OKC and Points West – A Basketball Adventure with Benefits

First, a Thought for today:

We drove FAST to get to OKC, because there were several games in a home stand that we wanted to attend, including the Home Opener on 29 October. Since we attended Chet’s first NBA Game on 25 October, that left us 3 days…it’s a drive that is easy in 2 in a car, but we just don’t (could, I suppose, but won’t) go that fast or that many consecutive hours. We made it, though, joining my sister, BIL and nieces (Chet’s sisters) for a week full of games and fun.

OKC Cheerleader

Attending Games in OKC is quite a different experience from what “Regular” fans experience. First of all, there is the Family Lounge, to which, with the passes arranged by the team, Family gets access every night. There is a Buffet there. And an excellent Dessert offering every game at half time.

There is also a special “Family” entrance to the stadium. This is manned by THE MOST gracious and courteous staff. Each night:

Me: I am going to set off that metal detector due to two replacement hips

Staff (same staff every night): No you won’t

Me: OK.
(But I strip down anyway – belt, phone case, wallet, keys, coins, watch…everything.)

Staff: You don’t need to do that – you won’t set off the detector

Me: walking thru, trying not to lose my pants as well, with no belt

Metal Detector: BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!

Staff (looking confused, while searching for the manual wand): Wow. That NEVER happens.

This same dialog happened every night. Now, it would make sense that the staff would not remember one guy (even as “hip” as me) if it was the main entrance. Thousands of fans go thru there. This was the Family entrance…maybe 50 people a night… Anyway, the good news is, the courtesy level was off the chart each night!!!

While in OKC, there was considerable time in between games. We filled that time with all sorts of activities.

OKC Memorial

One day we went to the OKC Memorial, which commemorates and describes the events that happened in 1996 when the Government Building was destroyed and dozens were killed by domestic terrorist. There are a lot of artifacts, and narration from the point of view of witnesses, victims, first responders, widows, orphans, investigators, prosecutors, etc.

This is a hard museum to attend…much like the 9-11 memorial…but well worth the effort. In a way, you could say that this event previewed a potential endpoint of discord that today, often violently, pits Americans against each other over political beliefs. For me, it emphasizes what happens when we allow our disagreements to devolve into shouting matches over alternate sets of “facts,” instead of dialog a consensus for the common good.

Some days, it feels like we have not learned very much from 1996 until now.

Not all of our time was spent so …… There are some quirky and wonderful things in OKC as well! One day we went to dinner at Ma Der Lao Kitchen Restaurant, which is rated as one of the top 50 USA restaurants. Unexpected, to say the least – OKC seems more of a meat and potatoes place. Ma Der featured a small plates sampling menu of very interesting and different dishes. Chet joined us for a bit, so it is no exaggeration to say that there were MANY, MANY small plates presented…the man can eat!

Liz and I also discovered, just around the corner from the RV park we stayed at, a great little museum…The American Pigeon Museum! Adjacent to the headquarters of the Racing Pigeon Society, it was one of those “You cannot make this sh*t up” places full of fascinating and unexpected information. The volunteer staff person lives next door and maintains the museum’s cadre of Pigeons in an aviary bigger than her house. She spent LOT of time with us (the museum was pretty empty on Friday Morning), introducing several breeds of birds AND pointing our way to pertinent displays and discussion about these fascinating creatures. Most of us have heard stories about the use of pigeons to carry important messages; the museum explains how that works in detail. There are also exhibits around Racing Events, which was fascinating in the logistics of figuring out which bird won when they all return to their own homes…not a single finish line!

My sister also introduced us to the OKC coach who has the responsibility of seeing that player’s families are properly accommodated for tickets at home and away games. It turns out, Matt is VERY interested in the RV Lifestyle, though he admits to being several years away from his dream: Following his favorite team(s) from city to city! Since that is almost exactly what we ARE doing, we contacted him and asked him to the bus for a chat. Gave us a chance to thank him for helping Chet’s fambly out AND for him to find out more about what kind of crazy is required for the RV life.

Okie Friends in OKC

And,  for the Home Opener, we had the pleasure of having friends Lynn and Dave Grey IN THE HOUSE.  The Greys live in Eastern Oklahoma, and we have stopped at their ranch MANY times for a day or several days at a time, always enjoying their most gracious Okie hospitality.  Glad we could reciprocate.

After the games in OKC, we needed to again drive like a Pigeon out of h*ll (metaphor adjusted based on our new knowledge and respect for the bird) to get to San Francisco. There, a scheduling anomaly would allow us to see two games against the Golden State Warriors in three days AND visit bay area friends, for whom we could arrange tickets as well.

An ACTUAL ROAD SIGN and Attraction Along the Way

Let’s take a moment though…No post would be complete without an example of “You Can’t make this sh*t up” along the (hi)way. (There IS NO  town named “Uranus”)

The Games against the Warriors turned out very well for OKC – winning both! The second game was a THRILLER, with Chet making a 3-point shot with no time left on the clock to send the game to overtime, where OKC brought home the victory. It was all sooo much fun, even for our friends (GSWarrior … and now Chet…Fans). 

