Sunday, October 18, 2009

On The Road Again

Once again I stare out my office window at the scourge of our neighborhood. . . Thirty-feet long, hump-backed, four skinny legs and several large zits across its back. Three years ago I named this hideous creature “The Larvae” because it looks like a large grub. In fact it is our fifth wheel trailer. The manufacturer calls it a Wildcat which it bears no resemblance to. Every year just before JoAnn and I leave for parts unknown I park it in my driveway. My driveway is 30 feet long. So is the Larvae. It is 11 feet tall. The electrical wires along our street are just under 12 feet.

It is Wednesday. We leave on Friday. JoAnn and I are not speaking to each other. Something about if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all. We’re renting our house while we’re gone. . .something about money. The task of getting our house ready for tenants has become a test of our marital sanity­if there is such a thing.

“All we gotta do is get in the trailer and leave,” I have said, repeatedly.

“What?!?!” she screeches. “The windows need to be washed, the house needs to be vacuumed, paintings put away, our good silver hidden along with good dishes, the trim on the house needs painting, we need a new mattress pad in our bedroom, we’ll lock up my studio with our valuables. . .”

“What about toilet paper?” I ask facetiously.

“We must go to Cosco. Let’s see, bulk toilet paper, paper towels. We have to have the septic tank pumped. Oh my God, we need an umbrella on the porch.”

“But we’ve never had an umbrella on the porch.”

“Exactly. We’ve never rented our house either.”

“Umbrella on the porch,” I mumble, certain I won’t come up with anymore ideas.

Now we’re not talking to each other. The house looks beautiful.

“The piano needs tuning.”

Today is Wednesday. We’re loading the trailer. I can’t get the air conditioner to work. The RV tech installed a new condenser and everything works. Looks like we’re ready for an early Friday morning take off. We’ll have dinner with friends tonight at the Sesuit CafĂ©.

Thursday. Can’t get the @#%$&!@#$ air conditioner to work. Thought it was fixed. Called the RV tech. His name is Jim Bearse. One of the nicer gentlemen on this planet. He suggested I take the trailer over to Sweetwater Campground and hook it up to a 30 amp service. That might kick it over. So JoAnn and I hook up the truck, bring in the stairs, the living room slider and the front and rear struts and drive to Sweetwater.

!#@$#%$& again. The condenser kicks in but the fan doesn’t. Called Jim and he said he would come right over.

!#@$#%$@#$% again. Jim’s on the roof of the Larvae working on the largest zit (also referred to as the air conditioner). It looks like we need a new air conditioner. $800. Jim says we can get one at Camping World in Amsterdam, NY just a couple of hours east of Syracuse. JoAnn begins to pray. I begin to !#$@$#%$@# and @$#%!@#.

So I call Camping World. The service tech tells me I will need to remove the cover on the unit and get the model number then call him back. !#@$#%#@. I crawl up the ladder to the roof with screwdrivers and bits. All the wrong size. !#@$#%$#. I crawl down the ladder and get more bits, then crawl back up and remove the air conditioner cover. Uhmm, I wonder looking at the unit. What’s this? I give the fan a spin. The unit starts. It really starts. “Oh my God, the air conditioner is working!” But don’t get excited, I caution. The fan might work but not the air conditioner itself.

I crawl down the ladder (Keep in mind, I’m a 68 year old gentleman who swears a lot. This is my fifth or sixth time up and down this !#@$#@ ladder.). Inside the Larvae I turn off the air conditioner and wait for a minute, then turn it on. Voila! It works again. I turn it off then turn it on. It works again. I leave it on. JoAnn is thrilled. She thanks God for answering her prayers. I’m dumfounded. . .not at answered prayer, but that God would get involved with an air conditioner on a travel trailer. On second thought I’m not dumfounded­just dumb.

We launched this morning (Friday). All systems were go. The trip was smooth. We arrived in Syracuse at 6:10 P.M. JoAnn will spend quality time with her mother. We will leave here on Tuesday and stop in on the return trip sometime late August. I tried the air conditioner. It responded.

Sunday. Attended the Eastern Hills Bible Church in Manlius. Started in 1996 with six families, it now has just over 1000 members and is housed in a beautiful and terribly functional building that feels like a church but with all the trappings of fellowship and contemporary comfort. . .coffee, pastries, buffet lunch following the 10:30 service and a one million two hundred thousand dollar mortgage. Guests are given a guest packet and are briefly welcomed by one of the five pastors prior to the service. Prayer partners are the pastors. Wonderful music, entertaining children’s segment (The congregation simulates rain by tapping their knees with their hands­two hundred people tapping their knees sounds exactly like rain.). Big time video but not as tastefully done­or user friendly­as Kevin is able to do. I left a copy of Emerson The Magnificent with Doug Bullock, the senior pastor, feeling a lot like one of those infomercial pitchmen. A blonde Billy Mays. “Endorse this book tomorrow and we’ll send you redemption at no extra cost! Endorse it now and your sins will be doubly forgiven!”

JoAnn struggles in this town. There is something about an aging and ailing parent that nags one’s inner being, especially when they are 400 miles away. . .especially when that relationship has been painfully volatile. JoAnn’s mother sits in her bed, a far away look on her face, hair that needs attention, a faint image of her former self. . .vulnerable, perplexing­passing on her anger, pain and confusion to her children.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the theatre?

