Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The trips we plan but seldom stick to!

While there may be nothing eye catching about this photo, it tells a story all the same. Devoid of decals and advertising, the 2003 “50th Anniversary” Z06 Corvette is back in street guise, although it is hard to hide the presence of tow hooks, a harness bar and yes, the mount for our GoPro. A terrific Christmas present mind you, the GoPro that is, but video will likely be that of favorite canyon passages than of favorite road courses. The transition to a street car reminded us both of how good this Corvette really is – with barely 20,000 miles on the odometer after a dozen years of so, and it’s interior in pristine condition, it’s a heck of a ride. Imagine, just for a moment, these cars can still be purchased for a lot less than a reasonably equipped new econobox!

And the engine bay, after three years of track duty, remains as clean as the day we picked up from the dealer all those years ago. A 5.7 liter Chevy small block V8 may not sound as impressive as it once day but it’s not lacking when it comes to giving us the thrills we all assume a Corvette can provide on the track! And for all those enthusiasts who decry the lack of twin overhead cams, look at how low this engine sits and what that does to lowering the hood line for better airflow (and downforce)!

Track days are very much in our minds these days as Margo’s recovery from major back surgery is showing every sign that she’s fully on the mend. Apart from a small scar, you couldn’t tell of the work the surgeon did and when you consider just how much pain Margo was in eighteen months ago, her recovery as best as I can tell is as close to miraculous as you could care to come. No, she’s not working out on the parallel bars just yet, but she will find herself in the driver’s seat of the Corvette very soon. Perhaps, not laying down laps at High Plains Raceway but at the very least, to the local grocery store – for that head of lettuce left on the counter.

In all seriousness, even as our cars come and go and the garage is always a place of bewilderment for many, having Margo back to strength is welcome news indeed, and perhaps the more important aspect of her recovery is that very shortly, she will return to baby-sitting duties fully capable of picking up our granddaughter off the floor. On the bright side, I have to admit, is that Margo is spending much more time behind the wheel of our Jeep SRT “TrackHawk” (the more appropriate name for the only non-TrailHawk in Jeeps current vehicle line up). This leaves the only option open for me, as a daily drive, to head for the Maserati and I am really beginning to bond with this classic grand tourer. 

April saw us make the business trip out to Simi Valley to catch up with colleagues and friends alike. Our vehicle of choice for the journey was the company command center – the RV. Fortunately, our good friends, Brian and Jan Kenny, gave us a room in their new house, so we were able to partake of their wonderful hospitality. I am sure I have covered this previously but the Kenny’s are now ensconced in a new palatial home in Simi Valley that Brian is quickly updating to better suit the needs of Jan – and we have to say, he’s doing a great job.

However, it’s the garage that is the real showcase of Brian’s talents as it’s been resurfaced to the same standards as you would find inside the hanger of a business tycoon. I was quickly advised not to even consider contemplating something similar for our garage here, back in our Niwot home, but having access to the materials and the crew needed to do the work helped Brian’s cause immensely. All we can say is that there have been a lot worse restaurant tabletops than his garage floor. Buffed to a mirror finish, it readily showcased the vehicles the Kenny’s now own and with so much room, I can only speculate as to when a new Viper or Corvette, or even an Aston Martin, finds its way inside.

However, Brian is even more track-focused with his sixth generation Corvette than we are and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Taking a standard Corvette coupe with an automatic transmission and turning it into a track torque monster has seen Brian record some remarkable times at some very prestigious tracks, including Sonoma and Laguna Seca. However, there comes a time too when even this Corvette has to do double time and so out came the racing shell and back in went the regular seat. Dropping into the passenger seat I got the full daily drive treatment as Brian took to the back streets of Simi Valley and as much as you can hide its special properties behind the guise of a coupe, there will be very few Corvette aficionados who will miss its true calling in a heartbeat!

Talking of twin overhead cams, all it took was a single phone call and our month was turned on its head. Perhaps, in terms of disruption, for a lot longer! Our daughter Anna was expecting identical twin boys, as you have probably heard by now, and we thought we were well prepared for the happy event. What we weren’t prepared for was a very early delivery and while seated around the kitchen table at our friends Brian and Jan, that first week of April, we got the call – yes, after just 28 weeks, the twins were going to be extracted via a C section. The hairs on the back of my neck began to stand erect – 28 weeks? Wow! Was that even possible? Margo didn’t hesitate for one moment grabbing her belongings and heading for the RV as we finished storing everything away in record time.

