Sunday, February 28, 2010

This IS a resort.

We had two options. I'll call them Resort A and Resort B.

Resort A, which sits in the heart of "Amish Country" advertises everything that a full-timer like me might want...
  • Workout room
  • Indoor pool and hot tub
  • Club House
  • Wi-Fi
  • Laundromat
  • LP Gas
  • Cable TV
  • Cafe
  • Paved roads and cement patios
and much more. The most exciting part for me was that they have church services twice a week! The lady I talked to on the phone sounded very friendly and accommodating. Two problems existed. 1.) The price--almost $1000 per month, and 2.) The location--far enough from where Rick's claims are to add at least 100 miles to his commute every day.
I guess I sounded pretty pathetic or desperate over the phone because the lady took pity on us and agreed to charge us only $675 for at least the first month, as long as we agreed to use mostly propane instead of electricity for our heat because the cost of electricity is included in the rent. (Plus, this is not exactly peak camping season for places north of the Mason-Dixon Line.)

After more internet investigation and phone calls, we found Resort B. I called...

The woman on the other end was not as nice and friendly as the rep from Resort A. When I told her I had a few questions about her facility, she touted, "Well have you looked at our web page?"
I told her that I had but didn't find all the information I was looking for. She took a deep breath and started talking, telling me everything I had already read on the website. She talked and talked and talked...consuming my precious cell minutes yet not enlightening me much. (Can't say I was surprised when she said, "Of course you won't be able to use the outdoor pool.") I tried to interrupt her several times but was unsuccessful.

Finally she had to pause for another breath and I cut in, "Is your laundry room open and functioning?" (A good question this time of year because we've stayed places that have unheated laundry rooms so they are closed during the winter months.)

Her reply, "This IS a resort!"

That became her catchphrase.

"I see from the photos on the web you are in a wooded area. Are your sites paved, gravel, concrete, or will we be parked on mud?" (I speak with the voice of experience here.)

Again she came back with, "This IS a resort! We have gravel and concrete pad."

She kept on talking, asking me stupid questions like, "Are you familiar with winter camping?" I guess she thought this was our first time out or something.

I finally asked all my questions--Will we have any trouble getting in or out because of the snow? Do cell phones work in the area? Can we get a satellite signal? Do you have propane on site? etc. Her answers seemed acceptable at the time because this IS, after all, a resort, and we were desperate.

The only real selling points for Resort B over Resort A:
  • Price--$400/month plus electricity
  • At least 55 miles closer to most of Rick's claims.
We figured with what we would save in fuel, time, and rent, we could go somewhere else to buy propane, pay extra for electricity, and do without some fun and conveniences. Resort B should be our choice though we both really wanted to stay at Resort A. So B it would be.

The woman told us to try to get there before 4:00p.m. so someone would be in the office to check us in. If not, we were to park in site #66 overnight and we could have our choice of 8 or 9 different sites the next day. I told her we would do our best and the reservation was set.

We were able to make it in before 4:00 the next day. In fact, we beat that time by at least an hour and I called when we were at least an hour away, leaving a message on a machine, telling our exact expected time of arrival.

Following the GPS and road signs, we turned off the main highway and started a steep snowy climb up a BIG hill. (I fought the urge to panic.) Then we turned off that road onto the l-o-n-g icy entrance to the "Resort." (From here on referred to as "Campground.") Snow was drifting across the road from this big field.

Oh, be still stomach.

We stopped at the office,
paid our money, and were told we would still need to wait while they finished clearing the snow from the site where they wanted us to park. (I thought we were supposed to get to pick--oh well, no big deal.)

It took the guy a while to clear the deep snow from our site, and it was hard to tell what was under the layer of ice left behind. I'm pretty sure there is a little gravel and a lot of mud. Where's the concrete pad?

