Saturday morning 12/21
I am unsure how to relate today to anyone, other than to say, “Oh, Crap!”
We started out with high expectations, the word high, being the pivotal word for this. No, not that kind of high but sitting on top of several tons of steel and towing more behind it. Of course, the real beginning was when I sat in the driver’s seat, and my faithful co-pilot asked me if I had raised the ramps on the tow dolly. Checklists can be your friend; needless to say, it was raining as I exited and raised the ramps of the tow dolly.
The positives are listed as, you can see everything, no one bothers you only going 55mph. A subtle edgy bonus is the inability to let your mind wander. Just us and wind blowing in your hair. Two hands on the large steering wheel. No glue needed to keep them there either.
The negatives are listed as: you can see everything, including over bridge railings and steep cliffs. No one bothers you only going 55mph, unless you are holding them up, not letting them pass. The part about your mind not wandering is due to the effects of wetting your pants, making the seat cold.
We did pull into a famous truck stop called Buc-cees. So much fun waiting for a spot at the pumps. Just my luck, the tanker delivering fuel was behind me waiting to get to the fill pipes, that I was about to park and fuel up on top of. He waited awhile, Ching-Ching goes the gas pump.
Moving on to our first real RV park stop-over. Somehow our destination for the evening was on the other side of a small town. Pulling out into the oncoming traffic, so you don’t rip off an air-conditioner with a tree limb, makes you look like a DUI on C.O.P.’s, in action. The first stopover went well actually. We had traveled near event-free this day.
Sunday morning 12/22
This will be known forever as the Rocky-Poopy day.
In the morning, I hooked up the sewer connection to drain both the sink water and sewer tanks. Geat news, this went well. Then I got the bright idea to hook up the water doo-hickey that is literally a freshwater shower for the sewer Tank. An artistic development since my days of working on these things.
It worked well. You let it flush and fill the sewer tank and pull the handle again, it runs clear. Then I went in the coach, and the electronic gauges said my sewer tank was full. Huh?
“Oh, yea dumb ass, there are two tanks for both sink water (Gray) and sewer(Black). Simple right. Pull the other handle. Obviously, the tanks interconnect and will drain.” Remember I said you only retrain 3% of what you are told, this obviously was part of the 97%
This is where it got fun. I had pulled not the 2nd gray-water, but the second sewer tank handle. I heard the gurgle, and nothing came out. A second look under the panel in front of the dump vales was done. What I saw was a cap on a drain port. The tanks are not interconnected at all. Now I have filled the short distance from the valve to the drain cap. This means ‘Free-Wiley’ was waiting to get out sans drain hose. I removed the cap, hoping for the best, shit ran all over my hand. Then the fun began. Some idiot I could see, with a flashlight, had glued the exit pipe connection, where I attach a flexible sewer hose to, pointing more up than down, behind freshwater lines as well. I would have to remove the water-fill panel to get enough room to hook up. My panic set in, all my tools were at home. My kingdom for a Philips head screwdriver. I had bravely said back home, “I don’t need any tools, it's brand new.”
My co-pilot pondered my panic-stricken dilemma and said, “isn’t there one of those things in the center console of the SUV?” To my surprise, I found a Leatherman fold-up tool that had a Philips head on it. Like a swiss army knife thing. This tool had been in one car or another for thirty-some years since my son Sean had gifted it to me one Christmas. An hour later, tanks were drained, and we were all buttoned up for travel.
Even more, fun yet to come while driving on a secondary road, still in Texas, doing the comfortable 55mph, only the speed limit was the Texas two-step of 75mph. Hence, we were holding up traffic, and they were passing us. A string of cars went by, easing in front and a pebble the size of Plymouth Rock was kicked up, hitting us dead center in the windshield. This boulder sounded like a 38 slug had hit us, that was my first thought, really. Panic ensued on my right, and I watched the windshield for cracking.
We parked a few hundred miles later, early, which was fine based on the odor from my underwear, again. I was able to get a reservation for Monday AM for the glass people to come to me. Yea! The Safe-Lite lady showed up around 10:30 AM. We got a repair done to keep the windshield from cracking further. With the afternoon free, we went shopping at our favorite version of Hell. Realize this is near Christmas Eve. So there many late shoppers. Men standing to look at cards and foot massagers. All quite humorous, actually. Things we needed, like a self-adhesive doo-hickey to suction cup the GPS to on the dashboard. Perfection!
