The “End” of our 2019 Travels. Does a Circle Ever end?

As our 2019 travelling was winding to a close (if only because 2019 is winding to a close), we needed to solve a couple of problems. First and foremost: Where to leave the Bus while we are home for the Docs and the Turkey? Preferably SOUTH, so we would not have to winterize and worry about freezing pipes, etc. Our initial attempt at organizing this had me lapse back into pre-retirement thinking, until I woke up in a cold sweat and realized what had happened!

I had found a storage place, in Jacksonville, FL. This was convenient to the Georgia Coast, where we imagined spending XMAS with Liz’s brother David’s In-laws. The McNichols have been WAY MORE THAN KIND to us over the years…they’ve suffered our company already for a previous Christmas and for Easter, when, to be fair, we were the LEAST energetic among the collection of family and especially grandkids around the holiday table.   Once, even, their generosity extended beyond the immediate, more genetic circle to the neighbor across the street, who let us park RV WHERE YET in their yard while we ate, drank and were merry!

The plan, which was eventually interrupted by the abovementioned cold sweat, was to leave the bus at a storage facility in Jacksonville, which has excellent service, if you can call anything an airline does, “service” anymore, by Southwest to Chicago. Once in Chicago, we would rent a car for our trip to Minneapolis for Thanksgiving. And then we’d fly back to Jacksonville, re-activate RV WHERE YET and continue to our appointment with Xmas destiny.

Why in the world had I orchestrated such a complicated fly-and-drive-and-rent-and-fly-and-drive-some-more scenario?

 

I had organized ALL of this: The storage lot, the air flites, the rental car. Even a place to stay in Minneapolis. THAT is a story in an of itself, because staying with MY family was not an option this year – stay tuned for THOSE details. This is when the cold-sweat-awakening occurred. NOT quite the rapture, but close!   I realized one day (there may have been an adult beverage involved…) that We actually OWNED a car and had all the time in the world…WHY HAD I ORCHESTRATED THE WHOLE FLY-and-drive-and-rent-and-fly-and-drive-some-more scenario? This is how our lives worked when WE worked…and had only limited time to spend with family; choosing therefore to fly to and from. This is not our life anymore, so Why not just DRIVE home?

 

The secretary of the Treasury was ALL OVER this new “unplan”

 

Once I had that epiphany, the whole onion started to unravel. (Wow, THAT is a mixed metaphor if ever there was one)!   I mean, take some extra time, Don’t Pay for Storage. Don’t pay for Airfare. Don’t pay for Car Rental (the secretary of the Treasury was ALL OVER this new “unplan”).  Don’t rush. Don’t worry, Be Happy!   By NOT doing all this careful orchestration, we could also visit my brother Bill, who had recently moved to Sevierville, Tn.   And visit our friends Mike and Fran McDowell, who had moved to a new place in Pittsburgh AND, it turns out, had tickets to the Penguins/Blackhawks hockey game, just coincidentally the very day we could happen to be driving thru…  I can neither confirm nor deny that this ticket possibility tipped the balance.

SO, the moral of OUR story, as usual: DON’T PLAN and good things will happen!

First thing was to cancel our flite, which it turned out we could do without repercussion because Southwest had changed our flites by an hour due to the MAX8 snafu (I guess). Because THEY changed the itinerary, they were required to give and we got a full refund, not even a travel voucher, for cancelling our reservation.

Next, I unwound the Jacksonville Storage Lot. We had chosen Jacksonville because it is a Southwest hub, and flites were cheap. With flying OUT of the picture, we could store RV WHERE YET ANYWHERE south of the Freeze line. With such expansive options now available, it occurred to me that Randy Dupree (one of our BLuebirdbrain friends and Alaska Stalkers last summer) had a large lot at his place in south Georgia.

Re-roofing after Michael 2018

It occurred to me because the last time we were there was just after hurricane Michael had removed his roof, and we had parked there, along with several other Buses to help him re-roof. SO I knew there was space at his place, out of the way. I asked if we could leave RV WHERE YET there for a couple weeks (which has since turned into a month and a half). He said “Sure, C’mon down, plenty of room, and even an electric outlet to keep the batteries charged!”

