Thursday, June 5, 2014

Back On Board - Adapt and Adjust

It has been almost two months since our return to Maine. What may have seemed like poor choices, (at first glance), actually became blessings in hindsight. The campground job that brought us home to Maine, while the tail end of winter was still in the air, grounded us in one of the reasons why we love Maine - it's sheer beauty in  its white gown.

We were cold and uncomfortable after arriving from the South with its sunny and 65+ degree weather. We had to adapt to our surroundings and adjust our attitudes. We were happy to be home; yet a sense of depression crept in. The only pastime Jill enjoyed was creating - she made abstract designs and wrote her art blog to keep from slipping into total insanity. Dave did as much photography as possible, but the sheer isolation of the area only led to so many opportunities. We had to walk further and further each day to gather more material. We ventured down numerous side roads and took in the countryside, farms, barns, domestic livestock, as well as colorful residents.

Like the seasons, things changed. We both realized that after a month at this KOA campground, we were too isolated. We also missed the kids and grandchildren, and they were too far a distance to see even on an occasional basis. By mid May, Dave landed a full time job (and one that he actually likes - working with cars) in Rockland. We pulled up stakes in Richmond and are staying at a good place very close to the ocean. Dave can walk to work, and we can walk to numerous stores as well as the ocean. Much more convenient!

It is a known fact that many species of animals use this very same tool, called migration, for survival. The snowy owl was seen as far south as Florida, which is extremely rare, this past winter - doing what we did - searching for life necessities, along with a warm, safe, dry place to nest. I wonder if the "local" birds welcomed them into their territory or not.

There is plenty of everything on this planet. There is no need for fierce competition, fighting, or demanding more than what one needs. Customs and norms of the locals in any particular area can be hard to understand. Many people keep to themselves and it can be mistaken as rude or standoffish. People are people and we need to accept them where they are at.

While at a Memorial Day picnic, our 7 year old granddaughter joyously flits by and says, "Grandma; you know what?" 
"What, Honey?" I replied.
"I'm happy to be alive!" she shouts.

What will it take for us or you to be happy and to be alive. A wall hanging said: "Happiness is when one's spiritual needs are met by an untroubled inner life. Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others."

Out of curiosity, Jill looked up what spiritual needs were and found that there are seven:
 1). Experience the healing and empowerment of love - through God, self, and others.
 2). Renewing times of transcendence - moments that expand us.
 3). Beliefs in meaning - hope in the midst of losses, tragedies, and failures.
 4). Values, priorities and life commitments - based on justice, integrity, and love - that guide us in personally and socially responsible living.
 5). Discover and develop their inner wisdom, creativity, and love of their trans-personal / spiritual self.
 6). Deepening awareness of oneness of others and the world full of living things.
 7). Everyone needs spiritual resources to help heal the painful wounds of grief, guilt, resentment, unforgiveness, self-rejection, and shame. We need spiritual resources to deepen experiences of trust, self-esteem, hope, joy and love of life.

Journey on, fellow travelers...
Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bearing Witness

For the past three weeks we've had a chance to catch our breath and decompress somewhat while getting settled at the Augusta-Gardiner Maine KOA campground. The Nomad as of this writing is still awaiting any repairs, which at this point, will start with the waste tank brackets. We feel that repair will be one of the easier ones, and at minimum, we can finally remove the large ratchet strap that encircles our RV. Fortunately for us, the owners of this campground are pretty laid back - they didn't even blink or give much thought when they saw our crude roadside repair. They just laughed at the story behind it when we had a "get to know each other" dinner the 1st night we were here.

Being here for the past three weeks has given us the chance to soak in just how hard this past winter was. The ice on Pleasant Pond, which the campground borders, finally departed about a week ago. Here on site, there were downed trees and limbs and a few of the campgrounds roads were borderline washed out.

Jill has learned the front office and store areas of the business, as well as other responsibilities, while Dave was put to work in the great outdoors. Landscaping needed to be done, bathroom additions to the cabins had to be completed, a sewer line added to one row of sites, and too many other projects to be listed.

It was during our first week here that the term "witness mark" and thereby the subject of this blog - bearing witness - hit us. One of the owners said to Dave after he finished staining a new large bar / counter for the lounge, "Just think... you'll always be a part of this campground, because you did this and helped build it."

