what kind of mileage an RV gets, you can’t afford one”. That person was wise.

The decision was made to sell “the Guzzler'' even before we had the title back from the DMV. So I put an ad in Marketplace and on CraigsList to sell it. The goal was to try to get at least what we paid for it and possibly the cost of the fuel pump repair we had invested into it. There was nothing mechanically wrong with it that we knew and it was in great shape inside and everything worked so hopefully the RV would sell itself. 

I went around and took outside pictures and inside pictures of every corner, nook and cranny from various angles. I was honest about everything and why we were selling it when I put the ad in with the pictures. There is nothing worse than people who leave out or don’t tell the truth about stuff they are selling. But I knew there would be the doubters and just had to accept that there would be those that weren’t really even interested in buying the RV, but just wanting to come “kick the tires”. Anytime you put an ad to sell something, you may as well plan to spend a lot of time answering questions with people messaging you and giving up your time because people want to come out and see it. 

The ad was in about an hour when the requests for more information and pictures were wanted, and there were numerous people wanting to come look at “The Guzzler”. There were the usual ones saying they would buy it sight unseen if I would do paypal or whatever else way to buy online. But I had been specific in the ad that no holds, and cash only was how this worked in my world.

A few days went by and I got about 20 messages a day with interested people wanting to see the RV. But in actuality only about 4 out of the 15 that said they were coming really came out to look at it and test drive it. Because it was a weekend when I listed it, no one had the immediate cash on them. So many said they’d call the following Monday after going to the bank. Of course I have to say, I took all of those people saying they were coming back with a grain of salt. Rarely does that happen in the greater scheme of selling stuff on Marketplace. 

When after the weekend, no one showed up like they said they would, I deleted all my messages and decided to start over fresh on Monday. Meanwhile, my Best Half had a message and people were coming out that evening to look at the RV. Sure I thought, just more tire kickers to ruin my evening waiting for them to not show up.

Right at 7 PM a car drove up the driveway and it was the couple that had said they were coming out to look. So far so good I thought. They are actually here and even on time. They probably will look for 10 minutes and drive away. I’ll maybe even have time to watch the baseball game...even if they are bound to lose again. 

They went through and looked at every possible thing they could find, fired it up and took it for a drive and came back. I was all set to head into the house when they actually made an offer on the RV. A ridiculously low offer, but nonetheless an in person offer. I kind of smiled and gave them a price that we could sell it at which was nowhere near their offer. But the Minnesota nice negotiations had begun. They talked about the generator needing fixing and I countered that was why it was priced lower than most in the first place. They wanted to see the awning and while we opened it and they were looking at it from the underside, they started saying it was almost worn out. Being that the awning was only a year old, I knew they were just trying to find anything to bargain with. I invited them to look at the top side of the awning to see it wasn’t even faded. They said’ “Ope, I guess that was water dripping, we thought it was worn spots”. I finally had had enough of their shenanigans and did the most “Un-Minnesotan” thing a person can do. I up front asked them ,” Do you want to buy it for the price we are asking or not?”. I figured I had a list of people interested and someone eventually would take it. I may have surprised them a bit, but the next thing I knew they were counting out multiple 100 dollar bills into my Best Half’s hand. And off they drove into the sunset with “The Guzzler”. 

And on to our next attempt for an RV for us. We found a small ultra-light camper we can pull with about any vehicle. While it is a pull behind camper, we both agree it looks more like a small Minnesota cabin in its style. It has a bed, a kitchenette, a booth and table and bathroom with a shower. It is just all that we really need. Small, easier on gas and looks like a Minnesota cabin. It’s maybe not what we set out originally to look at, but it is exactly what we need. Not sure what we will name this little beauty...maybe the Jagger (from the Rolling Stones song…”You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find...you get what you need”). Here’s hoping.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Our 6 MIles to the Gallon Home on Wheels


 Well it has been a few weeks since getting the used Class A RV. We drove it home 140 miles and parked it for a few days while I shampooed the carpet, with the intent to replace it with laminate flooring next year.


The other night we headed up to see our daughter and the little ones while the rest of her family was playing softball for their church league. As we were getting ready to head to their house, I suggested we take the RV. We were going to drop off the minivan for them to use for a few days while their big van was being fixed. So off My Best Half went in the RV and I left in the minivan to first pick up some tacos to bring up to the little guys. 


We arrived about the same time and proceeded to show our daughter and her 3 little boys the RV. They were all amazed at the size and layout of it. The little guys took turns in the driver’s seat pretending to drive it, while my daughter and I were sitting on the couch talking about the anticipated trips we would be taking. Meanwhile the owner of the rare beauty was walking around the exterior looking at it and finding more things it had, like an outside shower and more storage.


We ate tacos and visited for a bit and then decided to head home. I left the van keys with our daughter as I hopped in the passenger seat of the RV and gazed out the massive window. I was excited to drive home and get a feel for the RV. Afterall, I only got to ride in it during our “test drive” before we bought it.


We drove down the mile of bumpy driveway from their place and got on to the gravel road which led us finally to the paved county road. I was just starting to settle in for the half hour drive home when the RV started sputtering and chugging and losing power. We limped to the side of the road just as it chugged one last time. Oh great, already a problem. We just looked at each other, and could read each other's mind…”well here we go, so much for any fun plans with this beast”. It was really hot and humid out and we just sat there a few minutes in silence, an anguished silence.


