“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
– C. S. Lewis
This past weekend was our maiden voyage in the big, beautiful beast. A brief trial run with the family before we really set sail full-time mid August. We thought our friend’s son’s wedding in Hermann, MO – just an hour from home – would be a great place to test things out. We’d be close to home and surrounded by friends in case things went wrong. But first, we had to get there.
Our rig has mostly sat in the repair shop since returning from Houston where we bought it. There were various leaks to fix, a broken air pressure gauge to replace, a fuel sensor and wiring to repair, and while it’s there, why not have the the oil and fuel filters changed. So after 3 weeks and a $2,000.00 tab, we get our beast back.
Two grand. Haven’t gone anywhere yet.
It’s Friday. The wedding rehearsal starts at 4:00. My son Aiden is in the wedding, so we need to be there on time. We arrive at Hawk Point (where our beast is parked at my mother-in-law’s house) with plenty of time to load up our gear. We fire up the engine, turn on the generator to cool things off, and begin bringing things on board. I immediately notice a few of my little ant roommates walking across the dashboard, so I stop to play the tiniest game of wack-a-mole, muttering angrily to myself. The bait traps we purchased and laid out all over the coach weeks ago appeared to have had zero effect in eliminating the freeloaders. Great.
Aimee – “We have a mouse!”
Jim – “What? No way. No.”
Tiny ants are annoying, but mentally I can (mostly) get past them. But a mouse? No. No way I’m living with a mouse. No freakin’ way. It’s not a fear thing, it’s a gross thing. Nasty little plague-spreading cheese-eaters. It’s enough to send me over the edge:
“We’re putting this thing on the market as soon as we get back. I’m done.”
And I meant it. Mostly. But I should have known. When I purchased the coach, I found two mouse traps inside the basement compartment where my electric hook-ups are located. Guess I was just in denial at the time.
The top drawer in the kitchen was littered with tiny turds, as were the two drawers underneath. The little guy had chewed up some ketchup packets we had lying in the drawer from our trip from Houston. Curiously he had left the zip-lock bag full of granola bars undisturbed. I did some more searching and found a few turds on the carpet here and there, and a couple on my dashboard. And then I found it. The poo-de-grâce. A lone nugget right on my beautiful plush leather driver’s seat. Might as well been a giant furry middle finger because I took this as a declaration of war. He was taunting me. It was him or me. Mickey had to die.
Brushing aside the fact that we now had a bold, emasculating rodent on the loose, Aimee ventures back into the house to whip up a batch of Borax and powdered sugar to tackle the ant problem. She returns and sprinkles piles of the white powder here and there until our coach looks like a Tony Montana after party. Within seconds the little guys were crawling all over the death powder on the dashboard. We had located an entry point. So I just sat there a minute, watching, encouraging them to feast, and enjoying this smallest of victories. But my mini celebration was short lived.
With the coach now packed, it was time to bring in the slides and hit the road. Everyone was on board, luggage stowed away, kitchen drawers now cleaned and sterilized from our mouse deuce debacle. I open the monitor panel to retract the slides, click the first rocker switch and nothing. I try the other three rocker switches. Nothing. I try them again. Nothing. I try in, and out, and nothing. No motor running. This is bad. Out of curiosity Aimee shuts the generator off and tries the switches again. Nothing. Full panic mode now. So what’s this going to cost me? Another $2K?
I exit the coach, walk around to each slide and just stare at them, willing them back in because I don’t have any idea what else to do. Back inside the coach Aimee and I are now frantic, watching YouTube videos in search answers. The boys left us a while ago to go back inside the house, presumably to get away from their parents bickering. Time ticks away and now we don’t have so much time to get to Hermann, get set up, get dressed, and get to the wedding rehearsal. Do we unpack and drive? Do we call someone? Who would we call? I know…the place that just serviced the RV. They know me by name now. Ken was super nice as usual, but no help, because they hadn’t worked on anything related to the slides. I would have known that if I knew exactly what I just spent $2K on, but I didn’t, because I don’t really know anything about motors. Or homes. Or motorhomes. Terrific. Now what? I exit the coach and join my boys inside the house.
