Monday, February 15, 2010
Here's the Cliff Notes version of our first few weeks of fulltiming:
1- After a few harried days of last minute packing and carting all of the stuff that was not being brought along on our RV adventure over to a local storage yard, we checked into an RV Resort in Tampa, Florida, reportedly one of the top-rated resorts in the Southeast.
We decided to check-in on December 31st so that we could attend the resort's New Year's Eve party. I even brought along a blue blazer. I'd show them what RV style was all about! (I know; I've still got so much to learn) What we did was back into our site in the pitch dark (with the help of the resort's "concierge" and a kind, new neighbor, Mike from Minnesota (Ya sure! We're havin' lots of fun now, oh boy!). We stumbled around in the dark, emptying the trailer of things that we put on the floor in order to get out of Trinity and to the RV park in time for the party. We were amazed that what we had stuffed into the SUV and trailer at the last minute had magically and tragically more than doubled in volume.
It no longer fit back into the car and trailer and a large pile of it had to be constructed outside the trailer with a big blue tarp tossed over it. Our neighbors must have been thrilled by our arrival - in the smallest trailer in the park (Well, almost, but it is brand newish)and already showing the signs of redneck trailer trash, complete with the requisite yard crap piled up by our trailer. And what about the New Years Eve party? No party. We collapsed and fell asleep shortly after arriving. Happy New Year!
2- When I was planning our nationwide trip, I thought that it would be brilliant to begin our RV tour with a couple of months in Florida; making our way up north and westwardly in March or April. How brilliant was the idea? Not only were we beginning our adventure during Florida's peak tourist (Snow Bird) season, which is traditionally the most expensive time to RV and the toughest time to find an available RV site, but the usually beautiful Florida winter weather of highs in the low 80's and nights in the 60's instead became the start of the 2nd millenium's first ice age.
3- By the end of the 3rd week, we'd already gone through two 20 lb tanks of propane trying to heat our woefully uninsulated trailer in temperatures that had dropped well below freezing with wind chill (And I didn't want to leave the state too early and risk running into cold weather!).
I've had four plumbing leaks so far, with the newest one under the sink where the outside water source comes through the wall. After five attempts at tightening, mylar-taping, petroleum jellying, and cursing the pipes to stop the leaks, I finally had to give up (actually it was my back and shoulders that gave up first after being crammed under the kitchen sink for several hours) and decided to remove the high pressure outside water source and go to intermittent inside pumping from the fresh water tank. This will hopefully minimize the amount of leaking until I can get over to the local Camping World for plumbing supplies.
It took several trips in and out of the trailer in near-zero temperatures with boiling water to pour over the thoroughly frozen hose and pipe connection to finally break it free. We filled our fresh water tank and are now flipping the pump on and off to do our cooking and flush the toilet (did you ever notice that the need to use the toilet increases logrithmically when the plumbing isn't working properly?).
4- You might ask what could make any of this worse? Well, how about the cold I brought home from Christmas in Tennessee developing into a deep, wheezing cough (sounding something like someone trying to cough up a lung)? We took a ride to a local walk-in clinic for an exam and chest x-ray. I was told that my lungs didn't look too bad, except for scarring left over from past bouts with pneumonia and pulmonary emboli back in 1997, but based on the PA's examination, he decided to play it safe and put me on Levaquin, a powerful 5-day antibiotic regimen. Two hundred bucks. Whoopee!
But all of the above, dear reader, is not the worst of it. The worst of it was what happened to our dog, Rocky during our 3rd week at the resort. A day or two earlier, while outside on his lead, he took off after a dog being walked by, hit the end of his lead, which had become wrapped around him, and was flipped into the air and jerked to a stop. He seemed well until two night's later when I took him out for a walk. During the walk, he let out a cry and hiked up his right rear leg several times; as if it was painful to step on it. Then he began to SCREAM. He screamed like a baby in terrible pain. (I know that dogs are not supposed to be able to scream, but trust me - he can - and did) I didn't know what to do, except to get him back to the RV.
