#RVlife, Interrupted – The Grand Finale

On February 28, 2020, a gathering of our friends and family got together to wish us “Bon Voyage” as we set out on our RV adventure.

On March 19 we were headed back to Albuquerque with our tails between our legs. After 2 and a half weeks we now had no home, no RV, and no idea what we were going to do next.

Not to mention the sudden arrival of COVID-19, which had thrown everyone’s life into a shambolic panic.

Fear and Exhaustion and COVID

Delilah has had about enough of this travel nonsense

We had made desperate last-minute arrangements to land at an AirBnB in Albuquerque for the following week. With nowhere to live in Las Vegas, we had to drop back and punt to somewhere where Melissa could continue working for Shipt. If Maggie wasn’t ready for potentially months, (as we had been warned) we were going to have to come up with a totally different (RV and house-less) plan altogether.

But the fly in the ointment was this: our reservation didn’t start till the following night. Meaning we had nowhere to stay on our first night back in New Mexico.

Reluctantly, I pulled a totally Millennial move – I called my parents.

We had just spent the last two weeks in the COVID-drenched mess of Las Vegas, NV. And now, here I was, about to threaten my parents’ health with our possibly contaminated selves. I felt like a twenty-year-old who had just lost his job at the mall.

Nonetheless, I pulled up my big boy underwear and made the call. Standing in a gas station parking lot alongside I-40, I called to ask my dad if we could, pretty please, potentially expose him and my mom to an asymptomatic virus overnight.

Of course, he cheerfully agreed. Parents. I won’t ever understand them, but I am sure glad Melissa and I still have ours.

The reunion that evening was awkward, filled with elbow bumps, and carefully mandated distance rather than hugs and close conversations. But it was so amazing to feel safe. I slept for the first time in weeks.

How The Other Half Lives

I don’t know what I expected from our short term rental. What I had not expected was how luxurious and huge a nicely appointed one-bedroom apartment could feel after living in an RV for a couple of months.

So…this is how non full-time RVers live. Huh. Who knew?

High ceilings! A Keurig! A gigantic television! A washer and dryer, for goodness sake.

Not to mention the holy grail of civilized living: a solid, reliable internet connection. I felt like a cave dweller who had just discovered fire.

But, outside in the world, things had gone crazy. Melissa was shopping huge orders driven by panic buying. Her days were filled with long lines, irate customers, and demands for nonexistent sanitizer and toilet paper.

Welcome to the world of coronavirus

Near the apartment, where I would walk the dogs, I was struck by how empty Albuquerque’s streets were. Businesses and restaurants were closed. The nearby airport was strangely quiet. I could hear Revelie and Taps being played every day from Kirtland Airforce Base, miles away. I’ve read plenty of post-apocalyptic fiction, and this was by far the weirdest apocalypse I had ever heard of.

Hope Springs Eternal

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, the situation stabilized. The Ford dealership where Maggie was residing was declared an “essential service”, and work on her continued. I got almost daily calls from the service center manager reporting on her progress.

Once they got her on the rack the problem was discovered – a temperature sensor inside the transmission had failed, allowing the interior of the tranny to cook itself. Multiple components had to be replaced. Thank goodness, it was all going to be covered under the warranty from the tranny replacement right before we purchased her. But all we could do was wait.

Finally, the day before our stay ran out, as we were discussing how long to extend our visit home, the call came in. They had just taken her out for a test drive. The transmission held up for over 20 miles, and they were closing the books on her.

Our studio apartment on wheels was whole again, and we could come pick her up any time.

The Road Home

The Badlands of Arizona, where the dinosaurs roam

The next morning, bright and early, we headed back West. While in Albuquerque, we’d gotten our 3,000-mile oil change on the Fiesta – 7 weeks after the previous one. We were getting good at this shuttling back and forth thing.

Google Maps will tell you that the drive from Albuquerque to Henderson, NV should take you about eight and a half hours. Imagine our surprise when, after leaving at 6 AM, we arrived at right around noon. We had gained an hour in the time change but, even so, we made pretty good time. I think we might have been a little anxious.

