Saturday, August 19, 2017

Leaving it all behind until the next time …

Before it all becomes little more than a distant memory what was it really like to live as fulltime RVers? I only wish I knew, as the time we spent in our company command center was pretty much hit and miss, and included many repositioning drives. The picture above was taken our last evening as fulltime RVers when, a matter of twelve hours or so later, we drove up to our new home and office in Windsor, Colorado.

In one respect it was ten weeks more or less spent on the dark side, where almost everything went wrong. The force was definitely strong with us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the good force we were hoping for. At the very beginning of our extended sojourn that much-feared Check Engine light first appeared, and it was pretty much all downhill from there. A torrid trip into darkness of all things that can go wrong with your RV on the road, out of which we have only just managed to emerge!

Looking at the odometer on the RV I was somewhat surprised to see that we covered 6,000 miles. Surprised, because to the casual observer (and reader of my Facebook entries) it would seem we were stuck in one Truck and RV center or another and when we weren’t we were waiting the arrival of a mobile mechanic. And I have to add, when thinking about doing something similar in your RV or camper, take lots of cash with you as those that provide roadside assistance oftentimes only take cash.

Over the course of the ten weeks we had to completely replace our Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) dispensing system, including the wiring harness connections, the processor and yes, the pump itself. This was followed by a minor incident where our steps wouldn’t retract and we had to have a technician execute a temporary fix that included wiring the steps retracted. Permanently; for the remainder of the trip! And that was just the first couple of weeks. We did manage to take in a conference in Dallas, run parallel to the Mexican border with its growing array of fences, stop by Las Vegas for yet another conference and then ascend the various summits that lie between Vegas and Denver.

Following a rotation through various Colorado state parks we hit the highway once again for a quick business trip to Simi Valley to catch up with the leaders of a company in which we had invested. Perhaps we should have known better, as even with the DEF system fully repaired (but not the steps), we were more than a little anxious expecting to run into more problems. And as it turned out, for good reason too! Pulling into Vegas once again for a short stay and a good steak dinner at Mastro’s, all previous discomforts began looking like very minor annoyances.

Somehow along the way into Vegas we had picked up debris that then turned the RVs driveshaft into a giant weed-cutter that managed to destroy everything around it. Air hoses, hydraulic lines, AC and Heater plumbing and yes, even a tire about which we covered in previous posts. Suffice to say, three weeks in the Freightliner Truck and RV center in Oxnard, California, resulted in us returning to the road once again but only to drive it back to the same Freightliner Truck and RV center in Brighton, Colorado that the DEF system had been repaired only a few weeks earlier. We won’t get into the specifics of the costs at this point, but think of something close to 10% of the original purchase price spent on repairs. And yes, a complete set of new Michelin tires went on to the RV while we were in Oxnard. 

Perhaps the bright spot in all of this is that our very dear friends in Simi Valley, California, Brian and Jan Kenny, took it all in stride. No worries; the guest room is ours for as long as we needed it. But even so, I am not completely sure that when the offer was first extended any of us thought we would be housed at the Kennys for as long as we were – but again, we were so appreciative of the warm hospitality that they extended to us. We have been sworn to keep the exact address secret as by any standards their home is the epitome of all that is good with southern California. Warm weather and a swimming pool that beckons and yes, an outside kitchen capable of feeding the entire rugby team should it ever stop by!

Grilling turned out to be very popular and for many nights after sipping on a martini it was time to check out what was cooking. Brian is the grill-master, with enough experience to grill pretty much anything we could come up with. From country-style boneless pork ribs, slow-grilled and basted in BBQ sauce, to chicken to beef tri-tip steaks, I think we tasted it all. And it was good! On one occasion I was given the opportunity to grill and thoroughly enjoyed my time at the burners.  In between the grilling we managed to spend each Monday night at Mastro’s in Thousand Oaks which reminded us of the tradition formed all those years ago when we lived in Simi Valley. 

Unfortunately the business side of things didn’t go quite the way we expected. After several rounds of funding and tremendous energy expended by the founders, InkaBinka just ran out of funds. It wasn’t what we expected to hear on this trip but that is all “part and parcel” for any tech start-up. All that we can add is that Kevin and the family put as much energy into getting the company up and running as they could and even now, I have my fingers crossed that the technology and solution that they developed eventually finds a home somewhere – it was really a neat product and since returning to Colorado, we miss the ease with which it kept us informed about current affairs. 

