Sometimes I think my life is a book that is being written by some balding guy in a dark smokey room somewhere. Events happen and I look back and see how perhaps if I looked at things just a bit more distantly, I would see the foreshadowing. Every good book has foreshadowing.
A few days before we left Ogallala, NE we introduced the movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to Xander. It took us two days to watch it – I always forget how long it is. Anyway, Xander loved it! FORESHADOWING! We decided to head South first before heading North. I am an Usborne Books & More representative and am attending the convention this year in Tulsa, OK. I had planned on flying in but we were already halfway there. Why not just drive down, camp out and then head North? I called my friend who will be hosting us while we do this crazy remodel and she was cool with the delay so we made the decision. South we go! It saved the cost of a last minute airline ticket and my hotel costs. Plus, since we had time to kill before the convention, we could visit our adult kids in Austin! SCORE!
Our day of departure was a bit soggy. The rain had come back. Nothing serious, but annoying when you are trying to pack things up. I think it is part of that rule book.
- 1 – If you wash your car, it will rain.
- 2 – If you go camping, you will put your tent up in the rain.
- 3 – When you break down your tent, it will rain.
etc, etc, etc…
I was trying to do laundry before our check-out time so had gotten up at what I consider the crack of dawn (around 8) and run out to get started. We only had two loads so I wasn’t worried about it, the park has two machines. Well, the machines were much smaller than I was anticipating so my two loads became four. Of course the last load I washed were the sheets, so I was chomping at the bit for the dryer to complete so we could leave. Daniel ended up getting distracted be the extra time he had and started fidgeting. Never a good thing. Here I was, pushing for us to get on the road and Daniel hadn’t made the cab ready to move and was, in my eyes at least – fidgeting. My brain was exploding. “Let’s Go!” I kept saying. Then he got frustrated because of course what he was doing was important and necessary, it just wasn’t what I wanted him to be doing. Xander had been told to go get in his seat so many times, he was just tuning us out and playing so that drove me crazy. Needless to say, it was not a smooth departure. Finally, we waived good-bye to our new friends and got on the road. I think it was something like 1.
All was well. I had our route planned out, our reservations made and new exactly where we were going. Between puppy potty stops and kid movement stops we were making no time. I was just hoping to get to our RV park before dark at that point. We were leaving Oakley, KS when I noticed Daniel had pulled over in the rig. “I felt something ‘POP'” he said, “We need to find someplace to stop so I can check it out. Is there an open autoparts store around here?”
Here we were, driving in rural Kansas on Memorial Weekend and it’s after 6. My response was something like, “Uuuuhhh, no.” DUH! There was a campground sign I had noticed a mile or so back and after verifying that at least there were a few auto shops in town, we limped to the RV Park I had found and paid for the night. Our friend the Internet said that some of the shops would be open the next day so we crossed our fingers and got settled.
The woman who took my call when I asked if they had space for us was a very matter-of-fact people. Didn’t sound like she took any nonsense. I was as specific as I could be in answering her questions. “Do you have RV spaces?” I asked?
“We are a campground aren’t we?” was her reply.
“Not all campgrounds accept, RV’s but I am happy to hear that you do! Do you have space for a 28′ Minnie Winnie for tonight?” I asked?
“How many toads?” she asked, RV lingo for are you towing anything.
“None.” was my reply. We don’t, we aren’t towing anything. RV’s with a tow need a longer slip or sometimes a pull-through spot. We get into more places because we are small and don’t need a pull-through. We can back in if needed.
When we got to the park, she saw the van and said dryly, “I thought you said ‘No Toads!’.”
“We don’t. I drive the van.”
“So that’s 2 vehicles then!”
She went on to explain the particulars of the park, of which there were many. This looks like a lot of fun to stay a while – no really! I am being serious! The store has over 700 DVD’s you can borrow for free and was well stocked. There is a big dog park, a great view of green grassy fields and pretty impressive sky, a hot tub, horse-shoes, a pizza place, a pub, and more features I am forgetting. One of the important things she informed me about was the following, “If at any time, we are experiencing a storm and you don’t feel safe, go to the Men’s Room. If you have dogs that you are bringing with you, you go into the Women’s Room.”