When I lifted him to put him in through the door, he screamed again and bit me badly on my right hand, puncturing the skin between my index and middle fingers and lacerating the back of my hand.
When I put him down on the floor inside the RV, he paced around and around with a crazed look in his eyes. He was obviously still in terrible pain and we didn't know what to do for him. It was a terrible, helpless feeling. We finally got him to take some Benadryl tablets dipped in peanut butter, but it didn't help. At one point, he jumped up on the bed, wrapped his paws around my arm and gave me a look that could only be interpreted as, "Please, help me!" And then he bit me on the chest.
Mo was terrified of being bitten and tried to stay as far away from him as possible. He finally exhausted himself (or the Benadryl kicked in) and fell asleep on the couch. We were afraid to fall asleep that night, scared that he might wake up in pain again and leap into our bed, crying in pain and biting everything within reach.
The next morning we arranged to rush him up to our regular vet in Trinity. I threw a blanket over him and lifted him into the car. The ride was terrible. Every bump caused him to scream and thrash around. At the vet they muzzled him and took him into the back for a pain shot and x-rays.
While waiting for the vet's diagnosis, Maureen and I went to a walk-in clinic to get my hand looked after. I got a tetanus shot and prescription for Augmentin, an antibiotic. I had to fill out a form reporting the dog bite; the impact of which I would learn about 20 minutes later when I got a call from Pasco County's Animal Control Office. They told me that state law required that the dog be inspected and isolated for a period of 10 days. I complained that the dog wasn't sick; he was in pain and bit only me; his owner. The officer insisted that the letter of the law would be followed and that I shouldn't be surprised if the Hillsborough County Animal Control Officer showed up at the RV park and demanded to see the dog and make sure that it was being isolated.
Well, I guess more rational minds got involved at some point and decided to drop the whole thing. No one has shown up at the resort as of now and I don't expect them to.
The doctor told us that the x-xrays showed that Rocky has misaligned vertebrae in his neck and lower back and may now suffer from chronic pain (well, that makes two of us). I have to admit that, seeing my old friend in all of that pain and, at the time, believing that nothing could be done to "cure" him, I seriously considered putting him down. It would have killed me, it really would have, but seeing him in all that pain... The vet insisted that we give Rocky another chance and suggested that he keep him there at the animal hospital for several days to let him heal.
We went back 3 days later, not knowing what to expect, other than what the vet had told us: Rocky was walking, peeing, pooping, and doing all of the stuff he loves to do. Thank God he seemed okay when we picked him up; he whined hello, rubbed against us, and basically acted as if nothing untoward had happened during the past few days.
We got a batch of medications to give him, including prednisone, a muscle relaxant, and a pain killer. As of today, Rocky is back to his old self, but we're constantly fretting over him, worrying about the last advice the vet gave us, "Just don't let him jump." Yeah, right!
This morning's weather news announced that it was more than 20 degrees warmer in Seattle than right here in sunny, funny, flippin' FREEZING Florida.
That frigid evening I emailed my friend Hans in Washington to tell him that he was really pissing me off with all those reports about the great weather that they were having up in Washington. I told him that it wasn't fair, or funny, for anywhere that close to Canada to be having warmer weather than Florida, for cryin' out loud.
In addition to our propane-fired furnace, we've got a small electric heater. I bought it last year at K-Mart with the help of my son Patrick before we headed up to my son Matthew's house in Tennessee. It has a built-in, very quiet fan. It cycles back and forth to distribute the heat. It's among the best 20-something buck things I've ever bought, although, like mostly everything else today, it was probably made in China...
