Monday, June 14, 2010

Who knew life could be so grand?

I wrote this last March 2010, but thought I would post this here now:
Let's see, last December 2009, I bought a 1994 Tioga Montara with the intention of living in it fulltime. I was also recuperating from a major illness, and a nasty assault.  I was living on a friend's couch as I had relocated from the Caribbean after 22 years plus nearly a month in intensive care at an overseas hospital.
The RV was too cold to sleep in, until I bought an electric mattress warmer, and oh my gosh, I felt like a kitten all snuggled up to mama cat in that toasty warm bed, What A HUGE difference. So while living in my RV in my friend's driveway, and recuperating, I discovered the leaky roof. I tried to caulk it, my friends tried to caulk it and still it leaked as if to mock us. So my possessions, continued to live in my friends house while I slept in the RV. I couldn't use the toilet because I discovered the former owner had left me a tank full of HIS poop!   :o 
However, he had thoughtfully filled all the plumbing with antifreeze and I just left it that way, since some days I was super sick and my friend begged me to stay indoors on their couch and the RV sat outside, unheated.
Every now and then I would get my strength back and take the RV on a very short ride to get used to handling the beast, then come back to level it up in their driveway, then collapse again from the sheer effort. Time ticked away and my recuperation began to mend again with the occasional hiccups that set me back here and there, but the WORST thing of all was itchy feet. I wanted to travel again and having NEVER ever traveled by RV, I was anxious to get well and well, get moving!!! ;D
Eventually I was able to actually start doing a little work here and there and make some repairs on the RV, doing the work myself, but the leaky roof continued to taunt me.  I also managed to finally do some paying freelance work plus sell enough of my book (Hurricanes and Hangovers)  to scrape up some repair money for the roof and gasoline for the tank. Suddenly February was upon us and I wondered where had all the time gone? 
I finally got the leaky rubber roof repaired!  First it was pressure washed, then dried, then primed, then massive amounts of all manner of caulking, then  4 coats of rubber roof coating and well my roof looks brand new now and nary a drop has been seen since.
Because it was a brutal winter in upstate SC, I couldn't do the painting myself (it must cure at 55F+ degrees for a day between coats etc) so I sent it to a shop. Actually, the first shop I went to, a large well known franchise, seemed to dismiss me as if they had never ever met a single female with an old used RV, and treated me like a total idiot, then  tried to sell me a $5,000 new roof. 
NOTE:  There was NO structural damage, the prior owner had always garaged the RV and just never done any roof maintenance, so all the leaks were basically "new" even though I am sure they didn't happen overnight, his garage had prevented any damages. The former owner basically fired up the generator and engine each month and sat in the garage, dreaming of places to go, but never really went much of anywhere the past few years while the original 1994 roof rubber deteriorated. I came along and after buying the RV, did caulking 3 times, only to have it seemingly spring new leaks!  I couldn't fully move into the RV, because I didn't want to live with leaks that might damage the RV and my stuff. So I had reached a crisis stage, as I needed to do SOMETHING to get off my friend's sofa where I was camping!  The tarp I had put over it, managed to spring a leak and I was back to square one plus you can't drive anywhere with a tarp over it and so on.
NOTE:  Later on, I discovered that the acetone I was using to clean up the roof areas before caulking, was actually eating more holes in the rubber, thus the more I caulked, the more it leaked.
Anyhow, the harsh treatment by the rude service manager at the franchised place  upset me so badly, I shopped for quotes.  The next place wanted to sell me an RV roof kit, then tack on labor and the quote was about $1500 for just the roof refurbishment. The kit had more junk that was needed for my roof, and they harped on their 5 year warranty. When I began asking questions about; was the warranty on the paint or the labor  or both, and was the warranty good at other locations that sold that paint or just their location, and if it sprung a leak 2 weeks later, 1,500 miles away, would it be fixed locally or would I have to backtrack 1,500 miles and the guy says "I don't know what we cover, I just know it's a 5 year warranty!" and he then took a lengthy phone call and did his best to dismiss and  ignore me.
Next I  ended up at a small old established family run RV shop.  These folks treated me really nicely and were extremely patient with me being a newbie and owning an old RV. They also mentioned some of their clients had been coming to them for 30+ years.  I could see why too. While their shop had fading paint and was in desperate need of new signage, the garage was well appointed and they acted like they truly wanted to help me, not only with the roof but everything to get me on the road.
