It can get a bit disorienting living on the run. Not that we’re running from something, but it kinda feels like it at times. Like we’re outlaws. Picking up and moving every couple days. Here 2 days, there 3 days, here 1 day. Seems like we’ve been in a mad rush ever since we left St. Louis. But why? It’s exhausting. Really we don’t have anywhere to be. Chalk that first “phase” up to experience, again, because now we’re starting to take our time a bit more. Stay longer in places. Mentally it helps…not having to level, hookup and unhook the Beast constantly. The whole process is just draining when it’s done in rapid succession like that. And the boys like it a lot more when we stay longer. Gives us all time to exhale. And so we learn. Again. A couple more months of this and we might just “get it”after all.
Learning seems to be a recurring theme throughout this adventure. I know I’ve been getting schooled from day 1. But I’m over matched. I see that now. And so the pressure is off. When you get your ass kicked routinely, at some point you just start to go with it. You stop thinking about some ultimate victory, or conquering something that’s totally intangible. At first it felt like defeat. Like giving up. Now it feels more like, I don’t know…training. Like all those scenes from all those “Rocky’s”. You know, the ones after Rocky gets his butt kicked but before he’s won anything, and there’s inspirational music, and Rocky is training and getting tougher and stuff. Right there. That’s where I am. Getting stronger!
Sans shorty-shorts and tube socks though. For now.
It’s a good place to be. The fear is gone. Living in fearful anticipation of the next big problem is no way to live. More importantly, for me, the anger is gone. I’ve had my ass kicked so many times now that it’s no longer a surprise. You see, I hate being surprised by problems that disrupt the flow of my day. My knee-jerk reaction to that has always been extreme aggravation, if not outright anger, because I don’t like my days interrupted, even if I don’t have anything in particular planned. And interruptions that end up costing me thousands of dollars? You get the point. But now that I know the next big problem, or ass kicking, is most likely inevitable I just kinda roll with it. Mind you, it’s no less irritating when they occur, it’s just all in how I’m choosing to respond to said irritation.
I wouldn’t say it’s defeat, or I’m putting up walls, or a hardening my heart. Far from it. It’s the final realization for me that life happens. That living in fear is a waste of time. That an angry response only hurts the ones closest to you. (Or closest to me anyways.) That no matter what happens here and now in this life, eternity is all that matters, and my eternity is secure.
I also don’t want everyone getting the wrong impression about our travels thus far. I write about the crazy stuff because in hindsight it’s funny, and because writing is therapy for me, and because I can’t stab someone in the neck every time the Beast takes a crap on me (literally and figuratively) as much as I would like to some times. In reality, the vast majority of our time has been spent seeing the most amazing landscapes this country has to offer…
…celebrating God’s creation roaming freely around God’s creation…
…and sharing other unbelievable moments with my family.
But also doing the totally mundane, like grocery shopping, work, RV maintenance, paying bills, home schooling, etc. After all we’re not vacationing per se. Life goes on even though we’re living on the road. It just so happens that the view from my front door changes a lot. Like, all the time a lot. And weekends aren’t spent mowing the lawn, they’re spent watching Old Faithful erupt,
…or hiking Devils Tower.
And weeknights aren’t spent watching TV, they’re spent visiting strange and wonderful towns…
…exploring hot springs…
…and actually getting in some of them…
…or taking drives along the Pacific coast.
I’ve come to understand this trip is about more than adventure, and travel, change of pace, sight seeing, whatever. It’s about so much more. This whole learning process is an exploration of who we are. Or at least an exploration of who I am anyway. I know I’m messed up. I guess we all are to some degree. Right? Fine, just me. Whatever. You’re perfect. But a journey as intense as this is sure to highlight your weaknesses or flaws, just as sure as it is to showcase your strengths. All too often people will coast by their whole lives, living in their comfort zone, without really testing themselves. Not me. Not now anyway. I want to know what makes me tick. I want to change, for the better. I want to be a better husband. A better father. A better friend. Every minute inside the belly of the Beast is forcing that change. I can feel it. And I think my family can see it. Getting strong now!
Take Idaho Falls for example.
After three amazing nights of boon docking in the tranquil solitude of the Palisades Reservoir, surrounded by stunning beauty, and virtually nothing else, we started to make our way west.
