LIVING THE DREAM, Part 19: “Back in the Driver’s Seat”

Hiawassee, GA.

June 5, 2018

Since May 25, 2017, when we bought the Ford F350 pickup for pulling our fifth-wheel RV, Jeff was its only  driver. I knew that, if push came to shove — like if I had to outrun zombies after an apocalypse —  I could manage to drive it. Still, the idea of wrangling with the “beast” was intimidating. So, when we sold our fifth-wheel, we sold the truck, too.

On May 12, when we arrived at Appalachian Campground, in Hiawassee, Georgia, all we had to get around in was our motorhome, which would have been cumbersome for  grocery-store runs. So later in the same week, one of the campground owners drove us to Blairsville to look for a “runner” to drive to the grocery store, etc. Although we were looking for a junker to get us by until November 1, we revised our plan when we  saw the metallic grayish-green and gold 2002 Subaru Legacy Outback on the lot of Blackwell Automotive. Because of Subaru’s reputation for being one of the safest cars on the road, I knew we’d want to hang onto this baby long after we moved onto the next camp, wherever that would be. When daily rainstorms made the roads slick, I was in no hurry to brave them in any car. That is, until today, the second day we have had clear skies.

Invigorated by the sunny, yet cool, day, I struck out for a long-awaited pedicure at Julie’s Spa Nails in Hiawassee.  Well, my luxurious pedi was over entirely too soon, but I was still too revved up to go home. So I swung by the Towns County Library to inquire about doing a book-signing.  Although the person with whom I spoke didn’t hold out much hope for such an event,  she did suggest the Mountain Regional library in Young Harris for such an occasion.

Well, who would have thought that my li’l ol’ junket to Hiawassee would turn into an out-and-out quest! After grabbing a single-meat Patty Melt at The Huddle House in Hiawassee to silence my growling tummy, I struck out for Young Harris. After all, it was just “down the road a piece”. Once again, the librarian at Mountain Regional Library sent me to the next stop in the road to the Union County Public Library in Blairsville where I was able to schedule a book-signing for August.

Chest puffed as I walked back to my car, I was bursting with self-confidence.

What did I tell you, back in Young Harris, Kim? You can DO this!

As soon as I buckled myself back into the car and  pulled out onto the road, my moxie melted. Yes, I had been to Blairsville plenty of times, but  only with Jeff driving.

Now, in spite of the dubious guidance of “GPS lady” (on my iPhone X)  directing me with her whispery voice and rapid but poor enunciation, I  wound up at a garage with a bunch of junked-up cars. I half expected mutant mechanics named Bubba and his other- brother Bubba, in their overalls, to attack me with monkey wrenches oozing grease.

C’mon, ol’ girl, I hissed. Get a hold of yourself.  The same GPS who threw you off track can just as easily lead you home.

So,  I was once more back on track and driving out of Blairsville when  a light on the dashboard caught my eye: the “Check Engine” light. As I clicked off the miles, I ticked off the reasons it could have come on:

  • that the ‘safest car on the road’ would self-destruct with me in it
  • that the dealer where we bought the car had programmed the light to pop on so we would bring it in for a check-up to make sure it was safe.

Clinging tenaciously to Reason Number-Two , I drove the rest of the way with bated breath until I finally pulled up to the safety of our humble but cozy motorhome, reminding me of the last line of an old Nineteenth-Century song:

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

 

 

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 18: “When The Dream Became a Nightmare”

Appalachian Campground

May 30, 2018

“I’m really concerned about that creek, after these downpours,” I told my husband, a camp host here at Appalachian Campground, yesterday.

“Awww, it looks way worse than it probably is, babe,” Jeff said.

Still, it was true. The Hiawassee River was definitely throwing a tantrum, as its muddy headwaters spread ever closer to the campsites.

That was yesterday afternoon. Hours later, while Jeff watched a Western movie on his laptop  and I was pounded out  a story on my Mac as we sat at our dinette booth, lightning and thunder of Biblical proportions put on a show outside our window. Suddenly, my phone bleated a warning about flash floods in our area.

As if on cue, someone banged on our door.

“Hey, y’all,” he said. “The water’s  up to the first or second step of our trailer. It’s lookin’ real bad for people close to the bank.”

By then, the sky had turned an inky bluish black. I looked down the road to see whether our friend, Terri, was home. If she was not, I asked her to let me know as soon as  she got in. Just as I was ending the call, I saw a Maraschino cherry-colored Chevy outside. Soon, she straggled, sopping-wet and panicky, into our motor home,She said she had been in a deep sleep when someone hammered on her door and insisted that she leave her fifth-wheel, at once, so it could be moved clear of the flood water. She must leave at once, he repeated, even if it meant  leaving Nicky and “Sugar-Baby”, her cat and her  sugar-glider  behind.

