Ducky RoadTravels. Explorer. The Mammoth Beast Awakens.
Our big time came with excitement and maybe a little stress mixed like sweat and dust of a hot summer day with the fear of the unknown, the anticipation of change, and the weariness that all moves bring no matter how much for-the-good and fun adventures ahead you are doing it for. The emotional leaving of the island for good, at least for now not holding an address there any longer to call home, brought a sadness that did not surprise me and yet I was ready to go. I had been here too long and I missed traveling more, craved exploration of other, I even missed California more than ever these months, wondering often why I stayed in Texas. I had explored every inch of this island by foot, bike, boat, and more and I was bored. I needed time away to remember how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t about Galveston so much as the explorer in me. We sought exploration, both of us did, and it found us.
This all came about because I’d wanted to travel and made plans for over a year to do so, hoping to remodel an airstream…that seemed to move off a bit more in time but in the meantime Joe and I were offered a good deal from family on an amazing RV. We both wanted to hit road travel before eventual other kind of travel, as our friends are having babies we wanted adventures. We took the opportunity.
I had packed everything we owned here on the island, not much since my own rebuilding of only a year and a half after my “loss” and Joe’s not much since leaving most to his old roommate and more still left in storage for over three years in another state before moving to Galveston. Not to mention when you list it all the other items he has in nearly every state at this point. But even when you don’t have much to pack, so it seemed, the work seems more than the amount that comes out of it. Windowseals and baseboards scrubbed, the nooks and crannies left clean for the next tenant and I realized I was leaving my little tree house I had called home for the past almost year but more so an entire island I’d been at home at for over six.
Let me go back a bit….Start at somewhere near the beginning…and yet not at all, to keep it short. Which if I know myself, won’t be short at all.
It’s the end of summer. I’d come back to Texas to tie up loose ends, pack our loft and clean it, preparing for an entire life change. Not my first by far and I am sure far from my last but I’ll admit that in my experience not all or many of them had been in my control or by my choice. This one was and it’s a feeling comparable to buying brand new towels as an adult…the good ones. How big of a life change, however, that is still just now setting in as I sit in some small Texas town on a Sunday evening with barely it’s own name with a busted hose that cools the engine of a 26,000 pound vehicle I now call home, but a home with no address and no mailbox attached to it…
That sets in a little deeper.
I am getting ahead of myself again here…..
A little background; The past two weeks; Joe gets off the work on the river, drives back all the way from way almost nine hours above Memphis back to Galveston Texas, crossing that ferry over in the dawn of morning with bloodshot eyes wide with fighting sleep. I’m at the loft packing the last items to be ready to go, up with yet another pot of coffee.
With a sleepy smile and embrace seeing each other for the first time in two months, we crashed out hard until what we thought would be the late morning of the day but rather was only a couple of hours past the full rise of sun.
Over coffee we pulled out our map even though we needn’t for the can do with your eye’s closed path of cross the Boliver ferry to I-10 to 75 down the middle of the state of Florida drive we had ahead of us. Bags loaded into the car we set off for our second twenty hour drive of the same rout this year. This time we would come back with the prize.
A nearly 40 foot RV previously named Ducky.
They say that you won’t know if your relationship will last until you’ve traveled or better yet, road tripped together. Well, I can’t give any guarantee’s (too much experience there, and neither of us the conventional types) but we have both survived several six hour and now two twenty hour with no A/C in hot months or sleep for either of us and a lot of grouchiness, sometimes having to survive without coffee, now add on yet another trip of about 1,600 miles on the road with our own home on our backs like a turtle, worry and stress of the new that everything is one second from breaking and again somehow no a/c wondering if we made the right decisions, for the start of this trip and and a total lack of sleep, a lot of physical work, moving out of a three story stairs only loft with a lot of leg work, arms sore, and hurt backs making us growl like tigers and about a million things not going according to plan and even discovering we can’t find a place to stop and eat at where we fit with our new bulk from time to time and we have now covered a pretty decent test of all time. I still don’t lay the bets but I’ll admit that if this guy is still here and hasn’t left me standing on the side of some highway out in the middle of nowhere (though threats in jest from both sides have been plenty) after the absolute over tired, body hurting, hangry or no coffee moments, and simple moving stress asshole that I have personally been I have no complaints. I also have very few comments on the completely solid quiet and even tempered man who is the Captain of this ship. What I learned most on this trip, I’ll admit? I am a complete asshole.
