Friday, July 18, 2014

The ghost of the In-turd-er rides again!

Just how much adventure is enough?

Grandpalyle’s Ark’s maiden voyage was a big hit. Heads turned wherever we went. Annie and Matt brought baby Hazel Marie, diapers and all. The weather was perfect. Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin is a beautiful state park with well spaced sylvan sites. 

Dozens of visitors at the park stopped to ogle Grandpalyle’s Ark, take pictures and ask all about it. All was going beautifully . . .

Disappointed fire-fighters can't even find smoke.
. . . right up to the point when the engine caught fire. Well maybe not actually on fire. Just so much smoke that we pulled off the road thinking that the engine had blown up.

A good samaritan in a county truck called the fire department. Although we were just outside the middle of nowhere, they arrived in force. First the ambulance, then the pumper. Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be more equipment in Nowhere, USA, the hook and ladder truck rode up – lights and siren blazing. 

Unfortunately by the time they arrived the “fire” was out. No flames (there never were any), no smoke . . . it wasn’t even hot any more.

By now a crowd had gathered. But unlike gawkers in the city, these onlookers – at least a dozen of them – were all wearing full dress emergency gear. I bet these poor smoke-eaters don’t get to dress up more than once a month. And the party was over before they got there. 

What a downer. No fancy fire. Just a dead motorhome by the side of the road. I feared our fate was to watch Grandpalyle’s Ark be towed away again, this time to have its fried engine replaced. 

What would we do with the left over food? How was I going to get a houseful of stuff home? How would I explain to the other grandchildren that their fabulous camping trips were cancelled? How was I going to explain to Marie that Grandpalyle’s Ark was the In-turd-er all over again?

Second ambulance on the scene
Good Sam to the rescue . . . this time even better. In about an hour another ambulance arrived. No lights, no sirens, just something that looked like it was no longer useable in Central America. 

Fortunately for us, the technician driving it was as experienced as his truck. He found a broken hose . . . down under fourteen other hoses . . . down under the “doghouse” engine cover next to the driver’s seat . . . down in parts of the engine that I really didn’t need to see. 

He fixed the hose, added some coolant and sent us on our way before dark. The only gratuity he would accept was the extra burrito Matt had thoughtfully picked up in nearby Sauk City.

Disaster or adventure?
Impromptu roadside picnic
while technician repairs Grandpalyle's Ark
  • Instead of stuck at the side of the road in an old wrecked In-turd-er, we were parked in Grandpalyle’s Ark, a beautiful updated land yacht.
  • Rather than aborting a trip we had looked forward to for weeks, we were on our way home after a wonderful outing.
  • We weren’t stranded. Matt and Annie were right behind me . . . and they had their own wheels.
  • The motorhome wasn’t filled with food that was about to spoil. We were on our way home and it was all gone. Matt and Annie had to drive into Sauk City for dinner when we got hungry.
  • We weren’t sad. We were celebrating the end of a wonderful vacation. 
We were on the road again . . . again. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Delivery and trial run in Grandpalyle’s Ark.

Taking delivery of Grandpalyle's Ark
The plan was simple. Friday morning I’d head to Scotty’s RV. After getting a thorough rundown on the workings of all the new gadgets, I would drive it home, park it in our driveway, reload all the stuff that had been sitting in the back of the garage since Christmas, head out for a one night shake down trip to a nearby location.

Sounds simple, right? 

Let’s go home and get ready for the adventure. A little more than a year ago, I brought a used Damon Intruder motorhome. On day one I mashed it into the roof of the house – the beginning of a downhill slide from Intruder to In-turd-er. Eight months work and way too many dollars later, it's now Grandpalyle’s Ark. This time I was more careful. 

Safely parked, I proceeded to plug it in. Using “shore power” meant I wouldn’t have to run the noisy, smelly generator to take advantage of all the luxuries found in this fabulous land yacht. Crackle. Spark. POP. That’s the sound a long extension cord makes when plugged in with a refrigerator, two air-conditioners and sundry other appliances attached . . . all trying to go on at once. Lucy and Desi were my role models.

Scotty's RV team
Saturday morning started fresh with adjusting rear view mirrors. Sounds simple, doesn’t it. In a car, it might have been, but these mirrors are out of reach of the driver. Too proud to ask for help, I sat in the driver’s seat, guessed what adjustment was needed, walked 50 feet around the RV, tweaked the mirrors, walked back to see what it looked like to the driver only to discover that I had to do it again. About 10 times! 

This was all happening on the longest day of the year. The Arkansas summer sun was high in the sky, the temperature was soaring and I was about cooked. And I was foolishly trying to have everything in perfect order before the first trip. 

Fortunately, Marie made me take a sanity break. Setting up an RV is a lot like moving into a new home, she said, and I was trying to have it all done in one day. The reason for the trip was not to start the rest of my life in the Ark – it was simply to see if there were any things that Scotty should tweak before I left town.

Sunday. Time for the big trip. Not so big actually, Scotty suggested Rocky Branch. It’s only about a 30 minute drive and is in a beautiful location on Beaver Lake.

They still had a site that was reasonably level – the jacks should finish the job. Or they would if they worked. Flipped the switch and watched nothing happen. Ugh. Maybe the fuse. Pulled it out, checked it and it was fine. Put it back and everything worked – this could make me crazy.

Time to make some ice. Oops! There’s no water pressure. Ugh. Fortunately there’s a potable water source less than 50’ away and a potty a few feet from there. UN-fortunately, the water tastes terrible and the potty smells worse. Back to the Ark. Let’s see if we can trouble shoot. The third valve I twisted did the trick – life is good again. And the double filtered water tastes great.

I'm thrilled. The In-turd-er really has become Grandpalyle’s Ark.