This past week Jill was cleaning out some 5th wheels that were going to be sold as well as one that had been purchased late last fall. It was interesting to see the multi-colored and oddball items (like the avocado green utensils from the 70's) that were taken out. It made us wonder - other people have owned these campers. Like other vehicles, it can be fascinating to find what is under seats, in the trunk, or in this case, cabinets and drawers. It's like opening a window, or bearing witness, to the past.

The same can be said about this journey. We traveled to different places and met new people. We are now part of these places and those peoples' lives because we witnessed life with them and vise versa. We took in the scope of the scenery and roadways. That was one of the main reasons why we did not take commonly traveled interstates from Massachusetts all the way down to Georgia.

We can bear witness to ourselves in this moment. One misconception that a few people have of being "Nomadic" is that one travels all the time. Most people we've talked to over the past eights months agreed that they are good for about two weeks maximum being on the go. After that time period, one starts to lose their grounding as to what day it actually is and which clothes are still clean. You have to stop for at least a few days, if not for a week or longer. Don't believe us, try it sometime...

Another aspect of being a Nomad is that one has to try and replenish the money that is spent while on the road. This is another reason why we would stop for a month or two at certain locations, find work and earn more money. Believe it or not, about 90% of full time RV'ers do this. Unfortunately, it is not some Hollywood based reality TV show that portrays an "all fun, all adventure, all excitement, all the time" life style. For ones' sanity, there has to be slow and/or down times when routine things need to get done or taken care of.

The key is to do a lot with what you have. To be happy and find enjoyment in no matter what you are doing, regardless of where or what your circumstances are. After all, bearing witness to ones' self just may be the most important of all.

Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave

Thursday, April 17, 2014


There was an energy pervading the Nomad - not only did Dave have the drive and the urgency to get us home to mid-coast Maine, but it seemed our RV shared in the exuberance. We were out of Connecticut, had passed the exit for central Massachusetts (and Jill called her Mom at that point), and the Nomad was getting over 11 miles a gallon - which was a rarity for this trip.. or any RV of his age, size, and weight.

We were passing old familiar state route signs and our comfort level started returning. We made a short pit-stop in Amesbury, Massachusetts for fuel - and got right back into the home-bound groove. The station attendants' name was Jesus. He shot us an odd, then a "whatever" look when Jill commented, "See? I told you Jesus was with us." She also told him he had a good name. He managed to chuckle and express a thank you... we think.

The aura of the urgency seemed to filtrate the area. Jill wondered out loud how we are going to cross these four lanes of congested traffic in order to get back onto the highway? As if by magic, the light changed to red, all the traffic stopped and parted to let us out. We wished getting on our way was always this easy!

Onward to New Hampshire! We breezed down I-95 and even had a pleasant toll plaza employee. Before we realized it, we were crossing the bridge over the Piscataqua River into Maine. The evening sun cast a glow on the massive steel structure. It seemed that, for a while anyways, time didn't exist. Not until we felt hunger pangs in our stomachs. We couldn't get to the Kennebunk rest area fast enough. Once there, we parked amongst the semi's and felt gnome-like. It was a little ironic - we were in a similar parking situation six months ago, when this portion of the journey began, just across the highway.

We breathed in the chilly sea air, listened to the seagulls squawk for a handout, and bolted for the restrooms. After regrouping, we stood in line for some dinner. Timing was still smiling on us, as we beat a large mob of hungry travelers who got in line behind us. After we ate and called friends, saying "Guess where we are?" and got answers ranging from Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Our oldest grandson even said, "Down south." Only after Jill told him we were in Maine, he responded with, "COME HOME NOW! WHEN CAN I SEE YOU?" Jill had to calm him down and explain that we were still two hours away. He promptly dropped the phone and shouted to his Mom, "WE HAVE TO GO AND PICK UP GRAMMY & BAMPY!!" Our grand-daughter Alyssa calmly picked up the phone and asked where we were. We told her we were in Maine and she replied, "About time. I miss you. When are you coming to see us?"

After about 45 minutes of explaining, checking the Nomad over, and calling a few more friends, we realized we had better get a move on. The sun was now setting. Portland's rush hour was now over and we passed through without the congestion. Even the two toll booth takers undercharged our vehicle as they wished us well. The sun the painted the city in pastels.

Once off I-295, we ventured onto Coastal Route 1 - and were promptly reminded how rough a winter Maine had. The roads were pockmarked with holes where the tar used to be. To say it was like the surface of the moon, is an understatement. We apologized (several times) to our vehicle for practically taking out the suspension, especially in Warren, Maine - where we traversed the road at 25 miles per hour. It only took one or two B-I-G holes to convince us that was a wise move.

Finally, at around 9 p.m., we pulled into the new Wal-Mart in Thomaston. We found a decent place to park- under some lights and next to an island of trees and shrubs. We spent the weekend with our kids and grandchildren. We ran into some friends in the store and we went to Sunday Mass to reconnect with more friends and then out to breakfast before heading off to the Augusta - Gardiner KOA in Richmond, Maine.

The Nomad made the 90 minute trek from Thomaston to Richmond without any problems. Some of the roads, however, provided entertainment as we sailed over some unmarked frost heaves at too fast a speed. The Nomad rocked... literally. He also rolled, bounced, and pressed on without complaint. We feel the Nomad was generally relieved to pull into a campsite... finally.

Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave

Monday, April 14, 2014

Muchas Gracias - The Joy Is In The Journey - Part 5

Since we're now on part 5 of this adventure, it may be obvious to you that the Nomad did not blow up. Dave and I waited about 30 minutes for our RV to cool off a bit so he could give it a once over to determine if there was something mechanical we could fix or if the Nomad had in fact gasped it's last breath. I saw Dave lift the small hood and peer into the engine bay. Then he crawled underneath it. He walked back into the restaurant - said we had a broken belt and showed me the damage. I thought to myself, "This is fixable. We can do this."

We asked several people in the plaza, Deidre the bartender in the Bistro, Beth the manager on duty in the indoor sports complex next door, as well as the two owners of the entire plaza, if they knew a reputable mechanic in the area. Apparently, there was a decent one about 3 miles down the road. Beth was gracious enough to not only Google the business complete with phone number, but also printed out a map in how to get there. We called the owner of the garage and he said he could fix the RV, no sweat. One problem though - by now it was 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon. The Nomad wasn't going to fixed today. We told the garage owner we would see him around 10 o'clock tomorrow morning. We would never arrive there...

The next questions we asked were; could we spend the night in the parking lot, and was the neighborhood pretty safe. It didn't look bad, but we wanted some reassurance, especially with two bars within stone throwing distance. "You should be fine on both accounts," we were told. Finally, we were given directions to a small, funky, local market that was less than a quarter mile down the road where we could get some cheap eats. Works for us!

After a simple, but decent dinner, it was time to hunker down in the Nomad for the night. In all reality, it wasn't all bad considering where we were. None of the patrons from either bar gave us any grief, nor did the group of local hockey players that gathered until 1 a.m. in the parking lot after the sports complex closed at midnight. At this juncture, we actually thought we might get some sleep, until the two police cars stopped a motorcycle right across street at 2 a.m. - and never shut any of the lights off. Needless to say, sleep alluded us for most of the night and we felt like we were starring in some bizarre reality TV show that we were both totally unaware of.

The next morning broke bright and sunny. We and the Nomad were all still in one piece. First order of the day was coffee, then call for a tow. We ventured across the street to Uncle Bob's Ham & Egger's - a true old fashioned diner. A smiling and bubbly waitress named Sandy even gave us free seconds on the coffee while we called Good Sam's. Dave exercised incredible patience as he swore he was talking to the "new trainee of the day". We knew we were in trouble when the representative asked if we were still waiting for a mobile mechanic to come out and fix the no-start problem we were experiencing yesterday. Nope - new problem. Once we explained our current situation, we were told that Good Sam's would have to once again try to find a mobile mechanic service first. Dave told the rep we were only five miles from where we were yesterday and that there wasn't one available then - could we just get a tow? The rep said "No - we have to follow this procedure, regardless of what happened 18 hours ago. Otherwise, you would have to pay for the tow." Fine - knock yourself out.