It’s been a good 30 or more minutes since we tried retracting the slides. We need to get on the road, like now. Out of desperation I break out the owners manual, which any rational-thinking human would have done way back in the first minute. Within seconds I discover the issue. The engine. The slides only function with the engine OFF. How have I not realized this? I’ve opened and closed the slides a couple dozen times and yet this little factoid has somehow eluded me?
Disaster averted. Off to Hermann!
Hermann is a lovely little town, and a great spot for a wedding. We park in the Hermann City Park, the only place with full hook-ups, for $30.00 a night. The park itself is nothing to look at, but we weren’t planning on spending a whole lot of time there anyway. It was our first time backing the 40-ft. rig into a spot, which normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but our camera system doesn’t work. Another expense I’m looking forward to. Thankfully our spot was easily accessible. We backed in and were hooked up in just a few minutes.
Rehearsal and the dinner afterwards was great. After catching a ride to the wedding venue with the groom’s parents, and again to the restaurant, we decided to walk the .9 miles back to the park. You get to see so much more of a town when you’re on foot. Our kids only complained part of the way as we pointed out the cool old brick houses and office buildings, many built at the end of the 1800’s.
The first night was a bit rough. There were some odd noises and humming. Some inside, some outside. We desperately need to invest in a new mattress. The original mattress is broke down, and it belonged to the previous owners so, you know, gross. We didn’t have enough pillows, and I have to have my pillows. There’s so many little things that make a place comfortable, and livable, and just like home. Every minute we spend inside the belly of the beast we discover the little changes we need to make to turn our beast into our beauty. We’ll get there, it will just take time. And more money.
Day of the wedding I wake up around 7 and start getting ready to play golf with the groom. I head to the kitchen, and reach for the bag of granola bars in the top drawer, only to discover my little friend has returned to finish what he started. He chewed through the plastic bag, through the granola bar wrappers, had himself a fine meal, deposited another round of turds, and fled the scene. How can something so small produce so much excrement? I mean, the sheer number of turds is staggering. I don’t think he takes 3 steps without leaving a turd. Maybe I’m dealing with an entire mouse family? If this is what my drawer looks like, what does his little nest or wherever the hell he’s sleeping, look like? I hope you enjoyed your meal Mickey. You’re going to die tonight.
After golf the family starts prepping for the wedding. Since we haven’t figured out the whole hot water heater thing yet (kind of a big deal, I know), we plan on getting ready in the groom’s family’s hotel. But before we leave, I head to the electrical compartment to retrieve those mouse traps. I pull back the arm on the first trap and the rusted out arm breaks. One left, and thankfully it’s still functional. I bait the trap with some more tasty granola bars and close the drawer. With the trap in place, we head out to get ready.
The wedding was beautiful. The setting was gorgeous. The bride and groom were both amazing. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think about the trap I had set. I couldn’t wait to get back and see that lifeless little granola thief.!
We return to the coach shortly before midnight, scramble up the stairs and open the drawer…nothing. No Mickey. Damn. Now I have to go to sleep knowing he’s still in here, somewhere, crapping his brains out, and feasting on the insides of my motorhome.
It’s a restless sleep. At some point in the middle of the night I’m stirred by noises and get up to check the drawer. Still nothing. Maybe I’ve underestimated Mickey. I mean, Tom never did catch Jerry.
Christian is the first awake. Before I have a chance to ask, I hear him say “we got him dad. He’s really cute… it’s kinda sad.”
He’s a bit bummed out so I feel a twinge of guilt. My victory now bittersweet. But I did what I had to do to protect my family. It was him or me man.
All in all it was a great first for our family. There’s still so much to do and so much to learn before we leave in August. But each step like this brings us closer to our “full time” adventure and, hopefully, brings us closer together as a family.