We went over to the pub for dinner. Jack’s Pub serves just about everything and it’s all made on-site from scratch. The prices are super reasonable and the food was great! Nice staff and Jack himself stopped by to see how things were. They import blue crap and fresh caught fish from the Atlantic. Jack prepares the fish and ships it to Denver to specific restaurants. There is escargot from a specialty farm in France, and you can have a burger that is angus, Kobe beef, elk or buffalo! Of course they also have basic stuff as well – all handmade onsite. Pretty cool! The waitress was telling us about how they had a tornado warning the night before. “It was pretty exciting!” she said. “We all had to go to the shelter.”
We had a wonderful dinner and left for the rig in high spirits. We felt like if nothing else, we had an awesome place to spend some time if the repairs to Winnie were intensive. The town looked large enough that we would be able to find the parts we needed and a service place. We got Xanman ready for bed as the storm started and went through our regular routine. The wind started really picking up and were prepped to enjoy a nice storm.
By the time the wind really started, I was in my nightgown and in bed with Xander. The RV was rocking so violently I looked at Daniel and asked him if our rig was heavy enough to stay upright. Right after I asked that, we noticed that the people in the RV next to us were heading for the bathrooms. Then the hail started. Daniel had pulled up the radar on his phone and stated flatly, “We need to get out of here.” Then the hail started.
I have NEVER heard such hail, and I’m from Colorado where hail damage is a normal part of living there. It sounded like we were being shot at. A barrage of unrelenting shots hitting the RV from all angles. Xander’s hands were covering his ears and he looked at me wondering if he should be really scared. I was getting out of bed and pulling him down to me. Daniel was getting the dogs hooked up. We were yelling at each other because there was no other way to be heard in the noise. We grabbed whatever jackets were close and opened the door. The dogs did not want to leave the rig and had to be pushed out the door. I pulled Xan as close to my body as I could and lifted a hand to protect my face, shielding his with my body and coat, pushing the dogs in front of me. Instantly we were drenched with the rain pouring down, hail battering at every exposed part of the body. We ran. We made it safely to the women’s room, the rest of the park’s patrons safely ensconced in the men’s room. We went to the deepest part of the bathroom and huddled taking a moment to gather our thoughts and wonder what was next. We were soaking wet, dripping onto the tile floor. Turns out I did a pretty good job of protecting Xander, only his pants and shoes were wet. His head and body were dry – ‘Mommy Shield to the Rescue!’ We found chairs and pulled them close. It wasn’t until we had been sitting a while that the shivers started and the processing began. Daniel was glued to his phone watching as the storm intensified. “It’s tornadic.” he said quietly. We stayed gathered together, the pups at our feet and listened to the storm. After a while, the sound seemed to calm. Daniel announced he would go ‘next-door’ to the men’s room and see what was up with the other campers. He came back shortly saying we needed to stay put. The tornado warning was still in effect. He made a quick and reckless run to the RV to fetch a blanket. The rain was not as heavy he reported. More like a normal storm would be. We stripped the little guy and turned him into boy burrito. I snuggled into my coat and tried to squeeze as much as the water out of my nightgown. Xander and I had long since taken off our shoes. They were so full of water, they squished with every movement. I got paper towels and wiped off the pups and dried them as well as I was able. Then went to work on drying the floor some. We had puddles everywhere from when we ran in. Then we waited. Daniel giving periodic updates from his phone, Xander and I telling stories and talking. Anything to keep him feeling as safe and secure as possible under the circumstances. I joked with him that he would have some major street cred with is friends after this storm, and a pretty awesome story to tell. But mostly, we snuggled. We were ready to head back to the rig when we were informed another two storm cells were headed our way so we should sit tight. OK.
At 3:00am, we finally went back out to the RV. We discovered a nice waterfall in the center dripping on our brand new floor. Daniels ceiling patch held but water was coming in from somewhere on the roof. Honestly I was not surprised. That hail was so incredible, I was expecting the entire roof to be Swiss cheese. We found buckets to put under the leaks for the rest of the morning (Well, at least where the leaks were dripping), wiped up the water off the floor, got dry clothes on and went to sleep. Check out time was at 11 after all.
