Inaugural success ... mostly!

March 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment
Packing up for our first six-month journey south

Deming, New Mexico and the first day of heat!

The time has come

You can't walk down any street without seeing travelers hugging their goodbyes. The 'good morning' shouts from passing golf carts is lessening. The breaking and racking of billiard balls and endless shit-chucking chatter in the rec centre has minimized. Where there was splashing and laughter, the pool is now still water reflecting the sky-high palm trees that surround it. Washers and dryers are filled with the last of the season's soiled garments. 
April approaches.
As we pack up, and ready ourselves for the long trek north, I realize just how lucky I am.
Selling our house in Arizona last spring was a hard thing to do, especially after living there for eight years, allowing us ample time to feel like a local. We got to know the neighbours, the giggling girls that lived down the block, the dogs next door, the mail lady and her ear-to-ear smile and the full menu at the nearby golf course. 
With excited trepidation we took over a lifestyle introduced to us by a cherished aunt and uncle many, many years before. After months of searching for the perfect fifth wheel, the minute I walked in, I knew this was our new home-away-from-home. It just had that feel.
Our first winter on wheels is barely drawing to a close and already we are excitedly planning next winter and the winter after that and the next one to follow that. A sign of success!
But the inaugural trip wasn't lacking drama.
Things like winterizing come naturally to some. Not us. It freaks us out. And, much like a horse that senses fear in its rider, I'm pretty damn sure Clancy (our fifth wheel) sensed sheer terror in us. We paid to have her winterized before we left home, but once we reached the southern above-zero temperatures, we knew the time had come to let loose the antifreeze, stop sleeping in hotels and begin our new life as intrepid travelers.
We thought our cheat sheet was perfect. It made perfect sense. Until it didn't.

De-winterizing hell

Flood #1 brought tears and a tad bit of shouting.
Flood #2 intensified the shouting and brought back fond memories of our Arizona house.
After putting the levers and hoses back to their winterized positions and mopping up the water, we decided it best to cease and desist and go for a walk around the park. Beating ourselves up for being total novices (which, by the way, we are) and not being able to follow simple instructions, we both felt like crawling into a dark hole until we had a brilliant idea. Don't give up - call Don!
My cousin and her husband have a similar unit to ours and they are seasoned professionals when it comes to camping. It took all of one minute for him to figure out what the problem was. Sure enough. When the instructions say 'tighten the filter', it means to FREAKING TIGHTEN THE FILTER. So, sheer force and five minutes later we were de-winterized!
(I will completely ignore the fact that we have to reverse this action in a couple of weeks as we near the Canadian border.)

We did a few one night stands where no unhooking was required until we arrived outside Maricopa, Arizona, where we once lived. After selling the house we scattered belongings amongst several friends homes and had to start gathering them up, so here we planned to stay for a few nights.
We had successfully unhooked the truck from the fifth several times while camping in Canada, but this was our first attempt down south. Must have been the dry heat. Or internalized fear resurfacing. For whatever reason, Clancy would not let go of our truck. We hiked her higher, we dropped her down, we rocked the truck backwards and forwards, we cursed, I cried (again), then when we were just about ready to give up our neighbour drove past. Judging by the size of his fifth wheel (must have been 45' long!) we figured he might be able to lend a hand. And he certainly did.

Almost an hour later, after wielding a rather large wrench, the guys set Clancy free. 
Alas, a new fear arose and hasn't been squashed. Twice more we had issues, but none this bad and none we couldn't finally overcome ourselves. The mind plays wicked games, and not just on the golf course.
The last of our crises involved critters. 
Lake Pleasant, Arizona was our inaugural month-to-month stop. Drop dead gorgeous. Trails, wildlife, kayaking, bird watching, nearby golf for the so inflicted. 

Stepping out one morning with full intentions of enjoying my coffee surrounded by the peaceful sights and sounds of nature, nature struck back. My flower pot was rolling around in misery, black guts spilled all over my green Kokopelli rug. Instead of lettuce, parsley and spearmint intended to get me through five months on the road, all that remained was a mangled chunk of root and traumatized spearmint. Seems I'd forgotten that nature includes jackrabbits and wild burros. That was the end of mobile desert gardening for me!
Reg signed up as a volunteer at a golf tournament in Scottsdale. The friend he was working with lives in Sun City, so, to avoid the 5am alarm, he packed a bag and moved into their guest room for the duration of the tournament. Finally, some alone time!! That might sound harsh to some, but he is a 35-year survivor of the Canadian navy. A navy that took him across the globe and back, sometimes for more than half a year at a time, also took him away from me. But those times apart did strengthened my independence and taught me how to fend for myself  as I tried to explain several years ago in an article for the Globe & Mail. ( 
My first evening in Clancy alone. Popcorn was popped. Beer was cracked. Chick flicks lined up on Netflix. Yee haw!
And then the scratching began. Not me. Him. The little shit under the sink. At first I didn't know what I was hearing. Were the wild burros back, demanding more lettuce? Was it a crazed bird doing the two-step on the roof? Nope. According to the park ranger we talked with a week later, we were the unusual recipients of a mouse. "They don't usually move in that fast," he said, in his well-ironed, badge-adorned ranger suit. Well, sir, it did.
So, sadly I admit, there were more tears, but I couldn't bring myself to beg Reg to come back.  
It was a long, uncomfortable, annoying, hate-filled, teary, noisy night. Every half hour, almost like clockwork, the little turd would scurry up the water pipes and try to scratch his way over board that hid them from view. When I heard the scratching start, I'd pound on the side of the kitchen island. It seemed to work. But the bugger kept it up until just before sunrise. Persistent little shit.
I remained brave until early afternoon when exhaustion finally hit. I called in the troops. After his shift was over at the tournament I gave in and asked Reg to come pick me up. He did, arms loaded with mouse destruction devices of every shape and size. 
First we plugged in the little white sonic rodent repellent devices that I secretly hoped would shatter his tiny eardrums (sorry animal lovers). Then we stuffed peanut butter and cheese inside two disposable traps then repeated the same with old fashioned snap traps. 
Bag packed, I headed to our friends for the night, confident in the death and destruction that would soon follow.
But just to be sure, we'd seen that all the park hosts had ribbon lights running around the ground under their rigs. When asked why, we were told that rodents didn't like crossing over the light. Home Depot just happened to be en route. In a few hours we'd be lit up like the Fourth of July.
Needless to say, the mouse wasn't a problem again. 
But, we aren't done yet. 
Our second month-long stop was San Diego.
Being here again was amazing. The RV park was right on Mission Bay with walkways, cycling paths, shopping, attractions, beaches, hockey games and beaches. Or did I already mention beaches?
We were in heaven...

...Until the ants came. And came. And came.
They were marching up one of the rear jacks like their little lives depended on it. I won't go into the sordid details, but, once again with apologies to the creature lovers (of which I used to be a huge one), out came the death spray and the strategically placed traps. 
It took almost three weeks before the last straggler was squished as he swaggered his way across the counter top, but, mission accomplished. From then on we knew to spray everything that touched the ground as soon as we parked for any length of time. 
Lesson learned. At least we are now using environmentally friendly repellent! 
So, in a not-so-short nutshell, that pretty much sums up the not-so-much-fun parts of our first venture into the RV lifestyle.
Annoying? Absolutely. But anything worth doing is worth the effort. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Energy and persistence conquer all things". 
Tomorrow we start our two-week trek north. Home. Always a good place to end one journey, rest up, and plan for another. Minus the mice.


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