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Old 12-21-2016, 04:11 AM   #1
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Crazy Lady Journey Day 1

Crazy Lady Journey Day 1, December 18

It’s been nearly 50 years since my first road trip. “Hippie Fling” my stolid aunt called it, with a huff of disapproval. I wonder what she would call this. But even though my fatigue and anxiety, I can’t help but notice that the magic still seems to be there. I am too educated to believe in hocus pocus type magic, but I’m also educated enough to believe that sometimes life feels magical, when unexpectedly mistakes lead to blessings, helpers appear out of nowhere, and the inner voice of wisdom seems to speak a little more loudly. I find that on the road. Despite the fatigue and anxiety, I felt it today driving my 35-foot Fleetwood Bounder.

A lot of people say I’m brave, but I just chuckle and say that that it’s only that what was behind me was scarier than what was in front of me. Plato…or maybe it was Aristotle… said that bravery is "intelligence in danger." I can’t say that any of the decisions I’ve made regarding my motorhome have been intelligent. The story of how I came to be living in one at the beginning of one of the worst Iowa winters in recent memory is off the subject but when it began to look similar to the story of the Donner party, I found staying scarier than driving 1300 miles to Florida. I’d already discovered how in a motorhome a simple mistake in judgment can be costly—only days after I bought mine, I hit a guy-wire and did $12K in damages. After that it was like I had PTSD. I was nervous even even driving my car. But drive a 35-foot bullet 1300 miles while pulling the car? Though St. Louis traffic, the mountains around Chattanooga, and the mother of all horrors, the freeway though Atlanta? Geeze.

Still, it was smarter than freezing. I’ve read of people thinking they could winter in a motorhome but motorhomes are so full of cracks and crevices that even layers of tarp and blankets over and around my sofa couldn’t block the wind that blew in around the slide, though poorly sealed windows, and even from around the plumbing. Ice formed in the stairwell in a bowl used to catch drippings from the drinking water purifier. Even keeping the inside temperature down to 60, I was using nearly $100 a week in propane. Worse, the propane people were getting reluctant to deliver such small amounts twice a week. Did intelligence really make the decision to move to a warmer climate, or was it simply necessity?

Whichever, on December 18, I was ready to go. The night before, with temperatures plummeting to minus 30 with the wind chill, the wind slashing like razors, I realized too late that I should have brought the jacks up when it was warmer. Now they were frozen to the ground. Fumbling with numb fingers and trying to keep my face away from the wind, I used salt and a neighbor’s heat gun until I got them all up.

I named my motorhome Pusuhpaka. Pushpaka was a celestial vehicle that operated by thought. I have the thought, let’s go here and it goes there...at least as long as I drive and feed it a lot of money. The month I bought it I had ten thousand dollars in savings. That was just five months ago. Now, besides making payments, I am on the verge of being in debt just for living expenses. One guy told me that if I had to go into debt to buy a motorhome then I couldn’t afford it. Too late, I understand what he was talking about. When I was still full of the romance of having a home on wheels, I thought that my knowledge of home building would help me DIY my way though problems. So much for that fantasy. Everything on a motorhome is built to a different standard—more complicated, more specialized, more costly. I’m pretty smart and I have a high problem solving ability, but at 71, I’m not as quick as I used to be, and the learning curve on a motorhome is very steep. Oh, and did I mention, it’s costly? Most of what goes wrong on an RV can’t be fixed by a trip to Walmart or an average $25 an hour handyman—it takes specialized threads, specialized tools, non-standard parts, and someone who charges $120 an hour and has a three week waiting period.

But so much for my whining. The morning of the 18th dawned bitterly cold but at least it was clear and the sunny and the wind had died. Now here’s something to brag about—an engine that will start when it is minus ten degrees. I worried that the cold might cause something to break, but if I didn't leave, I was sure that what would break would be one of my frozen body parts. I had to keep going.

The next step was to attach the toad. From years of experience I’ve learned to ignore the pain and fatigue disorder I have, but the vicious cold sapped energy and ate into my bones while the U-Haul rental guy, who knew nothing about how to load a car on a dolly, fumbled and cussed resentfully trying to attach it. Even with me telling him how to do it and helping physically as much as I could, with the traveling back and forth to find missing pigtails and what not, it took nearly two hours to get it all connected and a final cost for parts nearly equal to the cost of rental. But finally I was ready for the open road.

