…the greatest of these is Love’s

Day 2 of our maiden voyage began with the realization that it was REALLY windy. Like 30-40 mph sustained gusts. Not the ideal towing weather but we had places to go and we were going to be on state roads not interstates so we decided to give it a shot. I noticed that one of the roof vents was not tightening down all the way and with the wind, I knew that something needed to be done. But, I could not figure out how to tighten it down. (I have since learned that you can find a YouTube video for ANYTHING.)

I thought since the nice owner had helped me the night before with my water, surely he’d help me again. We stopped by the office as we were heading out of the park. As luck would have it the office was closed. It was Sunday and everyone was headed for church. Well, we had duct tape from the day before so I thought I’d climb up the ladder on the back of the RV and tape the vent down until I could get it fixed. I’m a bit accident prone so climbing the ladder was iffy at best. I managed to climb the ladder but the wind was so relentless that I couldn’t bring myself to actually make the last rungs to get on top of the RV–it’s scarier than you think! I tried to reach the vent with pieces of duct tape but again, the wind was not cooperating. As it turns out the owner had not left for church and I assume that he didn’t want to return from church to find some middle aged lady lying in a crumpled heap in front of his office so he came out and managed to tighten the vent. (Tip-either tape your vent crank so they don’t work themselves open during towing or put in vent pillows to hold the cranks in place.)

We headed west on Highway 412 which passes through some of the most uninteresting scenery ever. The wind was constant but everything was going well. We drove past miles and miles and miles of farmland, no towns, nothing. All of a sudden, the truck slowed to about 35 mph and would not go any faster. Great, we’re in the middle of nowhere and what to do? Kara called my son who searched for an answer online. He said that maybe the filter needed to be reset and we should drive for about 30 minutes at 35 mph and 2500 rpm. That is exactly what the truck was doing but it had no particulate filter (discussed in an earlier post about sleazy used truck dealers.) Maybe there is a sensor that thinks it has a filter or something? Heck, I don’t know but we’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing in site so I guess we’ll keep driving.

Then there was a pop. Ok, here’s a farm road, I’ll just pull over and open the hood because that’s what you do. I’m not sure what I’m going to do once I open the hood but I know that is what you do! Did I mention it is VERY windy? I opened the hood and oil blew everywhere. All over the windshield, down the side of the trailer. Awesome. Even I know this is bad. Just then a man and his wife pulled up. This very handsome cowboy with his pressed western shirt and pressed jeans got out to help me. He suggested I put more oil in and limp to the Love’s Truck Stop which was only a mile down the road. He even took off his nicely pressed shirt to help me pour oil in. I had extra oil and he had a jug as well. Thank God for that man.

We made it to the Love’s Truck Stop in Boise City, OK. (Pronounced Boice City and it was the heart of the dust bowl. In other words, there is no reason to ever visit this place.) I got someone to look at it and he just shook his head and said, that’s just blown. So, I did what any one would do in this situation, I cried. I then pulled myself together and we came up with a plan. I have AAA with coverage for my RV so, I’d just call and someone can tow us to Amarillo (125 miles) to the Chevy dealer and we’ll just deal with it. So, we put in the call to AAA and now we wait. Kara was opening to door of the truck to go in and ask the Love’s Manager if it is ok that we are parking in their truck lot while we wait for the tow. Did I mention it was windy? The wind caught the door and sprung the hinges so now the truck door won’t close. Good thing we had that duct tape. Kara fashioned a rope out of duct tape to wrap through the handle and then around the back door handle. It wasn’t completely closed but at this point, did it matter?

We had several fine dining choices to choose from: Subway and Pizza Hut. I hate both. But, a friend had given me a 6 pack of Happy Camper beer (I was not a HC at this point) and Kara bought a pack of cigarettes because we had pictures to stage. What else can you do? You just have to laugh. So, I had my VERY bad hair day, seriously the wind was relentless; my dog; beer; cigarettes and a tumble weed. She told me to pose like the Migrant Mother pic. The original and my reenactment. Uncanny.