“You know, Kim, I’ve been visiting a friend for a couple of days, but something — or Someone — told me to come home now,” she said, folding her hands as if in prayer. After I loaned her a dry pair of shorts and the softest t-shirt I owned, I poured us each a glass of Shiraz. While we were talking, another soggy camper joined us to wait out the storm.

As the night wore on, it was beginning to look like everyone — including Jeff and me — would have to evacuate, as the waters had spilled into the sites. Since we also have a car, I was afraid I would have to navigate it along dark, slick,  shoulder-less mountain roads.

After my friend settled in for the night, cuddled up in a fleece throw on our couch, Jeff and I retired to our bedroom. Still expecting to flee our motorhome, we slept in our clothes. After praying to God for protection, I drifted off to sleep.

So, how does this post relate to authors and writing? Even better, how does it not? The people and events in authors’ lives take on “flesh”. If those people are lucky — and sometimes unlucky — they find themselves in our stories.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 15: “Leaving the Comfort Of Comfort”

Comfort, Tx

Sometime around four p.m.

Monday, March 7, 2018

After much exasperation, consternation, and other “ation” emotions that we dealt with during the previous week, the big day we waited for was finally coming to pass. When the moment arrived, it was bittersweet. For although we were excited about blazing a new frontier in a new motorhome, we would be trading in the cramped but cozy fifth-wheel we cut our RV “teeth” on.

We would also miss our friends at RV Park USA in Comfort, Texas. Friends who knew we were leaving crowded around at our slot to see if they could help. After handshakes, hugs, and promises to “see-you-later”, we hitched up our Wildcat to our truck and headed down to the Evergreen RV dealership in New Braunfels, Texas. During the past ten months, Jeff and I and even Russet, had become so comfortable in Comfort.

But despite the friendship, the weekly Bingo games, occasional bonfires, and monthly luncheons with our tribe, it was time to move on to the workamping job awaiting us in Georgia.

As we pulled through the gate of the Evergreen RV dealership, almost an hour later, I was relieved to see our 1999 Newmar Dutch Star waiting for us at the front of the building. When the buyer of our pickup ran into a six-day delay that caused our own plans to veer south, I worried that someone else would strut in and slap down a check for the full amount to buy “her” outright, even though the unit had sat on the lot for five months. Finding our Class A cleaned and air-conditioned for our arrival reassured us that “she” was, indeed, ours. After we parked and went inside, the sales manager got someone to pull the fifth-wheel alongside the motorhome so that we could start moving our stuff from our old home to our new one.

At least, I thought that was the plan.

As it turned out, Jeff and I learned that we could not move our stuff in until we paid for it. Knowing there was nothing more we could do until we met the buyer at his bank, the next day, we spent the night in a New Braunfels motel.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast at McDonalds, we drove to San Antonio to meet the buyer, Paul, at his bank. The check, he assured us, had already been cut, so all we needed to do was sign our names in the presence of the loan officer and take the check to our bank. We were giddy with excitement about driving away in our new-to-us Dutch Star before the end of the day.

Although we had expected to call Uber or rent a car back to Evergreen, we were in luck when Paul rode back to Bank of America with us. We were about to march in, deposit the check, and get a cashier’s check to pay for the motorhome when Jeff went pale.

”What’s the matter, hon?” I asked, as I saw him rifle through the pages of the notebook where he had stashed the check.

”I can’t find it. It was right here, but now —.”

After we had, like, a gazillion heart attacks each, Paul whipped out his cell phone and called the bank to see what could be done.

Fully expecting to receive bad news, we were relieved to see his face light up as he ended the call.

“They found it. And you’ll never guess where it was, or who turned it in. The Good Samaritan was none other than our loan officer.”

After back-tracking to the San Antonio bank and recovering the check, we hurried back to Schertz to the same Bank of America to deposit the check.

“When will the funds be available?” Jeff asked.

“In twenty-four hours,” said the teller. “You can pull out the money, tomorrow.”

Disappointed at having to wait and worried that we might have to stay another night in a motel, we held our collective breath when Ron asked Jeff to step into his office.

Uh-oh, I thought. This happens only when someone’s about to get bad news.

But when I saw Ron and Jeff come out grinning and shaking each others’ hands, I exhaled. So did Paul, who was good enough to stick around, in case we needed a ride to a motel.

“Hey, babe,” Jeff said, draping an arm around my shoulders, “We can start moving in our stuff!”

“And we can sleep in our motorhome, too?” I asked.

“Yep. So, c’mon, let’s get started.”

Seeing that we were set for the night, Paul shook our hands, thanked us for selling him the truck, and wished us a safe trip.

There we were, locked inside the lot until morning, but fully equipped with food, water, and bathroom access. After moving drawers of assorted stuff from the fifth-wheel to the motorhome until we were hot, sweaty, sore, and cranky, we decided to knock off for the night, eat a bite, and sleep one more night in the Wildcat since its bed wasn’t stacked up with clothing and drawers yet to be unpacked.