Does every newbie feel as terrified as I did? The sun was shining and the snow glistened optimistically as if life was ordinary while I was acutely conscious that I, a ridiculous old woman with almost no experience, was driving not just a lethal 27,000 pound beast, but that it now trailed an extra 3,000 for the car. All told, it was a 45 feet long rig. Experienced drivers shrug at that, no big deal. But the most complicated thing I had driven prior to this had been a riding lawn mower.

Frankly I don’t think people should ever drive a motorhome without some sort of professional training, but people do drive school buses and other vehicles with no training. I’ve seen RVs hurtling down the road at 70 mph, and heard other RVers say, "Don't worry about other vehicles--they will get out of the way." But I’d decided that for the safety of myself, others on the road and Pushpaka itself, 55 miles an hour was going to be my top speed. For the first ten or twenty miles even that seemed foolhardy. I even seriously debated about pulling off on the first exit as I listened to every rattle, groan and clank (and there were a lot of them) with trepidation, afraid that the severe cold might cause something to break. Oh, yes, did I mention that the Jacks Down sensor was emitting a shrill, relentless BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!? It sounded like a Red Alert aboard the Enterprise, setting the teeth on edge, each BEEP! increasingly like Chinese water torture. If the jacks were down, it was only the last ¼ of an inch needed to shut off the alarm. I had to ask, was this a cosmic warning that I should turn back now? But it was too late. I was determined. I took out my hearing aids to drop the volume of the infernal bleeping and kept going. I would have to bear it until I could get to one of the $120 an hour guys who knew how to shut it off.

What I also didn’t know was that RV’s can be driven with the furnace on. Without heat, the dog was shivering even in his coat and I was growing increasingly numb form cold. To add to the misery of being cold, terrified of driving, and crazy with irritation from the incessant BEEPing, I was desperately tired and winter dark was closing in fast. After only two hours on the road, I pulled off in Canton, Missouri, ending up at a pricey motel because it was there when I didn’t think I could go any further. By that time, I didn’t care what it cost. It would at least be warm.

Toki is a great dog, a well mannered and obedient Shih-poo. But once we got out of the RV, he sat back on his haunch and dug in his paws and I had to literally drag him back into that freezing cold motorhome to make three trips between the motorhome and the hotel gathering dog food, tooth brush, night gown, pain pills, laptop and so forth, and to turn on the gas for the furnace so stuff wouldn’t freeze inside. In the motel, after feeding Toki, I fell into a tub of blessedly hot water until I could no longer keep my eyes open, then went to bed and slept like the dead for 12 straight hours.

It had been a very hard day, but from the time I’d pulled out the final utility cables and left in the motorhome at 11:50 until I arrived at the motel around 4:30, I'd traveled only 88 miles.
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Old 12-21-2016, 05:01 AM   #2
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Crazy Lady Journey Day 2

Crazy Lady Journey Day 2

The day begins with new emergencies—the battery in Pushpaka is dead. I probably left something on that drained it. I am very tired and my joints and muscles are still in pain from overworking, so I look around trying to figure out where to turn for help. I seriously don’t want to do a lot of walking on these seriously icy roads but I have to go across the street to ask for help. I’m advised that a repair shop is just a block in the other direction. As I limp toward it, a white pick up stops and the driver indicates that I should get in. The thought flits though my mind that this is how one falls into the hands of psychopaths, but the cold and fatigue override this in favor of a wave of gratitude. This is, after all, Missouri. People are friendlier here. Sure enough, the youngish man says he felt like in this cold it was too far to walk to the repair shop. His act of kindness is uplifting to my spirits.

After a short wait while the harried owner attends to customers, Pushpaka reluctantly starts, and I cheerfully but reluctantly drive the rig back to the shop. At first I wanted to ask the attendant to drive it into the narrow space where it needed to be but then, believing that I will only get over my fear of driving by the doing, I drive it myself, slowly and carefully. I want the owner to use his powerful jack to try to lift the recalcitrant motorhome jack into place, to shut off the blaring beeping. But it doesn't work. He tells me that only 20 minutes away there is a motorhome repair place. The catch? It is mile and a half down a road that is, in the words of the repair man I call on the phone, “a sheet of glass.”

Well, here’s another experience to add—driving on ice. I drive ten to fifteen miles an hour. Pushpaka drives well on it but when I try to stop, it begins to slide. Fortunately, because I am driving slow, the slide is not far or dangerous. I wonder how far I would have slid had I been going faster, but have no inclination to find out.