Now I'm going to have to ask you to try to picture in your minds, our spot. It is a "back-in" that is over 200 feet long. The first 160 or so feet we had to back the rig was all downhill. The last 45 or so feet is fairly level ground, at the edge of a cliff, that drops off into the creek bed below. (In the Texas Panhandle, we would call this a river.) Here is the view from the back of our site.

I got out of the truck so I could help hubby watch for trees, low hanging limbs, and piles of ice and snow that might get him stuck or tear something up. I can tell you that my man is good and so is God. I witnessed 24 thousand pounds of truck and camper sliding backwards down an icy hill, headed for a cliff, trees, and a frigid river, finally come to an almost perfectly level stop at just the right spot--a few feet short of going off the cliff and just right for all our hoses and cords to reach the hook-ups. Whew! Thank you Lord!

Keep in mind now that I was tromping around in snow up to my knees, wearing my vented tennis shoes and jeans, and I was cold. My nose started to run.

I walked around to see how the hooking up of our utilities was going and saw the water faucet to be about 3 feet above ground, and it is not one of those nice frost free jobs. No, it is just a plain old faucet that we are responsible for making sure doesn't freeze. Our hose is one of those nice hoses that is heated, so no problem with winter camping there, but I believe this is the first campground we've ever stayed in that claimed to be year round but made the guest responsible for keeping the faucet from freezing. Luckily we carry a supply of heat tapes, but they were so cold and stiff we could not get a tight wrap on the pipe.

The guy who cleared the snow and helped wave hubby down the hill, disappear for a few minutes then returned with some items--

a towel, two old chunks of carpet, pipe insulating foam, and some thin, egg carton weight, Styrofoam. Tossing them down in the snow, he said, "maybe you can use some of this stuff to help insulate the pipe and faucet." Um, okay. Thanks. I think.

The day just keeps getting better. Let me see now, what is it? Oh yeah, a dashing and bold adventure!

After hubby got the water hooked up, and while I started trying to invent an insulating shelter for the pipe and faucet, he unhooked and attempted to drive the truck back up the severely sloped section of our site. Remember I said the hill was icy? Yeah, our rear wheel drive with no weight in the rear end truck was stuck on the ice.

There was a kid, a young man I'd guess to be in his late teens or early twenties, helping out with this bold adventure. He watched hubby spinning tires on the ice for a few seconds then he disappeared. Soon he returned with a bucket and a big garbage bag of saw dust. "Here, sprinkle this on the ground and it should help give you some traction. And here is a shovel in case you need it. Now we need to get out of here." (The snow was falling heavily by then.) He sprinkled a little of the shavings in front of our tires before he went away.

Left alone to fend for ourselves in the silence of the falling snow, I looked around at our circumstances. Suddenly this picture popped into my mind. (From The Shining)
Only, in my mind, I'm the one swinging the ax!

Somewhere from deep inside I started to laugh. It was that so-hard-you-can't-breath kind of laughter, and I couldn't stop. The more I looked at the useless sawdust and the pile of insulating possibilities, the harder I laughed. Hubby, with nose dripping and a grimace, looked at me with great concern. It was a moment I hope I never forget.

It is a gift from God to be able to laugh instead of cry when tears and snot would only make ugly icicles on my face. God is SO good!

I laughed out my frustrations and felt much better. I fashioned a protective covering for the water pipe that has yet to freeze up. The sawdust didn't do anything to help the situation at all. Hubby dug with the shovel and spun the tires until he finally had the truck at the top of the hill.

We went to the nearest Wal-Mart for some groceries, hot chocolate mix, and some of these.

I'm gonna need them when it comes time to do the laundry. I'll explain later.

There are more challenging days ahead, but for now, we are settled in as best we can be. No satellite TV but local stations via "air" are available, cell phones work well, Wi-Fi is iffy and limited, and the snow continues to fall. We still have running water, my tummy is full and I'm warm. The dashing and bold adventure could be worse.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Get the snow out of the way!

Here we go! The RV is out of the shop, our debt has increase, more snow has fallen, and we received a call to deploy, so it is a new day in this dashing and bold adventure--my life.

We are on the road bound for Ohio. Naturally we always hope for a Gulf Coast assignment this time of year, but considering our personal economy, we are very grateful to be deployed, period. God has heard our cry and answered. I'm not surprised, for He is faithful to care for us. But still, I have a sense of overwhelming gratitude because I know every blessing He gives and every prayer He answers is more goodness and mercy than I deserve. Thanks to all who have been praying with and for us. Don't stop! Every "storm" has it's challenges and trials, and it is going to take us a while to get back on our fiscal feet.

Working up north during the winter always stretches us southerners to new limits and offers us new experiences. It has not been easy to find a year-round campground in the area where we will be working. Research before we even left home showed us that we were going to have to scrap the campground idea and go for the RV Resort option. (Adding the word resort usually adds at least $200 to the monthly rate.)

Yesterday while hubby was driving, I searched online for a place and made phone calls. I had some interesting conversations with some seaming friendly folks. When they found out we were coming from The South, a popular question was, "Are you familiar with winter camping?" If you mean frozen water lines, holding tanks, and drain hoses, the answer is YES. (Unfortunately)

Other bits of conversation included, "Do you have a 4-wheel drive? Because if the snow starts to melt, you may need one to get your trailer backed into the space." Ummm, okay, scratch that one off the list.
Another one--"We've got Wi-Fi but your cell phones won't work here." Never mind, thank you very much.
"No laundry but there is a laundry about three miles away." That's a possibility but not the best for our circumstances.
"If we can't get you into the 50 amp spot, I've got a long extension cord." I'll keep that in mind.

The most helpful advice I received came from a very friendly and talkative guy who didn't seem  bothered one bit that his facility would not work for us. "Well tell your husband to be very careful while he is up here working. A guy was killed the other day when an icicle fell and hit him in the head. He had on  a hardhat but it broke his neck." Oh my goodness! Yes I'll pass that along to hubby. Thanks.

Suddenly the image of those HUGE pine cones we collected while in California popped into my head as I tried to envision what an Ohio icicle must look like. Not like our Texas variety I'm guessing.

I can't remember how many resorts and campgrounds I phoned, but there was one statement that every person on the other end of the line said to me before I hung up. "If you decide to stay with us, be sure to call and let us know what time to expect you so we can get the snow removed from your spot." That, my friend, you can count on.

That got me to thinking. (I have little else to do when we spend 10 to 12 hours a day driving down the road.) Isn't that human nature? Don't we usually put off doing what needs to be done until we are in the have to, last minute, stage of the game?

Don't think I'm not an understanding camper here because I know snow removal is expensive, and I have a feeling that if they remove the snow today, it might have to be done again tomorrow after a new blanket falls. But still, the parable of the ten virgins came to mind.
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of the virgins were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take extra266 olive oil with them. 4 But the wise ones took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed a long time,267 they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they had gone to buy it, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut. 11 Later, the other virgins came too, saying, ‘Lord, lord! Let us in!’ 12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’ 13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13). 268
We've got to be ready. When Jesus comes back, He's not going to give us a call and let us know what time He'll be arriving. He's simply going to show up, and either we will be ready or we won't!

So I ask myself, what is it that I need to do to make sure I'm not asleep or out of oil when the Christ returns? Is my heart passionate and burning, fueled by prayer and the Word of God? Or is it cold, buried under a bunch of ice and snow, earthly distractions, and confusions?

Hummm. Something to think about for the next 400 miles.

Care to join me on my dashing and bold adventure? Oh please do...we can start by scooping away some snow, and watch out for those icicles!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My life is a WHAT?

Let me tell you what I've been doing since my last post.
 I've sat in the house and have watched it snow. 

I've done the usual mundane household chores, tromped through the snow drifts and mud to carry out the trash and bring bills in from the mail box--not too much excitement here.
Oh! Except for the day we awoke to discover that during the night a vehicle (obviously traveling way too fast) left the road and plowed through our front yard taking out some ornamentation and bushes.
After the fact it really wasn't too exciting, just annoying and aggravating. I wanted to drive around the neighborhood looking for a car with evergreen boughs stuck in the grill, but I decided to ignore my moment of inner rage and play the cards dealt me. So I went back in the warm house and am still ignoring the whole mess.

In between the three or four different snow storms we've had in the last month, we've been making repairs to our truck and RV. I've been watching the bank account decline rapidly as thousands, yes you read that right, THOUSANDS (with an S) of dollars have been spent on the two items we own that are an important imperative part of our livelihood. We are in one of those situations where we can't afford to and we can't afford not to get the needed work done.

When we got home from Seattle, we had to start repairs on the camper. One of our front jacks quit working so we had to tend to that right away. Cha ching. Then we made some repairs to the truck. (Did you know an exhaust manifold can shrink when it gets hot? Well it can, just in case you ever wondered about those kind of things.) Cha ching cha ching. We started major work on the camper after that, replacing a weak and inadequate suspension system. (Did you know that when an axle breaks lose from the frame while you are traveling down the road, your tires will wear out really quickly? Makes sense doesn't it?) Cha ching x 3!

By the time this repair was completed, we were broke but glad to have the rig back in order again---or was it? We pulled it out of the shop and drove only a few blocks before we realized the brakes, which were not working great before, were even worse now. I won't go into all the technical stuff but if you know anything about trailer brakes, you'll understand that hubs wear out and need to be replaced, and now was the time for that. Ugh! CHA CHING AGAIN!

Parts had to be ordered so we pulled our beloved home on wheels back to our home behind the destroyed evergreen bushes. Note: Some melting of snow and a solid day of rain happened while the RV was in the shop. That made for a nice mix of mud, ice, and snow in our drive.

Are you ahead of me here? Yeah. Twenty-four thousand pounds of "rig" wound up stuck in the muck.
We had to call a tow truck to get us out of our own driveway. (Thank goodness for Good Sam roadside assistance!) We couldn't just leave it there because we had to take it back to the shop a couple days later and more snow was in the forecast. All we needed was another three foot drift to bust through to get it out of there!
What a mess!
It did snow more, but because we borrowed a relative's driveway free from mud and drifts, we were able to get the camper back into the shop with no problem. The breaks repaired, we asked our knowledgeable and super nice trailer guys to look into another area where we have been suspecting more frame issues. (By now we are on a first name basis--Dee & Jeff)
Just to take a peek into the area...
 took some dismantling.

Sure enough, there were problems. Major problems. Again I won't put you to sleep with the details, but I will say that whoever designed the put-together plan for our camper must have gotten his engineering degree out of the $5.00 bin at Wal-Mart, and the assembly line worker who did the construction  must have been smokin' some wacky tobacky.

Now my camper looks like this.
Major problems sometimes require major surgery.
We are broke has turned into we are hopelessly in debt.

There seems to be no end to stress inducing circumstances. There are more, I assure you. I'm simply trying to keep my post short enough for you to read in one day. I've asked myself--What's up with life lately? Although I'm not into mysticism, superstition, or anything like that, I think I might have discovered at least one explanation for these pressing and oppressing circumstances in a fortune cookie I had with my lunch a few days ago. The little piece of paper tucked inside the hard cookie read...

Your life is a dashing and bold adventure.
Well there ya go! 

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read it. I think I did a little of both. I've never thought of my life exactly that way. An adventure? Maybe. But dashing and bold? For some reason those words encouraged me. They reminded me to view my circumstances from a different perspective--again.

Dee and Jeff are not finished repairing our fifth wheel, and I'm not finished pondering my good fortune. God is at work in all my circumstances and in my adventures--my dashing and bold adventures.