The next dawned with a dramatic overcast sky. Just enough sun peeking through to give drama to the clouds. The wind was still blowing but nothing like the night before. We walked around Winnie and Princess to inspect any damage. Princess appeared to be OK but now has these weird spots where somehow the paint was lifted off. You can see the paint kinda sagging below these spots and then nothing (no paint) in the center. Winnie’s damage assessment would have to wait until we could find a ladder and get to the roof. One of the owners told Daniel that all the paint had been stripped from the back exterior wall of Jack’s Pub. Said it looked like it had been sand blasted….
We took off and got the parts we thought we needed for the engine and were directed to a mechanic that everyone raved about. We drove to his shop only to discover that the shop was closed for the weekend because of the holiday. We were told there was a shop that is always open, holiday or not but it was about 10 miles away. We had no choice – we went.
Turns out the shop was in Grainfield, KS. A nice little town that likes to keep things simple. There is one bank, appropriately named ‘Bank’, a small market, a post office, a VFW hall, a few shops (all closed of course) and Jack’s Auto Repair and Tow/NAPA Auto. Jack told us he could fit us in later that day so honestly, I napped in the van. Daniel and Xan were probably doing the same in the rig. We were exhausted. When it was time for the repair, I went into the shop to ask if they had a restroom I could use. “Nope, out here in the country, we go outside.” said the woman behind the counter dryly. Sleep exhaustion had me looking at her stupidly trying to make sense of her words.
Her co-worker seeing my face busted out laughing, “She’s only kidding, it’s back here.” He went off still chuckling and shaking his head while I stared after him not sure if I should move or not.
“Do I follow?” I asked?
She was not done teasing me, as she responded, “No.” Then seeing my face try to process this answer, started laughing herself. “Yes! Yes! Come-on back here. You go through that door and it’s on the right.” She all but pushed me towards the room, which at that point I wasn’t sure I wanted to use. I was too tired for humor and would probably burst out into tears if there was another practical joke in store for me. Turns out all was good. It was just a restroom.
We never sit around when we have time to spend in a place. You won’t see us hanging out in waiting rooms, or twiddling our thumbs on a bench. We took off to explore. We found a wonderful festival going on. The annual BBQ & Pulled Pork contest. There was music, food vendors you could vote for, a kiddie train to ride, photo ops, bag toss games set up and even horseshoes. This park also boasted one of the best equipt playgrounds I have seen. This was awesome! The train was free so once Xander found out, he happily hopped on and settled himself to ride as long as the driver would let him. This train was hysterical! The driver simply kept driving following the instructions of the kids or any parent who walked by. Kids were draped everywhere. Sitting on the edges, in-between the cars, hopping on and off as whim dictated. Dirty smiling faces from melting snow cones looked happily at one another and the world around them. It was awesome! “SPIN! SPIN!” the kids were cry – the driver would head over to the basketball court where they players would just move aside, no questions asked while the train gently spun to the squeals of delighted children. Through the park, in-between the trees, around the playground went the train stopping and starting at the direction of the kids. “Stop! I dropped my shoe!” was one cry and the driver obligingly stopped so the little girl could hop off to get her flip-flop and then hop back on. Xander was in heaven.
Daniel walking around in his kilt made quite the impression. You can imagine not many residents in this small town have seen a man wearing a Utilikilt. Of course I had to get him a t-shirt boasting this years theme for the event. “I like Pig Butts!” with of course a pig bottom filling the body of the shirt. And of course, we had to take a picture with the most intimidating looking hotdog I have ever seen.
Jack was able to get the rig fixed-up by the end of the day. He also checked our tire inflation and installed a new tire stem for one of the duallys that was slowly loosing air. His prices were beyond reasonable and the town and people were great! He even let Daniel borrow a ladder so he could check out the hail damage on the roof. Some history: when we first bought the rig, there was a rack up there. We took it off when we remodeled the first time which left screw holes in the sections of the roof that we didn’t replace. We put flashing tape over those holes to keep the roof water safe. That tape has lasted through 6 Tucson summers and monsoons, and 2 years of storms in Colorado Springs. The hail chewed through it like cotton candy. Just shredded it. Hence the waterfall inside. Daniel went up there with more tape. Not much else we can do at this point. We are headed North to replace the roof so anything more extensive is just a waste. Hopefully we won’t run into any more tornadoes.
