Growing up in a small town in the Midwest during mid 20th century. Various philosophies and impressions formed and insights revealed resulting in attitudes and actions for the 21st Century.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vacation Trip to Red River New Mexico

For weeks my brother in law Joe and wife Nancy tried to convince my husband Joe (yes, they are actually two brothers named Joe) that we should travel together this August, camping in our rigs to Red River New Mexico where the weather was pleasant during the day, around 76° F, and at night, in the 40's and 50's. 

Brother-in-law Joe (AKA Joe Paul) has a new pickup truck and a new 30 foot Outback fifth wheel. We, on the other hand, have a 30 foot, fourteen year old Fleetwood Coronado motor home. We have driven it for the last eight years from our home in central Oklahoma to Carlsbad Caverns; Yellowstone twice; Idaho four times; Grand Canyon, once was enough, we lost the transmission there on Christmas day; Phoenix three trips; Kansas City, six trips; Branson, too many times to remember; Alabama five trips both in winter and summer; parts in between, and all over Oklahoma to the many beautiful State and Federal parks and lakes. That being said, we were a bit skeptical of taking our elderly, much used motor home on such a long trip again.

But ever the optimists, and influenced by the 107° F. sticky, high humidity heat in Oklahoma, we decided to 'saddle up' the old rig and head for the high country just once more. Over the years we have had to replace a few things in the rig like the padding in the cushions, the front curtains, the toilet, the refrigerator (twice), the tranny and tranny hoses and clamps, as well as the tires (three times) a side window (after a break in), and other parts etc. With so many new parts, surely it would make another trip.

We googled the area, printed out maps and pages of where we would be staying at night along the way, and began loading the rig the day before we were supposed to leave, which is fairly easy to do as we have it down pat by now. We filled the appropriate tanks with water, propane and gasoline. 

During Tuesday afternoon, the day before we would be leaving, unexpected out of town company dropped in. When we headed out early Wednesday morning, we hugged them all and gave them the key to the house, telling them to "Make yourselves at home". 

Perhaps it was because of the confusion of the company or the break in our routine, but we accidentally left a couple of things behind like the google maps, the satellite receiver with remote control and all of Joe's medicines.

Blissfully ignorant, we teamed up with Joe Paul and Nancy, had a quick bite of breakfast and headed west on I-40. By the time we reached Elk City, Oklahoma we had come to realize that Joe's medicines were not in the rig so we pulled off and drove to the local Wal-mart to see if we could get at least a weeks worth of medicines. Sure enough, since we buy our drugs at a Wal-mart in our home town, they could refill all of our prescriptions except the one that had expired. 

The very helpful pharmacist called our doctor's office to get permission to refill the expired drug prescription. All this took about three quarters of an hour. When returning to the rig, I noticed a lot of water under the front of the rig but since we were running the generator, I thought it was from the air conditioner. I could not have been more wrong.

Back on I-40, we were talking about the wonders of computers, how you can go miles from home and get your medications almost as easily as buying them at home when my husband suddenly said "Boy, it's really hot!" Thinking he meant the weather, I agreed and mentioned that's why we were headed for the mountains. "No, the rig is hot!" was his quick reply. He turned off the air conditioner and slowed down. The temperature dropped a bit but not enough to continue to drive much further. 

After a quick conversation with Joe Paul (thank goodness for cell phones) we decided to try to limp into the nearest town. Fortunately there was a weigh station coming up where we pulled off to see what could be causing the overheating. When the guys opened up the hood, water was everywhere and squirting out of the big black hose attached to the motor. It was then we realized that the water I had seen under the rig was the water used to cool the motor. 

We filled a gallon jug six times from the faucet in the kitchen to refill the motor with water hoping that it would last long enough to get us to the next exit and to an auto supply store. Back on the interstate, we rejoiced to see an exit come up in less than two miles! We pulled off and limped into the town of Erick that turned out to be a very small, make that very, very small town. There was very little traffic and even at the very slow crawl, we went all the way through town and were headed out the other side before we knew it. 

Pulling over to the side of the road, and stopping in front of a very old garage that no longer pumped gas, Joe Paul went over to the two older gents sitting out front and asked where the auto supply store was in town. Being told there was no store, the men asked what were we looking for. Upon hearing that we needed a radiator hose, one man told Joe Paul that he'd bought a bunch of radiator hoses at an auction a while back and dumped them next to the building and pointed to where they lay in the tall grass. "If you can find one that works, you're welcome to it!" he called out. 

Thanking the men, Joe Paul went to the pile, picked up a hose, looked it over and saw that it obviously would not work and then, seeing the round end of a hose sticking up out of the grass, reached in and pulled it out. The hose was brand new, still having the label on the side of it.

 By the time Joe Paul got back to the rig with the hose, Joe had the 'dog house' (the lid like thing inside of a gasoline rig that covers the engine) open and was trying to remove the ruptured hose. Joe Paul got some tools from his rig and we scrounged up some more tools from ours. Finally they got the hose off of the motor. 

Suddenly Joe asked Joe Paul "Oh Gosh!! Does it have a hole in it?" Since there are two hoses that carry water he was hoping that they had removed the damaged one. Sure enough, a close look revealed a quarter inch slit in the hose. Whew. They had removed the correct hose.

Nancy and I sat at the table and watched as the two Joe's discussed if the new hose would work. "It's too short." "No, it's not!" "The end's too small!" "Well, you can push hard to get it on!" Finally the old hose was off and they laid them side by side on the floor. The conversation continued, "They don't match!" "Turn it around!" Like magic when they turned the brand new hose around and laid it down on top of the damaged hose, they matched perfectly. In a tiny town in Oklahoma, in knee high grass, was the perfect, brand new, radiator hose for a fourteen year old motor home. Even if we had found a well stocked auto supply store, the chances of having that old radiator hose in stock was probably slim to none. 

When we heard "Oops!" we wondered what could be happening now. While working to remove the clamps from the old hose, one had fallen into a snarl of wires under the motor and could not be retrieved. Could we hope for another miracle? Back in his pickup truck, Joe Paul drove a block and a half to where a hand lettered sign near the road read "Dollar Store". 'Turns out that the "Dollar Store" had some of about everything including a package of hose clamps in three sizes. A conquering hero could not have had more cheers than when he tossed the package of clamps onto the floor next to the exposed motor. 

Thanks to a set of sockets and a ratchet, the job of installing the new hose began in earnest. Fortunately we had found a great big shade tree and pulled the RV  under it providing shade in which they could work. A slight breeze kept the Joe's cool while installing the new hose. 

Everything went well until the final end had to be pushed onto the motor. It seemed to be too small. I suggested that they lightly grease it, saying that I had some butter we could use. After a animated conversation of whether or not the grease would help or hurt, the decision was made to lightly grease the hose.

Unable to suppress a bit of fun, I asked if they would prefer butter or margarine. Fortunately, I had the butter ready for Joe before a verbal storm could start and, after a bit of lubrication and pushing, the hose slipped onto the mount and was tightened up. 

After a bit of cleanup, the breather was replaced and we were ready to roll. But wait, all the water and the coolant had drained from the motor. Could the "Dollar Store"????????? Yep, the "Dollar Store" had three brands of Coolant.
The rig was filled and ready to roll. Back on I-40 we again headed west into the sun, bound for Amarillo. Earlier, my Joe had told his brother we couldn't make it to Amarillo before the end of the day. He wasn't far off. In spite of everything, we kept on rolling, the rig ran fine, and at dark, rolled into Dalhart, Texas, our planned stop for the night. We had thought that our trip was over before it began, but instead we were on schedule and headed for Red River. 

The next morning our only problem was trying to find a place to park a motor home and pickup truck with trailer at the local MacDonald's for breakfast. 

The landscape changed as we headed north and west into the high desert, foot hills and finally into the mountains. As we went higher and higher, it became cooler and cooler. Air conditioning in the rig gave way to wide open windows with mountain air rushing in. 

We entered Carson National Forest and were enthralled by the variety of sights. Crystal clear, cold streams were beautiful to watch sparkling and dancing through the undergrowth, trees, stones and bluffs. The Palisade's were majestic and stately, and astonishingly powerful with their stone formations and outcroppings reaching to the skies above a rapidly running, tree lined river. 

Further along, an old log with a six inch groove carved into the length of it channeled water from a small stream into a broader stream. Joe Paul said the log had been there over 20 years ago when he had stopped at that same spot. The water was cold, 56° F, and crystal clear. Missy and I splashed across the stream, enjoying the fresh cold water. 

Campground in Red River

The river running through the campground.

Remember Oklahoma? 107° F and humid? What a joy to revel in cool mountain air and cold water. 
Flowers everywhere!!

Trip to Red River New Mexico, cont.