Barely onto the highway, Margo got the call, again. The twins had indeed been delivered and they were tiny. Border-line “1 kilo premmies” they were whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and I stood on the gas. No conserving diesel for this trip, it was essentially pedal to the metal as we steered the company command center back to Colorado. Too distracted to contemplate much of anything else Margo left the driving to me so it was a case of 1100 miles in 30 hours, including the 8 hours of rest taken at our popular Green River, Utah, truck stop.

The twins – now called Aiden and Evan – made it through the night and into the next day but already it was clear to the family that this would be a struggle but not wanting to go into all that transpired in April, it’s now early May as I write this post and the boys are getting stronger, even as they continue to experience some set backs. It will be many weeks, if not months, before they make it out of the  NICU and all we can do is be as supportive as we can of Anna and her husband Erich. Fortunately, we had wrapped up our business endeavors early in Southern California, but all the same, it was the drive of the year to date! 

We had pulled the RV out of storage the last week of March and after three trips through the west in the first three months of the year, it was a relief to be back in our own home. The office set up was ideal and I was able to work no matter where we pulled up, and it may be more compact than the home office but it has all the necessitates and looking further ahead, it’s hard to ignore just how comfortable the RV will be as a second home should our plans ever make that turn. While we bemoan the time it is taking for us to sell our home in Colorado, even as we continue to look at the options we might have it’s clear now with Anna’s growing family that Colorado will remain our base for years to come – but winters in Colorado? We are getting a little tired of winter and the sunshine of southern California beckons.

Never one to shirk hard work, I overdid it just a tad the weekend before we departed Colorado. Yes, I took out the hoses, brushes, buckets and just about everything else I had in the garage and washed and towel-dried the RV. In beautiful, sunny, 80 degrees, Fahrenheit! Ouch – perhaps I will be less anxious to do this in the future, but the RV really needed to be cleaned as the windscreen was still covered in bugs from the past trip of 2014. Just as with any home, there’s always maintenance involved and of course, with the clock winding down to our end of week departure, the generator stopped working. Thankfully, we were able to get it to the local Cummins / Onan dealer and the problem wasn’t a difficult one to fix.

April weather can prove difficult to predict. Along the front ranges, April has consistently proved to be the snowiest month of the year (just as May is the wettest month of the year). However, there had been little snow falling before we headed to California, but with the return home, barely had we unloaded the RV when the snow started falling. And all I could think about was the mess it was making of my wonderful wash only a week earlier. Then again, if I did it once, I am sure I can do it again, but this time, I will wait for a much cooler day. It may be the second home and it may be built on top of a truck, but it really does look a whole lot better when it’s clean!

There’s definitely a lot on our minds of late. Margo has healed and we often speculate when exactly track days will start up. We daydream too of the day our home finally sells, even as we contemplate a new start somewhere nearby. In all likelihood we will join those fellow-travelers we begin seeing before winter arrives, heading south down Interstate 15, for Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Displaying Alberta and British Columbia license plates with each of them having a caravan in tow. Canadian snowbirds, we laughingly refer to them, but I suspect in a short time, we will be no better – we have grown so adapt at living out of the RV that should the situation ever develop where it became our long-term winter hideaway, we could manage.

And there’s no shortage of places to visit out west. While we aren’t all that anxious to take the RV east of the Mississippi River, we have only begun scratching the surface of opportunities open to a “life on the road”. Seattle and Vancouver are easily accessible as are some really nice national parks – Yellowstone and Yosemite come to mind. But now we realize that owning a “bunk-house coach”, complete with a pair of bunks, perhaps we will not be alone on these trips of exploration. Did someone say grandchildren? A whole new chapter is about to be written.

During a recent trip to Estes Park for coffee and a stroll, down a side lane we came across a poster for a jewelry store advertising “long-term wife insurance”. Not so subtle a hint reminding every one of us to make sure we don’t ignore the simple things in life. Of course, when I took the photo that’s included here, Margo had just bought a bag of salt water taffy and thought that that was gift enough. Well, at least for that Saturday afternoon. And it reminded me that even as we contemplate change of home, changes to our travel plans and changes to our cars and other toys, the changes that lay ahead for both of us with the arrival of additional grandchildren was going to bring about changes far more meaningful. Something that no amount of candy or jewelry could ever match!

We are now fully prepared to be at home for all of May and that’s not a bad second prize, mind you. Our daughter will need a lot of help and Margo is more than willing to step in and help out in any way she can. As for me, it’s more a case of being the chauffer and ensuring I keep my interventions into Margo’s plans to a bare minimum. She may never have been a famous Polish gymnast, even though there’s been numerous appearances alongside bars worldwide, and she may very well find herself behind the wheel of the Corvette shortly, but the role she now most looks forward to playing has nothing to do with any of this – it’s a completely new trip she has started and as John Steinbeck once wrote, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”.