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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Making a good appearance

I'm amazed at how many folks, especially neighbors, have asked me, "Where's the coach? We saw you had some trouble coming north with it but we want to see it!"  My answer is pretty much the same for all.
-Quo's  in the body shop, then to McGrath's Auto, Truck & RV Garage for a new set of LED light bulbs throughout and an electric fireplace wall mount heater in the living room, etc.
-She doesn't want to be seen without her new 'coat' of paint in this cold weather.
-Soon! Soon!

And now we know that State Farm has approved all the body repairs on the coach (see top pic- basement doors and the radiator grill) so perhaps even by the end of this week Paul at D & D Collision will have her all done (see the next pic for how she WILL look!) and ready to head over to John & Kim's for the inside work.

I've had some helpful advice from many good friends since having this, and the TOAD, accident.
-Take a CDL license course.
-Just don't hit anything.
-Drive safely and stay out of my drive!
Thank you all for them!

And along with the advice we've gotten some other cool stuff.
-Some great driving tips from RV and Trucker pros
-More prayers... mostly for Mona, for some reason.

Today Audrey Dunekack, who upgraded our garage 30 amp exterior RV electric hookup to 50 amp while we were down south asked me when the coach would be here and hooked up.  I had to tell her it will be a couple of weeks yet. But I could tell her it won't be long.  Then anyone who wants a peek can come on over to 100 Holly Drive, Douglassville, for a look.  At least until we move into her and leave the house for good.

She'll be at the house on the corner hiding behind the RV.

PS:  The house lists with Brian Kelly Realtors, Gilbertsville, February 1st.  And the auctioneer, Cathy Pennypacker, comes to value the house contents for sale on the 4th.  But Mona is hoping we have till April at least to move.  Have I mentioned that she likes winter camping less than she likes winter?


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


In 1970 Mona and I traveled in style.  We had the latest 'camel' brand canvas umbrella tent and dining fly.  The folding chairs and table were of the finest aluminum. The Coleman ice chest was insulated with state of the art fiberglass. And it all fit neatly in the trunk of our Plymouth Valiant V8.

But there were several who declared in our hearing that such extravagance was decidedly NOT camping. A dining fly? We might as well have stayed at home and taken our meals on the porch.

In 2014 this, our new home come Spring (it's in the shop now, remember?), is one I would never dare call camping myself. While hardly the largest 'land yacht' on the highway, it's not the smallest, either.  But then, this is not a weekend, or even a weeks-long habitat, but our permanent home (once the garages are done with her).

Interestingly, Mona and I do catch ourselves calling it our 'camper' from time to time. I mean, you can stay in a campground with it. And there is a 'dining fly' that extends over the lawn, or patio, when you wish it to. But a camper?  Hardly.  All the images of roughing it under the trees, waking to dew coating the roof of your tent, or walking to the public washroom at 2 am disappear with any motor home, or most towed trailers. We both look forward to looking out at new vistas each morning after driving to a new parking spot, but not true camping.

In the 1950's my dad took my brother Jim and I to a spot along Sherman's Creek in Perry County, PA, that he once frequented with his boy scout tent in the 1920's.  We had to bounce through two rough farm field roads in our 1954 Ford Fairlane to get to it and not only was there no cell reception, Netflix decidedly did not come in on the tent wall screen. But then mosquito's didn't get in, either.

We fished, cooked what we caught on an open fire, and swam in the cool flowing stream for a full weekend without seeing, or hearing, another soul. This was camping. And when the evening meal was consumed, and the the dishes washed with gravel, not soap, at the water's edge, you could lie back and look up at the stars and along with our dad say, "this is the life of Riley." Another time, a distant place. But then neither I, Jim, nor dad were in our sixties. Retirement camping doesn't have to include sleeping on the ground, does it?

I hope not. Otherwise our Tempurpedic mattress will create just too much guilt.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A welcomed HOME

Today we arrived back in Douglassville, PA, after over 2,000 miles of trekking to pick up, learn how to drive (and turn corners, and NOT to back up with TOAD in tow) and return.. Our home, and the two of us, were welcomed as we made a stop in Lancaster's Park City Shopping Center (BIG parking lot) by our daughter Jennifer's family (with her wife Chris, and sons Tristan and Kaream. Khalif was at Hempfield High School drumline practice) and Mona's sister Loretta and her husband Larry Crum.

They were all waiting in the FREEZING cold wind as we rolled to a stop in front of their cars. They were all there to see the new home Mona and I will be living in full time come June. And they were all there to have lunch with us at TGI Fridays, but isn't food a part of all good family gatherings?

They were welcoming us home, and our new home was made welcome. Though the latter means we will be taking our home with us and away from them all for long periods of time. Sweet and sour thoughts, as the Pennsylvania Germans say.  But mostly sweet.