The dealership was complete chaos. I had expected the usual hurry up and wait that accompanies any sort of auto repair. Not today. They shuttled me to the head of the line, handed me a pen from a sealed bag (“Yours to keep!”), and pushed an envelope containing the keys to Maggie across the desk to me. I was then directed to the lot, where I was instructed to fire her up and move her out. Total elapsed time? About 10 minutes. Melissa had not had time to finish walking the dogs before I was parked on the street in front of the dealership and waiting for her.

The one benefit (?) to the COVID outbreak was that booking ourselves back into the Thousand Trails RV Park in Las Vegas was simplicity itself. They were “dying” for lack of reservations, and I was able to secure a slot the very same day I called. (Normally you need at least a few weeks lead time.) With fear and trepidation, I pulled Maggie out onto the freeway, and tentatively got her up to speed…

…and she responded like a champ. The best she had ever run since we purchased her, back in December. I began to speculate as to the diligence of the mechanics who replaced her transmission right before we bought her. No shuddering, no hesitation – she performed an awful lot like an empty truck with an oversized engine, not a 14,000-pound apartment on wheels.

We’ve been constantly warned that RV Life is not for the faint of heart, and that no plan survives your wheels touching the pavement. We had been put through the fire and emerged, with a barrel full of “wisdom”, a few more grey hairs, and a functioning home. It was time to take stock and change our plans in light of the COVID-changed landscape.

But at least we had our own walls to sleep in, on top of our own wheels to travel on.

Back on the road, where we belong. Well, the RV Park, but you get the idea.

Catch You All On The Road,

  • Jeremy and Melissa (and Vixen and Delilah)

#RVLife, Interrupted – Part 2

In February, when we moved out of our house and into Maggie May full-time, I felt a tremendous sense of disorientation. For weeks I would wake up in the morning and be completely perplexed as to where I was. I even spent several days dealing with a sense of personal disassociation – now that I no longer lived in a house, I was unsure who I was.

Now, less than two months later, I was experiencing those exact same sensations as we drove away from Maggie’s indeterminate repair. If I don’t live in an RV, I wondered, who the heck am I, exactly?

Luckliy, I didn’t get to spend much time on my navel-gazing, because I needed to figre out more time-pressing matters – like where we were all going to spend the next few days/weeks.

The Dangers of Emotional Decision-Making

Normally, if you’re going to get stranded somewhere, Las Vegas is not a bad place to pick. The climate is decent, cheap food is everywhere, and it isn’t exactly like accomodations are thin on the ground.

Melissa immediately recommended we look into an AirBnB rental. I was hesitant, however…we had no clue how long this whole repair process was going to take. We briefly discussed just driving back to Albuquerque and imposing on family members for the time being, but both rejected that…we wanted to stay close to the dealership so we could spring into action and reclaim our home the minute she was ready.

However, this left us with limited options – most hotels are not fond of pets. We would have to find an inexpensive hotel with a liberal pet policy, then try to book ourselves in 3-4 day increments while we awaited word on Maggie’s fate.

It just so happens that a few miles away from the dealership in question was a major Henderson casino fixture: The Fiesta. It was convenient, it was inexpensive (being part of the low-end Station Casinos chain), and they had a liberal pet policy! Or car was a Fiesta, the hotel was the Fiesta…it must be kismet, or something, right?

And this is what happens when you manage to talk yourself into something you KNOW is a bad idea.

The Station Casinos Experience

This is a good place to mention that we have history with the Station Casinos in Las Vegas.

Over the years of our travels to LV, we’ve stayed at a number of different properties. The process would go like this – one trip, Melissa would choose our destination hotel. Everything would be glorious and fabulous. The next trip, out of a desire to have more money available to do stuff in Vegas, I would pick one of the Station Casinos, since they tended to be the least expensive option.

And our hotel stay would be a disaster. Every single time.

Because I am apparently incapable of learning from experience, we tried four different Station properties over the years. We had four different, but equally terrible, hotel experiences. Meanwhile, Melissa booked us at places like The Rio, Treasure Island, and the Monte Carlo, which were universally wonderful. By the time epilepsy struck and forced us into poverty and out of vacation travel I had still not learned my lesson.

Which brings us to March, 2020.

It was about 10:30 AM when we rolled into the Fiesta’s parking lot. At this point, Vegas was already being hit hard by reduced travel thanks to the spread of COVID-19. The parking lot was maybe 1/4 full. But when we called to ask about the possibility of early check-in, they told us they could accommodate us at 2 PM.

Standard check-in time is 3 PM, mind you.

3 and a half hours would have been plenty of time to call AirBnB. Or contact Expedia and find accommodations at a friendlier and more customer-driven place. But I am nothing if not stubborn. We waited (with the dogs, mind you) in the parking lot for the entire duration.

When a Fiesta Isn’t a Party

I could spend many, many paragraphs outlining our stay from Hades at the Fiesta. Instead, let me sum up:

It was bad. Like, really, really bad.

From the inedible food, to the urine-scented main hallway on the “pet friendly” floor, to the 6 square feet of “dog park”, it was everything a vacation experience shouldn’t be. Luckily for them, I wasn’t on vacation – I was a homeless wanderer, waiting for my home to return from the garage. I did everything I could to stay in our room or wander around the casino floor. Since we were in terror of “noisy dogs” getting us evicted, we took turns bailing out of our room, with one of us constantly staying with the critters to keep them from complaining about our absence.

And the final straw arrived on the night of the 17th of March: a Special Bulletin went crawling across the bottom of our television screen. The Governor of Nevada was mandating that ALL casinos immediately cease operations…including hotel accommodations.

Effective immediately, Las Vegas was closed for business.

On The Road Again

Oddly, nobody panicked. (Well, maybe Delilah, but she is one neurotic excuse for a dachshund.)

We checked with the front desk. Yes, indeed, we were being thrown out the next day at noon. No, we would not be getting refunded despite having paid for nights we would not be getting to use. Color me surprised.

We decided to go the AirBnB route instead. The next day we would check in with the dealership, get an estimated time for repairs, then book a stay for that amount of time. This is why God invented credit cards, right?

But the next day, the bottom really fell out.

The service manager was brutally honest with me. Apparently, the majority of the technicians did not want to be working during the shut down, and had communicated their position to management. “Honestly,” he told me, “we may be closed for the next month or two. Even if we don’t shut down, we can’t get to your rig til next Monday at the earliest, and it could be a week to ten days after that before it is ready.”

I hung up the phone in disbelief. Ten days? A month? Maybe two months? No credit card I have was gonna cover that. It was time to face the truth.

After only six weeks on the road, we were going to have to go back to New Mexico.

#RVLife, Interrupted

RVLIfe Interrupted

(Part 1 of 3…I hope)

So there you are, cruising down the road, minding your own business. Your mind is full of your day’s to-do list – your destination, things to accomplish, worries to be worked through, maybe even a goal or two. Nothing could be further from your mind than how you are getting to where you are going.

Then, it happens. Maybe a rattle you’ve never heard before. It could be a sudden loss of power. Sometimes a strange rhythmic thumping announces a flat tire. And you realize with a sinking heart that every other priority is going to have to be put on hold while you deal with this.

Now, imagine that your interruption isn’t just affecting your car, but your house as well.

Welcome to #RVLife.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

It was “wheels-up” day for us in Las Vegas, NV. We had a beautiful day to travel 400+ miles all the way to the New Mexico border to take care of a MVD mix-up. We were on our way to park the “toad” (a car towed behind an RV) before we pointed our noses East.

As we headed through Henderson, Maggie May lurched. She recovered, then did it again. And again. Simultaneously, the”Check Engine” and “Service” idiot lights illuminated. After we pulled into the right lane to slow down, we noticed what was happening – the Tow/Haul feature was randomly engaging and disengaging all on its own. Attempts to turn it off manually failed.

Just about the time I was preparing to pull the little convoy off the side of US-93, we drove past a sign for a Ford Dealership. (For those that don’t know, Maggie May is built on a Ford E450 chassis.) I took this as a sign of divine providence, and we bailed off the highway and into the overflow lot at the service department.

Our trip to New Mexico was over, barely 10 miles after it had begun.

Beside The Road Instead Of On It

One of my main motivations for buying Maggie in the first place was the fact that she is a Ford truck. No particular evangelism about Fords in general, but Ford dealerships are everywhere. If something went wrong, I reasoned, it would be very easy to find someone to work on her.

What I had not counted on is that she is a Ford RV, and that makes things…complex.

The front desk at the dealership met my request with a healthy dose of skepticism. “I don’t know if that thing even fits in the bay” was the technician’s initial response. But, driving at less than walking speed and flinching every time I nudged one of the orange traffic cones marking my lane, I was able to get her inside the “receiving” area.