After about 8 hours, AAA informed me that no one would tow me due to the wind. Well, I guess I live at Love’s now. The kind couple from earlier in the day stopped by to check on us. I told them our predicament and he said he knew there was a trailer park just a few block away and we could get a semi wrecker to tow the truck and the trailer there. The tow truck driver had the personality of the Grinch but he hooked up the truck. Dexter and I were in the front seat and Kara in the back. As we’re being towed, Dexter moved and leaned against the door (you know, the door that is held closed by a duct tape rope) and I pulled it back just in case the tape didn’t hold. I hear from the back seat in a wistful voice “remember that time when the truck blew up and we were in the truck with the trailer attached being towed by a semi wrecker and Dexter almost fell out the door? Good times.” God, I love that kid.

Lesson 3: Some people go out of their way to be kind. I love Love’s. Duct tape; Red Green has been right all along. (Red Green was a PBS show and duct tape played a large role.)


On the Road At Last!

After the truck-buying debacle and the epic photo my brother snapped for us, my daughter, Kara, and I set out for Phoenix. The only way to travel the country is by getting off of the freeway so Kara mapped out our journey through Kansas and into Oklahoma. The first day of travel went pretty well. I was a bit nervous it being the first time towing but the truck was running well (considering it had no exhaust system) and it had no trouble towing the light trailer.

We stopped for lunch at an Applebees which was next to a hotel with a large parking lot. You can’t just pull into any parking lot and since I could not back the trailer worth a darn, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room. Turning into the hotel parking lot required a sharp turn. All of a sudden, the trailer wouldn’t move. I’m halfway into their driveway and I can’t move. I panicked and called the dealership to ask what could be wrong. They told me I just needed to plug the break away cable back in. Oh yes, I remember that now. There is a cable from the hitch to the truck so that if the two are separated, the wheels of the trailer will lock up. Whew! Easy fix. I guess the turn was so sharp that it pulled the pin. Heart attack one in the books.

We continued on and had to stop for fuel. A latino man who didn’t speak English well was trying to tell me something. I apologized for not understanding so he motioned for me to walk to the back of my truck. The tow plug (from the trailer to the truck which operates the trailer brakes and lights) was dragging on the ground. Yay. It must have been dragging for hours because it was half a plug at this point. Great, where does one go on a Saturday afternoon at 4 in nowhere Kansas to have this fixed? We found an Autozone and I described my issue and they had a replacement plug. However, the old plug had to be cut off and wires stripped and threaded onto the new plug. You would think as many times as I have cut and fixed the electric cord to my hedge trimmers, I could do this task but it was a bit more complicated than I felt prepared to handle. I asked the clerk if there was anyone I could hire to do this. Why yes, he had a friend who would be happy to help. Great!

So, as Meth-head Mike (I don’t know his name) was fixing my plug i was watching intently; not only to learn but to make sure all the wires were connected. He seemed to know what he was doing and I hope that young man has kicked his habit. At this point, I was just grateful there was someone who could take care of it. Kara purchased some duct tape to ensure the cord would not fall out again. The truck was missing the plug cover that hooks onto a ridge on the plug to make sure it stays plugged in.

We went on our way and found a nice trailer park in Guymon, OK. to stay the first night. I could not for the life of me get the water hooked up. I forget why but I remember the owner came out and helped me. I think he just added a washer–it was minor whatever it was. It had been a stressful day and I was glad to sleep.

It was fairly windy that day.

Lesson 2: There is no such thing as a good hair day in Oklahoma. And always carry duct tape.

Let’s Go Back to the Beginning

When I began my RVing adventure in 2014, I was going to blog but then a few things happened and blah, blah, here it is 5 years later. The memories have been popping up on FB so I guess I’ll relive it.

