Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where is that lake, anyway?

 "Ah, something new and different," John said as the RV stalled and we noticed smoke coming out of the tailpipe as we were leaving the campground this morning. But things were looking up by the time we got to the Ford Service Center.  By then the smoke was only coming out of the engine.

But things were not looking good for getting to Minnesota in time for my Peace Corps reunion this weekend. Two thousand miles to go, can't go more than 50 miles an hour, have to stop regularly to put out fires, 8 miles to the gallon ... well, you can do the math. But John, riding a rented mini-van came to the rescue! "I got you into the Peace Corps in the first place, and I'll get you to the reunion," he said or something like that.  (Okay, it was more along the lines of, "if you're really that determined to go re-live your drunken glory days with those boozers, the least I can do is see that you get there.") Ah, John ... bound and determined to always be the hero of all my stories.

Soooo .... we left the RV to be fixed, loaded up some stuff in the (awfully nice, fully decked out) rented mini-van and drove today ... A LOT! We drove through Ontario(and I can tell you why Canadians are less obese than Americans: they have Tim Horton's instead of Dunkin Donuts; nice place, not such tasty donuts!), and over the border (carrying our contraband grapes, shh, don't tell), and through Michigan, all the while looking to see that big lake we heard so much about. Where do they keep that lake by the way?  We couldn't find it. They must keep it hidden behind all those huge houses and big gated compounds. 

Well, we made it all the way to Chicago, which was fairly easy.  I mean, no one was honking at us, we didn't have to stop once because we were a fire hazard, and no one's leg got cramped up from having to stomp down on the accelerator with 50 pounds of pressure just to get the thing going up to 40 miles an hour. John and I looked at each other after about an hour and shrugged. "Kind of takes all the thrill out of it!" 

But tomorrow is another day - with another 250 miles to go before we sleep. Anything can happen, right?  

I'll keep you posted,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Minnesota - how'd you get so far away?

Turns out the lovely Ford Service Center wasn't the only nice site around town. They're ordering a new part and told us to come back tomorrow morning. So we eased on down the road (and I mean that literally as the steering wheel now makes a god-awful sound. But only when you turn it.) down to the actual Falls - Niagara, that is, although it was hard to make out at first what with the torrential downpour that made everything look like Niagara Falls. Jeremiah and I discovered a huge puddle that seemed to be seeping UP from underneath the RV (really!) and we figured, what the hell, might as well go outside and get wet!

So Niagara Falls, the Canadian side, is really, really awesome. Even Sierra seemed a teeny bit impressed. When we walked around enough - and it finally stopped raining - we drove to another campground - this one somewhat closer to the Ford Service Center and somewhat less tacky than last night's - and set up camp, such as it is. John took a bicycle ride back to the Falls - and came back reporting a huge rainbow over the falls. Could this be the residual effects of his minor electrocution earlier in the day when he decided to rescue an ant from an electric socket using his key?

We are hopeful that tomorrow morning's visit to the Service Center will cure the smoke effect and perhaps increase our gas (diesel) mileage up to 9 or 10 to the gallon. But it's doubtful that this will help our speed and Minnesota - with all of it's glorious, flat roads (how could I have ever disparaged you?) - is seeming farther away than ever.

I'll keep you posted,

Such a lovely Ford Service Center!

Ahhh... Niagara Falls. So far it looks very much like ... a Ford Service Center. Wait a minute! It is a Ford Service Center. We got up early this morning, hightailed it out of the way-too-kitschy parking lot cum campground and got us to a place that could maybe fix the diesel leak in our engine so we could maybe continue our cross-country adventure. But I have to say, it IS a lovely Ford Service Center - with X-Box (Jeremiah's happy), free coffee and a place to charge our cell phones (John's taking care of business), television and trashy magazines (Sierra is at least NOT complaining), and computers with internet (so here I am!).

Now whether they can do anything about the diesel plumes and the painful lack of pickup on our RV is another story. But on the half hour (12 mile) drive over here, we did experience another first: we passed another vehicle on the road. It was a bicycle!

I'll keep you posted,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Does this diesel make us look fat?

Well, we jettisoned as much weight as we could before setting out this morning, hoping that lightening the load might help with speed (or lack of) issue. We threw out the garbage, wasted water, ate all the goodies, I even let the kids into my stash of organic green iced tea - as long as they agreed to take full advantage of the campground facilities ... if you get my drift. And speaking of which, we took our first dump. I mean, we used the campground's dump station to ... ahem ... lighten our load somewhat.

"This is disgusting!" declared Sierra, who was lounging on her bunk and scarfing down a chocolate chip granola bar. "How many times are we going to have to do this?" As if she were the one, not John, who was out there with nothing but a thin hose between him and the flying fecal matter.