I had barely hopped out of my RV when this short stout older man with a cigar stub dangling out of his mouth,  ran out of the shop and up the ladder then proceeded to go over every inch of my roof while talking nonstop. Then he climbed down and next thing I knew, he was inspecting the outside of the RV and then he dashed inside and did a complete tour and kept asking me what else was wrong, while inspecting and talking away and handing out tons of advice and so on!  So I gave him my punch list of all the things such as the engine battery rarely started the RV, the big drawer I repaired, fell apart, the heat and defroster on the engine blew out icy cold air, and I'd like an oil change for good luck, the broken refrigerator chimney with its duct tape repair was unsightly and could he check all my tires including the spare for proper air pressure, since I didn't fancy crawling under there in my dress and I was clueless how to check the inside of the back 4 tires and maybe lubricate the under things for good luck too.
He barked at me, "That's IT?  That's all that's wrong with it?"
9 days later and for $1400 he did the above roof repairs and refurbishment, installed a new starter battery, replaced the broken refrigerator chimney, repaired the non-working engine heat and defroster, changed the oil, lubricated everything and repaired my biggest drawer, which has broken slides and checked the air pressure in all 7 tires.
When I picked it up, he dragged me up the portable stairway, talking nonstop and showed me my new beautiful roof and told me to call him anytime for free advice and he hoped if I ever needed anything I would come back and he said he felt like I was ready to hit the road for many trouble free miles.  (My new used RV is a 1994 with 38,000 miles). 
I was IMPRESSED to say the least. I asked him what if the roof sprung a leak and he barked "It WON'T!" and explained how to care for it in the future then he conceded if I ever saw the teeniest drop of water, to let him know, "We make things RIGHT! We stand behind our work!" and he must have told me this 5 times.
I drove away on cloud nine, and spent the next few days packing up my stuff and sorting much of it for donation or garbage (I like to travel light)  and I MOVED in completely. Then it poured down rain and stormed several times and the RV was dry as a desert inside.  
I bought a few groceries and since I had potential business 500+ miles away in Orlando, I drove 250 to Savannah and spent the night at a very nice beautiful campground.  I stopped at rest areas along the way and made small meals, plus fired up the generator and let it work some to lubricate and purr to get the old gasoline out of the carburetor and I thought WOW, this is the life! The fridge was icy cold while on propane use.  Initially it was so cold outside, I had the engine heater running (while driving) and my gosh, it heated up the entire RV without me having to use the main furnace at all.
I also managed to dump the seller's tank of poop!  Yes!  He sold me the RV with a tank load of his poop!  Had I KNOWN.....  (and just how much of the final selling price did he charge me for his big tank of poop?)    But at some point I had bought leather gloves, rubber gloves, plastic gloves and so on, knowing this day would come...  I had also bought some vice grips and I've always been the type to own multiple cans of WD-40. So at the campground, I sat down on my portable stool, (I can't reach the inside cabinets without it!) donned my leather gloves, and fought with that poop valve with the vice grips,  while spraying a half can of WD-40 on it, and by golly, I got the valve unstuck and heard the WHOOSH.  It seemed like it took forever, but I got rid of the seller's tank full of poop and flushed out the tank really good and filled up the gray water tank and then drained it to flush out the hoses and I was ready to dance on the picnic table at this point...
Oh and I was wearing a dress while doing all this work, causing many walking by, to take a double look at this odd site...
The next day I played in my RV like a child with a new toy, then did another 250 miles to Orlando by my lonesome and all in all I managed to arrive alive, without hitting anything or anybody and chanting to myself "I'm 28 feet long, 8 feet wide, 11 feet high..."  I found changing lanes a bit daunting, but just the same I managed all that. The roads were under construction much of the way, plus two more storms, and sometimes traffic moved at a crawl, but I survived!
I had loaded up this Mp3 thingy with tunes and plugged it into a cigarette lighter and it somehow broadcast through the stereo speakers, so I had nonstop tunes to keep me company and no worries about my hands leaving the steering wheel to fiddle for radio stations.  I kept both hands on the steering wheel 99% of the time and learned to use the mirror arrangement.  When I had to negotiate heavy traffic, bad roads, hideous detours and weird turns, I just slowed way down and took my sweet time, better safe than sorry and the honkers can just keep on honking while I make sure I don't take out a tree or mow down a stop sign or be forced into making sudden erratic dangerous moves.