With both Joe and I driving through the day and night and switching off (sleep never really came for either of us). My own self could not sleep on my own turns, funny since I usually can sleep anytime, anywhere when in a moving vehicle since being that baby that a moving car had been magic for, now my eyelids dropped shut but my mind would not slow. Still in the dawn we drove East…new rule, don’t drive East at sunrise.
McDonalds coffee had to do, but I was tired enough to be chugging down oil and not have noticed. Yet we managed to perk up enough with a wave of energy as we got closer to the mossy covered tree’s and family waiting with big hugs and lots of food, stories to tell me about the family of the man I love and a lot of good hard work and pure elbow grease to prepare Ducky for the road, planned since early this year but the poor creature had slumbured like a mammoth for two years, the beast was still worth way more than we were paying, more than a brand new in all comparison and a summer of research and agreement we have found of fellow RV’er experts…even those who have later helped us off the side of the road. All seem to be somewhat in awe, even when they themselves own some McMansion priced home on wheels themselves. We woke our woolly mammoth which was a little green with Florida swamp moss, near the water, and after years of slumber the engine still purred like a kitten after only a slight woken rumble. We moved to a shady spot near the house for us to work over the next several days…from cleaning off the green grown moss and algae to the settled dust that two years anywhere of sit brings inside to checking over engines with fine tooth combs and making list upon list of To Do’s and Need’s. Hind sight was often 20/20 with all we should have could have done prior to this fit it all in a two week period we now found ourselves in.
I am comforted by the words of Miss Jackie, RV expert of a small local town and part rescue team on the Sunday evening we had broken down (another RV rule we immediately made ourselves and learned is an actual RV’ers rule; Don’t travel on Sunday, everything is closed) “With RV life, something always breaks down. Two months off the lot in a brand new, one of our five had also broken down. Just plan on it breaking and you will be less surprised.”
The travels have begun but more adventure then yet just travel I suppose and many adventures with an RV life come in the ways you don’t plan for, expect, or even sometimes want. Joe keeps asking me, as I keep asking him “Are you still ok with this?” To which after answering Yes the other says “Good, because it’s kind of too late now.”
Even though we plan that we can always change our minds…but those plans we make….
With all that has happened it’s been hard to write until I have finally, as now, stopped for my month of aloneness, Joe gone off back to work, a worried mess leaving me alone in this thing by myself, more worried I suspect of what I’ll break than what may break me.
I’ve managed some few and far between notes in between hard work and visiting family & friends, stolen most likely with the only moments of aloneness being in short seconds of bathroom breaks. Much of what you read may have, or may not have, I won’t tell you which, been chicken scratched hurriedly in my notebook in a bathroom of Galveston, Florida, or a Cracker Barrel restaurant, or even an odd one of an RV. I take my moments of alone when I can. But I now have my time to catch up, breath a bit for the first time in three weeks and I can laugh, as I thankfully did even through tired tears, at much of the stories this adventure has already brought us and it has barely even started…
Joe and I did get a chance to spend some decent, though still not enough, time for the third short visit this year with his grandparents, retired snowbirds who are now permanently in Florida. I truly give that state credit for it’s set up for retirement. His grandmother makes beautiful quilts and both have taken very good care of Ducky, so named by them with their own story to tell. We had good work, good conversation, they survived politics between Joe and I spitting at each other over the table, his poor grandmother looking back and forth a moment before setting the matter to rest for the time being. Joe and I have decided upon saving of a relationship and not adding to enough other reasons to come near killing each other on this trip to table politics for this moment, though they have flared up from time to time. (I wish I remembered the writer of the article I enjoyed of the Florida newspaper that one particular morning.) We had good meals, plenty of food provided, even an RV freezer stocked before we left and quite a bit of getting to know each other. Good people, this I can say….Joe’s grandfather is an insight to what I’d be getting in the future when Joe himself gets a little grey around the temple…I’ve yet to run though, but I love the rapor between that couple. I am pretty sure I got a slight full insight to my entire own future, his grandmother sure as hell holds her own.