We also had time to spend with friends…AND met some cousins at the game…all good!

Flagstaff Bus Work

On the way towards California, we stopped to get the Oil Changed on the bus. The specific fluid is not usual – DELO 100 straight 40W, so I had ordered 9 Gallons and had them onboard. Now, I had to find a Truck Place that would be willing to do the work. Seems most have very full schedules, or so they say when I call, but Rocky Mountain Truck Repair in Flagstaff, Az. Said they would squeeze us in conveniently to our passing thru town.

Now, changing Oil is not complicated – especially since I HAD the oil and the Filter and had previously installed a Quick-Drain valve. So we pulled into the bay over the pit. I opened the Engine bay for them to get to the oil fill port, since I am SURE the mechanic, who was younger than the bus, hadn’t seen a Wanderlodge before. About 45 minutes later, they were done.

BECAUSE the mechanic was younger than the bus, and very conscientious, he disclosed to me and in writing on the receipt: “There were a couple of small oil leaks that we needed to keep an eye on.” Now, the reality is,  Old Detroit Diesels ALWAYS drip oil – a spot or 2 under the bus is considered PROOF OF LIFE, not a problem. I thanked him, though, and promised him I would look into it as soon as possible!!

Desert Oasis Repairs

On the way to the Bay area, we made several stops … some at Walmart and one at the “Desert Oasis Wayside Rest” in the Mojave. Nice place to stop – we parked under a small tree, which would have provided no shade or relief whatsoever if it were summertime. As we were getting ready to turn in, the car alarm starts blaring. No one was trying to break in – the Rear Liftgate Sensor was failing, so the door would appear to suddenly open…and the alarm would go off.

I unlocked the car to avoid the alarm, and then Googled the problem.

Turns out it is common – a sensor fails. BTW, the interior light was on all night, so the battery was dead. The easiest “solution” is to pull two wires off the door latch, thus eliminating the sensor. Which is what I did the next morning, as well as hooking up a battery charger. As far as I am concerned, this is a permanent solution because WHO CARES if we no longer get a warning the the “Liftgate is open.”

I-40 Casualty

On our way west, we spent a lot of time in I-40, which has a reputation online as a really “rough” road (i.e. BAD condition). The reality is, its not really that bad mostly, except for about 100 miles around Kingman, Az. Even there, it didn’t seem worse than many roads we have been on, but when we stopped on central California, I discovered a wheel cover missing. These are held on by 10 bolts, so I am not even sure HOW that happened, but it did! Replacements ARE available, but not ones that match exactly, so I will have to buy 2 (if the ones on the other side don’t match exactly, who will notice?).

Santa Cruz Friend and Food

On our way to SanFran, we made EXCELLENT TIME. This allowed us to carve out an extra day in Santa Cruz to visit Phyllis Daney. We’ve visited SC and Phyllis before, but this time, at the last minute, our usual accommodation (The Santa Cruz Marina) was not available.

Camping in the Redwoods

I found a spot nearby – in the middle of a Redwood Grove, actually, But, also, the Scariest RV Park Ever (or, at least, so far!!!)! The park itself was AWESOME, but the entrance/exit was a very steep, narrow driveway turning onto a busy street – right at a curve preventing seeing oncoming traffic. I actually woke up one night in a cold sweat, thinking about how we were going to safely exit. Here is why:

Imagine doing this in your car – you’d keep your left foot on the brake while stepping on the accelerator. When you begin moving forward, you’d release the brake. Problem is, the steering colum on the bus absolutely would not allow the left-foot-on-brake trick. I was having trouble imagining not only dealing with oncoming (invisible) traffic, but also rolling backwards INTO A RAVINE before the engine spools up and starts moving the bus forward—there IS a delay from pedal-press to throttle advance.

The best solution I came up with was to use the accelerator to carefully hold the bus on the hill until using it some more to pull out. No Brake. Do-able, but nerve-wracking…and no chance to practice my idea before the main event.

Liz could tell I was VERY worried about this, so she went to talk to the office – I suppose to at least have someone block/flag traffic coming around the curve to eliminate THAT variable. They sheepishly said, “Oh, we have a separate entrance/exit for big rigs. Someone should have told you about it before your arrival!!?” Far from mad, I was quite relieved! Even more so after inspecting this alternate route. Still steep, but on the other side of the curve, so traffic could be seen, and with a small flat-ish area at the top to prevent rolling backwards. This is how we escaped, with minimal drama in fact.

Confused GPS

We left Santa Cruz (safely) only to encounter one of the few GPS Snafus we have experienced in over 7 years on the road! We us a Garmin GPS that is optimized for RVs – knows our size, height and weight, so in theory chooses “safe” routes for us. Approaching our RV spot in San Fran (in the parking lot of the old, now demolished, Candlestick Park), the GPS took us into an industrial area, down smaller and smaller streets and ultimately to a DEAD END. We had to unhook the car, do a 17 point turn on the street and a driveway to face the other way. Then hook the car back up and try to manually figure out how to get to the park!