Ramsey-pause

On the way to Randy’s, we actually STOPPED to visit friends Sue and Richard Ramsey, who have a Bluebird and live in Blountstown, Florida. We’ve seen the Ramseys at multiple rallies over the last couple years, and even passed nearby once before – without realizing we were nearby until we had actually “passed.” We found out, to Richard’s chagrin, that we had parked at the Walmart not 10 miles from them!

Grill’n-and-Chill’n

Not wanting to incur the Ire of Ramsey (sounds like a small Scottish Isle, but the only thing Scottish about the Ramseys is their beverage of choice) again, we made sure to spend a couple nites, BBQ some burgers and chat.

Randy’s place only became an option when we no longer had to connect to a flite from the storage lot. There are no flites to anywhere from Bainbridge, Georgia, but we no longer need one!   See what I mean about unravelling the whole, complex chain? Back to planning hardly at all, so you are flexible and available for good things to happen? And, Randy being a mechanic extraordinaire and knowing more about Bluebirds than almost anyone else on the planet, would be able to start a furnace in the bus JUST IN CASE of a cold snap that MIGHT want to freeze pipes. I left the keys, even though he assured me this would NEVER happen and would not be necessary. After all, if freezing were even possible, never mind likely, Randy would be living further south!

 

So, far from an anomaly, RV WHERE YET just added to the collection.

 

When we got there, there were two other buses in his yard – I guess people stop by Randy’s when they need to fix stuff – one had a leaking Aquahot Heater, which is a magical, high-tech miracle that heats both water and the coach from any combination of electicity, engine coolant OR diesel fire. We don’t have one of those, and I am glad because they seem always to need attention to keep them miraculous. The other was parked there while its occupant, a sort of sheet metal, fiberglass and paint whisperer, was actually fixing a piece of Randy’s bus that had been damaged in Alaska. Randy wasn’t really “helping” either Bluebirdbrain mechanic, though I am CERTAIN the exchange of expertise was happening and welcome to each. 

 

We very much appreciated whatever inconvenience Randy swore it was not.

 

I guess I should explain a little more about Randy’s role in the whole Bluebird Universe. Randy created and operates the online forum for all the technical information sharing about our old buses, the “Wanderlodgeownersgroup.com” website, without which RV WHERE YET and many others would no doubt be broken down and unfixable.  He has intimate knowledge of all the systems in all the various generations of them. He even makes at least part of his living selling on consignment and outright Bluebirds when they change hands. He is a resource who gives freely of his time and expertise and the community is sort of his extended family.  So asking him if we could park our bus in his yard for a month (which still bothers Liz – to impose on people this way…) was really not something new to him. And, not much of an inconvenience.  

We did the only thing we could think to do in the face of such generosity…We made Margaritas.

 

And, before we could finish parking and escape, Randy and Carole invited us in for dinner. Well, that is a FULLY UNDERSTATED explanation of what they invited us for. Randy had slow-cooked a brisket, and a couple of other delicacies, such as deep-fried Yucca, which is REALLY YUMMY; and they had us all in for dinner. And by “all” I mean the fella repairing his Aquahot, the other fella repairing Randy’s bumper, and of course their wives, and a couple of other folks (former Bluebirdbrains, as I understand it) who had driven up from Gainesville. We all gathered around Randy’s huge table in his funky converted warehouse-home. WHAT FUN!.

Bill’s Smoky Mountain View

And then we embarked for points north. As I mentioned, first stop to visit my brother in Tennessee. Bill moved there just this past summer, and would not be attending our family Thanksgiving this year for the first time in forever. So it was good to be able to stop by.

Good, too, that we were in the Jeep and not RV WHERE YET because he lives way out on the top of a hill, through the “holler” where Dolly Parton grew up and just past the house where the Banjo Player in Deliverance was born. Not only that, The GPS and Google have the “streets” (more like well organized ruts) mixed up, and tried to point us down his neighbors drive. THAT might not have ended well (note my comment about Deliverance and Banjos) except that Bill had warned me and provided CORRECT instructions.

Then Pittsburgh to catch up with Los McDowell, whom we normally see at various, seemingly random spots on the road – they in their Airstream and we, of course, in RV WHERE YET. The McDowells had just acquired a new townhouse. In fact, so “just” that they were still looking for kitchen implements in boxes. I can tell you that, although it was quite a struggle, we survived without the “spiralizer” (that is a thing…you can look it up!) for the weekend.