Shortly after arriving at the resort, Maureen and I went to Wallyworld and picked up a bunch of really big and inexpensive RED storage bins. They were on sale and I guess aimed at the Christmas decorations storage market (or maybe the trailer crap crowd). I've got them lined up in the back of the SUV with our "overflow;" stuff that we never should have brought along; like 30 tee shirts, the blue blazer, 8 ties, 30 pair of socks, enough linens to supply a small hotel, 24 pair of Mo's shoes and boots, 3 bags of my beloved books equalling about 600 pounds of paper and print, a small pony and a partridge in a pear tree.
We're planning more trips back to the storage unit whenever it's necessary to drop off more stuff before we head down to Naples. It'll be interesting to see how much of MY stuff versus MAUREEN'S stuff ends up being ditched in the storage unit. Some of my stuff is really important to have along, especially in an emergency. I have this reoccurring nightmare about finding myself in Brownsville, Texas on a Friday night in May without my beloved left-handed Craftsman toilet bowl wrench... OMG, what would I do?
Well, I've got to get back to pretending to be listening to Maureen tell me for the thousanth time that this full time RVing idea was probably the dumbest thing I've ever come up with (it isn't, I've had lots of dumber ideas!) while I grumble about leaky pipes and try to cough up another lung...
Not to worry, though. It's all part of the adventure, right? Or at least that's what I keep telling myself and Maureen in order to resist running off screaming to a hotel somewhere.
I know that things will get better when it gets warmer (Please, someone tell me that it will). And I haven't forgotten that there are weirdoes (I'm not mentioning any names here, Hans) who actually enjoy cold weather and camp in the snow with their windows wide open! And I am not a being a big baby!
There were times early in our marriage when Maureen and I took the kids up into the mountains in New England and Virginia to tent camp where the temps dropped into the 30s at night. We have to remind ourselves that we actually did such things and that we weren't ACTUALLY abusing our young children, at least not legally. I think. We're sure that the kids thoroughly enjoyed those frigid mornings, sitting there in their cute little snowsuits on their highchairs in the middle of the woods, trying to break through the ice in their oatmeal; although they never actually talk about the experience and sometimes start shaking and break out sobbing when we reminisce (I'm sure it's due to all of the joyful memories).
I am feeling better today, having survived another bout with bronchitis/pneumonia and am now trying to recover from the effects of the antibiotic on my digestive system. Maureen bought me some Activa yogurt and Euchinuba (sic), which are supposed to bring your system back into
balance after killing off all of your helpful gut bacteria.
I installed anchors for the awning and anti-flap devices (clamps that keep the awning from flapping too much on a windy day), something that I've been wanting to do since the last mad dash out into the freezing, windy night to save the awning from ripping off the trailer.
My next project is to fix several leaks that are still causing trouble. We've been on an on-again-off-again inside pump regimen whenever we need water in order to reduce the amount of leaking (by the trailer; not me).
At some point I also want to come up with some ideas to improve our bathroom "experience." I've decided that the bathroom in our trailer had to have been designed for or by dwarves. I can't sit on the toilet without my knees digging into the door (Maureen likes me to keep the door closed while I'm in there - even after nearly 45 years, she still likes to have some mystery in our relationship). Taking a shower involves several complex yoga positions and invariably ends up with water all over the floor.
BTW, we saw the new movie "Avatar." Maureen, who normally doesn't like Sci-Fi, raves about it to everyone she meets. It was a wonderful cowboys-and-indians type of movie, with white men driving the indigenous people off their land so that they can build an RV resort (actually, in this story, it's all about mineral rights). It's a story that's been told hundreds of times in as many movies, but this one, in IMAX 3D, will blow your socks off (you people do wear socks up there in Washington, don't you Hans?). Go see it. You do have moving pictures up there don't you?
This story just keeps getting better and better. If I'm lying I'm dying. I told Maureen that I'm starting to feel like I'm trapped in a never-ending Seinfeld episode:
I hadn't told you that we had to change sites on February 1st when we decided to stay another month here at the RV Ice Age theme park. They gave us permission to pack up and move in a day early on Sunday, January 31st. I had a doctor's appointment on Monday the 1st and didn't want to move to a different site and try to get to the doctor on time.
