Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm almost afraid to tell this story.....

Some of you know that we've had plenty of misadventures in the less than a year we've owned a giant RV. It's partly due to our inexperience, partly due to that damn tree in the driveway, and partly due to life's way of throwing you crap when you least need it.

This is mostly a story of crap. But some of you will be thinking "denial" and "what are they thinking."

Our youngest grand turned one on January 2nd and her mother needed child care on January 3rd.  The nanny had gone home for Christmas, and her husband is in the midst of a 12 week period where he can lift NOTHING, due to shoulder surgery. We joyfully said we'd be glad to watch the kids, ages one and three, and the husband, age 33.

So on the 2nd, we picked up the RV and the truck (both were in the shop) and headed to Seattle. Around Ridgefield, we stopped at a rest stop and decided to look at the work inside the trailer. So, about 30 minutes north of PDX, we discovered that the RV place had neglected to give us a key to the new door.

We had to go north several miles in order to head south, but we finally got back to Portland and got the key. We turned around again. Now we were running late.

One of our firm rules is that we never set up camp in the dark. Naturally, it was dark when we got to the place we had reservations. And it was raining. Because we like places that are sort of rustic, we had reservations at a fairly rustic place. Which means dark and not covered with concrete.

Night, plus rustic, plus rain = mud. Which we got stuck in. And couldn't get out. I tried to direct Jenny, and all I got was wet and covered with mud. Fortunately, a guy with four-wheel drive and a chain was able to haul us out. (Note to self: buy chain and something to put under the tires when we get stuck.)

Not wanting to risk this again, we left and went searching for an RV park in Monroe, WA at 10 pm.  Yeah, like that's going to work. Instead, we headed back toward Seattle and found a Walmart. We had sworn never to spend the night at Walmart, but there we were. We are now People of Walmart. We are not proud of this.

And, during the three months that the RV was at the dealer, they never bothered to empty the black water tanks. Which meant the RV smelled like, well, crap. Fortunately, we were able to deal with that rather quickly.

Naturally, we had no propane (we'd forgotten) which meant we not only had no electricity (Walmart may have everything inside the store, but the parking lot does not have electricity except for the high-powered lights that shine in at you), we had no heat. Oh, and we had no water except what we had in a five gallon jug. It was the dead of winter, below freezing, and I was sure I would soon be the dead of winter myself.  I froze all night long, and in the morning noticed there was water all over my side of the bed. The RV place had left the vent open. Duh. We're beginning to question the wisdom of taking the RV to this place.

Jenny didn't sleep much either because she kept hearing people, she swears, checking out our rig in the dark.

At 7:45 am, we had to be at the kids' house so our daughter could go to work. The kids were asleep. Jenny still had to go find a place to park the RV so she left. Then the daughter left to go be a banker. Immediately, the one-year-old got up. And proceeded to dump every toy in the house on the floor. Then the three-year-old got up and proceeded to identify everything in the house as a "choking hazard."

On top of the fact that kids wake up AWAKE,  Cait and Felipe have the kind of couches that swallow you alive. So every time the one-year-old identified a REAL choking hazard by attempting to choke on it, or the three-year-old reported that the one-year-old was misbehaving out of sight, I had to fight gravity and the couch and get up. Jenny did not come back for four hours. She is the smart one in our family.

By that time, the one-year-old had tripped over air and hit her chin on a plastic basket, one of the ones she had dumped out early on. She had also pulled a lamp off the table before I could disentangle myself from the grandma-eating couch and stop her. The word "no" is not particularly effective at age one.

This woke up the father, who was in significant pain. He came out of the bedroom, and suddenly the baby remembered that he was there. I lifted her up into his good arm and he took her in with him for a while.  Although she's only 20 lbs, my back is on an eight pound limit. I must have lifted her on or off the bed, the back of the couch, the footstool, the shelves, and anything else she could find a couple of dozen times.

For the rest of the day, she would periodically remember that he was only a door away and stand at his bedroom door and scream. This usually happened whenever I told her no, although she doesn't know what the word means.

Jenny finally arrived, along with the dog. The dog is not allowed in the house, so she was tied up at the front door and kept barking. Then the 3-year-old wanted to let the dog in. We'd say no, she'd say "why?" By 4 pm, I was trying to ban the word why from all conversation for the rest of the day. Everybody else got mad at me. I'm sorry, but with no sleep, frozen innards, and general crabbiness, developmental normality in 3-year-old is the least of my concerns. I just wanted a few minutes of time out. For me. Every time I tried to put myself in time out, the kids found me. I adore these kids, but....

Finally, around 9 pm, we headed out to find propane and get back to Calamity Jane. We filled one tank, installed it, and discovered that the propane didn't work. It was too cold to go back outside and figure the problem out in the dark (wind chill down around 20) so we froze again.  That's two nights in a row.

The next day, after a great breakfast at a little diner we found, we went back to the kids' house to watch our daughter chase kids. We also played a rousing game of "Whatever Next," a great game for kids and adults. Emso, at 3, found it hysterical. Pilar, age 1, found Emso hysterical. We all found Caitlin, age 30, hysterical. I highly recommend this game (available at for little ones and big ones alike.

Then, back to the RV for yet another night of freezing. That's three nights in a row. Did I mention I have fibromyalgia? Which is very sensitive to weather extremes, especially cold and damp? By the time we got home, I was completely done in. Spent the entire next week in bed, unable to move. All that cold, damp, and heavy lifting caught up with me. Now, almost three weeks later, I'm finally almost warm again and may put on clothes tomorrow.

