Thursday, January 29, 2015

What’s so hard to take?

On Sunday, January 4, 2015, I launched a three month adventure through the Southwest. While unfortunates in the rest of the country were suffering wintry weather, I would enjoy cactus and sunshine.

CHA Hall of Fame
John and Edna Clapper
Although most of the trip would be at my usual stressful pace of fifty to a hundred miles a day, the first week had to be a no-nonsense run to Anaheim. My parents, John and Edna Clapper, were to be inducted into the Craft and Hobby Association Hall of Fame. In 1951 they started Pack-O-Fun, the first of a family of magazines that still serve crafters worldwide.

For thirty years, Marie and I attended the CHA show every year. And every year we dreamed that we would one day be the old timers strolling through the aisles nodding graciously to newcomers scrambling to get every last order. Missing this trip was not an option. Bentonville to Anaheim would take three days. I allowed a week. 

Traveling in GrandpaLyle’s Ark seems to be an unceasing adventure. Within hours the newly repaired oil leak newly leaked again. A gallon of oil that belonged in the engine now painted the bottom and sides of the Ark. And it was no Van Gogh! Stopping every two hours to add 3-5 quarts of oil, I limped to Mesa, Arizona. At least the weather was warm. 

Yelp and a few phone calls found me in the parking lot of Olson Car Care run by Craig Olson and his sons, Nick and Skyler. As kindly and gently as possible Nick advised me that oil was the least of my problems. Coolant had leaked and the overheated engine had fried gaskets, other meltable parts and maybe the radiator. (At least I didn’t need turn signal fluid!) The parts would be costly, the labor worse and the work would take about a week. But the engine would be like new.

The bright side – I could stay in the Ark while they worked on it. Hey, how bad is this. No hotel rooms or campground fees. I’ll live in my own home. And while the kids are dealing with Chicago highs of minus three, I'll be in Mesa, Arizona, suffering seventy degree temperatures and daily walks to the Cubs spring training camp.

Glad I allowed all that extra time to get to Anaheim. The CHA Event was everything I had hoped. We strolled through the aisles and folks recognized us. We weren’t quite as important as I had dreamed but it was wonderful seeing old friends. And accepting the honor bestowed on my parents was more than I could have hoped.

Olson Car Care team: Craig, Miguel, Nick, Larry and Skyler
Back to Mesa and the grounded Ark. While I was gone, Larry disassembled the engine to send parts out for repair. He also fell off a step and seriously injured his leg. Miguel, an unassuming but very meticulous technician, was to pick up where Larry had left off and reassemble the massive array of parts with no instruction manual . . . and no idea of what Larry's plan was. At one point Miguel lamented, “This is like a puzzle with no picture.” 

One week became three. Larry heroically returned to work and provided clues to the puzzle when needed. Miguel completed the reassembly perfectly. The engine purrs as if it were brand new. And I have a host of new friends at Olson Car Care. 

Marie commented on how well I was taking all this. What was to take? Warm weather? A fabulous time at the CHA Show? Two weeks enjoying Phoenix and its beautiful winter weather? And all the while I was at home . . .  in GrandpaLyle’s Ark.


Life is good. And now I’m On the Road Again . . . AGAIN.