It had been 3 weeks and 2 days since last we saw The Beast. We left it at a body shop in Phoenix to have the back end repaired (recall the Florence, OR magically moving stump incident) while we returned home to St. Louis for Christmas and New Years. Would the Beast remember us? Would we still feel the same about each other? Did we really want to get back on the road?
We had timed our departure back to St. Louis almost perfectly. I called the body shop from San Diego a week earlier to make sure they could fit us in over the holidays and complete all the work by the first week of January. They could. So after an extended, then extended again, stay in San Diego we finally made our way to Phoenix. It was an easy 5 or so hour drive through the desert, at times hugging the border so close you could see Mexico. There wasn’t much out there, but I still found the scenery quite beautiful. Especially the rolling sand dunes that stretched for miles. For some reason I just wanted to take off running in the sand into the horizon. Certain death kept me from doing so.
We rolled into Phoenix on Sunday evening just after sunset and headed straight to Casino Arizona to boondock in their RV parking lot. Most casinos are pretty accommodating to RVers and often have large parking lots dedicated to free overnight parking for big rigs like us… with the assumption you’ll drop some money in their casino during your stay. Monday morning we drove the Beast over to Unlimited Collisions in Peoria to have them take a quick look. They were ready to take the Beast right then and there, but we weren’t ready to leave it just yet. We hadn’t packed a thing. So we settled on leaving the rig with them the next morning and just getting right on the road to St. Louis. We hadn’t planned on leaving until Thursday, but we were all pretty excited to get back home for a visit. The boys could barely contain themselves. They were lining up all kinds of play dates and sleepovers before we ever hit the road. So we headed back to the casino to boondock another night and pack up all our gear.
Tuesday. Day of departure. We spent the previous evening packing, which was a chore. What do you bring for a 3-week stay in St. Louis during winter when you live in an RV? And how do we fit it all in a Honda CRV with 4 people and a dog? It took some creative packing, but I made it work. I don’t have many marketable skills, but when it comes to packing a car, loading a dishwasher, and making realistic farting noises, there is NO ONE better than me. We packed what we could from the refrigerator into a couple small coolers and unfortunately just had to throw out most of the rest. The rig’s house batteries only last a couple days without being recharged, and the repair shop wouldn’t be connecting the RV to shore power.
Aimee and Christian took the loaded down CRV and followed Aiden and I in the RV to the collision center. When we arrived it was pretty chaotic. The place was slammed and I felt rushed. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe some long, drawn out “goodbye” with The Beast, but it just felt weird leaving it behind like that. Like I was abandoning a bad dog or something. Maybe a little guilt? I don’t know, but I was definitely ready for a break.
We made the drive in two hellish days. 11 hours to Amarillo followed by 11 more to St. Louis. It was rough. The boys were terrible. Every cliché you can imagine…are we there yet?; he’s touching me!; when are we going to get there?; he’s on my side!; I have to go to the bathroom. Aimee and I both lost it several times. The only one that behaved was the dog. He just sat in the back, quiet as a mouse. Probably miserable too.
Being back in St. Louis was great. There wasn’t a day that went by that wasn’t filled with some kind of visit with a friend or relative. We leave town for a few months and suddenly everyone wants to hang out when we return! We weren’t complaining. The attention was nice. The boys had sleepovers just about every night too. I think their schedule was more packed then mine.
Truth be told, I didn’t think much about getting back on the road during my time back home. I was too busy meeting up with people, running errands, shuttling kids around. But one thing Aimee and I missed immediately was the bed in the RV. The $360 mattress I bought from Amazon was the single best investment I’ve probably ever made. It blows away the Tempur-Pedic we paid thousands for. When we do get off the road we’ll be taking the mattress with us. But it’s not just the mattress, it’s the coziness of the room. The bed takes up much of the space, and there’s only two small windows. It’s like our own little cave.
Like all visits and vacations, it passed by in a flash. Before we knew it we were packing the CRV back up, this time loaded down with the spoils of Christmas. Somehow I was able to make it all fit again, because that’s what I do. And off we went, only this time we stretched it into four days. 7-1/2 hours to Oklahoma City, 8 hours to Albuquerque, 5 hours to Flagstaff. (We made a detour though Petrified Forest National Park, about 2 hours east of Flagstaff, and it was stunning. It’s where I shot these gems of Beedo.)
Then just over 2 hours back to Phoenix by way of Sedona. By this time I was pretty excited about climbing back in the Beast. Any potential worries about not wanting to get back on the road were long gone. We had left St. Louis, but we were going home now. The road is home. The Beast is home. So by the time we rolled into the collision center I could barely contain myself. And what we saw left us a bit speechless. It was the Beast, but not like we’d ever seen it.
You’ve seen those YouTube videos where a homeless person gets a shower, shave and a haircut? It was kinda like that. This was the first time the Beast had been bathed since we bought it. We didn’t realize what was underneath all that. The Beast was a beauty! Who knew?! They washed and waxed and detailed and shined and holy crap! I felt like a baller climbing back on board! Only fitting that our next destination was Vegas!
On to Vegas baby!