Joe and I had to go and buy a new mattress for the boat on wheels we were about to make our home, we received help from a friend of his grandfather driving his pickup truck, and Joe and I had the fastest pick a mattress moment in the history of mattress shopping. I am naturally either a think for a VERY long time on something or a very in and out buyer. I don’t dawdle much and frankly we didn’t have the time. Downsizing from a king size to a queen already had us both in a state of all other quality nearly didn’t matter. But since my back ached plenty already and for the past weeks I’d suffered from a condition of my tendons pulling away from my hip joint (causing pain all up my side and back) and after a long car ride already I at least picked what I felt was best, also considering that complaints that we did harbor for our current too soft mattress. Otherwise it was a whirlwind of the two of us jumping from one mattress to another, rolling side to side, trying a few positions…I kicked Joe out once of one to get to one position, while the salesman and two men retired long ago watched on at what must have looked like a couple of crazy people.
Our time in a hot by day and cool by night Florida and visiting family (not to mention yummy breakfasts made daily) and amazing lightening storms that nearly put Texas to shame ended all too soon as did the expertise for this machine we were about to put everything we owned, including our own lives, into. And Joe and I hit the road…cut off from those who had answers to more questions than we yet knew how to ask.
We drove covering an amazing amount for several hours of time, stopping to eat at what would eventually be the only kind of place we would soon learn was available to us to eat at, until we tiredly looked for a hotel room at night, too late at ten pm to find an RV park and too tired to even attempt messing with the set up it would take. We had not known where to make reservations ahead since we weren’t yet sure where we would be and when or when we would finally call defeat and need to stop. Crankily (that would be me) we searched hotels as we approached Mobile Alabama, half way back already in a day, and finally tipped out of the decieving state of Florida when driving I-10, neither iphone navigation was giving me fast enough or clear enough answers as I hurriedly searched while we kept an eye out for the right exits in the dark and unfamiliar places, having to be more aware of where we did with such a large vehicle than if simply in an easy to turn about car.
Finally we pulled off but soon discovered that we ended up on a dead end road of three hotels of each having the tiniest parking I’ve ever seen of a hotel and no way for us to turn around, we were stuck. But we managed to back up (for the second time that day actually) and find a space at one big enough to accommodate us, who allowed us to stay with no problem and of which we backed out of the next morning. By the way, backing this thing is actually a piece of cake for this guy but nearly impossible to do on this type of vehicle overall. When you are towing a vehicle…well, add that to the imagination. I at this point was so tired the bark was happening purely and I offended even myself…poor Joe. But it was good that we stopped and that the hotel we chose accommodated us and as as soon as we stepped into our room the sleep fell over Joe and the man could have slept standing straight up…we’ve now called this “Joe has no yellow…he has red and green, stop and go….but no slow down.” We added to our list of what we could and could not do with the 40 foot boat on wheels and much more planning was involved, not so much quick and convenient decisions and even the natural planner that I am had to learn a few lessons already in this. RV’s take planning….RV parks have to be called and reserved and gotten to in certain hours or arrangements made and thought to where to pull off and how to drive around, get to, get in, and get back out all well planned and thought through. This would come to us many times more and I’ve a feeling we aren’t out of those woods yet.
I have a note book, as I sit along in my comfy recliner of a co-Captains chair. For one thing, new rules keep building which we note, me with notebook in hand. The first made was that I am not allowed to navigate. Never Never Never Let Peggy Navigate is how it reads. I’ll admit…there is much room for growth on that one and it was a rule I had not made (I make most of them) but could not argue with. Another was don’t test odd buttons while in odd tunnels…thankfully the time that Joe (who can’t resist buttons) chose to test the air horn out was on a side of a long stretch of empty freeway with not even cows to annoy for the nearly fifteen minutes it took to get it shut off (through the engine at that.) This button had to be done once again for inspection, poor guy was standing nose to nose with the mammoth that time, I gave him props, he didn’t flinch, bat an eye, or look the least bit phased by it as he made his note. Many rules are building even on just the small beginning of this adventure, each makes us laugh, thankfully, we feed off the amusement rather than be brought down by it as the lessons pile up. We’ve made rules as to how long to drive “even when we feel fine to do it.” Rules of not driving East at sunrise and West at sunset….these, as all, were lessons learned in the moment of the doing. When the windshield in front of you is the size of a broad side of a barn and you are navigating the beast to stay fit snugly into your own lane through places such as Down Town Houston during rush hour, your eyesight becomes that much more important to you, which also made another rule….no driving through large cities like Houston during rush hour. I gripped my seat and pressed my imaginary passenger side break the entire time through that one while holding my breath or shouting my backseat driving instructions. Other new rules included which side of the mammoths underbelly to store the tools on, so when pulled off onto the side of a freeway with each passing car or big rig sending our tall home into waving shivers we had them at hand on the safe grassy side (where the door on and off also is) rather than the try not to get smashed side of our rig. Again, rules come as they are learned first hand the hard way.