As we traveled along the roadway, new vistas would open up occasionally, revealing great beauty or majesty for us to ooohhh and ahh over. The lake at Eagle's Nest was breathtaking in it's broad scope and glorious landscape.
We were soon past Eagle's Nest and up over Bobcat Pass and across the Continental divide. Elevation 9800 feet.
We rolled into Red River, a charming ski town, around noon on Thursday and checked into Red River RV park where we had reservations until Sunday. They put Joe Paul's rig near the office, backed up to a trout stream. We were sent to the other end of the park, backed up to the road. Since we eat most of our meals together etc, it was a bit inconvenient to take food, crafts, etc back and forth between the rigs.
In spite of the extra walking, the visit was pleasant, the people there were very friendly and helpful. Camp hosts Paul and Linda were delightful. When we arrived, they were working at a table in front of their rig, making beaded bracelets that they sold to a gift shop in Questa. As an artist, it is always such fun to meet creative people.
No matter where you are, there is a routine for living. When traveling, it kind of goes like this:
1. Get up, make coffee, guys visit back and forth, we plan breakfast, cook breakfast, clean up. After clean up, loaf around, go to town, do light housekeeping, shower, etc. Then do Number 2.
2. Plan lunch. Eat out? Cook in? Once decided, we either get in Joe Paul's truck and go to town to eat, or fix lunch, clean up.
3. Afternoon: Shop? Tourist event?? Play with crafts???
4. Plan Dinner/Supper. Eat out? Cook in? once decided... you get the picture.
5. Evenings. TV? Movie? Crafting? Bonfire??? We're on vacation, maybe do any, all or none.
6. Bedtime. Whenever we feel like it, early, late, who cares?
That night we had our first dinner at Joe Paul and Nancy's rig, with us carrying in our part of the meal while balancing an umbrella and holding the doggy leash.
It rained a lot while we were there, but the rain falls straight down. You don't have to close your windows, and the water is absorbed right away so not many muddy puddles. We went to town that afternoon to ride the lift to the top of the mountain, but it had just been closed due to an oncoming storm with lighting.
We were at the bottom of the lift by ten on Thursday morning ready to ride. Since I had slightly rocked the seat on a ferris wheel one time, years ago, Joe preferred to ride the lift alone. Go figure! So he went first, me second and Joe Paul and Nancy rode up together. Getting on to a moving seat was a bit of a challenge with a tote and sweatshirt in one hand. My camera and umbrella were in the tote and I was carrying the sweatshirt "Just in case..". Once seated, the camera was put to good use. The ride was thrilling, often we were looking down at tree tops. Several times during the half hour ride to the top, the lift would suddenly stop, leaving us swinging slightly in the breeze. That was OK by me, all around us, the mountains, slopes and trees were glorious. The sun was quite warm, but the breeze was cool and refreshing. At the top of the lift, we had to now get off of the moving seat. We were told to step out and walk forward. What they forgot to tell us was to walk very fast forward or the seat would bump your backside and stop the lift. Joe got off first and hollered at me to go fast getting off. I turned around and grabbed Nancy by the hand when they arrived, hurrying her forward, but Joe Paul did not move fast enough. After bumping his backside, the lift stopped.
The view from the top was inspiring. We could see snow covered mountain tops in the far distance. However, the sun was very bright at the higher elevation, over 11,000 feet. Out came the umbrella, now for shade instead of rain. After taking some pictures and laughing at the cheeky chipmunks, we headed down the mountain again. By now clouds had covered the sun and the sweatshirt was warm and cozy. Joe Paul and Nancy went first, me next and then Joe. At the bottom, Joe Paul got away in time but Nancy did not. The lift stopped.
After lunch in town, we headed back to the RV park for some R & R.
Friday afternoon in our rig, I showed Nancy the explosion albums that I had been making with polymer clay covers. Since she is a scrap booker, she was eager to learn how to make one. After supper in her rig, we pulled out all her scrap book stuff, played with the punches, and ooohhed and aaahed over the pretty papers.
On Saturday, Nancy and I sat at her table outside under the awning and we again drug out all of her papers, card stock, punches, glue, etc, etc.... After choosing the three card stock patterns and colors, we folded and glued the album pages together to make the explosion effect when opened. Much conversation ensued as to whether the album would be for journaling, pictures, or a mix of journaling and pictures. The next discussion was about an appropriate cover. She decided, not to use polymer clay, but wanted instead a card stock cover with a frame in which to put a picture of their rig. Added elements such as a title, pine trees, flower, leaves, butterfly and frog punches using appropriate colored papers would embellish the cover.
We were having so much fun and enjoying the glorious cool so much that we really did not want to leave for home on Sunday as planned. Joe Paul and Nancy mentioned another campground on the other side of town that they really liked, having stayed there before. Larger sites, tall trees and WIFI!! With that happy news, we decided to stay three more days and we would move on Sunday morning when our time was up at Red River RV park and go home on Wednesday.