As it turns out, the only road approaching the park is marked “No Trucks over 3 Tons,” which greatly bothered the GPS, but there was no bridge or other hazard – it was only to keep commercial vehicle out. We are over 3 tons, but not a truck. We took the road and arrived at the park.

The RV Park in San Fran was an interesting experience, to say the least. San Fran has a huge affordable housing problem AND a huge Homeless Challenge. Cause and effect? Not gonna debate that here. The RV park is a private park next to another parking area where the city set up stalls for use by the myriad of disheveled RVs people were living on in the area. There were still a variety of hulks on the street in active use. Our park had a lot of “permanent” residents in older trailers, despite a policy that RVs can stay a MAX of 29 days. There were school buses picking up children! Not a “resort,” that’s for sure!!! We picked the park, vs. our previous RV pad in Marin County, for convenient access to the Airport (to get to Minneapolis) and to the Chase Center, and those requirements worked out pretty well.

Dad Chatting with Justice Alan Page

While in California, we actually needed to fly to Minneapolis (hence the reason for parking near the airport), where my Father received a lifetime achievement honor – inductance into the Real Estate Hall of Fame for his OVER 60 YEAR CAREER making a difference and making Minnesota a better place.

Really proud of dad – see the attached Video which was prepared by the Event Organizers to introduce a man who needs no introduction.

San Fran Traveler

Getting to Minneapolis reminded us of why we really LOVE our current mode of travel (and hate flying). We had reservations on Southwest, thru Las Vegas, but current events had other plans for us. It seems there was a huge Global Economic Conference —APEC– featuring political leaders and VIPS from all around the Pacific Rim. This had the effect of closing the airport at unannounced times. Southwest must have texted me 15x with updated departure times…alternately later and earlier. Eventually, it was obvious that we would miss our connection in LV, and therefore Dad’s induction ceremony.

I stood in line for rebooking, reflecting on the famous meltdown SWA had not so long ago. I assumed we would NOT be getting to Minneapolis. BUMMER. Suddenly, a new boarding pass appeared on my phone – now travelling thru Denver and in plenty of time to make a connection to Minneapolis.

Back on track, we boarded our new flite, pulled out of the gate and started towards the runway. Then stopped, and engines shut down. Captain comes on to explain “VIP movement on the airport…unknown duration.” I watched as Air Force 1 Taxied by and parked, eventually watching the longest motorcade I have ever seen depart the airport.

After a bit, the engines started and we headed towards Denver – with about 10 minutes to make our connection…but still possible!

Presumably SWA knew of our predicament. While in the air, our connecting flite was delayed, so we had about 30 minutes. I suspect SWA held the departure – we were not the only ones making that connection. Good thing, too, because the gates were as far away from each other as possible…and Denver Airport is BIG!!!  I have to commend SWA for pushing thru a lot of challenges not of their making…KUDOS.

We made it to Minneapolis – and grabbed an UBER to get to Sarah’s house. The UBER driver immediately turned down a road that was under construction…dead end…because the UBER App directions were 30 secs behind real-time. Then, we discovered that the pin Uber provided to the driver for the destination was on the wrong street even though the address I gave was correct. When I later mentioned this to Sarah, she said, “Oh yeah…that happens all the time…Uber has a bad map!!!” We got the driver to get to the correct address after some discussion (in the confusion…we WERE arguing with her official map, after all, she tried turning down a one way street the wrong way).

We have several more air trips planned to see games this winter…I hope they go better, and I hope everyone can see why we like our current mode of transit better!!!

Walmart enroute

After seeing 2 Awesome games and visiting with our awesome friends in the area, we departed eastbound. Our eventual destination was near Dallas, where we could park with friends Mandy and Max Hendrix while we again fly back to Minneapolis (for Chet’s “Homecoming” game, where we have arranged to get Dad to the Stadium…more on that in a minute).

Tucumcari Spot for Thanksgiving

We were invited to Thanksgiving at the Hendix’s, but we knew we couldn’t drive that fast or far in the days available, so we decided to park in Tucumcari, NM. to prepare our Thanksgiving Repast. We made a couple stops to acquire the necessary and traditional food items: Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, roasted veggies, saurkraut and mushrooms (for Pierogi) and Wild Rice. All traditional and necessary in our household!

On the latter, though, the best we could do is Wild-ish Rice…the actual thing being not a thing in the Southwest, apparently.

Getting Dad to the game turns out to require a bit of “wheeling and Dealing,” a skill which I apparently acquired from the MAN — the fabulous Raymundo, as those in the know call him — himself!!! All of the Wheelchair Van services are “business Hours Only.” The game would end late in the evening. How to make that happen?

Turns out ONE of the services is smaller – one van and a couple who run the business and turn out to be BIG BASKETBALL FANS. They, too, said the return trip would be “after hours.” I said, “What if you were also at the game?! I got a guy who has access to tickets” They IMMEDIATELY said, “Well, then we’d be able to get Ray home for sure!”

So the deal is done, and we are ALL looking forward to the celebration, which shall be discussed in a future post!!!!!!

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