Along with rules listed we also had Lessons Learned lists compiled….we learned that one can not just simply stop anywhere we want to eat or get a Starbucks coffee in the morning, once we pull in, we might be able to pull out, some we can’t even pull in and the one we couldn’t do either we learned the hardest of ways as we also had no choice in the matter of either. Find RV friendly places to eat was on the list and Cracker Barrel quickly became our breakfast, lunch, and dinner along the long open road that cut through the deep south. The best of the best places to eat won’t be missed in later explorations with our unhitched smaller in-tow vehicle to take around town but better planning was a definite must. When trying to get from point A to point B in a short amount of time this was not yet the choice. Thankfully though we come along with our entire own kitchen at hand. I could damn near fry an egg while flying down I-10….but would be like trying to cook breakfast during a big earthquake in a high rise in California so I really didn’t go for that and decisions settled on making a sandwich. The getting used to along with rules and lessons is a part of this game…not hitting elbows and heads is another. The space is large but two people have to learn a special dance to make it really work, I suspect over time it will come even if neither of us (I really mean Joe) can dance.
The other fun part is that when you suspected you didn’t have much, lived in a small loft and the RV had WAY more cabinet space than said loft, you still find yourself walking over to the dumpster of your first RV camping park making several trips. You really learn that suddenly you don’t need a whole lot of things…or simply have to do without. We had plans to carry some pieces of furniture tucked away oddly to combine with Joe’s other storage but quickly learned that pieces had to be left with friends and scattered along the way as some didn’t fit in at all and others made life much harder than expected. And when you think you have a lot of cabinet space…you don’t. Such as plans go, though. And more and more stuff gets wittled down. Which by my opinion Joe needed anyway and my own…well, it happens. The books having to be toned down was the one that hurt. I gave Joe The Look when he said the words and told him that he, too, took up a lot of space. And yet, I managed to go through and thankfully we readers always have that pile we have no idea why we bought to begin with or might never read or the pile of already read that we didn’t have much of a good review for…..the beloved ones being held onto…a pile was given away with a few tear stained pages. Joe said Kindle…I threatened a collection or two of his own could be left on the side of the road, but even that was all more grouch of tired and sore body still talking…so is my story which I’ll stick to. I will admit, the piles of magazines had to go. And I do love my magazines but they also are a part of my work…for which I already do but must do more to depend upon the internet for. But then the internet connections or access or signal in all of the places I have been in only this time make me realize that life is much less convenient in some places than others and we forget what life is easily with out the ease of all wants and needs at not just hand but immediate hand. Not just FAST, but NOW and exactly how we want it. However I do hope to take advantage of that by spending more active times outdoors as well as actual writing rather than researching and reading. I will also have time to catch up on some yet unread pile of books before giving (some of) those away, too.
I am past those weeks of craziness for now and the nights get quiet now and the sleep tries to come early, the dark has already begun falling at a smaller hour and I found myself ready for bed at only 8:30pm the other night, tired and needing to catch up on sleep and it was my first opportunity to do so I took it but only to be wide awake at 2:am. I am having a slight Henry David Thoreau silence and solitude in the woods moment here, an adjustment of my brightly lit loft with plenty of wide room, big widows and everything in its place, and Netflix, not to mention Down Town, or the Cuban music and food and people filled Down Town I’ve had this year… Believe me, this new found quiet time will end up having me better for it and is a bit needed after a hot summer and Netflix at hand. I just might get a little more writing done. Probably a lot more editing. And the sunset and view, water, and bald eagles make for much better than TV any day.
Quiet is heavily sought when not had but very loud when forced.
