Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So Far, My Heart Belongs to South Dakota!

Scenery form Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park at dusk....spectacular!

I think South Dakota is my new favorite state.  I had no expectations for what we would see and of course, that’s always when I am the most surprised and, in this case, completely awed, by what we found.  In fact at one point we were watching a Kevin Costner movie about Custer State Park (in IMAX at the visitor’s center)
The spires of the Black Hills...awesome
in which he narrated about all the amazing features of the park including the annual buffalo roundup which occurs the last week of September, and you could see the buffalo, hear the stampeding herd (great sound system) as it make it’s way across the plains and I not only got shivers, but felt like I could cry.  And that was just a movie. 

This scenery is otherwordly
Seeing herds of buffalo right outside your car window (check out my brief video of the Buffalos in Custer State Park with our dog panting in the background! ), stopping by the side of the road on a misty morning to look up into the hill, again, right by the car and see a majestic elk buck with huge black horns and other elk just carrying on minding their business is just so awesome.   We saw flocks of turkeys eating seeds and whatever insects they find on the grassy fields, as we drove through the park.  The prairie dogs and the vast areas they mine for their homes are just hard to imagine until you see it in person and then watching them stand on alert and chirp away at anything that startles them (and it is not humans in the park!).  

Giant brown and white buck with a few others as we left park
 I feel like I could do a commercial for the Black Hills.  Not only is the wildlife spectacular to watch but the rock formations on Iron Mountain Road with the granite tunnels are not to be believed until you are there.  We had gone from Mount Rushmore (and what a wow that is!) on the drive back through Custer State Park and who knew what amazing sights we would see there.  Driving on the narrow roads and one-lane tunnels, I felt like we were on a different planet.  What a great scene for a scifi movie I thought as we rounded each hair-pin turn and drove through hollowed-out rocks to unexpected and wide open, beautiful scenery that I had never even imagined before.  I just wondered what forces of nature carved out those rocks, round and tall often with little rocks teetering up top, looking as if the slightest breath of wind would make it tumble off it’s giant spire and hurl down towards the ground and us.  How different those magnificent rock formations were from the BadLands and the tortured look of those rocks all spikey and pointy.  It’s just so hard to even understand all of this if you don’t see it yourself. 

Here's a little video (sorry you have to turn your head!) that's exactly what it's like Going Through the Needle Tunnel!

We have learned that we need more time in each park.  So, going forward (after our  Harvest Host Raspberry DeLight Farm stopover tonight) when we arrive at a new park we will set up camp and then go to the visitor’s center to determine what we want to see, how long we want to stay (so we aren’t putting in 10-hour sightseeing days; we ARE retired, after all) and if we want to stay in one or more campgrounds in the same park for the duration of our visit.  Learning how to go more with what is presented to us vs. moving like we are still working with limited time when we worked and took vacations, is a whole new adventure, in and of itself.  

We no like this part of Wyoming so much...coal trains
So, I love South Dakota, right now I am typing as we drive along Wyoming 405 and it’s kind of…….boring.  Oddly, it seemed like the moment we crossed the border from South Dakota to Wyoming the topography changed from colorful (green, yellow, orange) rolling hills covered here and there with proud Ponderosa pine to scrub brush and barren hills.  I am sure there is more to Wyoming (that is where the Tetons are!) but for now it’s not so scenic. 

Not much to see in Wyoming before the Tetons
Although we just passed a ginormous coal mining set-up with 150-car coal trains rolling along the tracks and huge mines (on Wyoming 405).  Turns out Wyoming is the biggest U.S. coal miner.  I stand corrected, this part of  Wyoming is kind of interesting.   And, I remind myself that just 6 months back at this time of the day I’d be quickly stuffing down my lunch while prepping for the next challenging student would come visit me and not always happily and my husband would be preparing documents for submittal of a project.  No complaints at all...and really, nothing is boring!   

We are very excited for the Tetons and whatever else we decide to do on this trip to the parks of the West. 

Again at breakfast this morning I asked my husband, “So where do you think we will go after the Tetons?’  He shrugged and smiled, “Who knows?” 