Oh, and when we went to unhook the sewer hose, we had frozen effluent in the pipe, which flowed all over. Jenny had to clean that up by scooping it into a black plastic bag that she tossed in the bed of the truck for later disposal. Which happened somewhere around Centralia when the bag of shit blew out of the truck.

Then, because she was weaving just the tiniest bit, and because the stairs into our rig were down instead of in the up position, we got pulled over by the cops. Fortunately, the cops could tell we were a) frazzled and b) already aware of the step and busy putting it up, so there was no ticket. Not even a warning.

Yes, we are still going RVing for the next six months. And we are constantly making new rules.


Never get to campground after dark. If we are going to get to campground after dark, we find another campground. One with daylight.

Never drive the day before we HAVE to be somewhere. Fortunately, we seldom have to be anywhere, but still.

Our rule about only driving every three days at most, has been expanded. From now on, we will drive and spend at least three full days chilling before driving again.

Avoid cold at all costs. Try to avoid rain. Sun. We want sun.

Top off the propane and gas for the truck every time we travel. BEFORE we travel. We have discovered that diesel isn't as common as you might think along I-5.

Fill the water tanks when we get there. Just in case.

Empty the water tanks and black water tanks before leaving the campground.

Sorry, no photos. My phone was dead. What else is new?

Starting the Countdown

Jenny is now announcing weekly how many weeks she has until retirement. (FYI, tomorrow it will be five). That means we leave on the Great Adventure in seven weeks. Suddenly, I am compelled to make lists:

Things we have to do:

  1. Plan a retirement party for Jenny. I think 54 years in the work place deserves some sort of recognition. And, yes, she started at 13. As did I. But I kept taking time off to spawn and care for kids, and have been living in a state of semi-retirement since 2002 when my brain quit on me during surgery.
  2. Finish packing the trailer, especially the basement which has been just a dumping spot since we got the thing.
  3. Take the fifth wheel into the dealer AGAIN, this time for things that broke while it was in their care.
  4. Go visit the grand kids in Seattle for a few days before we head out. We'll be gone until around September this time out, and they change so much at this age.
  5. Figure out how to Skype our daughter in Korea so we can talk to her kids.
  6. Get rid of stuff. We want to have a sale, and we're also looking for folks who want to foster some of our stuff until we decide (if we ever do) to settle down again. If there is something you want, let us know.
  7. Put the rest of our stuff in storage.
  8. Make sure we have email addresses, phone numbers, etc. of all our friends. If you think we don't know how to reach you, let us know.
  9. Check the truck and the RV for problems and get them fixed. Considering how much we've spent on the beasts in the last two months, it better be done by now.
  10. Go to my disability hearing. I've been waiting for two years (pretty typical, I understand), but finally I have a hearing on February 4th. Prayers and good thoughts welcome. The money isn't the big deal here. I get about the same from Social Security as I will from disability, but the difference is in health care. Without disability, my health care (thank God/dess for Obamacare. I wouldn't be insurable without it.) and copays will take all of my Social Security. (If you have a messed up brain, along with fibromyalgia and insulin-dependent diabetes, the meds are enough to bankrupt you. In fact, I will have to apply for aid from the state because my meds will cost me close to $500-$1000 a month, and the Kaiser health plan on the exchange is about $600 a month. The combined total is more than I can get from Social Security.)  If I get disability, I will also get Medicare. 
  11. Make sure our wills are up-to-date and that we have copies of them and all the other paperwork we may need on the road. Even though we are now legally married in Washington, and that marriage is recognized in Oregon, we'll be travelling through lots of red states. So the paper trail is still important.
  12. Make sure the animals are up-to-date on their shots and get health records for them.
  13. Renew our passports. Since we may dip into Canada and Mexico, our expired passports probably won't cut it.
  14. Stock up at Trader Joes. Did you know not every state has them? At least there are Fred Meyers and Krogers nationwide.
  15. Acclimate the cats to life in the RV or find them new homes. I don't want to give up Abby or Z, Jenny wants to keep Buddy. So I guess we have to take them all.
  16. Organize the RV. Lately, we've just been dropping things inside it for later organization. We really need to get back to living in it so we can also get organized.
  17. Make sure we have reservations for the places we know will need them. (We do have reservations for two weeks in Palm Springs, starting April 15th. Take note, cousin.)
  18. Return things to people who have either loaned them or given them to me. Much as I love some of this stuff, we can't take it all with us.
  19. Dye the white alpaca my daughter gave me to make her an afghan. She wants a purple tweed. Right now I have a big utility sink so I have to get all the dying out of the way before we go.
  20. Get rid of the house. The bank keeps scheduling sheriff's sales and cancelling them. The bank has yet to finish the foreclosure (we quit paying on the mortgage a couple years ago on the advice of our attorney once we figured out Chase had no intention of every modifying our construction loan).  Now we just want to get it over with so our credit scores can start creeping back up to the once stellar status they had before this whole mess started.
  21. List some of the antiques on E-Bay. 
  22. Put the rest of the stuff on Craigslist.
  23. Have an estate sale. 
  24. Move stuff back into the trailer. For the past several months, we've been living in two places. Not easy.
  25. Make more lists when I remember them.