Before we dozed off, that night, Jeff and I looked into each other’s weary eyes.

“Remind me, again, I asked him. “Why are we leaving the comfort of Comfort?”

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 14: Life Lessons and Plot Twists

5-4-18

Comfort, Tx

Last year, we sold our ‘brick and stick’ home in Arlington, bought a fifth-wheel and pickup, and lit out for points hither and yon. Since then, as RV newbies, our lives have teemed with plot twists and lessons ‘lived and learned’.

Some things Life herself has taught us.  Being a writer, I pictured myself journaling as Jeff drove us down the road. So before we took off, I bought a travel journal. But after bumpedy-bumping down the road in our F350 Diesel pickup, I quickly abandoned that idea when my jiggly handwriting resembled the penmanship of a doctor on crack.

We also learned, the hard way, that fifth-wheel RVs are the dickens to  level. At least our 2011 Forest River Wildcat is. Although some newer ones might have switches, ours does not. After setting up our rig in Arlington, New Braunfels, Aransas Pass, and Comfort, that motorhome with its automatic levelers looks better and better.

Having since fallen in love with the motorhomes of our neighbors in the park, Jeff and I began to re-think our initial misgivings about buying one. Because people tow their cars behind them, motorhomes actually have relatively low mileage. And, as we have discovered, a number of older motorhomes — say 1999 to 2005 — are surprisingly reasonable in price. So, during the Christmas holidays when temperatures were cold and unforgiving, Jeff and I researched motorhomes on the Internet, every night. We learned about the most reliable brands, length, number of slides and ducted air-conditioners ( a “must” in Texas), layout, fuel — gas or Diesel — and price range. When the weather turned friendlier, we scouted the dealerships in person and even attended an RV show in San Antonio where we wandered into one coach and out of another. We were like kids in the proverbial candy store, drooling at the luxurious couches, flat-screen televisions, king-sized beds and — be still my heart — washers and dryers! Each motor coach was more luxurious than the one before it, but before we could buy one, we knew we would have to sell our fifth-wheel and pickup, especially our pickup, since it would bring more money.

So, in February, we posted ‘For Sale’ signs on our 2011 Forest River Wildcat fifth-wheel RV and 2009 Ford F350 King  Ranch edition pickup, believing that both would sell within a short time. At least that was the way it seemed for the first couple of weeks. People did drive out  to see the truck, the RV, or both. Some stayed until sundown and paid careful attention when Jeff explained the workings of the RV. The women loved the RV as I pointed out the fireplace, the recliners, the adjustable cabinets, and the night light underneath the kitchen counter, but before they left, either spouse would say, “We’ll see what we can do.” One couple from up North seriously considered buying the RV and living right here in our park.  We were about ninety-five percent certain that they would buy it until the husband called Jeff and backed out.

Because there is a lot of competition among pre-owned RVs and trucks, waiting for “nibbles” has been worse than waiting for Polar ice to boil. And because both RVs are pre-owned, banks are not keen on lending money to people who want to buy them.

A few weeks ago, Jeff was recently hired for “workamping” (i.e. mowing, taking reservations, or cleaning cabins) in exchange for a paid site, including electricity) at the Appalachian Campground in Georgia. The woman who hired Jeff over the phone told him that she wanted us there as soon as possible. That was toward the end of April. So we planned to be there on May 6 or 7 easily after selling the truck,  purchasing the coach, transferring our stuff from one rig to the other, and then leaving the fifth-wheel for consignment at the dealership. After stopping in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to store some things and pull others out and visit family and friends, we would roll on into Georgia.

Then, along came a plot twist. About two weeks ago, I was waiting for Jeff to come out of the gas station when I heard a thump. A woman pointed to the ‘For Sale’ sign. When I lowered the window, she introduced herself and said that she and her husband owned a landscaping company and needed a truck like ours for hauling trees. After we exchanged business cards, she drove away. Later, that same night, she called and arranged to come by on Sunday to test drive the truck. Before they left, she gave us a down payment of $1,000 and bought a copy of my novel, From Her Mother’s Arms to give to her mother.

As if we were not already under the gun,’needing the money to purchase the motorhome before we had to leave for Georgia, the wife informed us that the loan would likely take three days to be approved.

Although we almost nixed the deal, because of the time element, we went ahead and agreed to wait until Wednesday, the day they were scheduled to go to the bank. Thinking we might have to be there, as well, we waited for their call. Around four p.m., the husband  called to say that the loan process would be delayed until Monday because their loan officer had to leave.

When we called the RV dealer whom we had given our deposit to hold a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star motorhome we had chosen, she cautioned us that someone with the cash to pay for it outright might buy the coach out from under us. Still, we have neither the time nor the money to zip to and from New Braunfels. So, if the unit gets sold out from under us, despite the fact that it has set on the lot for months, then we’ll just snap up another one and consider it not only the ultimate plot twist but also a lesson learned.

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