Wild South Dakota

Wow and wow!
I was totally unprepared for the intimacy of viewing the wildlife in South Dakota.  You feel like you are literally driving in a zoo.  We stayed two nights in the Badlands, enjoying sunsets and sunrises but what was probably the most amazing to me, despite the majesty of the heavily eroded land (now mountains; formerly a sea bed) which draws you to the "bad" lands, but what I was most awed by was the wildlife.  As you slowly drive along the park roads, watching (in fact I have a stiff neck from turning my head to the right to constantly look out my window!) for movement, you are always rewarded by a field of prairie dogs (actually they are burrowing rodents not dogs at all) with their raised-burrow entrances to their homes/tunnels under the plains, or a family of pronghorn sheep (the male is marvelous with a black stripe down his face and that black rack he proudly sports out the top of his head.....they can run 53 miles per hour!).  The day we drove all over the Badlands we came back into the park and I told the park attendant I had seen buffalo, prairie dogs, pronghorn sheep, and mountain bluebirds.  She laughed and told us, "You should buy a lottery ticket today!"  

Giant bison bull making sure there was no "off roading"
Yes, fortunate we do feel.  We are staying 3 nights in Custer State Park and yesterday (thank you, husband, for some time in one spot!) we did the wildlife "loop" which took just under 2 hours.  We saw herds of buffalo vs. the bison duo in the Badlands (a bull at about 2,000 pounds...see photo above... and a female-looking cow at maybe 1,000 pounds who was licking her lips and staring us down) who we surprised as we rolled up to the top of a gentle hill.  That was a little alarming to say the least, being so close to those two giants (and, of course, I am remembering the florescent pink sign we received as we entered the park, "View buffalo from a safe distance!").  And when we first came upon those two beautiful beasts I though they were fake, and that they were hard-to-miss massive statues making the point to not drive off road, as the sign that this big boy was scratching up against, indicates.

But in Custer State Park we saw actual bison herds with babies, big daddy bulls, and lots of juvenile and females (cows), all grazing along the river, right by the road.  We also saw a mule begging for carrots right in the middle of the road and lots of mule poop so I am guessing this wasn't a solitary or unique experience for him and his buddies.  I don't get this feeding of the giant, wild animals in a national or state park.  You constantly pass by signs or read warnings indicating, "If an animal changes his/her behavior you are too close (remember the female bison licking her lips staring at us???)" and, "View from a distance," and advice such as, "Put your thumb at arms length.  If you completely obscure the animal, you are at a safe distance."  Bison can run 35 mph and pivot quickly.  Yet, yesterday we saw foolish people getting out of their cars, camera in hand, snapping away photographs of buffalo.  In fact, reading up on this a bit, there are articles about "bison selfies" and what a bad idea those are (really?).

Begging Mules!

As we tour the national and state parks I am so grateful to all the people who had the foresight to designate this land and then develop it just enough for people to visit.  I just had new clue how beautiful it would all be.  On our agenda tomorrow is to drive through 2 mountain passes, see Mount Rushmore and pass through Spear Fish and Bounder canyons!  Today we are resting, doing laundry, reading, and catching up with bills....and reflecting on how lucky we are to be here, now, enjoying our lives, spending nights in these beautiful park campgrounds and trying to take in all the beauty of it all.

Can't wait to see what the next weeks hold as we move onto Grand Teton National park (bears!) but first we are staying over at a raspberry farm in the middle of Wyoming click here to see this interesting place where we will be overnighting  Wyoming Raspberry deLight Farm.  Rusty doesn't even like raspberries (news to me), "Those little seeds get in my teeth."  Well, more raspberry jam for me and I think he may change his mind when he sees the Raspberry Chipotle sauce :)

Loving it all....Mini's crappy battery (buried in battery land), my bruised ribs (healing reminders to move mindfully), Olivia's cut foot (reminding her to wait until the people descend the stairs), Ken's burned finger (gotta find a poking stick...)....notwithstanding! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cheese Curds, Cheese Curds, Cheese Curds

Wow...look at the cheddar!  2, 3, 5, 7, 10-year aged! 
What’s the first thing you think about when you think about Wisconsin?  Cheese, of course!  I've been told that the people of Wisconsin are known for their beer and I recently read that Wisconsin is called "America's Dairyland" (who knew?) but I'm guessing most of us have heard the term Cheeseheads?   Think about those people at a sports game with a giant slice of fake cheese on their head.  Yep, that's a loud and proud Cheesehead.   Apparently, historically, it was a negative term used to describe the Dutch but nowadays it's descriptive of anybody from Wisconsin.  Anyway, we pulled into this truck stop/the Sun Rise Restaurant complex an hour into our travel looking for breakfast a few days ago (can't believe we have been on the road 10 days).  It had been kind of foggy/drippy that morning so we packed up and took off before eating.  As you can see from the picture, there was some very delicious-looking, local Wisconsin cheese displayed for sale at this funky trucker store adjacent to the restaurant.   

