More Hospitality…It Takes a Village to Save us from Ourselves

Lake Wales Sunset

We left the Lake Wales/Tampa Area in a caravan, since the new car could not yet be attached to the bus. Our next stop was Beverly Hills (Fl), where friends Randy and Sonia Shrimplin live (right next to the Drysdales, according to Randy ? ) .


…we once drove from Chicago to San Francisco via Brunswick, Georgia!


We met the Shrimplins at a couple rallies this summer, and as is apparently typical, they insisted on a visit if we are ever “nearby.” Nearby is of course relative for us…remember we once drove from Chicago to San Francisco via Brunswick, Georgia! This time, though, the Shrimplins were within 5 miles of a direct path from our Lake Wales “home” and our next planned destination near Mobile, Alabama. We appreciate such hospitality, and we will NEVER take it for granted!

Randy and Sonia live in a subdivision with very large lots designed for folks to have barns for their horses. The Shrimplins don’t have a horse, but they do have a bus, and Randy said they bought the place because the large Bus Barn he planned to build would not look a bit out of place! Only the nosiest of neighbors would notice diesel exhaust instead of horse manure emanating from the “barn.” 

As it turns out, Randy has a great garage for his coach, complete with all manner of tools and significant expertise in how to use them. Randy also knew a welder who could, once and for all, address our hitch issue so we could again Tow the Toad.


Left unsaid: “Dan, you are an idiot!” A badge I gladly wear!



The first thing we did when we got there (even before enjoying a beer and a local BBQ joint), was take a good hard look at the hitch, so Randy could determine which Welder he needed to have attend to it. Instead, something unexpected and wonderful happened. Randy looked at the hitch and said, “What’s the matter with this? It looks plenty sturdy to me…why do you need anything welded?”

I had been looking at the hitch with the entire apparatus we used to tow the Clown Car still in place. It was clearly bent and too low for the Jeep. Randy, looking at the situation with a new set of eyes (and perspective) said, “Take off the extension piece and connect the Jeep’s Tow Apparatus directly to the Bus’ receiver.” We tried it out … Not too low, not weak at the bend! No Repair Necessary! 

Randy’s experience, coupled with the fact that he had not been staring at that bent hitch for a year let him look at the problem in a new way. Leading to a $0 Repair. That really has to be a first! Although we have had MANY simple and inexpensive repairs – ones that require a nut, bolt or washer and a little of our own elbow grease — This repair really did cost $0.

While we were at the Shrimplins, we did develop an electrical issue. Not surprising considering the idiot who had just rewired the entire 12V Battery system. (Me). Randy helped to troubleshoot, eventually discovering a connector (one of the main ones on a battery cable) was defective. As in, poorly installed. By ME, a week before!!!! It had held up for awhile, but with all the vibrations and bumping down the road, had simply separated – and, of course INSIDE the wrap of tape so the separation was not visible. It is SO HARD to get good help these days — and so helpful that other Bluebirders are willing to bring a fresh set of eyes and a vast range of experience to every little problem…

Imagine taking your house and bouncing it down the road for thousands of miles…like a series of 4.0 Earthquakes!

Frankly, my poor workmanship aside, it is not surprising we have a continuous stream of mechanical and electrical issues to attend to.  Someone told me when I retired that I would be thoroughly bored without all my clients and work projects to challenge me each and every day. Little did they (or I) know we live and move about in a rolling to-do list. And I LIKE THE CHALLENGE.

Liz just rolls her eyes and knits (or sews, or needle-points, or reads), which is good for her, too!

Liz in Jail in Crystal River, Florida

Lest you think we ONLY worked on the bus while in Beverly Hills (what would the Clampetts say?), we did some other “stuff” too! We ate BBQ (twice) and Seafood (once). We walked around Crystal River a bit, including a spring, of which there are MANY in the area. We even got a chance to watch the Bears on TV! All things considered, an AWESOME time! Of course, it came time to leave before we wore out our welcome, so we started heading west (and a little north, since swimming in the Gulf of Mexico was not in the cards for RV Where Yet).

As we mosied, we apparently transgressed on the home territory of another Wanderlodge friend or several. As we passed through Tallahassee, there was suddenly a picture-post on Facebook of OUR BUS – put there by a local who saw us on the I10. We fessed up, and then shortly thereafter there was a post and then a little later a PHONE CALL from Sue and Richard Ramsey, folks we had met serially over the summer rallies. It seems they live in Blountstown, FLA, a town we were within 5 miles of at the Walmart where we were overnighting.

Ever so generous, am I, when the bill for 3 is $20

It was too late to move by the time we realized this, so instead we met Richard for Breakfast at Waffle house. I bought (ever so generous, am I, when the bill for 3 is $20). Richard protested (he wasn’t quite as fast with his wallet). I suggested he could buy next time. Ruth’s Chris was discussed.

Liz’s Mother’s FAVORITE Slot Machine

Inching west, we spent a couple nights in the area of Biloxi, Mississippi. The first night was at a Casino (Harrah’s) which has a nice, level gravel lot directly across from the beach and from the Casino. A pretty awesome spot, actually. And the price was absolutely right ($0).

Walmart Parking Lot Perfection

The next night, we decided to move, for no particular reason, to a Walmart near Gulfport. This was only 30 miles or so, but it turned out to be a really good decision…torrential (even biblical) rains that probably would have turned the Casino lot into a quagmire. Walmart’s on the other hand, was paved and level.

On the way towards points west, a pretty big rock or piece of road junk jumped up and smacked our windshield and left quite a pock mark. Not the first time for this; we have $0 deductible glass insurance and we have used it. This time, though, chip repair was not successful. In the process of sucking the resin into the pit, the windshield cracked further; which Safelite had warned may happen each time they fixed a chip. Our luck had run out. The glass guy applied additional resin to try to stop the crack, but this did not work, and the crack is slowly advancing across the windshield.

Good thing there were THOUSANDS of buses made of the exact style Body, frame and WINDSHIELD as RV WHERE YET. I am told by fellow Birdbrains that a windshield will be find-able; though the rubber seal is becoming difficult – hopefully ours is reusable. I confirmed this by calling a School Bus repair company near Houston since we will be driving right by in a few weeks time. They were very kind!   They said COULD FIND  a windshield — indeed  used to stock them  — as though they see 40-year-old buses all the time!So they ordered the windshield. 

But they confirmed they COULD NOT FIND the rubber bits.  Still looking for those…but ours are in good shape so hopefully reusable.  Hard to count on 40-year old rubber tho — even if 25 of those years was inside and away from the sun — so I am working all possible sources for these bits. 

Installation will occur when they get the windshield and when we are passing thru – either westbound in January or Eastbound in February (most likely the latter).

And, we are going to Alaska next summer (stay tuned for more details)!! I am told that we will likely be replacing both halves of the windshield after that trip! So I guess this episode is kind of a “dry run,” and any work we do to find windshields and windshield gaskets will come in handy later.

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