We got on the road late – after 5 and our sole goal was to get the heck out of Kansas and into Texas. Of course we ran into more storms. In Liberal, KS we had to stop and wait for the storms ahead of us to clear. The wind was getting strong enough that it wasn’t really safe to drive the rig. Nothing like the night before but better safe than sorry! We got some dinner and hung out until Daniel gave that all clear according to radar. We headed out of town and after a few miles noticed an emergency vehicle ahead with it’s lights flashing. Wondering what was up we approached slowly. Mind you, it’s pitch black outside. Late at night and overcast with thick storm clouds. We didn’t really have that far to go but keep having to pull over because of wind and storm activity ahead of us. This short drive was taking forever! Lightening was flashing all around us in the distance and we just wanted to be out of Kansas already and to our stop. The camp was already paid for – we just needed to get to it. Turns out the emergency vehicle was there empty. Our side of the highway was covered in water with no way to see how deep. We had to wait for clear spots in on-coming traffic to go around. Finally, about an hour from our destination for the night, we had to stop. We were so tired. Fortunately Texas has 9 million ‘rest’ stops. They don’t have any amenities but they are spaces for you to pull over and at least get some rest.
Pull over we did. We walked the dogs, and went to bed.
Needless to say Kansas was exciting. They say peak tornado season is from May to July. Of course we had to cross during peak season! Note to self, stay away from tornado alley! I am including some of the pictures from Daniel’s iphone with the storm alerts. Pretty intense! Headed to bed for now but will continue our journey later! Take care!
YAY! It’s official! We are finally dry! After a snowstorm which dumped about a foot of snow onto our recent roof repair we can safely say we have plugged the leak. PHEW! Not to pretty inside but it works for now. We are replacing the whole thing anyway. I will get some pictures up in here soon.
Daniel has about half the sub-floor in. The hot water tank and white water tank have been moved to the belly of Winnie, leaving our floor space clear. The walls are pretty rough right now, hopefully we will have time to slap some paint on them at least before we move in. I might have to paint on the road. Time is ticking and we only have two weeks! Daniel was stuck in a project at work that exploded. He had no time to work on the RV for about two weeks. Precious time lost. At this point, I am focusing less on our remodeling goals and more about how to make it livable till we get to WA in June.
I will keep you posted.
It seems we are at it again! We have ripped apart Winnie in order to rebuild her. We thought we were going to have all summer to do this and instead have only 4 weeks! We desperately need to rip off the entire roof but that repair is going to have to wait until June when we get to our ‘remodel’ location; the home of our incredibly kind and generous friends in Eastern Washington. Right now we had to repair a wall to wall sized leak in the roof where the air-conditioner used to be. Daniel was creative in his kludging of a water-proof repair. However, it just reinforces the need to rip the whole thing off. In 2011 we took off the back half and replaced it. We should have taken the whole thing off at that time. Can’t remember why we didn’t. Time? Money? Can’t remember. Anyway, we need to get it done now.
In other news, the interior remodel is super exciting! More cooking/eating/family space. As time has shown, we like to collectively gather around the kitchen and visit. Our favorite living space had an island that we all gathered around. We are recreating that in the RV! We are moving the hallway from the center of the rig to one side. The kitchen space is now an “L” shape and we are creating a full bathroom instead of the wee WC and shower across from each other. Built in bookshelves and a bigger bed are among some of the changes. Exciting! We need to draw a to-scale diagram. Once we do, I will post. 🙂
I am going to see if I can get pictures on this post of where we are right now. Keep checking back!
P.S. Check out the images of how we ripped apart Winnie the first time we did this to check out what’s possible. Go to the menu and select RV Remodel. Then I would suggest ‘Tear down Complete’. Here is a link Tear Down Complete
Someone recently asked me if we would sell Winnie.
