Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And The Beat Goes On...

20 July 2013, a day of glorious sunshine and, once again, high temperatures.  It's funny how the temperatures deviate so drastically between Topsail and Jacksonville.  I left Topsail with wonderful 86 degree weather for the race track in Jacksonville's 92 degree oven.  There was cooling wind at Topsail but a heat fanning wind at the track.  Hmmm!

Anyway, it was the track's Salute to the First Responders night which brought out many local city and county EMS, Fire Units, Sheriff's deputies and city police along with D.A.R.E Program vehicles.  Quite a display; we owe them so much for keeping us safe.  We had a rather large crowd for the event, which was so appropriate in celebration of these men and women.  The track raffled off many items including a 29 inch flat screen TV to those first responders with the lucky tickets.  It was a great event.
We were blessed by some fantastic racing through the night, lots of nose to tail, side by side racing which really got the crowd excited.  I am so lucky because I have the best seat in the house; the flag stand.  Every race night I get the thrill of cars passing below me, the bellowing of the engines that really shake your insides.  And so the night went, five racing events with the usual controversy in the fifth race which just added some spice to night.  Everyone left the track fully satisfied except the ones involved with the controversy of the last race.
I hopped aboard my mighty steed (2008 Ford F-450 truck) to depart for home, hot, tired and very happy for the air conditioning.  As I rolled out of the race track onto the highway I was glad to be headed home.  I was starting to relax and cool off when there came a warning bell.  I looked at the dash board to see the ominous message, "STOP NOW SAFELY" glaring at me.  Then the truck started to slow down; I was losing power.  I realized there was nowhere to pull off except a hardware parking lot a half mile away.  My luck held out and I made the parking, lot but as soon as I applied the brakes to stop, so did the engine and no bit of coaxing from me would get it to even try to restart.
It's surprising the number of years of racing involvement that run through your head looking for answers to the sudden stop of the truck engine.  When none seemed plausible, I naturally called Gail to give her the bad news at 11:15 pm.  To say she was upset, and not happy at driving to Jacksonville at night to a place she had never been, would be an understatement.  I really couldn't blame her, but like a trooper she got on the road.
As I sat there waiting, it suddenly occurred to me to call the guys at the race track, so I called Lavon, the track's competition director.   He thought of his friend Billy Goines and said he would call him.  Within 20 minutes, to my great relief, a rather massive roll back truck appeared.  Billy, his friend Ed and I tried to diagnose the problem to no avail, so we loaded the truck on the roll back.  Billy would take the truck to his house for the night and then to a Ford dealership on Sunday for a very reasonable fee and I would call them on Monday morning.
About this time we were loading the truck, I realized my phone was ringing.  Gail was frantic not knowing where she is going.  As it turned out she was less than a half mile from where I was and I talked her in to the parking lot.  I received a good talking to, which I deserved, about not answering my phone and leaving her to fend for herself.  During the loading of the truck, the noise kept me from hearing her three other calls.  My phone ring has since been increased.
Monday morning came and I called the Ford dealership.  They would get to it later today and let me know the bad news.  About 2:00 pm I received a call saying they would have it repaired today.  It turned out it was an exhaust sensor malfunction.  Both Gail and I were so relieved it was nothing more serious.  We had errands in Wilmington anyway so incorporated the truck pick up into our travels.  The $300.00 plus hurt some but it could have been worse.
Still waiting for that peace and quiet of retirement though...Jack

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting Settled...

Well, we've been here three weeks now.  To me, it still feels like we're on vacation.  We should be relaxing, but there hasn't been much time for that.  We've been running almost every day.  First it was things like getting our cars down here, picking up mail and packages from Amazon, stocking up on groceries and getting organized.  From there it moved to babysitting my grandkids, family visits, catching up on laundry and putting the finishing touches on our new home on wheels.  It's kind of like moving into a new house, except a lot smaller!

Paring things down was both easy and hard.  The furniture was the easy part.  We gave family whatever they could use and sold the rest on Craigslist.  It was all the other "stuff" that was hard.  No matter how much went out, the house still seemed full.  I swear that stuff multiplied at night while we slept.  But we got it done and here we are!

"Here" is Topsail Sound RV Park, where we're staying for the summer.  We are mostly settled in, just adding those little things that make it feel like home.  It seems like a good place to spend the summer.  We're less than a mile to the ocean as the crow flies but, since we old crows can't fly, it's a ten minute drive.  It's twenty-three miles to my grandkids and twenty-five miles to the local racetrack where Jack is the flagman every other Saturday...so it's all good.

I really need to take some good pictures but, wouldn't you know, my trusty old camera died!  I bought it just before Katie was born so I could take lots of photos of my first grandchild.  It was my first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot, and it took great pictures!  Thought it was so cool when I got it but, nine years later, it looks a bit like a dinosaur, so maybe its death is a blessing in disguise.  I'll have to add a new camera to the list of the many things we are buying for life on the road.


In the meantime, I'm making do with the camera in my Blackberry.