We stopped overnight, or so we thought, in Idaho Falls just to pick up some provisions on our way to Craters of the Moon. Problem is, the Beast had other plans.
We arrived at sunset on Friday and parked the Beast at Walmart. We unhooked the tow car and were going to head to Panera for dinner and free wifi for the boys, because they had been having withdrawals. Before we left Walmart we noticed a foul odor, but we were at Walmart in a strange town, so I wrote it off to just being Walmart, because Walmart stinks. Metaphorically. Actually literally too. Whatever. But it actually stunk, like rotten eggs. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
After dinner we head back to Wally World and sure enough, the stench is still present but we notice it’s curiously centered around our rig. Okay, so it’s not the Walmart area that smells? Maybe our black water tank? No way. Not that strong. Plus the black water tank has it’s own unique smell that is far worse. Like death, if death could vomit onto dirty socks. But something here definitely stinks. Anxious to get away from Walmart, and over to Cabela’s where we decided to boon dock for the night, Aiden and I climb aboard the rig while Christian and Aimee take the tow car on ahead. Figured I would figure it out over there. It was less than 10 minutes away.
As I turned out of Walmart onto the road, Aiden, in an extra chatty mood, asked some pretty deep questions about the different Christian denominations. I LOVE having these conversations with him because he has such a heart for Christ and he soaks it all in. So I start in with a response and suddenly it dawns on me. Propane!
Holy crap, propane.
I have my window down, in a moving vehicle, and I can still smell propane pouring in the window from the OUTSIDE. Not good. Aiden asks more questions. I’m not listening. Not wanting to alarm him about the potential RV bomb we’re riding in, but unable to focus on our conversation, I politely interrupt him:
“Ya, very good question. Hey bud, would you please reach above your head into the monitor panel cabinet and flip off the red glowing switches.”
“The two red glowing ones. Anything that’s red and glowing please. Yep, just go ahead and flip them down.”
“Yep, those. Just flip the switches down please. Good work. Thank you.”
With the LP valve to the coach now off, as well as the the gas hot water heater, he moves right back into his line of questioning. I’m still preoccupied with becoming a huge fireball, because those switches won’t actually stop the massive flow of propane coming from who knows where. I mumble a few short, probably incoherent, answers. The next couple minutes were agonizingly long as I run a red light, make a turn here and a turn there and finally pull into Cabela’s mostly empty parking lot. I park in the back, shut off the engine, quickly usher Aiden out and instruct him to get into the tow car with his mom. He’s a bit confused, but he quietly complies.
I walk around to the driver’s side, where the filler valve is located, and it reeks. Bad. Aimee’s window is down and she smells it too.
“Propane. We’re leaking propane. A lot.”
I climb in the car and we park next to the Beast and try to figure out our next steps. As I explain to Aimee the moment it dawned on me, it dawns on the boys the potential implications of leaking propane. Not more than a couple weeks earlier in South Dakota where we filled up the propane tank I had explained to the boys how they add a scent to the gas so people know when there’s a leak and to get out/away from the area.
Aiden: “Wait, so we could have blown up just now?!?!”
Me: “Well, technically, ya, I suppose.”
I call our good ol’ Good Sam road side assistance folks, the brain trust that likes to play the child’s game “telephone with a technician.” Here we go. Preliminary questions. I’m ready. I give them my name. And birth date. I give them the account number on the card. They ask for the make and model of the vehicle. Shouldn’t that just automatically come up? Whatever. I give it to them. Then my call back number. I’m peppered with a couple more questions and finally we get to the issue. She convenes with a tech, returns and says they’ll call the fire department to contain the leak before they send out a mobile mechanic.
Oh this is good. All I can picture is a big red firetruck, lights and sirens blazing, rolling up on the Beast. Awesome.
We drive our car away from the Beast. Far away. But before Good Sam can call the fire department they have more questions:
GS: “Are you in a safe place?”
Me: “We are now. Cabela’s parking lot. Several spaces away from it.”
GS: “And this is a trailer, correct.”
Me: “What? No, it’s a Class A motorhome.”
GS: “So this is vehicle, not a towed unit.”
Me: “Yes, Class A motorhome.”
GS: “What size is it?”
Me: “40 feet.”