Lots and lots of cheese curds in lots and lots of flavors

And, we also saw a huge refrigerator bin full of locally Wisconsin-made cheese curds; squeaky cheese curds (say what?).  Who knew there were 870 flavors?  I am kidding but it was like shopping for chips and all the flavors they come in.   In this one case was mango habanero cheese curds, shallot black pepper cheese curds,  bloody mary cheese curds, buffalo wing cheese curds, sassy BBQ cheese curds, ranch cheese curds, horseradish curds, and more!  Given that wide array of choices, Rusty picked plain cheese curds.   I have yet to taste them but he tells me they are indeed squeaky. 

In addition to plain, squeaky cheese curds, we bought  a 5 year-old aged brick of white sharp cheddar (it's was 1/2 the price of the 10-year old) but later thought we should have split our giant breakfast (cheap and huge) and put that money towards purchasing that block of 10-year aged cheddar because, “When are we going to be able to stop for breakfast and buy 10-year old aged Wisconsin cheese again soon?” we regretted as we drove on over the Mississippi River into Minnesota.

Huge Breakfast for two!
About that delicious and very large breakfast for $15.78 that we ate (coffee and tea were only $1.99 for unending cups) at this little Sun Rise Restaurant in Sparta, Wisconsin and the interesting people who live..... Sparta is the bike capital (and it says so right on the cover of the Sun Rise Restaurant menu!), self-proclaimed, by a local who created some really great bike paths (so we were told) in and around town but according to a transplant, see photo of our wonderful tattooed formerly-from-Indiana waitress (Amanda), you actually have to buy a bike license?  Having two young boys who ride bikes, she was somewhat incensed.  “You ever heard of such a thing?  It makes sense to have a fishing license, and I have that but a bike license?"  Amanda looked at us intently, us as she poured another cup of coffee for Ken.  We both agreed that was definitely odd and something we had never heard of and would be resistant to paying, as well.

Amanda from Indiana

 Life on the road is good eats and interesting people! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Powered up and Ready to Go by Interstate

No, I am not writing about Interstate-90 in this blog post.  I am writing about Interstate batteries which are supposed to be "outrageously dependable," see, that's their sign, large and in charge in the shop window.  After nearly a week trying to figure out why the LP (liquid propane/gas) monitor was flashing green and red, green and red, and beeping every 30 seconds (which I found out is different from chirping which indicates the presence of gas) and why every time we pulled in the slide-out, waiting for it to click, click, click as we tried to lock it back into the trailer, it blew a 30 amp fuse
Here are the FOUR fuses we blew
(well, we blew 4!)  and after all that calling and checking and fretting with a number of kind and "helpful" people (friends, family, salespeople, RV shop owners, manufacturers, etc.) and after laying in bed wishing it would just all work, we went (at the suggestion of the Ohio RV guy and because all Ken could conclude was that all evidence led back to electrical) to Interstate Batteries (Interstate because that's the type of battery we had) in Holland, Ohio and Gary (my new best friend)
Gary, our new best friend in Ohio
hooked our battery up to a battery checker (checking both voltage and amperage which Ken had not checked before) and said, "This battery is crap."

Now you might expect us, the customers, to be bummed but Rusty (I am trying to call my beloved RUSTY but only know him as Ken but I am trying as it seems apropos for our new life and I am in a world where nobody know who Ken is) and I were jumping up and down because THAT made sense that that was the problem!  When the left break light works intermittently (but the blinker always works) and the LP monitor works intermittently, and the slide-out works intermittently, of course it's all related.  And when the LP manufacturer says, "Those monitors never really fail," and when the RV salesman says, "You can have 3 big kids ride that bump-out in and out again and again and not have any problem," (because we thought maybe we put too much weight in the bump-out area) it leads you to know there must be something causing this multitude of failures.  And that was lack of battery power!