We also had a chance to help them with their household tech. Normally it is I that solve a computer or WiFi or other issue for friends. Since I am retired, the deal is, this in exchange for a cheeseburger.   This time, tho, it was actually Liz that saved the day.

It seems the new Casa McDowell Townhouse had an issue with the kitchen lighting. Dim. And yellow-ish. Weirdly, two cans were dim, and two less so. Mike had already replaced bulbs without effect. They said they were needing to call the electrician to sort that out, as the lighting was dim enough to make pouring a Chardonnay difficult! But they managed this somehow, as they were managing survival without the spiralizer until they had fully settled in.

Well, Liz sheepishly suggested, maybe they should move the little tabs more towards the top on the light switches. Mike and Fran looked at each other, then at Liz. It was as though she was proposing that the phase capacitor was out of sync and the nuclear vibrations were therefore inadequate. Liz demonstrated by RAISING THE DIMMER TO A HIGHER SETTING! In fairness, if you haven’t seen those little dimmer switches before, the tabs are SO NOT OBVIOUS. Still, worth a chuckle (or several — chardonnays).

Hockey Nuts

The rest of our stop in The ‘Burgh was WAY MORE than uneventful. Mike, as I mentioned, had managed 2 tickets (GREAT TICKETS, actually) to the coincidental-to-our-visit-NOT hockey game – Chicago Blackhawks v. Pittsburgh Penguins. I managed to scalp 2 more for Mike and I (since the first two were actually for our wives – at least that is what Liz and Fran told us!), so we took the train down, after a delightful dinner.

 

Fortunate that they had not yet found the spiralizer, or it might have been used on the sweaters!

 

Knowing that this was going to happen, I had our friend and neighbor in Chicago, Rich, pack up and send our Blackhawks Sweaters to the McDowells.  I mean, we wanted NO CONFUSION in the stands about where our loyalties were. This was supposed to be a surprise…thinking they might hold them for me (the package WAS addressed to “Dan Harris C/O McDowell”). In fact Fran missed the “C/O” part, opened the package,and I am sure was MOST DISAPPOINTED in the weird FedEx surprise we had sent them. Nevertheless, they were nicely hanging in the guest-room closet when we got there.  

This is a WAY-FUN thing to do – catch your favorite team at a road game.   Our Red Sweaters stood out pretty well in the sea of black and yellow and white and blue — it seems the Penguins are either in search of their color-identity or they have figured out a way to extract more cash from their fans with alternate Sweaters. Anyway, the regular occupants of locations around Mike’s season ticket seats were very tolerant of us, though I am sure Mike will be hearing about (and buying drinks for neighbors to make up for) our behavior for years to come!

Stalking the Purcells

After Pittsburgh, we headed back in the direction of Chicago. First, a quick stop just outside of Cleveland, where our new friends and former Alaska Stalkers, the Purcells live. This time, technically, WE were the stalkers as they were very much at home for our invasion. We’ve met some great people in our travels – just reflecting back on the pages of this blog remind me how fortunate we have been in this regard. And, it was great to have a beer and laugh a bit again with Kathy and Bob!  

What a “Welcome” Home!

Then, we arrived back in Chicago virtually coincident with a pretty impressive snow storm. We were accused of bringing it with us; never mind we came from SOUTH – facts don’t seem to matter anymore.  

At LAST!! Best Burrito on the Planet!

AT least the Burrito Place was still there and nice and Warm!   STILL the best burritos anywhere!!!!

Chicago, as usual was a whirlwind of inoculations (Flu Shots), Doctors and Dentist visits and many, many meals with friends. Our clothing was already fitting somewhat tightly even BEFORE Thanksgiving! This year’s Thanksgiving plans, which NORMALLY involve a huge feed in Minneapolis with my family and assorted friends, involved a very substantial new wrinkle …  

You’ll have to read the next post to know what that might be!

3 thoughts on “The “End” of our 2019 Travels. Does a Circle Ever end?

  • Hi Dan and Liz
    As usual a very interesting read. I hope my Blackhawks won the game against Pittsburgh.
    Happy Thanksgiving, and have a great Christmas.
    All the best
    Jim and Diane

  • Always love reading the latest edition of your travels and travails! You are an awesome writer, not news to you I’m sure, but your use of our language is a joy to read! Enjoy your “home” time and familiar haunts. Have a beautiful Christmas Season and we’ll look forward to the next installment! Merry, Merry – Bobbie & Dan Jensen

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