Sunday, July 10, 2011


July 10, 2011—When we took our maiden voyage, we left our cats at home. We wanted to “shake down” Baby without worrying about Charlie and Xena. But on this trip, we decided to bring them along with us.
My biggest worry was that whenever we opened the door, one or both of our kitties would bolt. They are used to a lot of freedom. For the last eight years, they have been able to go wherever they wanted—indoors or out. When we moved in, Jim had installed two cat doors: one from the house to the porch, and a second from the porch to outdoors. (As a side note: The second cat door was billed as “critter-proof,” requiring our pets to wear a magnet that allows entry and keeping all other animals out. Not quite. Several clever raccoons in search of an easy meal have managed to open the door. As recently as a couple of months ago, when the evenings were still cool, Jim had opened the French doors so we could enjoy the night air. At 3 a.m. we discovered a little bandit helping himself to the cat food—in our kitchen!)
I shouldn’t have worried. Charlie and Xena are true “scaredy cats.” Whenever they hear the door open, they head for the bedroom. They would like to hide under the bed, but that is not possible, since it rests on a platform. So, they either bury themselves behind the pillows on the bed, or in the corner on the side of the bed.
Yesterday, while we were driving, it was even worse. Apparently they really did not like the noise of the diesel (which is louder in the bedroom, in the back of Baby.) So where did they hide? In the kitchen cupboard beneath the kitchen sink, where we had placed their litter box. (We took the door off the cabinet to give them access.) Charlie hid behind the box; Xena sat in the box during most of the ride.
We aren’t unsympathetic to the difficulty of the cats’ adjustment. And we are trying to accommodate their needs. We bought a harness and leash for each of them. Charlie’s is blue; Xena’s pink. We have yet to try them out. Every time we try to put them on, that’s when they bolt—to their favorite hiding place.
Jim is the “softie” when it comes to the cats. He makes sure that the shades are up during the day so they can stare at the world, and he even keeps a couple shades open at night so they can keep an eye on the comings and goings of any night creatures that might pass by our motorhome. For privacy at night, we draw the curtains around the huge front window. Jim has discovered that both of the cats like to jump up on the front dash and lurk behind the curtains during the wee hours of the morning.
I mentioned the litter box. That was my second biggest worry—that they would not use it. After all, they had had an endless “sandbox” in our backyard. The first day, someone had an “accident.” Same, the next day. But I think they are finally getting used to it. At least, I hope so.
All said, I think Charlie and Xena will eventually adjust to their new home. They might not like their restrictive environment much, but that’s too bad.
Until next time,

Friday, July 8, 2011

We have liftoff!

July 8, 2011, Space Coast—The day didn’t start without mishap, but it grew into one that was memorable.
Last night we both showered before going to bed. (Nice to know, right?) When you are in an RV, the experts generally recommend what they call a “Navy shower”—wet down, soap up, rinse off. That recommendation is made for when you are boondocking—that is, camping without hookups.
We are in an RV park, and we are hooked up. At least, now we are. Last night, when we pulled into the park, it was raining, so Jim hooked up the water and the electrical outlets. That gave us plenty of H20 and electricity. But he didn’t hook up the sewer (grey water) connection, which would automatically drain the grey water tank. The problem was that he had parked the motorhome about six feet too far forward, and the sewer hose wouldn’t reach. Since it was raining, he decided to wait until the morning to fix the problem, if at all.
We forgot about showers.
Since we had plenty of water…well you get the picture. We (OK, maybe I) didn’t do a Navy shower. So, when we woke up this morning and Jim was about to take an a.m. shower, he discovered about four inches of water in the shower stall.
Not a major problem, but a lesson learned. It successfully drained, of course, once he hooked up the sewer.
I thought we were going to watch the launch from the RV park; I was mistaken. Jim wanted to get much closer, so at about 10:30 we headed out toward Titusville, which is near Cape Canaveral. The weather was still iffy but blue sky showed through the clouds, so everyone (thousands of people) were optimistic.
The closer we got to the Cape, the more congested the highway became. Cars were parked everywhere, and people were hiking along the highway, moving in a mass eastward. We hoped they knew where they were going, since we joined the troop as it trudged up (literally) the highway, took shortcuts across woody and weedy areas, and finally ended up in a park on the Indian River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway system. We walked about 1.5 miles. Had I realized we were going to take a nature hike, I’d have worn sneakers, not sandals. Fortunately, I had the insight to prepare a thermos of ice water for each of us and insist that we take chairs. We needed both by the time we reached our viewing destination.
Once we got settled, we had about a half hour to wait. The minutes passed, but no one knew if the launch would take place. The park was packed with people. On the bridge to Merritt Island, about a mile away, we could see thousands more waiting in anticipation. Would it be a “go”?
As the designated launch time—11:26 a.m.—passed, everyone wondered. Then, a couple minutes later, we could see the smoke from the rocket and then suddenly, glowing in the patch of blue sky, was the rocket with the shuttle on its back! It burned brightly for several seconds, perhaps 30, before becoming hidden in the clouds. Just as it passed into the clouds beyond our view, we could hear the sound of the rockets! Loud! They rumbled so much you could almost—not quite—feel them beneath your feet.
It was over in minutes. As the smoke dissipated, we packed up our chairs, camera, binoculars, and water bottles and made the long trek (downhill time) back to the car.
We stopped for lunch at a local barbecue place, where the wait staff was selling T-shirts of the last shuttle launch.
Next time you see me, I may be wearing, “STS 135: Final Shuttle Mission.” It was historic.
Until next time,