We returned to the Nomad, did our meditations, ate breakfast, and waited. After about 2 hours, a van pulled up and a mechanic hopped out. He said his name was Tim and that he was dispatched to see if he could help us. He looked under the hood and promptly said, "You need a new belt!" Dave agreed with him as he showed him the old one. Tim told us he would have to send for a truck as he didn't have any parts or tools with him. We thought to ourselves, "this isn't much of a mobile mechanic..." Undaunted, we said that was okay. Just call into Good Sam's and let them know our situation has changed from a mobile roadside repair to a tow and they will pay for it. "Sounds good." said Tim. Problem was, we would never see him again either...

Good Sam's called us back about 30 minutes later. The representative told me that they finally found and dispatched a mobile mechanic service. I said, "I know - he left about a half an hour ago. He should have called you about getting us a tow." Thus started a very confusing conversation, after about a minute, I handed the phone to Dave before I hung up on her and threw the phone out the window. Turns out, Good Sam's didn't dispatch the first mechanic. Nobody really knew who Tim was. We were to look for a mechanic named Ned from Atlantic Truck Repair.

About another 45 minutes past, and Ned showed up in his funky looking repair / tow / bucket truck. Ned was a character just like his truck. He had three shirts on, shorts, old work boots with white socks rolled down to his ankles, and a funky hat that went down to his old-style trifocals. He didn't have the correct belt with him, but he measured for the correct size. He said he would be back as soon as he could. After another 20 minute wait, Ned finally showed up a belt "this is close - it's about a half inch too short, but I think it will work. Just need to adjust the alternator bracket."

By this time, Jill needed to find a restroom, but many of the businesses didn't open until at least noon. Running to the nearest one at a hair salon across the street - as most women may experience, her bladder was about to let loose - but the only language they predominately spoke was Spanish. Despite the language barrier, she managed to locate the bathroom. On her way out, she thanked them with gusto - "Muchas Gracias". They all broadly smiled back hopefully appreciative of the effort she made to communicate in their language. She just hope she pronounced it correctly! Even when stressed, she tries her best to spread the love.

Back across the street, Ned managed to get the belt on. "Fire it up!" he instructed Dave. He turned the key and the Nomad roared to life. After letting it run for approximately ten minutes, everything looked fine - no noises, engine temperature, voltage and oil pressure were normal. We were looking good. We asked him one last question; how to get to the nearest Wal-Mart as we needed more minutes on our phone, especially after all the roadside assistance calls we had made in the past five days. Being a truly gracious human being, he said, "Follow me - I'll take you there." And that he did - all the way into the parking lot, gave us our broken belt back (Jill wanted it back), and then waved goodbye.

After a quick stop, Dave looked at me and said, "Let's go home." I asked him if we would be stopping in Massachusetts to visit my Mom. We agreed to take it one mile at a time. We also agreed if, for some reason, the Nomad needed another time-consuming repair, that we were going to sell or salvage it and take a U-Haul the rest of the way home.

Ironically, just like when we purchased the Nomad, once we traveled out of the Hartford metro area, he ran like a champ. He even seemed to be getting better gas mileage. We did notice, however, he would struggle quite a bit traversing any hills. Dave contributed this to a loss of engine compression due to the head gasket that was on its way out. We were doing great and beating all rush hour traffic. As a result, I called my Mom and told her we would be pressing onward to Maine and not stopping this time for a visit - we seemed to have momentum on our side, even though our nerves were shot. She wished us well and understood.

Now - the next question - would we actually make it?

Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Muchas Gracias - The Joy Is In The Journey - Part 4

You will remember in our last post we were in Bristol, Connecticut in a Wal-Mart parking lot on the morning of Wednesday, April 2, 2014, with our Nomad not starting. By 10 a.m. in the morning, Dave had checked electrical connections, knew we had a good battery and starter, tried starting fluid, and tinkered with the engine carburetor, but our RV was still a no-go. We placed another call to Good Sam's Roadside Assistance and explained the situation. Unfortunately, this roadside call was going to be different than the spare tire changeover. Good Sam's policy is to try and dispatch a mobile mechanic service first. No problem - it's not like we're going anywhere and we're ahead of schedule.

Three hours later, we receive a call back from Good Sam's - seems they are not doing so good. They cannot locate a mobile service in the area, so they've changed our status to a tow and we'll be going to a local RV dealership. About an hour later, a cool, good natured driver named Ronnie showed up and informed us we would be going to Crowley's RV Center. Jill took this as a sign that we were in good hands - her maiden name is Crowley and her brothers' name is Ronnie. (Plus it was also her deceased father's name.)

