Monday, August 26, 2019

The song remains the same …


I was reminded of this title when I came across a Led Zeppelin DVD – it’s the name of the video of a live concert by that group filmed back in 1973. A soundtrack album of the same name was released a little later, in 1976 – and it wasn’t long after that I returned to Australia and with each Christmas, I found a new Led Zeppelin album under the tree.

“I had a dream
Oh, yeah
Crazy dream, uh-huh
Anything I wanted to know
Any place I needed to go
Hear my song”

Even now, there are radio stations in some cities that do little else but playing tracks from these albums for commuters who are leaving their offices and drive home. Perhaps it is a little melodramatic to kick off a post with these words but the more things change, the more they stay the same or, to be more precise, plus ça change, plus c’est la même.

Before you move on to another post maybe it is a bit extreme to combine songs by Led Zeppelin with expressions by the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. On the other hand, this month has been rather traumatic if not indeed eventful as it most certainly was, life changing. Margo and I are on our second leg of downsizing and for us, downsizing takes many forms. On this occasion, it’s all about modes of transportation and from a high point where we had three motorcycles, an RV and an SUV, a car-hauler trailer, a sedan / limo, three sports cars and a track car, there are decidedly very large holes in our non-collection.

It all started with the return from lease of the big BMW 750Li (not sure why we ever leased that vehicle), then the sale of our motorcycles in the months leading up to our departure from our former, rather oversized, Niwot home. This past week however, saw a lot of movement. Yes, we sold the RV, the car-hauler and our track Corvette Z06. We now have an SUV, a roadster, a sports car and a GT. 


In the world of RVs there is a saying that you should buy your last RV, first. In other words, don’t work up to the RV you really want as buying intermediate models will see you burning through a whole lot of cash. On the other hand these same people say that there’s really only two events involving any RV that should excite you – the day you buy your RV and the day you sell it. Our motive for buying the company command center was twofold. We wanted a little more comfort trackside when we attended track day events and we wanted a vehicle we could take to major industry events, including regional HPE user group meetings. But suffice to say, I am neither handy with tools nor am I really competent to oversee a combination of vehicle and house that befuddles the daylights out of both Margo and me.

You want a hot shower while you have both A/Cs running? You want to make coffee while you have all the lights on and are working with your PC / Laptop? Power management becomes as much an art form as it is a science and guesswork dominates nearly all discussions followed by, “Well this should fix it!” Even so, Margo has enjoyed more cold showers through the years in the RV than during the early days camping by lakes or the mountains in southern Poland.

The main contributing factor to our misunderstanding of how things worked was also attributable to the fact that at any one point in time, three maybe four items we depended on were simply broken. We didn’t take our RV off the show room floor, drive it to a picturesque lake, and then sit there for endless days. No, we drove America’s interstates crisscrossing the country on a regular basis. In so doing, we shook to pieces nearly everything bolted to the chassis. 


Our good friends whom we met as a result of our track weekend jaunts are still very much our friends and more often than not these days, our travelling companions even if the things we do are not NASA events anymore. Following our return from Las Vegas and the big-tent marketing shindig that HPE throws each year for its customers and partners, we took stock of our situation and weighed the prospect very seriously, mind you, of simply planting the RV in Las Vegas and treating it like a second home. We sure do like the restaurants and every now and then, there is entertainment we like. It would also make it a short drive to the tracks where together with our friends we would enjoy the excitement of driving fast, safely.

However, last year our good friends sold their Corvette leaving us with the option of soldiering on by ourselves, but after doing so for just one more time well, it was simply no fun at all. Shaking martinis with no one to share stories with didn’t seem ideal. With this in mind, the decision took shape – should we sell our track car and if so, do we then sell the trailer and oh, by the way, could we find a market for our lovely company command center? There is an absolute truth that is acknowledged by all RVers and one that is likely the third important saying – when you buy your RV, it better be with cash you can afford to throw away. No magic here, RVs are a rapidly dwindling unrecoverable expense and should never be considered as an asset.

There is one upside from our friends exiting track events. Yes, these friends of ours are Brian and Jan Kenny whom we have referenced with regularity, bought an airplane and now fly here for visits. The good news too is that we welcome them with open arms with no intention whatsoever of following them into plane ownership. And yet, watching them take off led to us wistfully watching their plane disappear into the horizon wondering whether we too should take up flying. But saner heads prevailed and so, the RV has gone and the big rig is no more. 