 Gary went on, "You are supposed to have 12 volts and you have 3 or 4.  And, you are supposed to have at least 440 amps and you have less than 200."  And he informed us, "Oh by the way, we don't even keep those batteries in stock because they are so bad and oh, my son works in an RV store and tells me that they always put these cheap batteries in RVs!  And, oh, occasionally, just every now and again these batteries don't get fully charged at the factory."  Perfect storm for us.  "For just $12 more (the original was replaced at no cost but we happily paid the cost to "upgrade") I can get you a much better battery with more voltage and amperage," Gary informed us.  Sold.
Crappy Battery!

And so this morning, double-checking to see if, in fact (please great wonder in the sky), the battery was the solution to our troubled Mini, we walked out to our "rig" and as we approached our little RV hooked up to the truck parked by the curb, we were straining to see if we could hear that frustrating and annoying "beep, beep, beep," and all we heard was the rush of cars on the main road and the happy tweeting of little neighborhood birds!  Feeling encouraged, next I climbed inside the trailer to see what was going on with the red/green lights I glanced below the refrigerator (where the monitor is "conveniently" located), there were NO synchronized red and green lights flashing off and on, just a steady green on the LP monitor, and when I slid out the bump-out and then took a big yoga breath as I slid the slider back in.....Voila!  It all seems to work easily now...thank the Lord from above!  Let's just hope this Interstate battery is indeed outrageously dependable from now on!

We are out on the open road tomorrow.  "Where are we going tomorrow?" I asked my husband as we lay in bed thinking ahead to our trip beyond Toledo.   And he smiled, "We are headed to Chicago in the morning.  Around lunch time we will pull over and decide where to spend the night."

I absolutely love it all :)

Oh, and I have a new pair of Eddie Bauer sandals, bought at Marshalls, Toledo for $9.50 (kids shoes fit my size 6 feet), on sale with the turn of the season. 

For now, we are outrageously good to go! 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Foot Gear

"You see, the most important time of my life there were no shoes."
 Imelda Marcos

 Getting ready for our big adventure, I was so excited that  I'd have not only some space in Mini (our travel trailer) for clothes/shoes but that we would have the whole of the back of our truck to fill up, as well.  While packing light (yes, I did have this in mind!), I most definitely didn't pack as if I only had one suitcase that could easily fit in the overhead bin.  And, so during those last few days of preparation, I would go down into our basement and empty bins to use on the trip (OK, our basement looks a little bit like we could be on featured on that TLC show, Hoarders: Buried Alive after emptying our storage space so there were plenty to choose from but I was able to find and not have to buy a number of bins).  I carefully but happily packed one bin for cool weather clothes, one bin for warm weather clothes, one smaller bin for shoes and then put all my yoga/workout gear in my overflowing gym bag.

It wasn't until we were in Toledo visiting family and we re-packed the back of the truck based on what we seemed to need first as we pulled into a campground  (you just can't really pack the truck right until you have been on the road and have experienced what you want/need first and foremost as you start to set up camp - we seem to like the ice maker, the anti-gravity chairs, the tables, and then the clothes/shoes because all the food is in the trailer)...anyway, it wasn't until that moment as I was moving and shuffling around generators, saws, hoses that I asked my husband, "Hey, where is my shoe bin?"  "Shoe bin?" he looked surprised I was even asking.  "Yea, that smaller bin that had my sandals, flip flops, and one nice pair of shoes in?"  Well, it was no where to be found....nope, no box of shoes for Joy.  Guess in the haste to hit the road last Wednesday morning (wow has that been 5 days ago!) the shoe bin was left at home (hopefully not in the yard?).  At first I cheerfully posted on Facebook, "Oh, no problemo that I have only two pairs of shoes.   I have a pair of gym shoes in my gym bag along with those skanky but beloved Teva camping sandals.  I will use one of those pairs of shoes or just go barefoot."  However, when I finally got back into my routine this morning which is to get up way before dawn (while everybody else slumbers away) to have some alone time for yoga and writing (I know I was a monk in a previous life), I searched for my running shoes in my jam-packed gym bag as I pulled out my yoga pants and got ready to take the dog pee gym shoes for Joy!  Bummer, right?  I have no choice, right?  I am going to take my father-in-law and my sister-in-law's advice.  My father-in-law's exact words, "Well, I guess you are just going to have to go buy a new pair of shoes.  I've heard that one before!"