Next dilemma - Good Sam's gave the towing company incorrect information about our RV. Thus, Ronnie showed up with wrong type of towing rig. It was a huge 10 wheel unit that was meant to tow semi's and class A motorhomes; not our Nomad.

Undaunted, he backed up the tow truck to the rear of the RV. He found the strongest location to lift the rear tires off the ground. Once up in the air, we had an uneasy feeling come over us. "That doesn't look good", I told Dave. He agreed. All the weight of the RV was now on the two front tires as well as the suspension. The front tires and wheels were bowing outwards at an odd angle. Dave told Ronnie our concerns, "I don't like the how all the weights on the front wheels. Look at the angle of the wheels. I mean, it's up to you - but if you break it, brother, you own it." Ronnie agreed; "Me either - I'll try and hook it up to the front end. If that doesn't work, we'll have to send a different truck - possibly from another company. This is the only truck we have in service today. Our other one is being repaired."

After another 20 minutes of lining things up and test lifting, Ronnie was successful. The Nomad looked to be in a much better state to be towed. With all of us satisfied at how things looked, we climbed into the Peterbilt cab. Jill had to sit on the bed in the sleeper portion of the truck as Dave rode shotgun. Jill promptly buried her head into her arm as she couldn't bear to watch Ronnie maneuver us out of the parking lot which by now had quite a few cars parked as well as multiple others zipping in and out of the lot. She prayed silently for more courage and faith as she felt weak and near puking.

We slowly made our way through the city streets of Bristol, and we mean we CRAWLED. We probably never got over 25 miles an hour as no one wanted to further damage the Nomad. We talked with Ronnie the entire way - about our journey, what he would like to do in his retirement, the challenges we all had, as well as the sometimes unfair situations that just seem to hit us out of nowhere. We agreed we're all on a journey of some sort and we all just try to do the next right thing.

Once at Crowley's RV Center, we were greeted by the service manager Ryan. Before even unhooking the Nomad, he looked it over and determined that it was at least 30 years old. Then came the next hurdle we didn't expect - because of the Nomads age, he would need a $500 deposit before he would even look at it. When we inquired as to why, he pointed to at least six other RV's that he now "owned" - basically the actual owners had the center diagnose the problem and then realized the repair was more than what the RV was worth - so they just abandoned it. We agreed to giving him the deposit.

Next hurdle - Ryan asked when did we need the RV back. We said asap as we were on our way to Maine and had to be there by Sunday. He said he was unsure if he could even look at it by then. "Let's check your schedule", we said. Ryan rearranged some jobs and managed to get a technician on it as we all figured it wouldn't be too difficult to find out why the engine wasn't starting. Within two hours, the Nomad was found to have a faulty coil and the problem was fixed. Ryan also confirmed that the Nomad had a leaking head gasket. Dave said he was aware of it and had been keeping an eye on it for about two months. Ryan and Dave were pretty confident that Nomad would get us to Maine, but obviously there were no guarantees.

We thanked the people at Crowley's RV Center, although we both admitted that we wouldn't go back there for any more repairs as it was just too expensive. We headed down the road and about a mile later, we were back on I-84. About two miles after that, Dave said he heard a faint clunk in the engine compartment. Dave always keeps a good eye on the Nomad's engine gauges. He had a very concerned look as the voltage started to drop, the oil pressure started to drop, and the engine temperature started climbing. He looked over at me and said, "Honey - I'm getting off the highway." Then he followed with, "This may be it - I love you."

I went into terror mode as I was unsure what he was referring to. I stared blankly ahead taking in what he was saying and thinking; WE ARE GOING TO DIE! "I love you too", I answered. I also thought, how romantic - these would be the last three words we would ever say to each other... Yes, I am a sentimental fool!

Once off the highway, Dave told me to look for a parking lot - QUICKLY!  We ran a red light as we quickly drove down the street. About a quarter mile down the road, we saw a plaza with restaurants and other stores. "Here! Pull in here!", I told him. Dave wheeled the Nomad around at full tilt, pulled into some vacant spaces, and shut the Nomad off. We both could hear the engine ticking, knocking and bubbling loudly, so Dave grabbed the backpack that held the computer as well as other important items, and we bolted from the cab. I honestly thought the engine was blow up! So I ran back for my winter coat since we might be sleeping on the ground in the cold and exposed to the elements...