I had a moment of panic. “Get RID of Winnie?!?” I think my world actually stopped rotating for just a moment. In that space, I suddenly realized how much of a security blanket our RV has become for us. Even though Winnie is a bit big to drag over our shoulder, I’m not sure that Daniel and I wouldn’t go that far to keep her with us.
The conversation in question was with a homeless person who was selling found items at a street sale. Our son had decided that was the moment that he must take a nap in the camper top of our Eurovan so we were there for a bit. We had shared that we had experienced some hardship and if it weren’t for the RV, we’d have been in shelters or living under overpasses. Most likely, our family would not have survived intact.
In 2012, my husband and I inexplicably found ourselves without income. Not just broke but absolutely nothing coming in. Since social services look at the previous years income, we didn’t qualify for any help. Daniel kept looking for work and I started looking at getting anything. But we couldn’t pay our rent. It became a daily question of where were we going to park the rig? It wasn’t a question of could I find a job, but rather, how was I going to get there? We had dear friends who were offering to let us park the RV on their property for free but they didn’t have power or water and they were a good half hour outside of the city limits. No buses. And we didn’t have anything but the RV to drive. How would I get to work? The daily question of whether we were going or not became an almost scheduled argument. The need vrs the practical. We would scrape up enough to ensure that our son never went without a meal, and then our animals but Daniel and I couldn’t say the same about us. You know, when you don’t eat for a while, you get some pretty major headaches. No wonder homeless people tend to be grouchy. Job sources in Tucson were telling Daniel that they wanted him, but “not right now.” We were out of time. Daniel contacted possible employers in Austin, TX who were very interested in him a year before and let them know he was available. They indicated they absolutely still wanted him and to come on out. What a bad idea that was.
We headed out to Austin with the last of our funds. Monies we had scraped together by selling whatever we could. Before we hit the AZ border, we had to replace two tires on the rig. We made it into Texas and found that our belts were seizing. We fixed that and discovered a bit further that our glow plug actuator had failed. I think Winnie was trying to tell us something. In stops and starts, we limped into Austin and made it to the WalMart parking lot just off the highway. Daniel had found some short term contract work that he could do from home which meant he was shlepping off with his laptop to the nearest site of free internet to do his work. It wasn’t a lot but it kept us going for a bit. Unfortunately/fortunately for us, he is very, very good at what he does so the work was completed for the project in short order. But it was income and we were desperate for anything. Turns out Austin is very expensive to try and RV camp in. We couldn’t find an RV park for under $55.00 per night and that was more than we could reasonably spend. Couple that with the fact that there was a music festival going on and all the parks were full. We were stuck. We had to get someplace where Daniel could get cleaned up and ready for his interview. Our generator was out of fuel. We’d been without power for long enough that our refrigerator was dead and useless, our water tank was empty and our black and grey water tanks full. We had to find someplace to dump, and at least load up on water. We found a state park to stay at, and paid the precious money for one night, the night before the interview. We all bathed, and enjoyed the creature comforts only power can bring and got ready for the next day. We got Daniel to the interview, and he was in there for 10 minutes. No joke. Apparently they were a bit miffed at him from the year before when he called and said he had found work in Tucson so we would not be coming to Austin after all. They stated they would like him to take all the non-standard stuff they didn’t want to waste their full time programmers on, but they didn’t have anything for him now. All the other leads in Austin seemed more interested in our story of the journey out there, than in any real offers. We had wasted the last of our funds, and all of our hopes on nothing. We had been assured, “Yes, absolutely we want you right now!” only to find smoke and mirrors.
We went back to the parking lot at WalMart. We sold what was precious to us and which had lasted through all our other purges. My harp. Daniel’s bass. And any recording/music equipment the pawn shop would take. Any remaining jewelry I had of any value, any tools – whatever we could sell, we did. It earned us a measly $700.00. We could stay in Austin at the WalMart for maybe two weeks with that, or could journey back to Tucson where at least we would have a place to go, and community to help us out until we got back on our feet. It was a no brainer. We headed back to Tucson.