What's funny is that I always joke that I'm kind of like Imelda Marcos. I love my shoes.  I have shoes for different outfits in different colors and with different heel heights.  I have always loved my shoes.  Years ago the famous Nordstrom Shoe company used to be just a small shoe store in Seattle (just read up on that...opened in 1901 in Seattle and currently headquartered there) where I grew up.  The most exciting time for me was going into that high-end shoe store to buy a pair of shoes.  I remember a caramel-colored pair I bought that were sort of boot-like with a wooden heel.  I bought these while in high school and I felt so amazing walking around in them.  And remembering these shoes is a big deal because I have a frustrating case of childhood amnesia so much of my childhood and teen years are blank; just can't pull up memories.  In any event, if you remember Imelda, she was the wife of her brutal dictator husband, Ferdinand Marcos, the president of the Philippines from 1965-1986.  She and her corrupt, self-absorbed husband loved things (just read that she remains one of the richest women in the Philippines).  Apparently, she was poor during World War II and once she became the first lady of the Philippines, with access to unlimited money she started buying inexpensive shoes in bulk and then more expensive shoes later on.  When the "People Power" rebels overran the presidential palace in 1986 they found that she had over 1,200 pairs of shoes in her closet which so incensed the people of the Philippines and the world because most of her country folk went barefoot.  Interestingly, and here's your history lesson for today, the new president, Cory Aquinas put all of Imelda's shoes and clothes in a museum but that closed in 1992.  In 1999 the Marikina Shoe Museum was opened (in Marikina, Philippines) which held 200 of her pairs of shoes (and shoes of other famous/infamous souls...soles?).  From what I read on the internet (and so this has to be true!), as she and her horrible husband were ousted from the palace she took a pair of comfortable Nordstrom shoes with her :)  Check out this picture of the shoe maven:   Imelda in her closet with 1,200 pairs of shoes!

I will be happy to have just two pairs of shoes for this trip and so on the list today is visiting an athletic store and picking up a pair of gym shoes for the road (we have one more day in Toledo before going to a family funeral in Fort Wayne, sad story, and then heading out).  My skanky but trusty Teva sandals I brought for walking in the dirt and taking into the camp showers will work fine for now as we will encounter much more dirt and may more campground showers than pavement in our continuing camping travels.  

Life on the road.  I love it!  And I just might say at the end, "The most important time of my life was when I had only two pairs of shoes." 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

5 Hour Trip...or 3 Hour Tour!

First Night!
As we pulled out of the driveway of our beautiful home in Maine around 9:00 am  on a humid but exciting Wednesday morning (only 30 minutes off schedule) I waved good-bye to our familiar surroundings, sat back in my navigator/co-pilot seat and settled in for a 5 hour trip to Beaver Spring Lake Campground, New York.  Well, not exactly.  Let me add at the outset that I have a great relationship with my husband.  When things happen we kick into gear and handle them.  Yes, I may be the one to blurt out a colorful explicative now and again or bark at my husband, "That's YOUR job to check the gas gauge in the car!" but generally, and I am glad for that, we get along in times of difficulty very well, thank you very much.  And, what I love the most about us is that we generally laugh when we reflect back on crazy things that happen and wonder how we could change what we did and might do going forward.  If this trip is going to be anything, I have already learned that it will be full of the unexpected.  And so we need to be wide open and ready with good humor and intelligence (yikes!) as we tour this beautiful county of ours.  

Our first stop on our first morning on the road was Camper's Inn in New Hampshire for a quick 10:00 am appointment and to pick up a few things.  We had called the day before to alert our wonderful and generously helpful salesman  (and we found out at the end of the day what a truly great guy he is).  We needed a couple of chock locks (this is what prevents you from rolling down the hill madly once unhooked from the Titan, the big truck we have connected to Mini).  We also needed a 30 amp surge protector so we don't blow all our fuses should Campground WannaBanna experience of surge of electricity through it's system and fry all our fuses which are needed for nearly everything to run.  In addition, we wanted some direction on our audio visual system (it would be nice to watch a movie I can access on my Amazon Prime! and have audio; I got the video down but not the audio...where is my friend Vince!).  And finally, on our list was an extra set of keys (where did that second set go we asked each other as we packed and re-packed the morning of our launch?).  Importantly, we wanted Camper's Inn to fix a loud and annoying chirping we heard when we unhooked the trailer from the electrical power as we set off on our grand adventure just that morning.  Mini was hooked up into the side of our house for days, but once we unplugged her she immediately began an incessant and ear-piercing beeping.  Mini is brand new so we assumed nothing big could be wrong.  Right?