We walked into Capri's Italian Bistro where the only person inside was the bartender and we asked if we could borrow a phone book. We also asked if she knew of a reputable mechanic in the area. Dave wrote down the information he needed while I tried to calm down with some cold water and ice. Dave said he was going to check out the Nomad and see if he could find out what happened THIS time!

The Nomad didn't blow up. But what was wrong with it now?

Until next time,
The Happy Campers
Jill & Dave

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Muchas Gracias - The Joy Is In The Journey - Part 3

In our last post, we stopped for fuel at the New York / Connecticut state line only to hear an unusual noise coming from the back of the Nomad. After surveying the damage of the broken bolts that go to the tanks through the heavy duty brackets, and a smashed outlet pipe that could no longer be attached to the drainage pipe, we had to figure out a way to either shore up the tank or remove it.

Dave first thought about disconnecting the gray tank completely. We could lower the tank and store it inside the RV. It was completely empty and was washed out and cleaned before we left Georgia. Dave found he could remove the screws that attached the wiring to the tank. That was easy - they were in great shape and suffered no damage. But when he tried to remove the bolt that went to the last bracket, he found it was too rusty to move. If he kept at it, the bolt would either break or get stripped. OK - do we have a plan B?

A guy pulled up to the pump next to us to get fuel. He looked at our situation and also realized it couldn't be fixed here. Turns out, he was also from Maine and was moving some furniture that day. He happened to have a brand new, long, heavy duty ratchet strap that we purchased from him for cheap. We ran it up one side, then over the top of the Nomad, then underneath both waste tanks, and secured it on the drivers side. Dave also fastened two heavy duty bungee cords under the tanks as well. The repair looked like a huge yellow band aid on the Nomad, but it worked! We zip tied some thick cardboard around the ratchet area so it would bang up the fiberglass on the side of the Nomad.

Onward! We pushed through New York, over more horrible roads in Waterbury, Connecticut, and finally landed at our stopping point for the evening in Bristol, CT. We went into Wal-Mart for a few supplies as well as to Subway for something different for dinner. It was in this store we met a wonderful woman named Linda. Linda an employee who was singing in the middle of the store. As we followed her singing through the aisles, we found some of her co-workers who pointed her out. She became embarrassed and started to bolt. Jill asked the others for her name. "Linda," one replied. Jill called her back and she came back over. Jill explained about our trek from Georgia, how we left there for Maine, that we were missing the Southern hospitality, and how her singing comforted Jill. She had a beautiful voice!

The next morning, we went in for our morning coffee. Linda was coming towards us from the other direction and said, "Thank God! You came back!" The first thing Jill thought of was, "Oh great - what did we do now?" Linda continued, "Some other woman complained that I was carrying on too loudly. Could you tell my manager what you told me yesterday. How y'all are traveling and you liked my singing. Oh, sorry - I'll let you tell him..." Now that she'd finally stop talking, Jill explained to the store manager, Justin, how her singing comforted me, was really beautiful, and that it made this Wal-Mart a nicer store to visit. Dave saw that Justin had his arms crossed; "You don't have to be defensive, man. You can relax your arms. It's all good". The poor manager didn't know what to say or think! He just smiled and carried on with his duties. Linda and Jill hugged each other. Linda wished us well on our journey, and we parted ways.

Dave and I packed up the Nomad, read some meditations, saw a nice sunrise, and finished our coffee. Time to hit the road to get to Jill's Moms house in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Dave turned the key over and the Nomad wouldn't start. Hold on a minute here. The battery and starter were fine; the engine was turning over. We could smell gas, so it wasn't a fuel issue. Our RV is 36 years old - there are no computers, sensors, or any other technological devices. Dave tried starting the Nomad in park as well as neutral - no dice. Dave went back inside Wal-Mart and purchased some starting fluid. Dave took off the dog house inside the Nomad to get to the engine. He sprayed some fluid into the carburetor - still nothing. He tapped the side of the carburetor with a large screwdriver to see if the choke was stuck for some reason - nada. He checked the linkage as well as other small parts... everything seemed fine & in perfect working order.

We looked at each other. Now what?

Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Muchias Gracias - The Joy is in the Journey - Part 2

You'll remember that when we ended our last post, we were about half way back to Maine in south central Pennsylvania. On Monday, March 31st, we left Dave's sister Sandy's house to embark our way further north. The moderate to heavy rain we experienced over the weekend gave Nomad its first water leak. It was on the passenger side where the roof starts to pitch upwards to go over the cab. Dave found where it was leaking exactly, toweled up the small amount of water, and purchased some waterproof sealant. We would have to wait a bit until we applied it as the outside temperature was still below 50 degrees. We packed up and hit the open road. Today's destination was Scranton, Pennsylvania.

We were about 20 miles from our destination on I-81 when we experienced a tire blowout. Believe it or not, at first we were unsure we even lost use of the tire. We were cascading the hills, with numerous trucks leaving a diesel scented trail. However, Jill swore she could smell rubber. We even felt a slight bump, but no pop, no squeal, no loss of control of the Nomad. As we exited the interstate, Jill said, "I think we have a flat". Once off the highway, everything seemed smooth. She started second guessing herself and said, "Was it just my imagination?" Dave mentioned, "We'll check it out - we need gas anyways."

Pulled into the gas station and Jill headed for the ladies restroom. Dave paid for our fuel, pumped the gas, then checked under the Nomad. "Wow! Yeah, we had a blowout alright. We lost the left rear inner tire. That thing is gone!" Good thing we have a spare!

Good Sam's Roadside Assistance to the rescue! A tire technician named Vince arrived about an hour later, put on the spare and got rid of our old tire. One piece of good news was the fact that the blowout happened on an older tire, not one of the newer ones. Vince was a great guy, but we could tell he had had a long day. After the job was completed, he left without his tire chocks! He called and we waited about 15 minutes for him to return. We hit the road once again just in time to get snagged in rush hour traffic in Scranton, PA. Once we arrived at Wal-Mart, we were comforted by the fact that we were in an old Italian neighborhood with four old churches - one of which had evening chimes that sooth our nerves.

Next morning, Tuesday, April 1st - we checked all the tires and fluids. Dave was concerned that he had to add about a half a gallon of antifreeze to the radiator. We had no leaks, so he knew it was going somewhere else. He noticed white exhaust smoke upon start up. He had been keeping an eye on this since we've been in Georgia. This had been common, especially if the engine was still warm. But, like all the other times, it went away. However, he still had that "I'm not too concerned yet, but it's no longer a back-burner thing either" look on his face. Today was going to be a longer driving day - destination was Bristol, Connecticut. Dave set the GPS coordinates and it promptly took us on a scenic tour of Scranton - including roads that were littered with large pot holes. In fact, EVERY street was like this. Scranton also reminded us of old Boston - the city added roads wherever it could as it grew. "Who laid out these roads?" we protested! To say they were hard to follow was an understatement... 

Once we were on I-81 and then I-84, they were just as bad! We did our best (as did everyone) to dodge and avoid them, looking like an Indy 500 road course, but to no avail. Once we were about 10 miles out of the city, things finally smoothed out. We stopped for gas on the Pennsylvania / New York state border. We wanted to tank up completely as gas prices were much higher in NY as well as Connecticut. By filling up here, we would have enough fuel to just about get us to New Hampshire. Once again, as we pulled in, Jill heard a noise - but it was different than the tire noise. Jill said as she was jumping from the cab, "That doesn't sound good. I'm heading to the restroom. You can check out the Nomad." Did the same drill as before - go in, pay for the fuel, then look under the RV. The tires were all good - however, this time it was our gray water tank dragging on the ground. It seemed all the pot holes and bumps had loosened the bolts in the tank holding brackets, then all the violent vibrations sheared them off. Only one bracket out of the three still had a bolt holding the tank. The tank looked okay, as did the wiring. The plastic piece that came out of the tank and went to a drainage pipe had broken away and smashed against the pavement - that part was toast. We didn't have the tools with us to drill out the old bolts, we didn't have any spare bolts, and there were no hardware stores in the area - or for miles around for that matter. Never mind the gas station attendant was starting to get a little annoyed with us.

"How are we going to secure the tanks well enough so we can make the last 300+ miles home?", we thought. Quite honestly, we had no idea...

Until next time,
The Happy Campers,
Jill & Dave