I had been dreaming of RVing and working from the road for years but, the boss wasn’t going for it. My daughter has MS and wants to visit all the national parks so I kept nagging him. Finally, received the ok and started researching everything. I looked at RV Trader every night, read blogs, compared and drove myself nuts. I’m not really a planner. I’m much more of a let’s do this and see what happens kind of gal. But, I try to be responsible so I attended the Escapees Boot Camp in AZ (invaluable, I might add) and then went to buy a used truck.

I’ve never driven a truck, let alone a 3/4 ton diesel. I thought, hey, I should go to a small town near my home (Kansas City, MO) and talk to what I’m sure will be nice people willing to guide me. So, as you can already tell, sometimes I’m just too trusting. But, they sure seemed like great guys. I told them what I was planning to do and they had just the truck. A 2006 GMC 2500 with under 200,000 miles but sharp and fun to drive. I knew this wouldn’t be a long term truck but maybe a year or two.

I bought new running boards and took it to my nephew to install. “You know you don’t have an exhaust system, just a straight pipe?” Me: “what does that mean?” Him “Well, it’s illegal…” This began my education of particulate filters and emission laws and just how evil and greedy some people can be. I went back to the dealer and demanded my money back. Nope, I bought it as is. But what about telling me it is ready to tow and just what I need and assuring me I was making the right decision? Some people have no morals. I decided to go ahead with trip and have the truck fixed in Phoenix. Karma. It will come for them one day. 

I bought a new Winnebago Lite 5 which is made by the former Sunnybrook company. 30 foot, rear kitchen. So far so good.

All packed up in Red Zeppelin and the Mothership, my daughter flew to KC to begin the maiden voyage with my dog, Dexter Corgan. Headed to Scottsdale with some sights to see along the way. I asked my brother to take a pic of the beginning of our journey. I guess I should have looked at it before leaving. Look how happy we are. 🙄F1291D89-FE6B-415B-A024-485C509A590E

Lesson 1. Some people are just plain evil. And don’t ask my brother to take a photo. 

 

Hope Springs Eternal

Every year after a long winter in KC, I start getting the itch to travel. Someplace warm. This year besides my usual visit to my pal, Robin’s place in AZ, I stopped in Ft. Worth to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday. She is one of the 3 living siblings of my father’s family of 8 children. We’re not even Catholic!

It was a wonderful time and I got to visit with cousins I had never met! I haven’t seen my aunt and uncle since my father passed away 16 years ago. It brought tears to my eyes to see them. My father was in the Air Force (or U.S. Army Air Forces) during WWII and introduced my aunt and uncle. It must have been love at first site as they were married within 2 months. They raised a beautiful family and travelled the world as a career military family. Look at how he still looks at her! Makes my heart belt. Continue reading

Walking Each Other Home

One of the people who serves the homeless in KC wrote about his experiences and said that it seemed that in this life we are just walking each other home. I love that comment. Walking each other home. We are all in this together and need to take care of each other.

While in Montana this summer, I learned of a woman who makes Sunday dinner for the homeless in our small town. She, her boyfriend and young son make a meal and serve  up to 20 people who show up at the city park on Sunday evening. I volunteered to help out. I’ve been helping for a few weeks and will be heading back to KC for the winter soon. It makes me sad that some of these people will be spending the winter in the Montana cold. Here, where they measure the snow in feet not inches. There are a couple of shelters but are at capacity. The few motels in town that will rent by the month are full of families of working poor.  Affordable housing is so scarce.