Trying to restart it was a futile attempt to admit the obvious. Realizing, too late, the gas gauge was not accurate we were out of gas. So I called our daughter and asked if she could bring a gas can and meet us up on the road. She had just gotten the 3 little guys in the tub so it would be a few minutes. That was fine, it gave us more time to dwell on the RV being on the side of the road broken down.


She came charging up in the minivan with the 3 little guys in tow all excited to rescue their grandpa and grandma from any sort of danger that may happen on the side of the road. They all climbed in the dead RV while my Better Half went the 3 miles to the gas station to fill the 4 gallon gas can. 


He made it back and put the gas in, but of course it wasn’t enough for a 60 gallon tank, so went back for another round of gas to put in the RV. Fingers crossed we got in and went to start it. Nope it wasn’t going to start. By now we were thinking the fuel pump was shot. Our daughter, having gone through a bad fuel pump on their truck, told us that banging on it while someone started it would get it going. At least according to her mechanic when they broke down. So she went under the RV with the only thing we had to tap it with...the fire extinguisher. Sure enough the RV sputtered and then started. She rolled away from underneath and hopped in, meanwhile I was in the van with the boys. The RV roared briefly and went about 100 feet before it died again. This time there was no pounding that was going to revive it. From trying to start it the battery was now dead.


It was time to call AAA and get it towed into our mechanic to get a new fuel pump. Out of the wallet came the AAA card and they were called. There was no talking to a real live human, everything with AAA is now automated. So after many directions to push this number for that and press the # button for this, we finally got the call finished with a text back they were on their way. So I drove our daughter and kids back and came back to the RV to wait for the tow truck. It was about 8:00 pm. And so we waited, and waited and a text came that the truck would be there around 10:30. I decided I would take the van home and meet up down the road from our house once it was being towed. I could pick up my Best Half at the shop. Off I went 35 miles home.


More time passed and AAA still showed on the computer that the tow was coming at 10:30. It was now 11:30 and no it wasn’t there yet. I got a text from my not so patient anymore partner. He had finally got in touch with a real person at AAA and was told there would be no tow truck coming, he was “on his own” to find his way out of the mess we were in. It was now after midnight and over 4 hours waiting for a tow that would never show up. To say we were angry is an understatement. We have had AAA for over 30 years and have never been let down. Some choice thoughts were rambling through my brain as I went back up the 35 miles North to pick up my stranded counterpart.


When I got about ½ mile from the RV, I saw the flashing lights and high beamed search light on the Pine County Sheriff’s car parked behind the RV. Could this night get any worse? I was sure we were now going to get told we had to get the RV moved ASAP or we would get fined. I pulled up behind the sheriff’s car and then couldn’t figure out if I should stay in my Jeep or walk out there and stand with the two of them. Doing so would mean approaching the deputy from his back side. I was afraid he would think I was ambushing him. Yes me, all 5’ 4” of me. There has just been so much in the news lately around here about people approaching law enforcement and getting taken down. 


I watched the body language of the 2 guys and it looked pretty relaxed and engaging so I started yelling “Hi I came to pick you up” all the while with my hands up and out beside me. We have had enough trouble in Minnesota the past couple years, that even me, a 60+ year old short white woman could be seen as a threat out of the corner of the deputy’s eye.


I got within 6 feet of them and the deputy was chatting with my Best Half and telling him it would be ok, he wasn’t in trouble, and things happen. He was on patrol overnight and would drive by the RV over the night to make sure it was ok. He gave us his disatcher’s number and his name and told us to call when it got towed so he knew it was us doing the moving of the RV. All we could do was say thank you to this guy for looking out for us and putting us at ease to be able to go home and deal with it in the morning.


We got home, slept fast and got up early in the morning to go back up to the RV on the side of the road. All was ok, so Deputy Sell must have stuck by his word to us to watch it and make sure the other deputies coming on duty didn’t ticket us. We would be giving a shout out to Pine County Deputy Sell when we got back home. And we would be giving a not so good shout at AAA for leaving us stranded.


We discovered that finding a tow for a Class A RV is not easy. It requires heavy duty trucks, even though it is a pretty small RV in the greater scheme of the RV’s out there on the roads. Ours could fit inside most of the ones we pass by. We finally called a place that said they could tow us and they were AAA approved. The only catch was that AAA had to approve it first. We thought no problem, we will call AAA and have them call and get it approved. We will be on our way in no time. While we were on the phone with AAA, they called the towing place. A few minutes later the person from AAA was denying the tow. The only thing we could figure is the cost was out of what AAA wanted to pay, even though we have their RV gold plan that tows everything. Well now we were, let’s just say, ticked off even more with AAA. I was fuming.


We finally found a place to tow us and we would have to pay out of our own pocket…$600! With no alternative we waited for the tow truck and off it went to the mechanic. Once there, our diagnosis was confirmed. It needed a new fuel pump, costing $1000. With no alternative we got the repair done and picked it up. The trip home would mean a stop at the gas station so off my Best Half went to Fleet Farm to get gas, and I went to Menard’s for some supplies. I walked out of Menard’s and got a text from Fleet Farm across the street…”the drift shaft is lying on the ground underneath the RV”. The towing company had disconnected it. We were 3 miles from the repair shop and they came over and crawled underneath and put it back together. Really? We don’t even have 100 miles on it, I thought. 


With everything fixed and $100 worth of gas in the tank we decided the next morning to go for a drive and make sure it handled well. It did...at 6 mpg, our house on wheels runs just fine. After a lively discussion about how cool the RV is and how we will go broke just driving it around the state...we may be selling it. We will decide when cooler heads prevail...mostly mine.