#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

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