The next morning, on Sunday, Linda, Nancy and I walked to a small Baptist Church just around the corner from the campground and over the bridge. The fellowship and message was a blessing. While we girls were in church, Joe Paul moved his rig to the new campground. Joe broke camp and was waiting for us when we exited church after the service. We started walking toward the motor home when a big brown dog started running and chasing after us. We were nearly scared to death, but the doggy only wanted to say hi and slobber all over us.
Our new spot was fabulous Tall trees on three sides, and our rigs were side by side. No more carrying dishpans full of stuff from one rig to the other. We were just a few feet apart.
Joe and I both logged onto the web using our respective laptops. His a PC and mine a Mac. What fun to check our emails, forums, and websites. As my granny used to say "We were in hog heaven!". Not quite sure what that means but she always said it when everything was going right and she was happy.
That night, after cooking steaks on the grill for supper, and clean up over, Joe Paul built a big campfire between our rigs. We toasted marsh mellows and drank Lemon Drop Martinis. When you are camping, you sometimes have to substitute ingredients, but the martinis were still great tasting and a relaxing end to a good day.
Monday was more of the same. Step 1, then laundry in the camp laundromat, lunch in town, then back to the park for doggy walking. In a lovely setting with lots of trees, river with rapids, foot bridges, and walking paths it was easy to stay out walking for a long time. It became obvious that the weather and environment was so good, that we had to book two more days, and leave on Friday. We had not turned on our air conditioner since moving into the spot under the trees. And, like every night since we arrived, the furnace was turned on to take the chill off of the rig. The temperature reached the low forties before morning that night.
By Tuesday, Nancy had decided how she wanted to make the covers for the explosion album. We sat under our awning and played during the afternoon. She working on the album, me sculpting a bit. However, her project was so interesting that we both got involved with it. We used her card stock, punches etc. I contributed a gold edging to the cardstock from my work kit. It turned out to be a very nice album. As we played, it began to rain softly. We stayed under the awning until we were so cold we got up to get sweaters and blankets to stay warm.
During that afternoon, Joe was checking the reports on his backup service and realized that one did not make. Trying to figure out why, he logged onto his home computer then reviewed the servers. One was not responding. Our company, daughter Viktoria, was still at the house so he called her and asked if she could go to the computer room and check the server. They worked together on the phone long enough for him to diagnose that a drive had crashed. After a lengthly attempt via the web to re-route the backups, it became obvious that we would have to leave the next morning.
He woke up in the middle of the night with an idea of how to save our trip and make the backups. He started the work around by logging onto our computer at home and working on the servers from the mountains. By morning, he had it under control and we were able to stay one more day. We took long walks and enjoyed the trout stream, visiting with other campers and watching children laughing and playing around the campground.
We ended up leaving around ten in the morning the next day and drove the entire 700 miles home in one stretch. When we hit the lower elevations, it seemed as though the air was not only hot, but heavy and hard to breathe.
We arrived home safely after a sixteen hour drive with breaks only for food and coffee. The next day, at home, unloading the rig was a sad event. Earlier in the month we had put up the rig for sale. Before we left, the mailman told us that he wanted to purchase the Couch Mobile. He would be picking it up in less than a week after our return. It is amazing how much stuff you can put into a 30' rig over eight years. I am still trying to find places to put it away. We decided to keep the things from the rig together, linens, cookware, swim wear etc so that when we replace the rig, these things can more easily be loaded into it.
I was outside this afternoon when the mailman dropped off the mail. He and his family are having a ball with the rig and he told me a lot of stories. We are so happy to know that they are enjoying it as much as we did.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Uncle Charlie

Uncle Charlie died yesterday. Growing up, my mom was a serial marryer. When she wasn't married, she dated. My father was out of the picture and over 1700 miles away since I was three. Uncle Charlie lived across the alley from my grandparents, where my mother, my little sister and I lived in a tiny house on the back of the property between marriages and boyfriends. Uncle Charlie was more a dad to me than my father or any of the men who came in and out of my mother's life. When we were little, he would take my sister and I, along with his kids out to the A&W Rootbeer stand on the outskirts of town in his Chevy Impala convertible. The joy of drinking a cold rootbeer in a frosty mug while sitting in the back seat of a convertible on a lovely summer evening has stayed with me all these years. He gave us many bright and happy moments in our frantic lives that were filled with our mother's drama. I will miss him. The world was a better place because he was in it.