If I sound smitten, I AM!!!   I'm now in Orlando until whenever...   I think I am meeting up with a non-RV friend next week about 140 miles away, and we are going to RV together for a few days of relaxation.  I am still working and while for the most part my work goes with me, I will at some point need to relocate again, no grass will die under my RV!
Currently I am parked on a private shady lot with just electrical hook up and otherwise living self-contained. Once the poop tank fills,  I will have to venture out and dump all that again. 
In Savannah, it was my first time EVER setting up camp (besides my friend's driveway), and in under 15 minutes, I was parked, and had my water, electric and sewer hooked up.  The Wifi worked and I didn't bother with the TV cable as I was too excited to watch TV and besides, the TV is still packed up in the basement and I'm not even sure I want a TV (it was a used gift from a friend) but I felt like "Aw heck, any old girl can do this alone... why was I ever worried?" 
When I checked out of camp I topped up the propane tank and though I somehow missed a turn in the RV park and apparently drove one way the wrong way, (in the park) everyone was nice about it and let me slowly plow on through until I was back on the correct lane again.   I swear I followed every sign, so I still don't know HOW I ended up doing that, but no one seemed obligated to give me any grief or maybe my red face and goofy grin was just too entertaining...
In Orlando while visiting with some old friends, they said they never doubted for a moment that I would load up that RV and drive down alone.....  if they only knew how WHITE my knuckles were...
Which I've decided since I am going it alone, that towing a toad is just way too much trouble. I also haven't learned much about backing up, though I've been forced to do it now and then. I mostly get out on foot, do a 360, then back up at a snail's pace, and if I feel funny, I park again, get out and look, then back up at turtle speed some more.  I know this is a very slow method of backing up, but so far I've missed the trees and telephone poles and other vehicles and left the mailboxes intact.
For shopping, I pull into the  parking lot and park far away from the crowd,  in such a way I don't have to reverse, if at all possible, when I leave, then I get my exercise hiking to and from the stores.   My stamina is still not up to par, but that's OK, I just stretch out on the bed and relax if I have to, before I fire up and drive off.
Oh, and at some point this winter, I got fed up with the whole medical mess, canceled my doctors and tossed 14 of their 17 "pills you need for the rest of your short life" and only take the remaining 3, and took on lots of alternative healthy treatments and after a few bumpy scares,  it seems I am rapidly recuperating, without their help. I just refuse to lie down and die, so they better get used to me sticking around, cause I got places to be and things to do, in my little old RV! 
After I bought the old RV, someone referred to my situation as a "terrible hardship".  I said "Hardship?  This is an adventure! The fact that I am alone, on a tiny shoe string erratic budget, just makes the adventure that more exciting!" 
Besides beans are cheap and I brought along this little nifty crock pot that does dried beans perfectly.  Now I'm trying to figure out why the hot water doesn't work, and where is that secret bypass valve and I am pinching pennies saving up for one of those Oxygenics handheld shower thingys.  I understand they pressurize and give you more bang for the water pressure.
Who knew life could be so grand?
I was so smitten last March, when I wrote this article and well, here it is June 2010, where does the time go?
A few things have changed. I regifted the TV and currently don't have one at all. The hot water heater was eventually fixed and I felt like I had arrived in the 21st century.
My sailing friend from the Caribbean did join me for a week of camping at a beautiful nature preserve. We nearly sunk the motorhome!  Only two sailors could manage that.. I will have to write a story about that and how we nearly flooded the motorhome in a fit of fancy... (Where's the bilge pump?)
My health continues to plague me, but I keep praying and meditating and asking angels for help. I keep writing and working on new books, but I'm also trying to pickup freelance work, which of course takes away from the writing, sad to say.
Erratic income comes in from the book sales and now the new subscriptions to Dear Miss Mermaid (THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH!)
I have hope, I see the glass half full. The motorhome has saved me from being completely homeless, something I was plenty worried about, once I left the Caribbean. I think it's all going to work out one day.
I've had tough times before, but nothing this crazy.  I pay every month on my past medical bills, I've always paid all my bills, no matter what. I find current medical care extremely expensive in the USA and therefore get very little attention. I may look into the alternative free clinics.
In Orlando, I did get some free medical care through a college, but that is done now. 
The sun is up, I am up, and I have a tiny puppy that is a pain in the elbow, but I love him anyhow.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have any experience with Tioga Montara but I would like to have the best wishes for your better health.


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