Maureen wasn't very happy about our new site, even though it was on a cul-de-sac (Which everyone knows is the perfect place to live) and was just across the street from the water (The bayou in the park's name), because it was also very close to a busy road with lots of traffic. We decided to make the best of it, though, so we packed everything up and drove over to the new site - only to find a big 5th wheeler already occupying our new spot, with no owner in sight.
Sitting in the middle of the road with my trailer behind me, I called the front office to complain. Who was in our new site? They didn't know, but they shouldn't be there, we were told. GREAT! They then went away to discuss options, which turned out to be another site - for just one night - and then they would move us again. I guess that I got a little angry at that point and told her NO - I did not want to have to move again in one day and wanted a long-term site then and there.
I was soon surrounded by golf carts, workers and the office manager, who suggested that I back up and into an empty site that was right behind where I was idling. GREAT! We got in quickly, glad that we wouldn't have to move again. Everything looked good. That is until we got out and looked at our new site. NO CONCRETE PAD AND NO TABLE! I asked the helper guys if they could go get me a pad (Which are 8 by 15 feet of concrete). They just stared at me, not understanding it was just my frustrated attempt at some northern humor.
After they left, Mo and I took care of the no-table problem. We raided a neighboring site and stole their table. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST! ARGHH!
After changing out of our Ninja gear (That black face paint is really a pain to remove), we once again tried to relax and settle into our new home site. That is until we began to detect the unmistakable smell of raw sewage.
I quickly tracked it down to the big 5th wheeler parked next door. No car or truck there either (Where do all these people go after setting up?). I checked it out and noticed a constant drip coming from under the RV. Eau-de-Poopoo... Once again I called the front office (By now I had them on speed-dial) and was soon joined by the helper guys on their golf carts. One crawled under the neighboring RV and announced that, not only was there a leak, but the black water tank (The one under the toilet) was split open and there was "crud" seeping out and hanging down from the crack. GREAT!
While one of the guys went off to get some lime to throw on the effluence (which is a euphemism for CRAP), Mo and I discussed the best ways to commit suicide. One of the helper guys told me that he had believed that the trailer was empty and in storage. They didn't seem to know that the mysterious stinky RV resident (That's stinky RV, although who knows; he might be stinky, too.), who comes and goes in the dark, even lived there. The owner pays the rent by phone every month. Very mysterious...
I saw the guy later that day (he looked like an escaped convict or, as Mo quickly decided, a pedophile). He was carrying something heavy out of the trailer. It was wrapped up in a carpet and was dripping dark fluid on the ground. (No, I'm just kidding - It wasn't a carpet, it was a bedspread) He told me that the black tank had "exploded" "just the other day" (Which I quickly decided was B.S., it had probably frozen and cracked open during our brief ice age in January). He went on to say that he had already ordered a replacement (probably also B.S. - in fact, we spotted him a week later, crawling around under his RV with a tape measure - LIAR!).
Another storm blew in today and Mo and I had to scamper around, rolling up the awning and securing loose objects in the SUV and under the picnic table. We were just finishing up when a driving rain started. As we were drying off in the trailer, there was a knock on the door.
It was one of the helper guys again. He asked me if they could move our outdoor carpet, table and other stuff behind the trailer so that they could come in early the next morning and begin putting down forms for a new concrete pad. I just stood there staring at him, amazed that they had actually taken me literally when I asked them to go off and get a pad
for our site!
Stunned by this offer, I asked him how we were supposed to get in and out of our trailer while they were pouring concrete and we were waiting for it to harden. No problem! He replied, We'll put down some boards across the curing concrete so that you can get in and out. I reminded him that I don't walk with a cane because I want to look dashing (Although I've been told that I do - look dashing, that is), but because I have a movement disorder AND, BTW, I've got a dog who was just diagnosed as having back problems and has to be carried in and out of the trailer.