“Any place I needed to go; hear my song!” Looking back at posts written this year I can recall the time in Sydney, Munich, Edinburgh and more recently, Amsterdam, Vienna and Budapest. Throw into this mix the trips to Las Vegas and to Dallas, Texas, and you see the predicament. For Margo and me, avowed non-flyers and avid drivers, well the options were pretty thin this year and planes returned to being our most frequently selected modes of transportation. 

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the time with friends and colleagues, on the contrary, we really liked the ease with which we slipped back into this constant travelling mode. We even came to realize that we don’t need as many bags as we had at first thought. And yes, always buy the cabin “adult beverages” option when travelling on Viking River Cruises! And as for my song, it’s neither a quiet lament nor a bold and rousing anthem. 

In some ways, it’s a whimper – we should have gone down this path a long time ago but like all RVers we know; stick with it, as yes, it gets better! Not! For a family whose first action whenever emergencies arise is to grab the phone, we became a family whose only path to freedom of the open road was paved with checkbook entries. Talk about the proverbial disappearance of cash these days well, we know exactly where it all went!


Ahhh – but did I also mention just how good it was to be able to roll into a campsite, press the button to automatically level the RV before dropping the support legs and then extending as if by pure magic, all four slideouts? After long hours behind the wheel focused on little more than what is ahead of us on the road, do nothing other than setting up for the night is true relaxation.

Hooking into 50 amp “shore power” and connecting to the water and sewerage services and then pulling out some chairs to watch the sunset – it was highly pleasurable, indeed. We saw the outer banks off North Carolina and we stayed in Zions National Bank where our RV was truly just 36 feet long. And a couple of inches! We saw the magical early morning lift-off by hundreds of hot air balloons in Albuquerque and we listened to the rains in West Virginia. It was a charmed life, sampling so many different worlds and yet, never leaving North America.


“Having recently given up boating, Toad's current craze
is his horse-drawn caravan. He persuades the reluctant
Rat and willing Mole to join him on a trip.
Toad soon tires of the realities of camp life,
and sleeps in the following day to avoid chores.”

From “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, perhaps one of the best insights into the delights of camping whether it’s under canvas or a 400+ square feet RV. At all costs, avoid chores even as it really does seem to be a craze among retirees to head for the open road at the wheel of an RV or caravan.

Perhaps you can put it down to the influence of both sets of parents as on Margo’s side, her Mom and Dad simply loved to go camping in the woods. As for my own parents, they bought a caravan, borrowed my car and drove it to a beachside town where they parked it, permanently. Visiting it each summer and then on weekends as time permitted, I think the thought of having a caravan as a second home influenced some of my early thinking. Eventually, my parents sold the caravan and I can distinctly recall how happy they were to no longer be in possession of a summer home by the seashore.


Our home here in Windsor Colorado seems devoid of panic of late – there is no surprise calls for immediate remedial actions to be taken with the RV. No new tires for the trailer and no damage needing to be repaired on the Corvette. All rather simple, by comparison! Then again, have we really given up track day outings? Have we decided rashly to offload a perfectly good track-day toy? We definitely have cars that can do double duty on track days but I am not all that sure Margo would be thrilled to hear me raise the matter. For now, it’s all a done deal – and by this I mean that yes, we are done!

We still have a large storage facility that we will be releasing shortly. We have cleaned it all out and together with all the items we found in the garages underneath our RV are very thankful that we have a lot of storage off of our basement. It will take a few weeks to scrutinize it thoroughly enough to determine everything that can be donated to charity – and there will be a lot no doubt – and there is still the small matter of the vendor taking away our RV as it sits awaiting pick-up. But it will happen very soon as we can’t imagine any agency buying it just leaving it with us …

One final thought. Summer is almost over and we are beginning to see the first signs of fall. Leaves on the trees nearby are already turning yellow and morning walks are being done wearing hoodies. Seasons come and go and change continues to happen with regularity. Perhaps it was time for a change and yes, perhaps simplification is as good as it’s cracked up to be. For Margo and me it really is the end of a chapter but even so, as for storylines, with the passing of chapters there is a similarity between them. As for the constant, well, its travel so now you will find us planning our next moved - figuratively as well as literally. Yes, definitely, when it comes to the two of us, the song remains the same!