We stayed put for another chilly night in Sulphur, Louisiana. A well-run RV park, by the name of A-Plus Motel and RV park, a few miles south of I-10, on Highway 27 South.
We even found a sewer fitting to accommodate the poorly built drainage of TANK SET #1. Now on a serious note Anybody out there with a desire to invent something, work on rachet design for hold-down straps. I cussed a blue streak trying to get the straps off the front tires of the SUV. You know those nasty little details that hold the car on the dolly, to go to hell-mart in the first place. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that one day, trucks had been tooting their horns. We assumed my unsteady hand on the wheel was the reason. No, actually, one wheel strap had come loose and was flailing in the wind. SUV free we did not go.
So as the anticipation of hitting the road again in the morning, heading EAST on I-10 towards Florida builds. What could go wrong on Christmas Eve, right?
Tuesday morning, now Christmas Eve
We spent a grueling 5+ hours on the road. Our first trial was the bridge over troubled waters. Neither Simon nor Garfunkle was to be found, either. From a mile away, we could see the structure. It didn’t get any smaller. This thing looked like it rose up to the clouds, no choice but to go. Something about being so high up overlooking the railing and all, wow! The openness as we climbed the massive looking structure, so many things going through my head. Will we fit under the girders, will we drive off the edge, over the side rail, never to be seen again? Yea, all those things in my head as the coach begins to slow on the upside. I let it crawl up at 40mph. An odd odor filled the cabin. You guessed it, my pants again.
I yelled back to Marlene, who was already sitting in the dinette, “you might want to close your eyes in a few minutes. What I learned later was that she was busy chanting, having seen the bridge, “We will be ok, we will be ok. We won’t die!”
The RV park we stopped at was full, who knew! Yes, I called ahead, to an answering machine; however, it is first come first serve. We moved on and found a better park anyway. My anticipation of driving Christmas day was dampened some by finding more bridges during some evening research, hopefully, low causeways. The bayou country was miles and miles of small bridges getting cars across the state. Also, with mirrors only, no car alert gadget, we nearly were in the same space as the asshat, riding just to my back right as I wanted to maneuver to the right lane. Going to have to figure that one out. The good news this day was that beyond nearly running the asshat over the concrete railing, travel on Christmas day is excellent; there is no one the road, asshats excluded.
We headed out as if we knew what we were doing. Little do they know. That is until the first signs of Mobile Alabama appeared. I swear my recurring nightmare since I was first able to drive was happening. A suspension bridge that simply ended in the middle flashed in my eyes.
“Just take one step at a time,” I told myself. These trucks flying by me were doing it, and nothing was happening. Determined to make it without plunging off the end of the evidently unfinished bridge was going to happen. With both hands firmly on the wheel, and my eyes closed, we proceeded. Ok, just kidding, only my right one was closed so I couldn’t see the distance to the water. We made it. Trust me, I was shaking.
Not long after, the second bridge in Mobile came up. A sigh of relief came over me, there was no suspension bridge, it appears to be a flat causeway. Then the second most terrifying words in my brain loomed on a huge yellow sign. TUNNEL AHEAD. My mind screamed, in the sudden shock, as I riped off my sunglasses, knowing that you sometimes could not see in a tube with them on. Hell, I can't see at all without glasses. Now, where are my regular ones? Well, obviously, I found them. Signs flashed by, explosive materials exit now. Shit does 80 gallons of Propane matter in a tunnel with the refrigerator running on an open flame. No time for research. The tunnel actually let me fit through it. Another worldly experience of fear conquered this day.