It took us 8 days to get to Austin, and 3 to get back to Tucson. Our RV Park manager had heard we’d hit some seriously rough patches on our journey and so saved our spot. Another tenant had left with their slot paid up through the month so the RV Park Manager let us stay in the slot that was paid. We wouldn’t have to worry about the rent for a month. When we drove into Tucson not sure where to go at 9pm at night, we were able to come home to the place we had been for over a year. Arriving back, the job offers that were pending suddenly became available and Daniel had viable work for the first time in 5 months or more. We came home to Tucson, and Tucson welcomed us back with open arms and hearts. I can’t say that I have experienced that anywhere else.
I remember when we were on the road, looking at the people camped out under the overpasses of the highways and realized, without Winnie, that was us. Two very highly capable, educated, talented professionals were 1-step away from sleeping under a bridge. I have never been so humbled in my life. I didn’t believe it before – but so many of us in this economy are living one paycheck at a time and that’s all it took. That one paycheck no longer coming in. Nothing saved. Nothing to fall back on. It truly can happen to anyone. I remember sitting there, looking at my husband and my son in front of me laughing, and being so thankful to Winnie. We had a roof over our head. We were together. We had a home. Running or not, we at least had our home.
So, get rid of Winnie? Naw, I can’t see that happening. We are doing better now, hard lessons learned. But Winnie will always be that security blanket. Come what may, we have a home. A home that we built with our own two hands. A place that has sheltered us in heat and cold, in rain and wind. A place where we have loved, and fought, and laughed, and discovered. She might be a bit big for a security blanket, but there ya go. What can I say. 🙂
Hello All –
We have been full-timing it in the RV since October of 2011. That means over a year and a half living in 28′. Two adults, two medium sized dogs, and one wonderful toddler. We’ve traveled throughout the Western and Central states. We have taken the rig to long weekends in the desert, fed our friends and family on pancake Sunday, and resolved more issues with each other and the RV.
We thought we were moving to Austin, TX this past summer – boy did THAT not work! On the trip to Austin, we ended up replacing two tires, the serpentine belt, an idler pully, our glow plug actuator, and possibly one or two glow plugs. It took us almost two weeks to get to Austin, and three days to get home. Our RV park manager in Tucson learned of our difficulties and heard we were coming back to Tucson. Out of kindness, he held our space. Driving into Tucson, we were able to pull in at home.
On this journey, we have met some amazing people. We have learned more about ourselves and each other. We have demonstrated resourcefulness, and ingenuity. But I have to honestly say, I am so excited to be moving into a house! There is something to be said for multiple rooms and ‘stuff’. We’ve learned to live life in a minimalist manner living in Winnie, and hopefully we can take these lessons with us into our new home. At first, it’ll be pretty simple. LOL – we don’t have any furniture! But as we acquire furniture and things, we’ll have to keep those lessons close to the heart.
We move in the 15th of this month. Winnie will be lovingly placed in storage ready for our next adventure. It’s been a great ride and an amazing adventure. Anyone want to rent the rig for their summer journey – you send us a note and let us know.
Till then – make sure to live life as the adventure it is! Look for beauty in unexpected places, and always take a moment each day to count your blessings.
We’ve been on the road! For those trying to plan their own route this summer, let me list out the route we took from AZ to CO:
- I-10 to I-17
- I-17 to US Hwy89
- US Hwy 89 to US Hwy 160
- US Hwy 160 to US Hwy 163
- US Hwy 163 to US Hwy 191
- US Hwy 191 to Utah Hwy 128
- Utah Hwy 128 to I-70
- I-70 to US Hwy 40
- US Hwy 40 to US Hwy 34
Quite a route! Some great advice by the nice folks at RVForum.Net made sure we were well aware of potential issues with our trip. Ironically, the switchbacks heading to and from the Berthoud Pass made the ascent and decent fairly easy. I wouldn’t want to do it in the snow but we had more trouble with the Vail Pass at 10,666′ than we had with the higher Berthoud Pass. We took everything very slowly and I’m sure drove the people behind us batty. But on the plus side, we never overheated, brakes never smoked and Winnie came through like a champ! More posts to follow on the individual segments; Monument Valley, the Colorado River, Mexican Hat etc…