Based on all of this, I said, NO, I don't want a pad anymore and why don't they come back with their shovels and concrete once we leave at the end of the month! He just stared at me with this you-have-to-be-kidding look, like who in their right mind would turn down a free patio? Then he told me that my suggestion might be a problem (for who, I wondered?) and that he would have to talk to the people in the front office and see what they have to say about it (Have you ever noticed that there're always these mysterious THEY people that decide everything in this world?)...
I am not making any of this up! Does this kind of stuff happen up in your neck of the woods?
I'm beginning to think that I might be cursed. Or maybe it's Mo... Hmm...
Frustrated in Florida,
I forgot to mention the other "event" that occurred shortly after we finished setting up in our new site here at Bay Bayou.
I had just settled in for a long winter's nap when up on the roof there arose such a clatter that I leapt from my bed to see what was the matter - no, wait, that's a different story - when I heard a crunch and a clatter just outside my RV. When I looked out the window, I noticed what appeared to be a brand new 5th wheeler trailer stopped at the corner where it had been entering our cul-de-sac. When I looked more carefully, I noticed what looked like a support brace for an awning lying on the ground next to the trailer. Looking upward, I saw that the upper edge of the RV was hard up against a large branch jutting out of the tree that was growing on the corner. I also noticed that about five feet of the awning was mashed and the rear support strut was missing.
What I didn't understand at first was why several people were on their knees looking under the trailer (Help had arrived at this point - I had called the front office again - they must just love me up there). Then I realized that the big limestone boulder that used to sit on the corner was missing. It was now under the RV. Not only did he ruin his awning, but he ran over the boulder, which got hung up on his left rear stabilizer jack and nearly tore it off the bottom of the trailer.
I really felt sorry for the guy; that is until I spoke with some of my neighbors about the accident and was told that the guy wasn't even driving the rig - his wife was.
Oh, boy, I'll bet the those two had an interesting conversation once the strangers left!
Your fellow camper,
P.S. The resort's maintenance guys showed up this morning, along with one of the managers.
Despite our insistance that they postpone adding a concrete pad to our site until after we've left at the end of the month, we were informed that they were going to begin digging up and building forms on our "front yard" that very morning, whether we wanted them to or not. When Mo started complaining that we would rather they didn't, the manager retorted, "Well, you've got a lot of stuff stored outside of your RV that shouldn't be there!" Mo didn't know what to say, considering at that point, the only things that were out there was THEIR (stolen/re-allocated) picnic table, two new red bins, with tops, two recliners, and two folding chairs (and 12 pipers piping... no, I'm just kidding!). Mo (bless her little heart) responded to that remark by commenting that she, the manager, had bigger problems than our patio stuff that she should be concerned with, like THE HUMAN WASTE LEAKING OUT OF THE RV PARKED NEXT TO US!
I thought that Mo had nailed her with that comeback, but the manager just shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I can only handle one problem at a time." Which meant, I guess, that she was currently handling this problem, namely US, and was too busy to handle the rapidly-becoming-an-EPA-supersite just 20 feet away...
Till next time...
P.P.S. We are now the proud renters of a brand-new 8'X15' patio. They even built us a nice little two-foot boardwalk connecting the patio to the bottom of our trailer's steps. Ah, life is good, sometimes!
My sixty-fifth birthday was on Valentine's Day. Maureen decided that this year, being the official year when we enter old age) she would buy me a colonics treatment at a local spa (So sweet!). Actually, she was going to, but didn't have enough money, so she went to Wahlgreen's and bought me an enema bag instead... ;)
Just for future reference, just in case anyone presents you with one some day, make sure that you fill the bag with WARM soapy water; not BOILING soapy water... In addition, make sure that you use a mild soap, like Ivory, and not bubble bath. Now, every time I fart, I blow bubbles. Although, I must admit, they are FRAGRANT bubbles. ;)
Posted by George and Maureen Schaefer at 12:13 AM