While Toki and I doze in the warmth of the waiting room, the repairman disconnects the jacks plug in an electrical panel and shows me how to reattach it when I need to put the jacks down. I also learn that the house furnace can be kept running while we are on the road. I’m delighted, but Toki , not knowing that we are going to be warmer now, balks hard not wanting to get in. I have to pick him up to put him inside, poor dog.

Toki has as stressed as I am ever since we left. Outside the motorhome he appears fine, but inside he is very unhappy. He paces from place to place, ignores the bed I have fastened to the dash and quickly learns (brightest dog I ever had) that he is not to pace across my half of the Pushpaka dash, where he might interfere with my field of vision. I am totally relieved to no longer be assaulted by the beeping of the jacks down warning, but now both of us are still nervous about other strange noises, such as the teeth-rattling rumbling when I hit the wake-up bars at the edge of the road. By the end of our day, he finally relaxes enough to nap on the motor cover, so I am hoping he will continue to adjust.

In Mascoutah IL I stop at a Best Western Motel, because it is close to the road. A guy I talk to there says that if he was driving he’d be in Florida by the following morning, but it has taken me four hours to drive 180 miles. Today was more successful overall and I was less stressed and less exhausted, but still, I am very exhausted. I fall asleep before I can even take a bath.
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Old 12-21-2016, 05:37 AM   #3
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Great story of your adventure (so far). Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12-21-2016, 07:29 AM   #4
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Keep on pushing south!

You will become an expert motorhomer in no time at all. You are going to be able to tell stories time and time again if you keep going. And best of all, you will always be meeting new (good) people along the way.

The only other option is to be a quitter...and I don't want to think you are one of those.
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Old 12-21-2016, 11:17 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Roadmagic View Post
Crazy Lady Journey Day 1, December 18



I'd suggest you start a blog someplace. That is a lot to write and a great story. But on a forum it will get lost and limited exposure.
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Old 12-21-2016, 11:26 AM   #6
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Man this sounds like a Novel, you are quite a writer.
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:07 PM   #7
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Thanks for the suggestion, but on the road it's kinda' hard to start a blog. I'm just posting it here thinking that someone might read it, and it let's me feel like I'm not alone as I drive, for I think about what to write.
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:19 PM   #8
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What a great story and thank you for sharing it here. I don't read a lot of blogs.
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:27 PM   #9
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You started something, now keep it coming.... lol
It'll be good to read.
I'm sure many readers wi'll be following your post and will share there own experience with you.
You wont be alone as you wrote.
Have a good and pleasent journey.
Mike
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:39 PM   #10
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Great, just what we need, another Iowan Out Wandering Around. -jk-

Kind of reminds me of my trip home to AZ from Sacramento in my first new-to-me moho in 2013. My first time driving any distance in one, and the jacks-down alarm also would not stop, even though the jacks were fully retracted. I found I could jiggle a little with the park brake pedal and the horrible beeping would stop. Then I would hit a bump and the pedal would dislodge again and the alarm would restart. I wish I had had hearing aids, because removing them could have helped a little! Thx for the laugh!

But keep pushing, the first trip is always full of problems with this steep of a learning curve.
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:47 PM   #11
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Crazy Lady, Day 3

Today began with another new emergency—this motel has no turn-around, and as I’ve parked perpendicular to the parking spaces, I now have a car parked on both ends of my rig. I have backed a motorhome (with help) but don’t know how to navigate a toad. An hour later, I finally found someone with farming experience that could maneuver it out of there and I got back on the road.

Today proved to be much easier. I am better at handling the RV. When I bought it, I thought the steering was too loose, and as I’d read in irv2 that a steering stabilizer would help, despite the fact that I’d have to go into debt to do it, I was prepared to pay as much as $1200 to have one installed, and/or to pay another $200 for a wheel alignment. But there wasn’t time for this before I left. But in this, my third day of driving, I have decided it maybe isn’t needed. I’ve read people reporting that passing trucks tend to blow an RV around, and indeed, I did feel that sometimes, but not nearly as much as others had reported. But when I accidently let Pushpaka over 60 miles an hour, the dynamics changed and suddenly I WAS being blown around. At 55 mph, it holds steady for most trucks. Only rarely does one blow that I can feel. The scary ones are those that suck rather than blow. Oddly, I notice that the ones that blow the hardest are usually the trucks with white, unmarked trailers. Maybe they are going faster. It gives me fleeting thoughts about conspiracies and such, but I laugh it off.