Then, the questions started. Had I been speeding? Had I been checking the fluids regularly? How long had the indicator lights been on before her lurching started?

After a few minutes of questions, I was able to get to the bottom of their motivations. It turns out Cruise America paid Ford to replace Maggie May’s transmission in the days before we bought her. Unless the dealership could find some nefarious behavior on my part, this was going to be a Ford warranty repair…meaning Melissa and I wouldn’t pay a dime for it.

My self-satisfaction at not having to shell out several thousand dollars for repairs was short lived, however. I asked for a potential timeline for repairs. Our technician shrugged. “There are a bunch of repairs ahead of you. Probably a week, maybe two.”

Cue the “panicked cartoon characters” music…

The State Of Separation

The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as we dashed around Maggie’s interior, trying to gather up anything we might need for an indeterminate stay somewhere else. Underwear, toothbrushes, leashes, and dog food were grabbed and stuffed into random bags. With each of us carrying bags on our shoulders and a dog under an arm, we headed for the Toad, unsure of our immediate future.

This is probably a good place to mention the real heroine of this story – our Ford Fiesta. She serves as Melissa’s work vehicle and our mode of moving around our new locations once Maggie is docked. Now, without warning, she had become our savior, and our tiny home on wheels.

Emphasis on tiny. She already spends her time packed to the gills with Melissa’s work implements – bags, hangers, and a wagon. Now she was also housing two adults, two dogs, and a week’s worth of “stuff.”

We looked in the rear-view mirror as we pulled out of the dealership, leaving poor Maggie alone in the garage, and wondered about how long it would be before we would see her again. As we hit the traffic light and turned left into Henderson, it occurred to me: I had no idea where we were going to go now.

Just like that, we were homeless.

To Be Continued…

Jeremy

Third Time’s The Charm

Third Time's The Charm

Really, guys, I’m trying here.

I tried while we were still in Albuquerque for all of February. But there was just so much left to do, between selling the house, learning how the RV worked, fixing everything that broke, etc. So I kept putting it off.

“Vegas.” I kept telling myself. “I’ll get back on track once we are in Vegas.”

But Vegas has been no easier. I kept parking myself in local coffee shops, trying to siphon off their WiFi. Once my coffee was ready and I was settled, though, stuff just kept happening around me. Vegas is no place to focus and write, it turns out, when you are given to watching the human drama unfold around you. I just kept getting distracted.

So, I bought a $10 coffee pot (after swearing I wouldn’t put one in the RV), brewed myself some liquid inspiration, and closed the blinds on all the windows, so I wouldn’t be distracted by all the interesting stories taking place around me here in the RV park.

And here we are. Let’s see if I can manage a coherent thought or two before I am once again called away by the multitude of distractions here on the road.

Two For The Road

In case you’ve come to the party late, we’ve moved!

Melissa and I decided to make a change, bought an RV, put the house up for sale, got rid of 95% of everything we owned, and hit the road. We spent February at Enchanted Trails RV Park in Albuquerque learning the ropes of our new home, then headed for Vegas, where I am currently sitting now. In the dark. Not looking out the windows despite the interesting noises coming from next door where it sounds like our neighbors are getting ready to head out.

There are a TON of stories I could have told you all about the transition of the last four months. In fact, I tried on several occassions to put together a coherent blog post about what was happening.

But blog posts are actually kinda labor-intensive. Back when I was doing one a day it used to take me anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to produce something readable. And that was when I was still in practice.

Now, when my creative muscles have been resting so long that they have atrophied, I’ve been unable to focus for longer than 10 minutes at a time. So I finally gave up and started putting up posts on Instagram instead, just to try to keep friends and family in the loop. (@tjeremyschofield on Instagram if you want to follow along.)

And now, here we sit. We have an RV, two dogs, and an itinerary full of potential destinations. All of which have developed cases of the Coronavirus, of course, because why not.

The Road Ahead

So, the plan is sorta like this:

I fully intend to keep everyone abreast of where we are and what we are doing. I have probably a dozen posts worth of material already if I can just sit down and push them out of my brain and on to the internet.

I will be talking a LOT about RVing, life on the road, our experiences and mistakes. My mother handed me a very nice camera the night of our going-away party so I will be attempting to learn to use it and actually include real, live pictures of the places we are visiting.