So, back to other aspects of RV life, the new way for us. We’ve driven this beast from halfway down Florida, which is a very decieving state along I-10 from west tip of Pensicola to the middle when you hit 75 and head from East to south or visa versa; All the way over the long bridge in Liousiana, through a tunnel we held our breaths through, not for the reason people do in tunnels but because we weren’t sure how this was about to go even as we watched the semi-trucks around us do the same…and also crowd us to the wall. We drove in the dark just past sunset of Boliver island and somehow managed to make the ENTIRE trip with a clean windshield but now on this last leg we felt we’d been declared war upon of some bug that came thick as a wall, large as a bird and left us blind and unable to see through the windshield at all. I suppose if you care of bug life and soul and are not the kind to ever smash a bug than driving an RV is not the way of life to go for you, I later had to scrub them off. We drove onto the Boliver ferry, seeing our island we called home, learning to do things like turn the propane off for the ferry (I have since learned of all the places this must be done, such as Houston Ship Channel tunnel, and ferry to Alaska on which the tank is not even allowed) the little ferry was used to our kind, though and we managed that beautifully, touching back onto our own home so for what would be the last time for a long time, and would we ever again call Galveston home? Both of us have those plans, but as plans go….with a tired sadness the realization of a place we both love dearly settled in. We pulled up alongside our loft, our first home together, our little tree house of a home, the sunshine filled place I spent four seasons writing my novel, and walked in and slept soundly in our own old bed in our own old home for the very last night, boxes packed all around us but the location of everything even still more familiar to us in the dark once the light was turned out than the RV had yet to become.
The next morning I woke with moving anticipation, Joe rolled back over and pulled the comforter to block the sun, I made my coffee and went about my routine one last time. Nostalgia already somewhat setting in. I smiled as I remembered the flowers Joe had set up before I’d ever entered when we rented here. They had been an Autumn bouquet and now this Autumn our live was beginning a new course. I thought deeply about my six and a half years here. What great and strange changes my life had taken. I sighed. I loved it here, but I was ready to go, just maybe while not completely letting go. Joe, with even less time, felt the same about this little strip of island in the Gulf.
The day finally awakened and the moving out began. We didn’t have much to move and yet with three stories of stairs not much becomes a whole lot. I moved books and books and Joe mentioned we might need to tone them down for the space they take, to which I mentioned that HE sure took up a lot of space. He stated it was time I turned toward a Kindle, it hurt my soul a little, as if I’d been slapped. My books boarded passage. I had packed a great deal of soft things, such as clothing and linens, into the five hundred bags from the Navy travel Joe has, I threw them over the balcony to save a few trips on the stairs, it was only coincidence that he happened to be standing very very near where they landed when I did. We had to find a home for a sentimental piece of his furniture with a friend as we discovered that we could not get it on board, even for the temporary move we had had planned for it to combine it with another storage, we stored a grandfather clock that nearly took my back out (So much for doctors orders of rest for my hip tendon issue) that later was left with another friend rather than a faster trip up North as well. Joe is now spread a little bit all over the states really. Well, his things are, the man is himself still somehow intact after all of my grouchiness. The move finished faster than we had thought, I had done enough stair runs to make up for a summer of too hot to work out/Netflix and my arms felt as if they would fall off…better yet that I wished them to. We looked at each other and said “alright, lets go then, shall we?” And off we went…both realizing it was our last time seeing a sun lower here as we drove off over the causeway. We don’t plan on goodbye, just see you later…but as the best of plans go. I very much felt as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend who I had been through many both good and bad times with, none of which I regretted.
We tiredly went to visit friends, in the dark directed by them, and set up too exhausted to move. The next morning we woke to a huge lake right in front of us. For a couple of days, somehow ahead of schedule, visiting friends and enjoying an almost rest (which really was no rest at all but more time to ourselves alone without other people there for the first moment which in itself, loved and all, can be exhausting when you are very much the type of people both to love being alone and having all of it on top of other work that took our sleep and exhausted our bodies, constant other people can be draining.) Our company of each other is a much more comfortable and less tiring by now for us and we sighed a little sigh and began pulling our stuff apart and deciding what we could or could not live without and how better to pack it and find a place for everything, and put everything in its place. Basically we had moved from one home to another so the actual “un-packing” still had yet to be done rather than the “shoving wherever you could find space” that had happened.
