Friday, April 20, 2018

Our neighbor and dear friend, Ted Barrett, made an astute observation about my first post (Captain Nemo, Moho Mama, and the Appalachian Trail). Ted and his wife are seasoned RVers-they are on their third Class A-and he is our go-to guy for all things related to traveling in a motorhome.

While my purpose in comparing thru-hikers on the AT with our travels was to point out the sense of escapism we shared when we hit our respective trails, Ted reminded me of the hardships hikers often endure. For example, because Springer Mountain is the most popular place to start a thru-hike (most would-be thru-hikers leave between March 1st and April 15th), the northbounders are forced to deal with overcrowded shelters, hiking in winter conditions, and snow, sometimes deep, at higher elevations throughout North Carolina and Tennessee. During AWOL’s thru-hike, he suffered a sprained ankle, a foot infection, and knee pain. And yet he preserved, reaching the summit of Mt. Katahdin in 146 days.

Ted’s reason for reminding me of the adversities some thru-hikers face is that we too, will likely encounter some difficulties on our trip. However, he encouraged us to take things in stride, and to strive to reach our goal, not just for this trip, but for all future trips we hope to take on the Asphalt Trail.

As usual, Ted was right. We haven’t even left home yet, and already we’ve run into three snafus. On Thursday, Harry extended our large slide so we could store our clothes and load the pantry. The foot of our bed lifts up, and there is storage space underneath. We took advantage of the extra space, stocking it with paper goods, Harry’s Metal detector, and my little travel printer. Once we had finished putting things away, Harry pressed the button to retract the slide. Nothing happened. Our hearts sank. We had just spent $1,100 having the slide repaired, and now it would not retract. We were not happy campers.

I know absolutely nothing about the mechanics of our motorhome, but when something doesn’t work properly, my first question is always, “Do you think we blew a fuse?” So of course, those were the first words that popped out of my mouth. I’m sure Harry is sick of hearing me ask that question, but this time it prompted an idea. He lifted the foot of the bed and checked the wiring for the large slide. It turned out we had accidentally loosened one of the wires while shifting containers around. Harry grabbed a screwdriver and tightened the wire. The slide retracted perfectly. Problem solved. Whew!

The second thing that happened is actually funny, when you think about it. If you recall, we only went camping once last year, and that was to a campground eleven miles from our home. Because the campground is so close, we never tow a vehicle when we go there. Instead, I follow Harry in our truck. The last time we towed our car was in October of 2016. Since we plan to leave early Saturday morning, Harry decided to install our tow bar on the motorhome on Friday. The tow bar went into the receiver on the motorhome without a hitch (pun intended), but when Harry tried to unlock the locking pin we use to secure the tow bar, he couldn’t get it unlocked. After trying unsuccessfully for several minutes, he grabbed my keys, thinking there was a problem with his own key for the lock. Long story short, it took a phone call to Blur Ox to determine he was using the wrong key. It is amazing how quickly you forget simple things when you have taken such a long break from traveling.

The last thing that went wrong was bittersweet. When I told my daughter-in-law about our travel plans, she asked me if I would be willing to take some of Rusty’s and Dylan’s ashes with us and spread them in some of the places we visited, places Rusty and Dylan also dreamed of visiting one day. Naturally, I agreed. We met Rusty’s youngest son, Tristan, two weekends ago to get the ashes. Tristan will turn 21 in less than three weeks, and since we will not be here on his birthday, we decided to treat him to lunch for his big twenty-one. We give each of our grandchildren money for their birthday: it is always the right color, the right size, and no one ever wants to return it. I had T’s birthday money in my pocket, so I wouldn’t forget to give it to him. When he drove up and got out of his truck, he handed me a Ziploc bag containing his dad and brother’s ashes. Without thinking, I reached into my pocket and pulled out his birthday money. It suddenly occurred to me that if someone saw us exchanging cash for a plastic bag, it might look a little suspicious. I quickly stuffed the bills back in my pocket until we had safely stored the bag in the back of our car. Over lunch, we had a good chuckle about the possibly of getting busted for purchasing/selling cremains. Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying.

After Harry and I got home that day, I put the ashes away for safekeeping. When we started loading the motorhome on Thursday, I couldn’t find that Ziploc bag anywhere. I started freaking out, going through drawers and cabinets, my backpack, my closet, my fireproof safe, every place I could think of I might have put it. I dreaded calling my daughter-in-law to tell her I’d lost the bag.

The next morning, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I had put the bag in the motorhome. I looked everywhere, poking around in the cabinets, and feeling around in drawers. Still nothing. It finally dawned on me that I had not checked the closet where our combo washer/dryer is stored. There is a plastic container on top of the washer/dryer where I store my laundry supplies. To my immense relief, I found the bag of ashes between a bottle of fabric softer and a box of laundry detergent. I have no idea why I put the bag in such an unlikely place, but I’m just grateful I found it.

Somewhere out there in the universe, I image my son and grandson are laughing their heads off at me right now.

Our tow vechicle packed to the gills.


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