How did human’s survive without GPS? It is so important yet only three letters. Like God, except GPS is three capitalized letters. God’s Pointing System. We have a woman’s voice. Her name is Evelyn. Those of you who read our logs from other trips know her well. Only JoAnn can make her cry.

Today is Wednesday. . .I think. I say “I think” because age is catching up to my brain like a long tracking wolf wears down his prey. JoAnn is stalked by the same wolf. If I anthropomorphize this wolf perhaps I can trick him into leaving me alone. I’ll give him a name. Franklin. . .as in Delano. JoAnn and I now have lists and notes, yet we can’t remember where we put them. Franklin giggles. They appear like magic in unlikely places. . .under the dog’s seat in the car, stuck to the handle of my power screwdriver, on the wall in the toilet of the trailer (not at eye level­ankle level. I forgot I put it there so I wouldn’t forget). Also we have assigned places for things like keys, purses, wallets and tools. Yesterday we stopped at a Subway restaurant for lunch. After we left and were two miles down the highway, JoAnn said, “Honey, where did you put my purse?” So here we are 42 feet long­from rear bumper of the trailer to the front bumper of the truck­roaring North on a major highway. JoAnn is crawling into the back seat looking for her purse. Our dog, Blue, is perplexed. Is this a game mother is playing? “I think I left it at the restaurant,” She says. “Turn around!”

Now Franklin is loping along next to the trailer, laughing. He loves this. This is what it’s all about.

“Turn around?” I question.

“Yes. Hurry.”

An exit ramp appears and I slow down to exit.

“Left. No, right,” she says.

I do a jack-knife u-turn in the middle of a country road, look for a sign for south bound traffic and get back on the highway heading for the Subway. (Our GPS is totally whacked, screaming, “Re calculating. Re calculating.) As we pull up to the restaurant (mind you, our rig is taller and longer than the restaurant) we see a man exiting the establishment, carrying a purse. My mind moves slowly. Man carrying purse. Okay by me. JoAnn’s moves quicker. “That son-of-a-bitch has my purse!” she shrieks. “Get him, Dwight.”

Franklin is now lying on his back laughing. He can hardly catch his breath.

“It’s your purse,” I say bravely.

“Hey you!” she screams, standing on the running board, door open, truck rolling toward a very surprised man. (I have decided to run him down, rather than have a fist fight.) JoAnn races toward him. “That’s my purse.”

“I thought it was her’s,” he said pointing to a woman getting in her car.

“No. It’s mine.” JoAnn says, grabbing the purse. “I left it in there.”

“No problem,” the man says, graciously. He wears a Subway shirt with “Manager” written on it. Glad I didn’t run him down.

Back on the road. Have to pick up a prescription for JoAnn’s eyes then to the campsite. 397 miles my speedometer says. Tomorrow we go to Mackinac Island for the day. We will take a boat, no motorized vehicles on the island. Should be fun. Perhaps Franklin will stay on shore also.

Thursday. Mackinac Island. Near Mackinaw City. Somehow and Indian version was spelled Millickinaw. But it is always pronounced Mack-e-naw, no matter how it’s spelled. Lake Michigan on one side. Like Huron on the other. We went over on the ferry and took a delightful 2-hour horse-drawn tour. No motorized vehicles on the island. This place closes down in the winter. Often there is an ice bridge to the mainline by January. Two kids in the graduating high school class last year. One a boy and the other a girl. It was good. None of that competitive stuff about who would be the prom king and who would be the prom queen. No one cuts in during the graduation dance. No cars so no one got drunk and hit a tree at eighty.

The horses are fascinating here; the ones that provide the motor for everything to heavy to carry from place to place. Horse taxis, carriages, and delivery wagons. . .one horse, two horse and three horse teams. You never hear a motor or a beep, just clops from hard rubber shoes. For the most part they are large draft horses. Here the horses are special. They are pampered and spoken to with respect. They work hard here, carrying 30 people in a carriage on an island tour up and down hills, hauling large wagons of supplies to the restaurants and stores. Their schedule is four hours of work followed by 24 hours of rest. Veterinarians are important and plentiful, serving the islands main power supply. I found it interesting watching two horses pull a wagon load of propane tanks (probably 50 or so). I never thought about a truck pulling fifty horses before. In the winter they are taken to the mainland to rest.

All the horses have names and they are introduced to the passengers before each trip. Some are impatient, some are wise (you can see it in their eyes. . .large ginger colored thinking eyes with long lashes), some are humorous. Just as we passed a Congregational Church and our driver called it a congressional church, one of our horses released a deep fart. I only wish my farts could be as respected.

The horses are loved here. Really.

And there’s lot’s of history here. First there were Indians who trapped and fished, then sold the island to the white man, who figured out how to steal his money back from the murderous red-skins and keep them off his island. A familiar story. Wars prompted forts. Peace prompted tourism. All pretty much the same as anywhere. It’s the horses that make this island special. I been around the block a few times and specialness rings a bell in these old bones.

Today is Friday. It is JoAnn’s birthday. I look at her sitting on a crowded ferry and marvel at her beauty. In every bouquet of roses there seems to be one that is special. That rose is my wife. She is the glue that holds this fragile family together.

We will cross the Mackinaw bridge and head across the northern Michigan peninsula, camping somewhere along the way.

I think I’ll blog this as Week 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment