Monday, June 07, 2010

Alarms, 911, Fire Trucks, Towing, And Industrial Night (Part 2)

Will I ever get out of Florida?


Will I ever get out of Florida?

The firemen, which had come after a frantic call to 911, were now discussing sticky brake calipers with me. They wanted to know if the motorhome had been pulling hard to the right or hard to handle. 

"No.  I've got The Beast well-maintained, and nothing like that. I had just drove 80 miles when I got stuck in a traffic snarl for about 30 minutes.  After crawling onto Interstate 4, I had just climbed up to about 60 miles per hour, when I smelled the rubber or wiring burning. I wasn't sure what I smelled, but it wasn't right.  I looked at my gages, all were normal. I checked my rear mirror to look over the interior and then the alarms started going off and I saw that big poof of black smoke waft by the passenger window."

Another fireman crawled back under the motorhome, around the suspect tire. The tire looked great and for all the world, quite innocent with good tread and no signs of uneven wear. He said the engine did look well maintained, oil wasn't slopped around everywhere, duct tape and rubber bands weren't holding critical parts together.  He explained that normally there would be a pile of oil or oil splattered  when the packing from the bearing let loose after the calipers stuck long enough. 

Apparently I had stopped so quickly, that I hadn't had time to damage the bearings too. (THANK you all my angels for small and large favors!)

I apologized again to the firemen and highway patrol for all the hoopla. But they were incredibly nice and said I did the right thing and it was no trouble at all. One said  to me "Thanks for being so good natured and calm about it all!"

Well, I was anything BUT calm when I called 911.  After I tossed the phone down, I took a deep breath and went into emergency mode, to take care of things. I used to work on yachts and ships, and was often in charge of mustering passengers during an emergency and calming them down and so on.

I've been through hurricanes, hangovers, floods, fires, sinkings, lightning strikes,   and the list could go on and on.  

It's a miracle I'm alive. 

Sometimes I even wonder why.  

I was working on a historic tall ship with about 30 passengers when the First mate struck a charted rock (it even had a buoy marking it too) and the ship began sinking.  We had a bar on board, where you could purchase drinks, but the food was of course included in the cruise. 

I announced "FREE RUM PUNCH and DRINKS to all wearing life vests!"  And my oh my, these passengers that had been whining and protesting about putting on their life jackets, suddenly donned them in record time, just to have free drinks. 

Might as well stumble into heaven with a hangover...

Seeing as there was no fire, and I am sooooooooo grateful for THAT, the Highway Patrol opened up the right lane again and the motorhome began rocking and rolling from the high speed traffic that continued to drive just inches away. The firemen didn't think I should drive again until the wheel completely cooled down, or else alarms could go off again and I could damage the bearing, causing myself even further troubles.  If I did drive, they thought, I should creep rather slowly with blinkers on to the nearest repair facility or call for a tow. 

At 4:13pm I called AAA for a tow. I had paid them up for a year for roadside service,  when I bought an old hunker of a clunker to drive when I arrived in America and lost my cat.  I used the clunker to search for my cat and to search for medical help.  I've never found the cat (and it still breaks my heart, he was my buddy who kept me sane and made me feel loved).  As for medical care, I've been turned away repeatedly because my insurance was cancelled and my funds (read that credit card) is severely limited.  

I upgraded to motorhome status with AAA when I started driving the RV. My hunk of a clunker was sold, as I can't drive two things at once, and I can't afford to tow it either and I needed the little bit of money the resale would bring me. In RV terms, traveling with a car is called a "toad", I supposed cause it's that thing you towed behind you but towed isn't a noun and toad is, so the RV people call that car that follows you around, a toad. 

I don't really ever call my motorhome an RV. RV means Recreational Vehicle and implies you are well of enough to own it for pure pleasure. Mine is my sole home, contains all my worldly possessions and it has a motor. So I refer to mine as my Motorhome. 

I should call it NFA for No Fixed Address... or VH for Vehicle/Home since it's both to me. Let me tell you, I am starting to get a LOT of exercise. I have to park so far away when I shop, that I get in loads of walking. Not that I get to shop much, mainly chasing down motorhome parts and restocking the pantry and refrigerator. Which as I write this, heaven help me please, send another angel for my fridge. It's 20 degrees in the freezer and 55 in the refrigerator. I need the fridge to be back at 40, where it belongs. I have the fridge set on "coldest" and the freezer is obviously working quite well. This is a new dilemma *sigh*.  Previously the fridge has been working fine, at 40 degrees. 

The AAA operator assured me that a tow would arrive within 45 minutes. I was sweating profusely, my clothes were sticking to me, the heat and humidity was so bad. I  fired up the generator and turned on the air-conditioning. I drank several glasses of iced tea and offered Harley a bowl of water, which he readily accepted and drank. We both looked pooped. We played with his toys and I made a very light lunch. We were both well past due eating time. 

Three hours later...  I am STILL on the side of the road, only now I've been through a mini-hurricane. 

I kid you not!

This squall came out of nowhere and the winds whipped up into a fury and while inside my motorhome, I was thinking of tossing my cookies, it was so wild and crazy, like a tiny boat lost at sea in a gale. Even the puppy looked very worried.  

I was becoming rather anxious, as I was terrified that some 90mph idiot would plow into me.  The heat and humidity  before the gale, was excruciating, I think without the A/C, puppy and I would have perished.  

I had calmed baby Harley down, fed him a small lunch and fed myself too. AAA and I had quite a few phone conversations. Each time I spoke with a different operator and each time got a different story after multiple lengthy hold times. 

Apparently, they did NOT call for a tow truck anywhere close to 4:15.  They inexplicably waited until about 5pm to call the tow truck company.  Later they claimed they  found out that tow truck wasn't going to make it after all. Next they called a truck 40 miles away. They had recomended I be towed to a shop 14 miles away that wasn't related to the tow company. 

Later, I learned, that the tow company had been called closer to 6pm, not 4:15 and not 5pm. Sheesh. 

Meanwhile, the Highway Patrol had stopped by again, to find out what was going on now. I invited him inside and he said "WOW you have air conditioning, at least you aren't stuck in the heat.  I was worried about you and your little dog." I asked him if he knew what was down exit 58 and he told me what he knew was there, then he left again to go on patrol. 

After the squall passed, I figured the tire ought to be good and cool, so I fired up the engine and began driving about 5 miles per hour down the shoulder of the road until I reached exit 58. Then I crept over to the lane proper, and continued at 5-10 miles per hour to the traffic light. I could see a 7-11 Convenience store to the left, just like the nice patrolman said so. 

I pulled into their parking lot, figuring I would spend some money with them, in order to  park there while I went on the internet to find a nearby campground, unless the cashier happened to know of one nearby. There was nothing I really needed. 

I was trying to manueover to an out of the way spot and decided to re-enter the road to run around the block and park once again.  Just as I entered the road, the phone rang. So I stopped (my emergency flashers were stilling going) and answered it. 

It was the tow truck driver wanting to know where I was. He sounded a tad annoyed with practiced restraint. I explained, I had grew tired of waiting and was now at the 7-11 and gave him directions. 

He arrived moments later in a big new shiny truck that looked fully capable of the job.  

I almost expected the TV crew of some reality show to arrive with him. He was very good looking with excellent manners. His uniform of shorts and short sleeve shirt was nice and neat.   He had long blond hair (I'm a real softie for men with long hair, no idea why, but I am).  His arms were covered in stylish tattoos, as if he had put serious thought into them, not just randomly bought them in a drunken stupor. His voice was clear and his English better than mine. 

He was ready to hook me up and I said "Wait just a minute, I want to go to plan B.  The repair shop 14 miles from here AAA referred me to, closed at 6:30pm but is supposedly open tomorrow. I might as well find a nearby campground and get towed there tomorrow. But all I really need is a new caliper on my right front tire."

Throughout my wait time, I had consulted with a former business client, who was quite knowledgeable on motorhomes and mechanics. Ironically, he had called me during the traffic snarl, and  we had chatted until the alarms went off when I announced "Gotta run!  I'm on fire!"   He concurred about the diagnosis by the firemen of the stuck caliper, and wished he was nearby as he could have changed it in a heart-beat he said. 

After chatting more with the tow truck driver, I find out his shop has a mobile mechanic, so I siad "Great!  Let's see if he can just fix me up then.It's no emergency by now, but if he can work me in tomorrow, that would be great. "

He made a call to his shop and hung up again. He said his boss suggested I be towed to the shop, spend the night there, it was plenty safe, and they would open at 8am and fix me right up and I would be good to go again and that would be far cheaper than using the mobile mechanic (at mobile mechanic rates).

I was plenty tired, and it sounded like a good plan B to me. 

In record time, he had the motorhome all hooked up and it was not an easy job. He had to disconnect the drive shaft before towing.  I took Harley for a walk and tried to calm him down. He had been plenty nervous ever since the alarms had started. He especially didn't like being tossed in the cat carrier and left on the grassy shoulder of the highway while I ran around like a maniac with a fire extinguisher, searching for fire and the opportunity to preserve our home. 

I must admit, I had looked to the heavens, more than once and implored:

"Please don't leave me and this little puppy homeless on the side of the highway."

This last 80 miles was only the puppy dog's  2nd trip in the motorhome, and I wanted to make it easy on him, and it had not been an uneventful trip. Small wonder he had the shakes. I felt like shaking too.

Finally the tow truck driver had us all rigged up and insisted we ride in the tow truck. It's a good thing too. In his big rear view mirrors, I could see my motorhome bobbing up and down like a cork in a tempest. Only the front wheels were towed off the road, the other four tires in the rear were running down the highway, obediently following us. I wondered what my storage would look like and if things were breaking.

Later, I found out the drawer underneath the fridge, where the plastic kitchen things are kept, busted out of it's sliders. *sigh*  The fridge is unhappy and not keeping a steady temperature. *SIGH*

The repair facility was located in a confused industrial area near train tracks, a few homes, warehouses and small convenient stores in walking distance, though I chose not to avail myself of them. 

My motorhome was dropped in a lot outside the locked gates and the driver told me that the mechanic would show up about 8am.  It was now 8pm and I was exhausted and plenty stinky.  I had reached overhead to make sure the air-conditioning unit on the roof was turned off. The smell emanating from my underarm nearly made me pass right out. No amount of perfume would ever cover THAT up.   My water tank was bone dry, as I wanted to save on gas by not hauling a tank load of  heavy water around. A cubic foot of water weighs around 64 pounds, one gallon weighs 8 pounds. 

I do travel with 3 gallons of filtered water in 3 jugs for emergencies. I use Brita filters to do my own filtering as I can't even begin to afford to buy water that is already filtered. My reasoning behind 3 jugs is one for drinking, one for bathing and one for the toilet. One can skip a bath now and then, but not when one smells as badly as I did after my day of chaos.  

I took Harley for a walk on his harness and leash around our new neighborhood. He was relieved to see a tad bit of normalcy re-enter our crazy lives. 

On the way back to the motorhome, I noticed a nice water spigot attached to a building about 50 feet away from the motorhome. Just recently, I had found a 25 foot white water hose on sale rather cheaply.  I bought it because when I camped at Long Point Park in Melbourne, Florida, I barely had enough water hose to reach the spigot.  Before the tow truck driver took off, I had inquired which buildings belonged to the repair facility, since they had left me outside the locked gates, not inside and this building with the treasured water spigot, was one of them. 

I turned on the water and Eureka!  It had nice fresh water.  So I went back to the motorhome and hooked up my 50 feet of hose and I tell you, had that spigot been a half inch further away, the hose would not have reached at all. Now I had running water inside the motorhome, just like the rich folks. WOW!

I locked myself inside, peeled off my nasty clothes and took a blessed shower, washing away the smelly filth and odoriferous sweat. That's when I noticed the fire ants had severely attacked me. I had fought them off earlier on the side of the road, and tried to ignore the pain. As I write this now, I am in agony, my legs are swollen and itch like poison ivy. I am covered with hundreds of fire ant bites. Little zits have popped up everywhere and I look and feel rather lousy. 

But it's OK. 

I've lived through a helluva lot worse...

I was east of Orlando, and the heat and humidity, even at 8pm at night, even after a nearly cold shower, I found the heat just so oppressive. I looked around the place for an outside electrical outlet, but the only one I found looked like it had been through a few fires or shorts or both. 

Well, Onan, it's you and me now. Onan being the 4kw generator that came with the motorhome. I run it every few weeks to keep it lubricated and the carburetor cleaned out with the old gas and in with the new.  I fired it up and turned on the air conditioning. Now we had power. I felt on top of the earth!  I was so happy to be alive, to be well, to have water, to have electricity, to have a silly puppy that drives me batty...

Harley and I played tug a war with his rope. Then we tossed the tennis balls around while he sometimes played fetch and sometimes played keep away. We tried to see who could make his Bo-Bo squeak the loudest, me or him. Then we went to bed. I was sound asleep in seconds.

At 5:30am I woke up really tired, but rolled out of my bunk anyhow and made a pot of coffee with my eyes at half-mast. Then I got dressed and took the puppy dog for a pee-and-poop-walk at sunrise. 

Back at the motorhome, I straightened things up, did lots of cleaning that involved the use of water, then coiled up the water hoses and waited for the repairman to show up at his 8am appointment. 

Meanwhile, Harley, decided to drag most of his toys up onto my bed and turn it into his personal playpen. 

Two hours later, the mechanic arrived for work, and thought he was doing me a big favor by being so late. I bit my tongue and tried to be extremely pleasant and agreeable. I really wanted to grab him by the neck and ask him why he was two hours late.  

By now it was super hot and very sticky again, so I had the generator back on and had been writing on the computer. 

We discussed just replacing the errant calipers or doing both front tires and then conversed on the merits of replacing the brake pads at the same time, and whether to go with the cheapies or the heavy duty ones and so on. 

While the motorhome only has 39,000 miles on it, it is 16 years old. I decided to save the decision until after he pulled the offending parts off for me to inspect. Sure enough the calipers were in pretty bad shape. The lubrication had dried up over the years, the frequent stops during the previous day's traffic snarl had been the final straw. 

Brakes are pretty darn important...

Money is a huge problem for me right now. But I am sure this is only a temporary problem. (Ever the optimistic!)  I pulled out my battered and worn credit card, the one that is going to expire in one more month. If it would survive the charge, I would get the pads and calipers and do it up right and I could hopefully drive and STOP confidently for many years and miles. 

This was going to put a huge hole in the medicine and food budget this month.

Just a gentle reminder, my "Hurricanes and Hangovers" book is for sale on Amazon and other places!

But my pantry has some dried beans and I probably have enough spare change for a bag of rice, so there will be food. I also have a small cabinet with odd sale items I snatched at the grocery stores, as they went on sale cheaply. No junk, just cheap bargains, soup, veggies, fruit etc.  Never can resist a good bargain when penny pinching...

The medicine is a big problem anyhow. Walgreen's Drug Store,  refused the other day to refill my diabetes medicine on an emergency basis in Lake Placid, Florida. I called Doctors Care in Simpsonville, SC, the place that had rewritten my prescriptions when Walgreens in Mauldin, SC,  had REFUSED to honor my prescriptions from my doctor in Tortola in the Virgin Islands. 

Doctors Care in Simpsonville, SC,  had at the time, refused to see me unless I paid nearly $200 up front, when they learned my health insurance had been cancelled years ago and I was never able to find another company to carry my policy again after that.  At Doctors Care, I barely saw the doctor for 5 minutes, as he scribbled out new prescriptions. I had asked them for a year. My doctor in Tortola had written them for a year before my travels. 

He gave the prescriptions to the nurse, and at the exit, the prescriptions were held hostage until I coughed up another sixty something dollars!

Well, I don't read much Latin and the sneaky !@#$%^&* had written the prescription for only a few months. Just before this trip, Walgreen's Drug Store refused to refill a few weeks emergency medication for the diabetes. I called Doctor's Care and asked them to approve the refill and the nurse wouldn't let me speak to the doctor nor would she ask him to approve the refills. She insisted I come 578 miles for another doctor visit or find a local doctor or go without my meds. I asked her what would happen to me if I didn't take my diabetes meds and she could give me no clear answers at all. 

How do you just pull off the road and find a doctor in a strange town?  I know it can be done, but it's pricey.  

I asked repeatedly to speak to the doctor I had seen before and she refused and finally hung up on me. 

I've also let all my other prescriptions go by the wayside. Drugs in America are ridiculously expensive.  But I planned to stay on the diabetes meds until I could reverse my diabetes with diet and exercise.  Lots of people think I am nuts. 

Well, I am nuts!  I'm a mermaid forced to live with mere mortals...

So now, I am traveling without diabetes medicine and I am a tad scared, but I try not to think about it at all. Angels will appear, something will give some where.  I'm taking on more freelance work, as soon as I can get to where the work is to be had, but the money won't arrive for another month or so. 

Plenty of people owe me money, but several are refusing to pay at all. That's what I get for being such a trusting soul. A kick in the rear!  

Life is always about choices. 

I trusted the wrong people.  

And they were pirates!

Around 1pm, the mechanic finally finished.  Harley and I set out on the road, driving rather sedately and babying the brakes when ever we had to use them. But then twice, I had to nearly slam on brakes for cars that pulled right in front my bumper, as if they couldn't see a 28 foot motorhome. Must be some blind folks out there driving around. 

Around 4pm, we made it out of Florida, across the Georgia state line. 


All is well!

Another disaster averted, life is grand. I am really VERY grateful for all the angels that came to my rescue.  

Things could have been far worse, and now they are far better. 

The birds are singing, the sky is clear, I'm alive and though super tired and my legs are suffering from the fire ants, I am really VERY happy to be alive. 

I must be the luckiest mermaid around!

Below, the exhausted Harley, sleeps in his wittle bed with some of his toys he dragged in for comfort. 

I didn't put them there. He did. 

I guess he likes a crowded bed or he thinks his bed is also his toy box. He seems to delight in relocating his toys around the motorhome. His fur is improving and by golly, one day soon it will be thick and luxurious, a far cry from the wispy dry strands he arrived with 2 weeks ago. 


  1. I work with homeless and low income people and there are clinics all over the place where you can get your prescriptions filled or renewed for little or no money. Try this web site:
    to see if there's a clinic near you as you travel around. You really shouldn't have to live without necessary medications!!
    We're lucky in Seattle to have a lot of places people can go to see a doctor for the price of a voluntary donation (or nothing at all). (We are also fortunate that we have an abundance of alternative medical clinics willing to offer the same deal.)
    Good luck!

  2. does the save the mermaid link still work, can we send a small donation that way? I so enjoy your writing.

  3. You should put a PayPal donation button on this blog so that we can donate to you.

  4. I agree with Sandy and Barbara. Many of your devoted readers/followers would be happy to help you during your time of need. Please let us help.....

  5. Thanks for the great ideas. I shall work on a Paypal Subscription and or donation. I was thinking too of offering my books through Paypal and that way if anyone buys direct from me, it does increase my royalties. Gosh if I can just pull through these rough times and get back to normal (Ha! Was I EVER normal?)

  6. having read you for almost 3 years , i live in nc , in fact i think maybe we have met,, not to sound like a idiot, but, wal mart has 4 $ scribs for some meds,, i really hope u can make it, u seem like a genuinely nice lady,, and , if i may offer a word , never take paxil,, i nearly died on may 26 2010, you seem so full of hope and promise,, i wish i had your courage and your wisdom, i know life is not fair , we never asked for it to be,, a few good months in a row would be good,, i was wonderin about you when differant people started writing your stories from your island , be safe be always blessed, and remember, people like you,, greg

  7. Aw, thanks for the good words! I shall keep trying to find a way to get help. It would be REALLY NICE if I could figure out how to live without docs and meds. That is my goal.

    I needed the good words and great suggestions, I shall put them to use.

    THANK YOU ever so much!

  8. Thank you it is really very nice post I really like it.


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