Around noon, we had been, unexpectedly ("What is taking so long??? we wondered),  at Camper's Inn for 2 hours.  We waited patiently in our car - Ken playing Angry Birds on his phone and me, e-mailing yoga folks regarding a new yoga therapy client.  We had already purchased our chock locks, an extra blank key, a new pry bar (oops...forgot that at home but now we have a spare!) all stowed away (they didn't have the surge protector so that's still on the list), but no camper was hooked up to our truck as 12:00 pm rolled around.  Finally, Ken finally went in the store to see what was taking so long and they welcomed him, "Hey, Mr. Markley, where have you been?"  Oh boy....Mini had been ready for over an hour.  Note to self.  When the camper is being worked on, stay in the "waiting room" area, visible to Camper's Inn staff; don't hang out patiently in the truck.  Wanting to know why Mini was beeping, Ken spent time talking with the guys who worked on her, "She's fine.  She didn't beep," they told him.  Isn't that what always happens when you take your car to the mechanic because of that noise that makes you think the bottom is falling out of your car?  The mechanic tells you, "We don't hear a noise at all."   Both the mechanic and the lady behind the counter  swore the chronic beeping problem had something to do with the polarization in the outlet on the outside of our house.  They claimed Mini didn't get powered up because the outlet wasn't "polarized" properly.  So, I still don't really get what polarization of an outlet is but it was the comment that finally convinced my husband that that was likely the cause of the high-pitched and irritating noise (turns out it's an LP or gas detector easily triggered, as I found doing some online research by all kinds of gas...including farts and smells associated with a "new" camper).   Although they argued with conviction, Camper's Inn was not right.  It wasn't a "polarization" problem because as I edit this on Sunday morning in Toledo, Mini is chirping away like a little sparrow ("We cannot leave Ohio until that is fixed," I tell my husband..."No kidding!") .   In any event, around noon we re-connected a then-quiet Mini (checked first that the electrical was plugged in, that the bars were all set in the tow connection, that all the doors were all locked, that the steps are up) and headed out on our excellent adventure.  

Cranky fuse
Two hours in, so now it's about 2:00 pm, we all had to pee and I wanted to put the sliced ham we ate for an on-the-road lunch into the refrigerator.   We pulled into a truck stop (these "service areas" are all along the toll roads), drove around to the back following the signs for trailers and trucks (that's new!) where the giant semis all pull in to get dieseled up....we looked like a little ant in the land of giants back there!  I hopped out to pee as did Ken, making our way into the expansive store/bathroom/hamburger complex.  Glancing at our "rig"  Ken noticed that Mini was not fully plugged into the truck.  There is a big black connector that gives battery power to Mini from the truck and that had come loose in our travel.  "Oh," I comment to Ken when he tells me this, "so maybe that's why that guy way back there was honking at us when we used the indicator to merge onto the toll road?"  We just thought he was annoyed by how slow we were as we put on our blinker and merged onto I-90 but we are guessing now that he was honking because from his perspective, we probably slid right into his lane, not only slowly but blinkerlessly.  No battery power to RV means no brakes, no blinkers, no lights on Mini.  Ken plugged in the giant black plug and we were good to go....well not really. 

After I visited the bathroom (wow, they have "Trucker Showers" in there!) I came back to the RV to put the cold cuts away before we took off again.  I leveraged myself  up and into Mini (yes, I could have put the steps down but this was quicker) to slide the bump-out just a hair so I could have access to the refrigerator.  We have a giant bump-out which makes our 21 foot trailer so roomy but when it slides back into the trailer there is a narrow little space between it and the sink and it completely hides the refrigerator.  Sliding the bump-out out was easy.  I put away the ham and then, as I pushed the button to slide it back in it moved for a brief moment and then....NOTHING.  Click, click, click I pushed on the button.  There was NO movement.  OK, rule number one is that you cannot drive down the interstate at 60 mph with your RV when your bump-out is not fully in and locked.  I could just imagining us merrily chugging along as we hit a bump in the road, and bam, the slide-out fully extends, destroying the trailer as we tip over from the imbalance of it all or maybe that whole piece would just snap off?, sending us and the dog to the ER and therein ending our adventure before it even begins.  What to do?  "I'm calling Bob at Camper's Inn," I tell my husband.  'No," he barks, "they probably think we are idiots already."  The comment about idiots was because Ken never really bought into the polarization problem with our house power outlet.  Now, my husband has built houses, taught math at the university and is a man who knows what he is talking about.  As it turns out, Mini has continued to beep when not plugged in so Ken was right but on that Wednesday in New Hampshire at Camper's Inns with our limited experience, we may have looked and sounded like idiots but I like to think of us as camping neophytes...we will learn.  Anyway, back to our we wait about 30 minutes  (me going back and forth between the air conditioned truck and the stuffy RV to see if I could slide that bump-out back in).  As we moved into the second 1/2 hour and loving my husband sincerely I decided to take things into my own hands, "I don't care if they DO think of us as idiots we do not know what to do and here we are in the back forty of a service plaza somewhere in Massachusetts, on day one of our trip."  So,  while Olive wonders what in the world is going on, and literally standing on alert (vs. lying comfortably in the back seat on her two doggie pillows), I dial Bob at Camper's Inn.  Thankfully, he answers, and I am so relieved but not completely convinced he wanted to hear from us again, the crazy people from Maine who are having so much trouble just getting road-bound on their first day.