GS: “What color is it.”
Me: “Seriously? I don’t know, like burgundy, gray, brown…it’s multi-colored. Did I give you the wrong account number or something? What’s the deal?”
GS: “We just need to give the fire department a description of the unit so they can find you.”
Me: “It’s a 40-ft. motorhome and it’s the only one in the entire parking lot. They can’t miss it.”
Before this journey a moment like this would ruin my night. Hell, who am I kidding, it would ruin three nights and my family would suffer right along with me. But I’m learning. I’m in training. I’m getting strong now. And so I laugh. Aimee and I laugh at the spectacle that is our lives…at the firetruck now on the way and the scene we’re about to make. Because why not? Just go with it.
The police officer arrives first and pulls up right next to the Beast. He exits the car, takes a couple steps towards the RV and turns right back around, gets in his car and drives over to where I’m standing. Because I’m standing far away from the blast radius. He just smiles and says, “Wow, I didn’t even have to get out of my car and I could smell it!”
Firetruck arrives next. No lights or sirens. I’m thankful for that.
It’s raining. And cold. And the firefighters don’t appear too happy to be at Cabela’s this evening. They just stare at me blankly. No smiles. Except maybe for the two guys sporting terrible mustaches. They smiled. I don’t know if the mustaches were due to a lost bet, but they had no business being on their faces.
So the most grumpy of the bunch, standing at the back of the group, leaves the huddle without saying a word and goes to work. He crawls under the Beast, and I back away…to take pictures. Because nothing makes grumpy fireman working with a propane leak in the rain more happy than when the owner of the leak takes pictures of them.
In just a couple minutes they locate the valve to the coach and close off the tank. Immediate crises averted. I call Good Sam to send the mobile mechanic.
GS: “Is the vehicle operational?”
Me: “Yes, I mean technically I can drive it. But I don’t want to because it’s been leaking propane throughout the coach for about 4 hours.”
GS: “If we send out a mechanic it would not be covered.”
Me: “Wait, what? I didn’t say it was safe to drive, just that it was possible to drive.”
GS: “It would only be covered if the vehicle itself were broke down, and could not be driven. I could try to Google some repair shops nearby…”
Me: “No man, it’s Friday night and they’re all closed. And I can Google things myself. So assuming I load up my entire family in the rig, turn the ignition switch and the whole thing explodes. Is it covered then?”
* Crickets *
GS: “Uhhhhh. Ya. I see your point. Unfortunately that’s the way the policy is written. But I see what you mean.”
Me: “Ya, great.”
We convene as a family. The decision is made to just stay in the coach that night. The smell of propane had completely dissipated, so there really wasn’t any reason not to.
First thing in the morning we head over to Camping World, just 10 minutes away. They’re really backed up, but say they’ll try to work us in. We spend the day in Idaho Falls killing time. The entire day goes by, and no word from them. I don’t call, because I don’t want to know. They close at five, so we make our way back over there around 4. They’re still figuring it out. They’ve located and fixed the main leak, and two or three other small leaks, but still cannot get it to pass. There’s another leak somewhere that they’re trying to track down. If they can’t figure it out in the next 30 or so minutes, they’ll have to call it a day and start again Monday because they’re closed Sunday. 30 minutes go by and they close up shop. I’m still inside. 20 more minutes go by and they finally come out. They found it, but don’t have time now to fix it. So we’re staying in Idaho falls 2 more nights. Lovely. And that Good Sam Extended Services warranty thing I have? No help. It doesn’t cover diagnosis time, only repair time and parts. And the overwhelming majority of time was spent FINDING the problem, rather than FIXING the problem.So the total they would have covered would have been less than my deductible.
Grand total: $878.00
Did I mention that Good Sam owns Camping World? Figures.
This beating stung a bit, and honestly, I did let it get to me for a couple hours. But I bounced back much faster. Because life goes on. And I’m learning. Learning not to dwell on what I can’t control. Getting strong, right?
The Beast is one tough opponent. If I can learn to live with the Beast I can do anything. In reality the Beast is just a hunk of metal and wires and cheap wood. And a toilet. Ohhh, the toilet. The Beast can’t really do anything to me, unless I let it. So it’s really me. This whole time I’ve just been fighting against myself. You see, the real Beast is me.