The traffic was light being Christmas day, we had expected that, and we were right about something at least. Then a billboard for Buc-cees appeared; we needed fuel and stopped. This place is fantastic. Probably 50 fuel pumps to choose from and spacious driving lanes. With less traffic, we parked across like 15 parking spaces and went inside. Ok, I know my wife is always rating the restrooms of places, yes that one is ok, no I won't go in there again, ratings. Buc-Cees gets a gold star. That is until I said after the experience, that it was cleaner than ours at home. No lie, it was, but here is a hint guy, never tell your wife a public restroom is cleaner than the house. Well come on, there were sanitizing hand gel dispensers between every urinal. I am not sure, but I think there were as many toilets as gas pumps. A massive store with excellent on the go fresh-made sandwiches. I highly recommend it.
The day delayed a second time with a typical rest stop, only this one had a mountain climbing experience to get from the truck parking lot to the facilities. This brings us then to a time change, we lost an hour and were now looking to do another hundred miles and late afternoon was facing us. Cardinal rule of ours was no driving this beast at night. Boy, should I have listened?
Bridges, tunnels, and now darkness and all in one fun-filled day. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Unless you find your campground, and it's closed, which I expected, flashlight in hand, I walked to find our assigned and paid for, pull-through site. Two friendly folks sitting out since it was pleasant summer-like weather in Florida, said, “what number are you looking for?” I replied, “#44.”
“We are #44,” came back.
Oye Veh, a double booking, no, you can’t make this stuff up. I laughed rather than cry. We discussed it and simply took the empty site #45, we both conspired to tell the next displaced soul to park in the street. Fortunately, no one showed up or threatened us all night long.
Actually, the day went well, driving has settled into 55mph. Gas consumption goes up over 60mph. The interesting phenomenon, which I had experienced one time long- long ago. I-95 South on the day after Christmas is literally the entrance to Disney World. No lie, the traffic was at a standstill in Georgia and the Carolina's. Northbound was heavy traffic, but at least we were moving.
A few points of order to be duly noted. The ramp onto I-95 from I-10 is enough to make you think of a child's car track with a loop in it, a 360 overhead loop, daredevil style. Another newsworthy item is Georgia has really upped its game in the last 20 years. Three lanes all nice blacktop. South Carolina apparently did not get the note from the Federal government twenty years ago about infrastructure grants. They are 50 to 60 yr old concrete highways, with only two lanes. We got off the road and set up by 3PM. No, darkness is not my old friend while sluicing my bobsled home to VA.
We did get off for gas, and there was no way I could maneuver into the station, had to drive on by. My faithful sidekick Greta said go right now, then right again and get back on the damn highway and stop this nonsense. She was sullen most of the afternoon.
A great day actually, the time now short, of being within 10 miles of the hacienda, changed it all. So smart of us, exiting I-95 to I-85, wow a short ramp, but the engine braking system works well, luckily, brought us to a safe turn. We made our way onto SR 460, a divided rural road with 2 lanes each way, heading out to trails we know. We found SR 360 in the dark, grrrr, but had a few miles to home. All this sounds so easy. So comfortable, I need to explain how things can go so terribly wrong in less than five seconds. Bear with me here as I tell you of panic on a highway can come in many forms. No, not a dog or even a deer running in front of you. Minding our pees and ques as we approached home at now 50mph.
The windshield fogged up some after turning off the AC, Virginia had cooled down. No matter how we tried to turn the dials, nothing cleared it. Now in your car, sometimes you know how things fog up without warning. Yea that! It was so thick on the inside with moisture we couldn’t see at all. I literally stopped in the road, no choice. Now you usually at least can reach and do the emergency hand wipe of things until the defroster gets it clear. Nah, there is physically no way to reach the windshield, seated so far in front of you. Co-pilot, Marlene saved the day with a grab of her coat on the floor, when it was still warm, and she stood, clearing enough to move forward. Well, we learned a lesson on that one, don’t abruptly change from one to another on the road. Simply turn it off, let it become the average outside temperature, first. That or carry a damn hairdryer on your hip.
As we both admitted to the intensity of the situation and calmed down, we arrived at our driveway. The same gravel driveway I had hoped to enter in the daylight. I never knew why I felt so inclined; just know I had a preference. I started in just clearing the mailbox on my side. Slow and easy. Then boom, my right rear tires dropped off the edge into the very shallow culvert. Marlene screamed in panic, I gunned it and didn’t get stuck. Lord, my brain sees cut tires, bent culvert, but now who cares, we are in the driveway, safe, safe.
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