Being stranded in Simi Valley wasn’t all that bad, as it gave us ample time to catch up and socialize with those we hadn’t seen for some time. Of course, this did include outings with the Kennys and who would have expected that sipping wine and throwing paint onto canvas could be fun, but it was. Painting flowers against a red sky with black earth beneath the stems? Who came up with that scenario but it resulted in four distinctly different interpretations even as there were a number of glasses of red wine involved!

Visiting old haunts, from our favorite breakfast place to the car wash that had so carefully looked after our track cars and with side trips up to Santa Barbara as well as to Solvang, well it all helped bring back a flood of memories. We even took time out to check the condos being built around the marina at Oxnard, but the news wasn’t good. When we first took notice of the marina developments back in the mid-2000s they were prices around $300K but now, even with a little more modernization being embraced, the new condos were being sold for $800K to $1million. Ouch …

As for our other friends each and every time we travel to Simi Valley we find time to spend with Adrianne Neri and her husband, Jerry. Adrianne and Margo formed a close friendship during the time Margo worked in Simi Valley and though the situation changed for both Margo and Adrianne, they remain good friends and continue to stay in touch. Shortly, they will be making the trip to Colorado and we are looking forward to entertaining them in our new home in Windsor.  As well as catching up with friends and former colleagues there has never a trip to southern California that didn’t include time spend carving the many canyons that separate the coastline from the interior valleys and we managed, once again,  to keep up with this tradition. 

Perhaps our favorite drive is along famous Mulholland Drive. Starting on the coast to the north of Malibu it winds its way down to Hollywood, crossing many of the more famous canyon roads as it straddles the ridge line along which many of Hollywood’s elite live. After crossing it a couple of times on our way to the beaches, we did drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to where Mulholland Drive starts only to make it a short way into the canyon before being stopped by the Highway Patrol. They had closed the road temporarily to accommodate a film shoot that was taking place.

We had seen the film crew parked off the road a couple of miles back but after waiting fifteen minutes or so, the strangest looking MG came around a corner with camera crews leaning out of a trailing pickup shooting different angles. It is Malibu after all, and we are on one of the more famous entry points into Hollywood so we took it to heart. And we just sat back to watch it all unfold; no idea what the movie was all about, but then again, watching a little piece of Hollywood right in front of us was a pleasant break from all that had been happening to us over the previous days. 

The port of Oxnard provides surprises of another kind and if you are car people as we are, these proved quite a treat. We first encountered a car manufacturer’s test “mule” up on Mulholland Drive and followed it as it descended down Decker into Westlake. With Ohio plates and barely disguised light arrangements it was either a new Honda or possibly a new Acura SUV. For the whole time we were fulltime RVers, we had relied upon our Mini Cooper S Roadster and with the top retracted, it gave us ample opportunity to check out this mule and at one traffic light stop we pulled alongside to check it even more closely, but it was pretty unexciting.

A few days later as we headed out to Oxnard to check on the RV, we passed another test mule. This time it was clearly a new BMW, possibly an X3, as it didn’t look large enough to be the X5. Test mules are always heavily disguised and covered in a black and white wrap designed to lessen the opportunity to see what the real shape of the vehicle looks like but in the case of the BMW the exposed kidney shaped front grill was a big clue. Turns out that the company that applies the wraps to these test mules is located in Oxnard and as all vehicles that are to be introduced to Californian markets need to be tested in California there was no escaping their presence.

Our life as fulltime RVers is now well and truly over. For the past week we have been heads down inside of cardboard boxes retrieving all of our goods and chattels that have been stored away for several months. On the one hand it has been fun retrieving what is a huge part of our lives, but all too soon we came to realize we simply have too much stuff! We thought we had been judicious in keeping what we were ultimately left with after generously donating to Goodwill as much as we could, but clearly, we hadn’t cut deep enough.

New home, new garages, some new clothes and accessories and yes, a whole new garden! It will take a while to fully sink in even as we begin to think about what the future may hold for us both, but for now, memories of those ten weeks of calamities on the road are already beginning to fade. Who knows – we may be coming to a town near you very soon and with that, I will return to our unpacking and to the many chores I now have to complete.

But ahhh – the call of the road! It’s heady and intoxicating stuff so there are many more stories to be written yet as we cover even more miles. 6,000 miles in ten weeks in a severely wounded RV? How did that happen? And more to the point, what more can possibly go wrong? We will just have to wait and see, but I am sure the next story will deliver something completely different. As for me, I am sure hoping that will be the case …