 "Bob, when we stopped, we noticed that we didn't have our power hooked up from the RV to the truck and now the bump-out will not retract.   We have waited 30 minutes and still we cannot re-tract the slide-out."  Bob deduced although we may have not had power, that was not the slide-out-slide-in problem we were facing, parked behind the semis on I-90 at a truck stop on our first day of our big trip.  Bob insisted it was a fuse.  I know what a fuse looks like, this seems easy, I think.  I have flipped those little levers in the basement more than once at home when I try to use the lights, heater, and hair dryer all at once in the upstairs bathroom.  He sent us first into the trailer and we looked at the fuse panel (there are some where around 9,000 different kinds of trailers I have come to learn and no 2 are alike in much of any way).  No fuse was going the wrong way, so no fuse had been tripped.  When we read all the labels aloud for each fuse, not a single one of them, to our surprise, indicated "Slide-Out" or "Bump-Out."  We did see fuse buttons for "Refrigerator" and "A/C" but no fuse for the immobile bump-out.  "OK," Detective and Sent-from-A-Higher-Being Bob advises us next, "you have to get under the RV."  "What??"  I say to him and my husband.  Now, I have an intelligent, kind, loving and loyal husband who I once went to a yoga class with and the instructor said, laughing, "You two are a yoga teacher's nightmare. You (pointing to me as I bent over and put my palms on the floor) are like a Gumby.  While you (pointing to my husband as he bent over as far as he could and his arms were level with his waist) are a yoga teacher's nightmare!"  Wonderful husband has a knee that won't bend, an ankle in need of major reconstruction, and a fake hip.  I knew that during this trip I would be the one crawling up that little black ladder to the roof to brush off the bump-out before we retracted it.  And, at that moment, I knew it would be me crawling under the RV.   Not one to panic in a problem situation (hey I can handle a teenager who is taking off all his clothes in a fit under the table at a middle school - my former life - with ease and calm), my husband asks me as I get ready to lay on my back on the concrete that smells like urine,  "Do you want something to put under you?"  "Yes that would help!"  So we open the back door to the truck where Olivia was still standing at the ready.  As I grabbed one of her bedding pillows she  looked at me like, "Now what every do you think YOU are doing with my bed?"  And then for about 30 minutes, in the heat, still in Massachusetts so we hadn't gone even 1/2 way to our first campground on day one of a very long adventure, with the stinky smell, the roar of semi's downshifting as they roll in to gas up and our apparent location being under the end of a military airport runway with very loud airplanes landing every 4-5 minutes, I am trying to listen to Bob as he patiently directs me to find the fuse.  Laying on my dog's bed under the RV I calmly tell Bob, "I just don't see it".  Getting frustrated and having absolutely no clue what I was looking at after about 20 minutes, however, I let the F-bomb fly out of my mouth as I hit my head.  "OK, I see a metal box.  Yes I am following the red and black wires..." I try to stay focused on problem solving.  "No.  No metal.  It's a cap on a wire," he tries to tell me what I am looking for.  I am clueless.  "We are going to have to be towed!"  I tell him, completely convinced and now beginning to freak out just a little bit, that we are are going to be calling AAA and using that supplemental RV towing insurance I bought (and thank the heavens for that little expense I thought to myself!).  "No, no, I have changed this a number of times and I know this is your problem,"  Detective Bob persists.  And then that wonderful man went out into the RV yard, got under an RV just like our temporarily impaired little Mini and told me exactly what to look for, "Look for the red plastic box on a red wire."  Well,  wait, we got disconnected at right about that time "Bob, Bob, can you hear me?" and yet our Savior Bob called me back (he could have just wished us luck and gone for coffee).  "Got it!  Ken, come here, open this thing and check the fuse," I yelled to Ken.  " Take a fuse from another the fuse panel," Bob continues to help us (yikes, what?).   However, and luckily we were are at that loud and stinky truck stop so Ken knew he could go back into the store portion of the giant complex we were marooned at and purchase a 30 amp fuse telling me, "I was going to get a package of these when we hit Toledo."  Well, that was good thinking!  
Now, what do you think this is?

