Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Trip Home

My son, Josh, went with me to pick up the rig and bring it home. He took the video in the previous post, laughing at my tentative first efforts. What does he know? He’s just a kid. In my mind, anyway. And maybe his wife’s. And his stepson’s. And his friend’s. Hell, he’s just a kid.

Stepping on the gas and going, turning corners, staying in your lane – these are all the things you think about and pay attention to. What creeps up on you and revs up the old adrenal gland is stopping. You’re driving toward an intersection, thinking about all those other things, and applying the brake by habit. Applying it way too late. Then applying it harder. Then glancing left to see if the trailer is passing you.

It’s not, of course. The trailer has brakes of its own, and they work. When you’re finally stopped and your breathing has started, you realize just how much friction it takes to bring 24,000 pounds from rolling 60 feet every second, to rolling none. For the next hour, the problem is stopping too soon, and pissing off everyone behind you.

The trip took over five hours, and I drove the first two or three. It was surprisingly easy on the Interstate, the biggest obstacle trying to maintain speed up the hills of western Pennsylvania. So easy, in fact, that I decided to let the kid take a turn. It turns out he has some abnormal issues.

Did you see the X-Men movies? The chick, Storm? The one who can bring on torrents of rain and all sorts of nasty weather. Apparently, she’s really pissed at Josh for some reason. I think they used to date. Anyway, she unloaded and he got to navigate the rig through the waterfall called I-70. I pretended to sleep and did mantras – om mani padme skid.

In any event, we made it OK, and the worst part was putting $174 worth of diesel in the truck.

Stay tuned. The next episode includes The First Back-Up and my despair for the future.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The First Ride

When I made the decision to live in a travel trailer, I’d never been inside of one. It’s kind of like deciding to move to Rio de Janeiro without speaking Portuguese. It sounds like fun, and it looks like fun, but just maybe you ought to see how you look in a Speedo before venturing onto the beaches at Ipanema.

So I went to Hershey, PA to see my options. The event was advertised as The World’s Biggest RV Show. That might well have been true – I wished I’d had an RV to travel between the acres of campers and trailers and motorhomes. But more fun that the vehicles were the crowds. It was a cultural Noah’s Ark, with at least two of every possible human size/ shape/ color/ culture/ dress/ etc. I recommend the show, but only if you’re prepared to walk a marathon.

Following that introductory course in transient living, I studied hard and delved deeply into the esoterica of what one magazine calls “life on the road.” I learned the difference between gray water and black water (a very important difference), about inverters and converters, air ride, air brakes, air pressure, air conditioners, and of course from many of the RV sellers that I contacted, air heads.

Here is the lesson – who you buy it from is as important as what you buy. I eventually bought mine from a couple near Phoenix, and it was worth the 2,335 mile trip to meet them and see the truck and trailer. They are lovely and honest people, the rig was in perfect condition, and when I picked it up, I could have gone to the grocery store for food and I would have been fully trained and equipped. Byron did the training, and his wife, the lovely Billie, provided everything I could ever need. Pots and pans, dishes and utensils, cleaning supplies, towels, sheets, everything. Study over, tests passed, time to graduate to life on the road.

Here is the video of my first trip. It was about 50 feet. In the rain. With two stops along the way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I'm doing this & why it will get better

On the Internet, there is no body language, no facial expression, no tone of voice. So there needs to be a prologue to this note. Here it is:

People should be standing in line to get my life. It's been that good, and I am very grateful for all of it.

I offer that because some of what follows might seem to wander into whining. It’s not. As we all know, stuff happens, and some of it happened to me. I think of it as the balloon payment on the mortgage of my life.

Last year, my wife died. It took two years, and she was just 58. We’d been together 40 years, married 38. I miss her every day.

That background was necessary to understand the genesis of the Tour. After her death, I found myself in an unfamiliar town where we’d moved to better manage her illness. The only people I knew were medical professionals. I thought a lot about roots then, and their importance. I’d never noticed I only had one until it was torn up. With it gone, there was nothing to prevent me from blowing away. So I did.

I gave the material embodiments of our life away, to family and friends and finally, for those unique items that for some reason no one else wanted, like the 5’ simulated palm tree with holographic fronds, to charity. I bought a 36’ travel trailer, a 1-ton pick-up truck, and a motorcycle, and then I hoisted sail to let the wind do as it pleased.

I started e-mailing family and friends little anecdotes about the transient life. Things like taking an hour and forty minutes to back into a campsite while everyone watched like it was a bloopers episode; or pulling up to the diesel fuel pumps for the first time and having to cash in my 401K to pay for it; or the day the tide came in and made it the underwater campground. Now, I’ll post them here.

Enjoy the ride. I intend to.