An aborted vacation and a late start

July 7, 2011—When Jim learned that the last space shuttle launch was scheduled for July 8, we decided it was a good excuse to take a real trip in “Baby.” Jim had witnessed two launches “up close and personal,” Apollo 8 and Apollo-Soyuz; he said you could feel that ground shake as the rockets took off. I’d only seen launches at a great distance—about 100 miles as the crow flies—in Palm Beach Gardens and in Jacksonville. So, we made plans to go down to the Space Coast to watch the shuttle take off. Although we weren’t planning to go to Cape Kennedy (which promised to be wall-to-wall with space aficionados), we wanted to be very near. We found an RV campground about 15 miles from the launch site and made reservations.

We asked ourselves, “Why not make this a real vacation?” We’d been promising ourselves a trip to the Florida Keys. This was an ideal time. Our vacation began to take form: a couple days near Cape Kennedy, a nice visit with Jim’s son and his family in West Palm, a trip down to the Keys for snorkeling and “touristing,” and a leisurely trip back up the west coast of Florida, perhaps visiting some historic spots and National Monuments. We intended to be gone about two weeks.

That was before I had a dental emergency. One of my many crowns came off.

I spent a frustrating day placing call after call to the dentist office where I had had the procedure done several years ago. The answering machine instructed me that “we are unable to take your call because we are with a patient” and advised me to leave a message. I left several; no one called me back. The next morning, I was at the dental office before it opened—only it never opened. Judging from the UPS notice left on the door from the day before, I guessed the office had closed for vacation. Too bad they didn’t change their answering machine message. (Suggestion: Do not go to Great Expressions dental clinic in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.)

I finally found a dentist, who charged me $190 for an x-ray and recementing the crown. But she had bad news for me: The crown had leaked and I now had a tooth requiring a root canal and news crown. The cost? About $2000. Ouch!

American dentists are expensive. Not so the dentists south of the border. A small town in Mexico near Yuma, Ariz., boasts more than 1,000 dentists. After receiving referrals from two friends, we had decided to make the trip to get long-postponed dental work done for each of us. That trip was going to occur in the fall. Because of my dental emergency, however, we decided to cut our Florida vacation short (only four days), return home, and head out to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

Although the vacation would be short, we still looked forward to it. Early this morning, we drove down to the RV lot to retrieve Baby. Jim attached all the cables and we tested the brake lights and turn signals. Then Jim slowly pulled out of the lot. As I watched the car being towed, I almost panicked! The right front wheel wasn’t turning! When Jim stopped to let me in, I told him. He pulled forward again, but this time the wheel turned. “Hmmm,” I said, “Maybe I was mistaken.”

I wasn’t.

About five miles later, as Jim turned a corner, a motorcyclist motioned to us, indicating something was wrong. A minute later, a woman pulled up next to our bus and yelled to Jim that we had lost a wheel cover. We pulled off the road to look for the cover, wondering how it could come off.

We never did find the cover, which came off the right front wheel, but when Jim walked around the car, he saw that the left front wheel cover was about to come off! The seatings had melted. A few minutes later he discovered the cause: The breaks were locked. I had not been seeing things when I thought the wheel wasn’t turning!

My husband-who-can-fix-anything managed to find the cause of the locked-up breaks, and within 15 minutes we were on our way home.

Our troubles weren’t over.

Jim had to adjust the break cable (which had pulled the breaks into a locked position). To fix the problem, he had to unhitch the tow bar. That’s when he discovered that the hydraulics on one of the bars were not working. Three calls to the manufacturer, a disassembly of the tow hydraulics, and a refitting of a part later, Jim solved the problem.

We had intended to be on the road by 11 a.m. We finally left Jacksonville about 3 p.m.

If all this weren’t enough, there is one more thing: It is raining. The launch will probably be postponed.

Oh, well. We’re on vacation. And even though our plans won’t pan out, we’re having a good time. I hope you are, too.

Until next time,

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