That's Maggie (below) settled comfortably into Jack's chair.  She's one of our two traveling dogs.  She's a thirteen year-old, Border Collie / Sheltie.

Our other dog, Ryan, is a fifteen year-old Poodle / Bichon mix.



Our fifth wheel is starting to look like home and, more importantly, starting to feel like home!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Going From Home To RV...

28 June 2013, my last day at work.  It was a happy day but also a day with a little anxiety and some sadness.  Happy because after 31 years of work, I'm now free.  Anxiety because after 31 years of work, no more reliable paycheck.  Sadness because I am leaving a work family, one I shall miss in varying degrees.  Yes, I packed up my box with all the things accumulated during my years of work and departed after many sad goodbyes.

Flashback to 24 June 2013.  We tried a garage sale last weekend but the rain put a damper on any meaningful success; $68.00 for the whole effort.  So here we are with a garage full of stuff and a house still in disarray with more stuff.  I am getting to know the recycle facility guys by first  name.  The garbage company really loves us for all the full, overweight cans of late and still, it seems to grow every time we come in the front door.

In happier news, Gail has been hard at work on Craigslist.  We have been able to sell most of the large furniture and the washer and dryer.  We now have a rather nice nest egg to begin our travels or pick up some additional things for our new 5th wheel life.

As the week moved forward, a very bright light flashed and Habitat for Humanity became our savior.  They agreed to empty our garage and remove the mattress and box springs on Friday.  It did occur to us that at that point we would be essentially homeless.  Not able to sleep in the townhouse and the 5th wheel was still a prisoner of the storage facility.  Luckily, we were able to find a nice hotel room for the night.  Whew!

Back to 28 June 2013.  After leaving work I arrived home to find a very empty garage and a very forlorn bed frame.  Also, there were several items needing to be taken to our storage facility in Wilmington.  We loaded a few boxes in preparation for the big Saturday push and went to the hotel, where we proceeded to pass out from the exhaustion of the last month.

Saturday morning arrived semi bright and shiny, and hot!  We headed back to the townhouse and arranged things so we could liberate the 5th wheel and bring it to the rear of the house to load the last items; regardless of what the Home Owner's Association would say.  As normal, we misjudged the heat of the day and may have lost a few pounds getting the 5th wheel loaded.  There were still some things left in the townhouse and I foolishly volunteered to come back the next day and clean out the remaining things.  If I had only known what lay ahead.

The trip to the campground was uneventful, though I found out I may have put too much weight in the front of the 5th wheel.  The people were very cordial and the paperwork minimal, and then on to the parking spot.  The roads here are very narrow and there were trucks and cars parked all over the area that we needed to back into.  Gail asked a couple of people to move their vehicles and they happily obliged.  Backing the 5th wheel was an experience.  It took a little more than 20 minutes to get it where it needed to be...with the help of our next door neighbor.  With all the recent rain, the ground was very loose and the truck and 5th wheel both sank into the ground.  Finally, we got everything set up and settled in for our first night.

Sunday morning broke bright and shiny, and hot.  I went back to the townhouse and started loading the truck.  The truck bed has a 5th wheel hitch in its center which made for some really creative stacking.  After filling the rear seat area with boxes and a 40 inch TV, I was running out of room but managed to pull it off.  Back to the campground, picked up Gail and went to the storage facility.  By now I've sweated out a day's worth and, no matter how much I drink, am not able to replace the loss.  Gail doesn't deal well with the heat and once we started unloading the truck we both became miserable from the heat.  I tend to be a little 'let's get this over with' while Gail is slightly OCD, so there was quite a bit of discussion when it came to item placement.  As a result, a few things ended up in the storage facility that should not have.  I may have pushed too hard...  Ya think?

The next few days seemed to come and go quickly as we settled into our new home on wheels.  Gail is fabulous at fitting things in many cubby holes and generally making a home out of chaos.  I was totally surprised how things came together.

Over all, things have gone well with the exception of the water heater issue, solved by discovering there was switch in the outside heater unit that was not turned on; I can attest to the fact that cold showers are not recommended for anyone!  The other issue was cable TV.  The campground provides cable in their monthly price and ours did not perform as advertised.  After calling the cable company numerous time to no avail, the owner helped troubleshoot the problem as an issue with our cable wiring.  This was corrected by hooking the cable to the satellite outlet.  The marvels of technology!

But the real biggie came when the owner's 77 year old father-in-law ran over our 50 amp power cable with his riding lawn mower.  I was inside when this happened, mounting a magnetic knife rack, and suddenly the air conditioner quit.  As I investigated further I found the power cord wrapped around the mower blade.  In informing the management of this revelation I was surprised, and very relieved, that they agreed to pay for the new cord.  A quick trip to the RV place in Wilmington and we were back in business.

In other news, we have been spending time with Gail's family as she babysits her 2 terrific grandkids for her daughter once a week.  We took her 1998 Honda to her brother, Glen, in Greensboro, NC and her other brother, Ken, just spent a week in Wilmington.

So far, life is good.  A little calmness would also be appreciated by both of us.   ...Jack