All I can say is what a first day....oh, and we flew right by the campground in Davenport, NY when we finally arrived from our 5-hour trip at 6:30 pm (so leaving at 9:00 am that was actually a NINE hour trip).  We had to go several miles down the road to turn around (turning around is a much bigger, literally, deal when you are towing 21 feet of trailer behind you), and once we unhooked Mini from the Titan she started beeping AGAIN (but we, yes, the two of us figured out that the problem was that you had to re-set the LP (gas) monitor so we pushed that button in and Mini silenced...more on that later because as she sits in the cul-de-sac in Toledo she is beeping away!).  In an event, we were lucky Angel Bob at Camper's Inn was there to help us via phone, luckily we were at a truck stop when we needed a fuse (Namaste to whatever great power lined that all up), and most lucky (and most grateful) our ice maker (thank you for that recommendation Deb and Jay) worked like magic once we finally set up camp as the sun set and we sipped a cocktail under the most beautiful clear and starry night sky in Davenport, New York, relaxing in our new zero gravity recliners.

Can't wait to see what day two holds in store for us as we make our way to Randolph, New York!

Unexpectedly beautiful New York State!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

T Minus 24

Oh my, the list is long and the excitement is building.  We are hooking up to Mini and pulling out of our driveway in about 24 hours!  I will likely be awake until we do, checking lists, running to the store (we aren't going to the wilds of Alaska but I feel like I want Mini all ready with what she needs!), packing bins (which go in the back of the truck), packing Mini (advice was to jam her tight so when we are on the road things don't get tumbled about), dealing with last-minute bills, tenants, packing the briefcase with all our papers (for Mini, for Miss O, including passports!) saying Good-Bye to Comcast (and that hefty $200 plus monthly bill) and forwarding mail (forwarding to a loved one to review for emergency letters/packages we might need to follow up on en route).  And, we have been back and forth about taking Miss O on the trip but she is coming!  And, so in preparation, I am giving her a bath, making sure she has her launch-ball for exercise (and tennis balls), her dental water additive (brand new bottle), her leash, here gentle leader, lots of poop bags, Benedryl (sorry girlfriend, but you may be enjoying a medicated slumber now and again...hey, it was the vet's orders for our Nervous Nellie), and her meds (K9 Advantix and Interceptor Plus).  Not wanting to leave the house in a shambles (looks like a pre-adventure bomb went off this morning with papers everywhere, bins half-packed, washed and cleaned clothes folded into piles all around and dishes needing to be cleaned out of the dishwasher) I am vacuuming and making beds and doing one last load of dishes before we leave town.

It's exciting and a little nerve-wracking.  Tonight is the last night in our wonderful home for what could be months ("What will I miss and what should I take," I wonder as I walk around trying to remember everything). Tomorrow is about 5 or 6  hours into New York.  And, the next night is about 5 or 6 more hours farther into New York.  "No worries, Mam, lots of room here," I was told by the campground staff I called to make reservations for both New York campgrounds, "This is past Labor Day and mid-week."  So far so good.  Friday we arrive in Toledo (and get to sleep in a house) for a great weekend with the Markley clan. 

Stay tuned!  Next post will be literally from the road (I am all set for wifi and iTunes and keeping my laptop powered up as I sit in the co-pilot's seat, with two gadgets I bought from Best Buy).  Or that first on-adventure post may be from a campsite with my feet up with my wonderful husband, Ken (aka Rusty) and Miss O by my side!  Or, with rain expected in New York on Thursday, I may be posting from inside our new tiny home! 

And that is how it will go....we will just embrace what is next.  We will awake each morning and ask, "OK, day, what do you have in store for us?" 

Comfy little family inside Mini!