Vixen, after dinner in Vegas

Misdirected will still continue to talk about life with disabilities as well. (Did you know how HARD it is to get pharmacies to refill certain prescriptions (like anti-seizure meds) away from your home town? I sure didn’t.) We will probably not be talking much about bariatric surgery any more, though, which will make many of you sad. For the record, we’ve both been losing weight again since hitting the road. Stress and a malfunctioning RV fridge are one heck of a diet combination.

And a BIG thank you to our supporters on Patreon. Last month, you paid to repair our leaking toilet. This month, you’ve just paid for my replacement “thermistor”, which I will be installing in our broken fridge later today, hopefully enabling us to start using non-frozen food again. I’ll be updating Patreon to reflect the new reality of our life on the road Real Soon Now.

And, yes, now that we are no longer spinning around like a demented carousel, I will begin writing fiction again. Be looking for big Ash Falls news in the very near future.

I think I’ve actually managed to finish (for once), so thank you for your continued interest in our ongoing experiences! You can keep track of us on Instagram and Facebook (@Tjeremyschofield), or you can subscribe here to find out when something new and interesting gets posted. We’ll be using the #travelswithmaggie hashtag to note our adventures, so feel free to follow along. (The RV is named Maggie May, yes there is a story, and yes I will share it with everyone soon.)

Traveling With Maggie (And Melissa and Vixen and Delilah),

Jeremy

NoNoWriMo

NoNoWriMo

Ever since I became a writer, I have dreaded November. Not because of elections, though that is a legitimate reason. Not because of turkey-induced food comas. Not even because of Black Friday, which should terrify any rational person attempting to maintain a budget and reduce their carbon footprint.

No, every year I dread the coming of…NaNoWriMo.

Oh No, It’s NOvember

National Novel Writing Month is a torture device…err…a “productivity challenge”, designed to get authors to write more. The premise is this: spend every single day in November writing better than 1,500 words a day.

Every. Single. Day.

At the end of the month, you should have a 50,000 word manuscript – a first draft of a novel that did not exist at the end of October.

I know novelists who use NaNoWriMo every year to prep their next novel. They are tremendously gifted and driven authors, able to keep their eyes on the prize without wavering. They push through all distractions and arrive at November 30 glistening in literary sweat, holding aloft their manuscript in triumph.

And then, there’s the rest of us.

Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?

Every year, I have attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have begun like a house afire, sometimes getting as far as 25,000 words into a new novel. And then, it happens. Real Life sets in. My writing schedule gets interrupted. My motivation wanes.

And I find myself on December 1, standing amidst the ruins of my lofty intentions, with nothing to show for it but aching hands and a pounding headache.

And sometimes a hangover.

But worst of all are the after effects. This drive (and failure) to create invariably leaves me drained and miserable, without the slightest motivation to create for weeks and even months at a time.

After NaNo 2018, I was unable to produce a coherent written thought for five months.

But, this year, things were different.

The Outcome Of Tragedy

As early as August, I was already flirting with the idea of not showing up for NaNo this year. Why bother?, was my prevailing thought.

Then September arrived.

September was, without a doubt, the worst month I have lived through in my 49 years on the planet.

I’ve recorded elsewhere the gigantic shitshow that was September of 2019, and will not retread it here. But so many deaths, in such a short period of time, did something to my brain. I was so overwhelmed by grief and anger that the creative process within me just…went away.

And I arrived at November 1st knowing I had not a single thing to say. So I didn’t even try.

30 days later, I feel nothing but relief at the absence of guilt over my failure to write a novel in a month.

NoMoWriMo

Now, this isn’t for everyone. I know for a fact that NaNo remains a powerful tool in the arsenal of many other writers.

But accepting that I am not one of those writers has been nothing but a tremendous weight off my emotional shoulders.

Does this make me less of a writer, or even a good human being, than those who are able to succeed at this task? Maybe. But if my disability has taught me anything over the years, it is this: you should challenge yourself to overcome your perceived limitations. But you also need to accept your limits once you have found them, and look for growth in other directions.

And NaNo is a race I can’t finish. So I will look for other courses to run.

I am still healing, but at least I didn’t injure myself further this November.

So Ready For 2020,

– Jeremy