But on a late Sunday we set off for our next destination driving through beautiful country and fully engaged in some deep good conversation, only to be broken down shortly enough after. We had the best of the AAA service for an RV but we really wanted it to be longer than two weeks before we needed to make use of it. We were leaking something like an oil but not from our oil, or our transmission fluid and we couldn’t figure out where it came from as we shook and waved with each passing scary beast of a fast moving vehicle and the cows watching in calm amusement at the humans who made life harder than it had to be. We finally found one more odd plug into an odd drum with a lot of hoses and saw the leak came from that…the question for even two people who know machines well was What Was It? We nose dived into our books on board with diagrams of the engine and heard a voice ask us what the problem was from outside our door. That gentleman understood immediately the issue by our sad and lacking explanation and walked off with a “well that’s not good” but he came back with a phone talking to a friend explaining our hydraulic hose busted issue….We Have A Hydraulic Engine System??? Who knew?! For me with my experience I don’t have any with diesel to speak of and for him with his diesel experience of boats this machine was a whole other animal to deal with…and to admit that we had spent days preparing for the road is only to admit that those days were not enough for all of it to be covered.
We quickly learned as practically a whole town turned out for us in the next twenty four hours, however, that we had done nothing wrong and that ignorance meant a lesson learned and that no matter how brand new the RV the things still break. We also learned all about our entire hydraulic diesel system up close and personal. Somehow I never did get a picture of Joe covered head to toe in grease but the sight it did make and the grease all over the inside he did leave (which made for new rules). However the couple that stopped were well versed in not only RV’s but the who who of the town and plenty more, helping us get the beast to a nearby RV specialty shop that we had just happened to break down nearly on top of, I had just happened to see the oil on the back camera right away which saved the issue from becoming much bigger and much more costly, and even with loss of power steering Joe discovered it had as he managed to U-turn on a freeway and get it down a steep hill into this shop on his own and we were saved by a phone call to the towns and one of the countries best RV specialist mechanics who came out that night and again the next morning. Everything was of course closed on the Sunday evening so securing location, issue, and safe place to sleep (our own RV plugged in and all as this shop was actually set up for such occasions) and then later food for the night was the important thing.
The next morning came the work. Not only did we break down in the best location, have the best couple stop to help out for on their Sunday drive, call the best mechanic of RV’s out who people bring for work from all over the country, have an RV shop that was more than hospitipal to us and more tips and information we had yet to find on the internet in months but we also had people come out simply just to help as well as to admire the big guy we had brought to their town. Apparently we had a keeper on our hands, nobody was surprised at the issue at hand, our break down cost us more than we needed for the moment but much much less than could have been and muscle and knowledge and tools and parts to get the job done, in fact just up the street was an actual hose and fitting specialist for just such things….location could not have been better and small town kindness poured greatly to this young couple among the retired who were traveling the US roads in one of the best RV’s out there.
Along our travels so far people have stopped us plenty amazed that we are under fifty and doing such a thing…especially IN such a thing, when we tell people we are RVing they figure tiny little pickup truck camper or some sort…and I did even have one gentleman say the same for my name “You just don’t meet many as young as you….” This we get about our traveling often at every stop we make, and more among the elder than the young at all. For it we feel privileged, blessed and appreciative greatly. Not only the opportunity but all of the help that came along even when all of our best laid plans went amuck.
Miss Jackie said we were both being exceptionally calm in all of that particular situation and well, we had the best of all the help we could not even have asked for. There will be much to stress about…this was a moment for calm and acknowledgement of safety of not only ourselves but our mammoth as well….it all could have been much worse and we are still on the path to much better. In all of it we’ve still laughed a lot (and cried a little) and even though yelled a lot (that would be me) and have a notebook full of Lessons Learned, New Rule, To Do, To Buy, we also have a lot of memories, even in a short amount of time….it is incredible at how much we still accomplished and I am not even fitting it all in here really.
Now I sit here in the calm with a view over water and a sun that has set, deer nearby and knowledge that a bald eagle is somewhere here and I have a time to write and work with an office outdoor in the month of October in a new place for my stirring spirit and I am really really good with this idea.
Which is a good thing since it’s a little too late for a changed mind.