Tonight I witnessed the best of humanity. There is a small group of homeless who I have met on Sundays. All names have been changed. Ben and Christy, a young couple who look for work and try to get by. Christy had an opioid addiction but is now clean from opioids. She is like the mother of the group. She’s as cute as can be. She thinks she found a job at a motel so we celebrated that. Her boyfriend, Ben, is the most polite and sweetest kid I’ve ever met. He was flying a sign today to make a little money. He said he was offered a piece of chicken from someone; he was snacking on that and then someone offered him 3 pieces of pizza. He said he wasn’t really hungry but he was grateful for the offer so he ate a piece while they were watching “so they knew I appreciated it.” That almost made me cry.  He wasn’t hungry for Sunday dinner since he had eaten twice but, he was there for the fellowship and to make sure Christy got a meal. He showed up with a six pack of Natty Light from the money he collected. He gave a can to each of the old timers, Pops, who is probably in his 60s; Gabe, who is around 35; Max, who is probably around 55 and has been a road dog for most of his life; and Johnny who is probably in his 30s. Sometimes it’s hard to guess age as living outside takes its toll. So, yes, sometimes if you give money to someone flying a sign, they may buy alcohol. They know they are fighting demons but most people judge those demons without looking in the mirror. And with the rough life on the streets, I don’t begrudge a few guys drinking 1 Natty Light each. Max said he is 10 years sober on Wednesday.

I got to the park before the main meal arrived so I got to sit and talk with this group for a bit. I learned that Vick, a youngster who has a drinking problem, was arrested last night. They believe he was working on his bike late at night and then when the police stopped to question him, he became belligerent. He’s in jail for now. Not his first time so we’ll see what happens. The group has all tried to counsel him that you don’t resist arrest!

I also learned the city had kicked them out of the park so they are shifting around from here to there trying to find a place to be. They, of course, don’t want to talk about where they are but it saddens me that with the abandoned buildings and empty land, there is no public land within walking distance of town that they can pitch a tent. I understand that many people equate homeless people with crime but this group is different. They are a family. They always clean up after our meals and they never fail to thank us for being there. They keep a clean camp so they can’t be cited with littering.

Ben had also picked up half smoked cigarette butts while he was flying his sign and handed them out to each of the smokers of the group. That may seem like an odd thing but I saw it as a loving act of him taking care of his family. Trust me, cigarettes are not what is going to be what kills them.  They make sure each person is fed. Packing up to-go containers for those that haven’t seen but will likely run into tonight or tomorrow.

We left a few containers of food at the park shelter for those that may stop by there later. It’s been cold enough at night that the food will keep for a while. This group doesn’t want to be around those who are using meth or heroin, which are HUGE problems in Montana. They are trying to better themselves or at least get by.  Mental illness is always an issue with the homeless. Some people are just not employable. We need to deal with that.

One of the men asked me to mail a letter to his aunt for him. He wanted to let her know he is ok. She only lives 15 miles from where we are but he has no phone and this is the only way to contact her.  Things we take for granted are a production when you have nothing. He received an envelope from someone and bought a stamp. He wrote the letter on a scrap of paper with a scrap of a pencil. He asked me to post it for him since it’s a long walk to the post office. More things I’ve never thought about.

They said that they do not have a meal on Wednesdays or Fridays so I said I would bring something. I asked Ben and Christy if they had any requests and immediately Ben said “sloppy Joes, Pops has been wanting a sloppy Joe for a long time.” Again, almost made me cry.  The love and care they have for each other is something from which we could all learn.

I got hugs from everyone and Johnny gave me a big hug and told me he loved me and he prays for me. I was speechless. That was the sweetest thing ever. As I have learned from the wonderful people of Free Hot Soup and our friends on the streets, these people are not homeless.  They are houseless.

One of these days…

“one of these days I’m going to sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I’ve known. And I’m going to thank them all for the good times together though so apart we’ve grown.” -Neil Young

I let one day too many pass.

I met Mark Chapman in 1993 at the West End Bar and Grill in Delaware, Ohio. I had recently moved there and didn’t know a soul but a few people from work. A friend and I were hanging out enjoying the best jukebox in any bar I’ve ever been in. I saw this long-haired, very drunk man sitting at the bar just smiling and listening to the music. My friend and I visited that bar several times before I ever spoke to Mark. He was a man of few words. But, he was kind and pleasant and we both enjoyed Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and the bluesy jukebox.