Losing weight did seem to help some, as we practically zipped down the road, sometimes getting up to 50 miles an hour! Still, what with truckers helpfully waving us over to let us know that big gray clouds of smoke were billowing out from underneath us, and John stopping to check that we were not, indeed, on fire, and because we are leaking diesel and getting all of 8 miles to the gallon, we have to stop to fill up more often than my grandmother has to pee, we were lucky to make it from Cooperstown to Niagara Falls in only seven hours! My mother was under the impression that we were making this drive on chicken fat - she meant used vegetable grease. Which would have been nice - and smelled ever so much better if it were leaking. But RVs that run on grease are distresssingly hard to find (I know, what's wrong with this country?) and finding an RV that we could run on bio-diesel - while not ideal - still seemed like a more environmentally sound option than straight gas. Not cheap, but environmentally sound. Sane? Well, that's a whole 'nother thing!

So now we are camped (READ: plugged in) for the night at an RV campground that looks a bit like a retirement village and more than a bit like a parking lot. Tomorrow's agenda includes trying to fix the leak and figure out how far we actually can continue on this journey before being declared legally insane. Oh, also it would be nice to see some Falls. I hear they have them somewhere around here.

We might not be making much progress, but we are laughing. It's like a Third World vacation, right here in North America!

I'll keep you posted,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Handles like a Marshmallow

Okay, we finally got on the road today. And made it all the way to Cooperstown, NY - home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which for some incomprehensible reason is of far more interest to the rest of my family than the Otsego County Jail. You'd think we'd have enough time to visit both, but the drive from Western Massachusetts to Cooperstown (All of what? Two hundred miles) took all day. Turns out the newly fixed up bio-diesel motorhome handles like a marshmallow. This is what the mechanic, Don said to John when he gave him the keys yesterday. We had no idea what that meant. Now we do - the whole thing is kind of jiggly and wobbly ... and has the pick up and speed of, well, a marshmallow! But it is pretty sweet on the inside.

We might have said "good-bye" a bit prematurely to Don and David yesterday. John called them (several times) today to ask if we should be concerned about the lack of speed going uphill. "Oh, that's an RV. Kind of slow going up hills," David said. (Do you think he meant 20 miles an hour? We can push it to 25 if we all sit in the front and lean forward.) Or about the black smoke billowing out from underneath the engine. "Just a little diesel leak," Don told us. "Pick up a new O ring, when you get to Buffalo."

If we get to Buffalo. Wasn't it an O ring that brought down the Space Shuttle?

I'll keep you posted,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Still in our driveway

Well, the little cupboards are packed with the barest of essentials (that's chocolate, beer, and gin & tonic, right?). We had our first dinner at the little dining table that will double as Jeremiah's bed and soon we'll all snuggle down to watch RV (how appropriate) on our tiny television. Then we'll fall asleep to the sounds of crickets and rain and thunder ... a lot like last night. In fact, not so far from where we slept last night. The motorhome is still in our driveway.

Our rental RV inconveniently blew a head gasket a day before we were to take possesion of it. And apparently a head gasket is a pretty key feature in an engine (blah, blah, blah) and it took like a million hours to fix it. But thanks to Don who knows diesel engines like the back of his greasy hands and David who recently had a heart attack (and I won't mention his last name because his wife doesn't know about it. The heart attack, not the last name.) we're up and running again and ready to hit the hippie highway first thing in the morning.

A day late and a dollar short (actually, David's a dollar short; it's his RV.), but hopefully, tomorrow we're headed for Cooperstown, NY, where we'll visit one of my old stomping grounds, the Otsego County Jail. Does anyone know if jails generally welcome back former inmates and their families? Y'know, like Alumni Day? Well, if not, there's always the Baseball Hall of Fame. I understand it's always visiting day there. (No orange jump suit required!)

I'll keep you posted,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Waite a Minute!

T-minus one. Or whatever you call it when it's one day 'til blast off. Or take off, as the case may be, in the rented bio-diesel RV bound for Preston, Minnesota. What's in Preston, Minnesota, you ask? Lots and lots of flat nothingness is what I recall from my last trip there. That and the Wisconsin Dells. Don't ask me why, but you pass about nine million miles of signs for the Wisconsin Dells on the way to Preston, Minnesota.

We're going to Preston for the 20th reunion of my Peace Corps group. Why we don't just have our reunion in Ecuador - where we were actually in the Peace Corps - is beyond me. Geez, it'd be easier - and cheaper - to get there. And I'm guessing, more interesting than Preston, Minnesota. So besides all the signs for the Dells, my guess is that there will also be about forty very drunk former Peace Corps volunteers reliving their glory days of, well, being drunk in Ecuador!

Well, I'll keep you posted!