The first four days of the rest of our life…

In a word: eventful. 

I am writing this in the parking lot of a Walmart about 40 miles east of Pensacola Florida.  We have successfully escaped the frigid north,  with the storm-of-the-century nipping at our heels the whole way.   Here in Florida,  “shitty weather” means rain and 50 degrees.  We think HOOORAY,  no ice…which has been a major part of our lives for the first two days.  In Florida,  they wear mittens.   

Let me start at the beginning.  Before the beginning, actually. 

Our “plan” was to leave THURSDAY MORNING the 15th of December.  Bus is parked out front for ease of loading, in the snow and BONE-CHILLING COLD.  It looks ready,  we are ready. 

On Wednesday evening,  a pipe broke in our Tenant’s apartment!   Not a gushing-in-your-face break,  but a puddle-in-the-basement break.  Even before Wednesday,  while we were still constructing in the basement,  I actually looked at that very pipe…one of the 2 remaining old galvanized risers…and I asked myself:  “Self.  Should I replace those risers now,  when the ceiling is open and there are no tenants upstairs?”    Unfortunately,  I answered myself:  “Self.  They aren’t leaking.  Let’s not open that can of worms.” Hindsight… 

This problem was resolved by pretending we were already gone.  I called the property manager and told him there was a plumbing emergency.  And guess what:  HE HANDLED IT!!!!  This is good…and helps us feel better about leaving a 110 year old building behind! 

So now it is Thursday 15 Dec.  Our first target is Bethalto, Illinois (Across the river from St. Louis).   This is where the mechanic is who first put the bus back on the road.  You see,  we had a bad propane valve,  which prevents us from turning on the gas and therefore the furnaces.  Did I mention the storm?  And the cold?  It was 10 degrees F when we left.  We need the furnaces for at least the first couple of nights…  I sent Todd some pictures of the valve.  Todd sez he will squeeze us in.  “It should be an easy fix.”  Scares me when the mechanic sez this.   So we get near Bethalto by evening and we found a hotel with a big parking lot. And an AARP discount.  And free hot breakfast.  Maybe we’ll just stay here! 

I said to Todd:  Now all we need is a grill and a steak!
Friday morning we get to Todd’s bright and early.  And they move the bus into the very same stall where it was resurrected before.  Todd replaced the failed propane valve.  Added at propane shutoff with sensor (to automatically shut off the gas if there is a leak) AND added a new BBQ Grill connection to replace the one that was on the bus and rusted shut.   All of this for UNDER 4 digits! 

But now we have a problem:  it is starting to drizzle in St Louis.  And since it has been cold,  this means the roads are all icing up.  BAD.  We look at the radar,  and Todd,  who is a pilot,  calls up his aviation weather.  It appears that we are on the very southern edge of the drizzle.  If we can get just 50 miles south, it will be all rain.  The roads we need to take are all interstates,  with plenty of traffic and salt trucks. 

The image I could not shake was of the GEICO commercial with the Sumo wrestler on figure skates…that is how I think the Magic Bus must have looked gingerly inching forward on the icy interstate.
We make the decision to GO GO GO.  Vs. getting STUCK STUCK STUCK.  I am not going to say this was a bad decision,  because if we had not decided to go,  we would still be freezing in Todd’s parking lot.  But there is a hill just south of St. louis that was stopped in BOTH DIRECTIONS.  We sat there for 4 hours.     Then as the traffic began to move (VERY slowly) it became apparent why.  The hill was like ice.  Barely navigable.  We proceeded very slowly…the weight of the bus helping us.    

Anyway,  once we got past that hill and a few tens of miles further south,  the precip. did turn to rain and there was no more ice.  It was already 10:00, now,  but we decided we had better get further south before stopping to rest or the storm would catch us.  So,  we drove about 2 hours to Perryville Mo. Where we found a Walmart parking lot and crashed for the evening.  BTW,  the temperature in Perryville (just 120 miles south of St. Louis) was  65 degrees when we pulled in.  After about 4 hours of sleep,  the temp was 40 degrees and crashing.  So we lit up the engine and started south again.  We figured we need to get all the way to New Orleans to be certain we would not see any more ice.   

As we drove during daylight (vs. yesterdays frantic dash at night), Lizzie, not to be outdone by Yogi Berra said, “I like driving in the daytime better because you can actually see that you are not missing anything!”   We drove about 8 hours and found a very nice and reasonably priced RV park in Amite, LA.  This is 60 miles north of NO. 

As we drove,  I noticed in the rear camera that the hood of the Clown Car is flapping in the breeze — about to fly off.  I pulled over and realized that the hood is held on only be a couple of plastic tabs.  The wind was howling right in our face at 40mph and the bus was moving 60.  So that is 100mph creating suction on the hood of the Toad.   Easy to see why roofs blow off in hurricanes. The “Fix” was obvious.  DUCT TAPE.  What a fortuitous thing that the clown car and the duct tape are almost the exact same color!!! 

Anyway,  we got to Amite about 8:00 (after hours) and found that someone else had mistakenly taken our spot…reserved hours previously.  We called the emergency night number and they sent someone over.  They did not move the offender…instead they found us a nice alternate spot.  Very nice,  actually.  Much nicer than the first spot.   Better still, it was 78 degrees F.  We set about to de-winterize the bus,  fill the water tank, take showers,  and generally breathe a sigh of relief as we had escaped the storm.   OR HAD WE?

At 4:00 AM a huge wind came up…from the north.  The temp dropped 30 degrees in 10 minutes.   It started raining.   I am getting the feeling we are never going to win this race…  But as I mentioned above,  rain is not ice.  We are JUST FINE,  thank you very much! 

Today,  we packed up and decided to get into Florida and another Walmart.  This is because we needed to procure some things to help organize the bus.  

And it is now immediately clear why Walmart LOVES to have RVers stay in their parking lots.  RVers need stuff.  Walmart has lots of stuff! 
  At this Walmart,  they asked us to park out by the garden center.  Which was beautiful…almost like having a terraced, landscaped garden for our pleasure.  Very quiet and peaceful.  We procured our stuff,  and are now sitting in the bus while it is POURING RAIN.   

The weather forecast is for rain at least through tomorrow.  So we are thinking we are going to head across Florida and find another nice RV park…maybe on the Atlantic side? By then,  the weather should be past???  And maybe we’ll spend a few days there before heading up to Georgia for Christmas with Liz’s brother. 



10 thoughts on “The first four days of the rest of our life…

    • Hi Kevin!! In August we will be in Wyoming where there will be a total solar eclipse. See if you can organize your itinerary to include greater metropolitan Casper! 😉

  • maybe you will let the homeless altbaum’s sleep in the bus for one night. it will be nice for you to have someone you can practice speaking canadian to

  • Hah! Duct tape to the rescue AGAIN. Also, good on ya for calling the property manager and escaping as planned. You’re adjusting well. 🙂

  • Dan and Liz,

    I’m still a working stiff. So what do you listen to as you drive across the US? Are you seeing much political stuff as the Electoral College voted today?

    • As we drive? So far we listen to the LOUD clatter of the big old Cat Diesel engine. I am actually still listening, too, for something that doesn’t sound quite right. I did bring alond our airplane headsets and may start listening via those. It has been suggested we get Sirius.

      At this campground, we can get exactly one tv channel. But it is PBS so we can get quality news (though there isn’t much in the way of “good” news these days)

  • Your mechanic’s name is Todd. How wonderful! Sounds like you have weathered the storm, so to speak. Hope all roads ahead are smooth with lots of sunshine. Keep the blogs coming.
    Happy Holidays! Bev and Todd

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