We began seeing each other on a regular basis. Mark didn’t drink during the week but rather he was a binge drinker and every Friday he would be at the West End or one of the other bars in town. He was never a mean drunk but I soon realized that hanging at the bar wasn’t something I enjoyed. But I would often pick him up from the bar and make sure he made it home ok.

He taught me how to play Euchre which is a card game that EVERYONE in Ohio plays. The Chapmans take their cards seriously. I’m sure I tried his patience in teaching me how to play.

In 1996 we bought a house in Marengo on 28 acres. It was a beautiful place but after Mark left his job at Western Auto, it was clear it was a bit more than we could handle. I remember turning onto our long driveway and if I could hear Hank Williams at full blast, I knew Jonesy was there and It was party time. We enjoyed having family visit and picnics and fires.

I then bought a house back in Delaware and Mark lived there for a couple of years. He decided that the chaos of having 2 kids and their friends was not his ideal situation so he moved out but we were still together. It worked for us. We would go to dinner, watch ball games and camp. He loved going to Rick and Mary’s to build a fire and listen to music. We had a small tent so after enough music and Kessler, he could just crawl in and sleep.

We enjoyed being Brent and Kathy’s guest many summers at Lakeside on Lake Erie. Hanging with family and playing shuffleboard, mini golf and Euchre was a great treat. Mark was such a homebody but he enjoyed Lakeside.

After my job moved me out of state, we remained friends and we would visit occasionally. My kids are fond of him and would visit him when they could. My son has 3 children and we’ve always referred to Mark as grandpa.

Mark is an old hippie. He has the kindest soul and I have seen him literally give someone the coat off his back. He could not carry a grudge. There were people who took advantage of his kindness and generosity but he never begrudged them. He was slow to anger and quick to recover from it. I can hear his laugh. And him singing along to whatever was on the radio. Many times singing the wrong lyrics–it was endearing and often funny.

His heart problems began in 1994 with a triple bypass. He has had countless surgeries and procedures since then. He now lies in a hospital, unresponsive with his body shutting down.

I meant to call him last week.

Fly high, my friend. I love you.

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the bittersweet memories…

“There was a time when you would have had me,
There was a time I could have had you,
But it’s too late, another path has come and gone again
I’m at the back door with a broken window view thinkin’

And it’s a shame
That we ain’t lovers
We could’ve been something, so big and grand…”

Hayes Carll

At the urging or my daughter, I attended a Hayes Carll concert this week. I’m sad that I’m just now becoming familiar with his music. It was an outstanding show. But what really hit me was the story of a woman and her friend I met at the show. They had driven a couple of hours to see the show. I’ll call them Rose and Lily just because those are lovely flowers and they were lovely people.

Rose told me that Lily knew Hayes. I asked Lily how she knew him and she averted her eyes and just said ” we are old friends.” I could tell it was more than that.

She knew the words to every song and she asked me to dance with her to a slow song. I know I let her down with my klutzy attempt but she was lost in thought of another time and I’m sure she forgives me for that.

I asked her if he broke her heart and she said ” we broke each other’s hearts.” At that moment, every friend’s story and my own memories of every every past relationship flooded my heart. Her pain was so real to me. She finally had enough liquid courage to make her way towards the stage because she just needed to look at him.

It reminded me of all those feelings of love lost and the feelings of regret–not so much in the ending of a relationship but more for not appreciating the experience for all the things it was. And how all those things shape you into the person you are. There are, of course, some toxic relationships in my past that should never have happened but I have taken something from each one. Some are sweet memories and some are more bitter than sweet. But they are a part of my journey. And a journey is never all smooth sailing.

I think Lily made peace with her journey. Sometimes those memories sneak up and can squeeze your heart and take your breath away. The key is to take a deep breath and continue traveling.