At least on this third day, I can laugh. My fatigue is not as severe now, and my terror of driving is reduced. I’m still unwilling to do anything that might distract me from giving full attention to driving, meaning no radio or audiobook to listen to, but at least I can take my eyes off the road long enough to catch a flash of scenery. Driving though St. Louis yesterday, I saw a flash or two of the Gateway Arch, though I could barely be aware of anything except staying between the lines. I discovered that even though cruise control takes more gasoline that it reduces the work of driving, meaning there's one less thing to try to coordinate, so I had the cruise control set at 55 while I focus on staying in my lane, not looking around, just focusing on those white lines while watching traffic with peripheral vision. I figured that the greatest danger to others and myself is in changing lanes—safer for traffic to flow around me than for me to try to move into traffic. I did get a glimpse or two of the Gateway Arch, but only a flash. By the time I got to the other side of St. Louie the steering wheel was wet with sweat. But I made it. I can’t say I was proud of that for I suspect that luck had more to do with it than skill. I think luck has a lot to do with traffic anyway. It's miracles that we aren't killed.

But an interesting thing happened: one truck appeared to be moving sideways toward me until he was a foot or less from my left side mirror, as if he was doing it deliberately. I don’t know if he was expressing his irritation that I was maybe driving too far toward his lane or if he just had a mean streak. Fortunately I was able to pull away without killing anyone and too preoccupied with driving to even carry a grudge afterwards.

There was something I earned the right to be proud of, and that was getting better at staying in the middle of my lane. There’s a feeling vaguely like a ”click” when one hits the sweet spot of perfect center and by the end of the day I was in the sweet spot perhaps more often than out of it. Other things are better as well. Post St. Louis I was able to see the scenery more often, though still never more than a couple of seconds.

Happily too, I have figured out how to help Toki. I used a blanket-covered board to create a spot for him to ride beside me. With his rear end touching me, instead of pacing nervously, he watches traffic or naps. Also, he has stopped balking at getting back into the motorhome. He now seems to understand the word “motel” and will lead me straight to the door of one. Today we stopped at an Econo Inn in Cadiz, Ky. Don’t go there. It’s old, only superficially clean, and what is worse, when I turned down the bed I realized it had been slept on and the sheets had not been changed. Yuck.

Today, we left at ten and stopped around four o’clock. We stopped more frequently, using rest stops with their easy entrance and exits for long rigs like mine, and other than the crappy motel, there have been no emergencies. I drove a record 208 miles. The temperature is 32 degrees, which, after the bitter cold of Iowa and Missouri, feels downright pleasant. I am not nearly so tired though I still fell asleep around seven.
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Old 12-21-2016, 03:57 PM   #12
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You don't say what tow bar you are using, but most are not designed to back up.


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Old 12-21-2016, 03:57 PM   #13
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Roadmagic; Sounds as if you are getting the better of a steep learning curve. Good on you.

I was told early in my bus driving days to look farther down the road and try to keep the bottom of your seat in the middle of the left wheel path (the line tires make on the pavement). Looking farther down the road will reduce the tendency to wander within the lane.

Good luck with your journey to warmer weather.

It would make it easier to follow your trek if you continued to post in the same thread rather than starting a new one each day.
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:20 PM   #14
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Just Conversation

Looks like you have what is known as "your second wind". This is good.

Now let's have a conversation about what is ahead of you: the mountain, rolling hill country, Atlanta, the long haul down through southern Georgia, and Florida drivers.

The mountain, don't race up it -- if you get slowed down in traffic -- find that calm engine speed and take your time. There might be some real slow rigs battling with slightly less slow traffic, all the while working around cars trying to run 80 mph. You will have no problem at all with the downhill side as long as you start off slow and stay slow (follow the warning signs).

The rolling hills will have trucks passing you on the downhill and slowing you up on the uphill.

Atlanta, just stay out of the left two lanes. The third lane from the left will pretty much take you straight through (following the signs of course).

It is a long haul across southern Georgia (take breaks as needed) to avoid fatigue.

Florida drivers have to be experienced, in order to anticipate their erratic performance. Many of them apparently do not know how to read or respond to traffic signs. They will brake check you with blatant disregard of life and limb. You are likely to witness fatal accidents in this state and road rage is apparently the local language. The sane drivers have dashcams to document the crazy.

I'm just saying that you have a long journey ahead and be careful (always).
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