The internet, and unlimited phone minutes in Canada and the US make staying close together at a distance more possible than ever. And pictures, bot in our BLOGS, and on Facebook, work even stronger magic. Still, nothing says 'Welcome' like a solid hug from a loved one, and that, as any overseas deployed service person will tell you, is what makes home really home.

So we are back for four and a half months.  Then we truly depart for some places we know, and many as yet unknown.  Not to stay away, but to tell tales electronically of where we've been as we travel, and meet back here again at some future date, for hugs, food, friends and family.

PS:  The TOAD is running like a champ. After all, she's nearly 1/3rd brand new now! And the Coach drove smoothly and well from Jacksonville FL to Baltimore MD on the busy I-95, and home from B-town even in some wind just fine.

We dropped the coach off at D & D Collision in Pottstown this evening to receive it's new basement doors and radiator grill, then we take it to our RV shop to give it a full set of LED light bulbs (they use alot less battery power), and a few other touches as we prepare it to 'dry camp / boon dock / live rent free' all over the US and Canada, between stops in campgrounds and the occasional hotel.

Now I have the last touches to put on tomorrow's sermon, and Mona has finally completed her two week mail pile. Not answering it all yet, but she made a solid dent!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Good Friends

Laverne & Jean Buckwalter, in their 'yard' in Timmonsville, SC
Jim and Jeannie Nearhoof, at their condo on Hilton Head Island

Once upon a time, in what now seems a far, far galaxy ago, the DeWalt's got to know the Buckwalter's when Ken and Laverne worked at the original Stauffer's of Kissel Hill Store in Lititz, PA.  The Buckwalter's soon travelled south to enter ministries of many kinds and we only saw each other occasionally over the next 40 years.

Jim Nearhoof worked for years as a Landscape Architect with Stauffer's Landscape Company and we and they became friends through Ken's work with the management team at SKH over those many years.  We saw more of each other over time but still only occasionally.

Now all six of us are in or near retirement; traveling different roads but still very connected by what first brought us together: Love for the Lord, fun, wit, and humor, and simple human friendship. We've prayed for each other in hard times, and laughed together personally or in writing in better.  We have remained connected.

Last evening we had the joy of being hosted by the Nearhoof's at their vacation Marriott Condo on Hilton Head Island. Then this afternoon the Buckwalter's took us to a more than complete southern CHINESE buffet. What memories, and new news, we shared!
You might think that having such experiences would dim our desire to live on the road, away from such friends, and family, too.  But instead, they make us more eager to hit the road.  You see, we have many friends and family scattered all over the North American Continent.  From San Diego to Fairbanks, Alaska.  And from Massachusetts to the Port of New Orleans. And if we ever figure out it's financially feasible to transport Quo & Toad by tramp steamer to Europe, from Amsterdam to Naples.

If we have learned anything from lives of Student Exchange with Rotary International, travel with my brother Jim, and our own travels as we could take them, the best part of them all was not the wonderful sights and marvelous histories beneath our feet, but the old and new friends, who became over time more than friends; the FAMILY of FRIENDS we've made all over the planet.

I doubt any feasibility will get our rig to Chile, or the Phillipines, Japan or Ghana, so Facebook, emails, and maybe, just maybe, future flights will keep those relationships closer. But we've heard of RV caravans that take groups down the Baja Peninsula of Mexico to avoid the gang gunfire for the wonderful beaches and ex-patriot American communities there.  Wagooooooonnnnnnssss  HOOOooooooooooooooo!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Here's Looking at You!

What does it mean when you are looking for pretty shells and their inhabitants are looking back.  On any beach I've been on it means the food supply exceeds demand and this little 'Fighting Conch' will live to wash up another day. Today we spent a couple of hours on the beach in front of our hotel, the Marriott Crystal Shores Vacation Club, Marco Island, Florida, just to meander among the wild life, both sapient (having wisdom or ability to act with appropriate judgement- WIKIPEDIA -as in some humans), and less than sapient (me, when turning a tight corner with the motor coach).

It is amazing the wealth of living entities two hours of walking may place before you on a beach.

And so many more not photographed! Sheepshead, pelicans, dolphins, crab, bait fish in the surf but NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH.  I think we might have seen a cat sneak over the dunes.

 And then there is all the life you don't think is living.  The shells so worn they must be empty but... are they?  The vegetable life that looks totally gross till a gull grabs it in his beak and washes it clean in the surf and then down his gullet in a bright green rush. The gelatinous mass that appears to be a pound of silly putty that quivers when you touch it- an unmistakable jelly fish.  Life in huge abundance and variety on a single stretch of beach walked over slowly in a mere two hours.

We humans often miss the wonderful totality of life God gives us right under our noses every day.  Sometimes it takes a vacation to slow us down enough to take the time to see just what some of that total is.

When I was about 8 years old I spent a morning on my belly in the driveway of our duplex brick home in Harrisburg, Pa. watching troops of ants make their way from the tiny escape hatches they had dug at intervals in the cracks in the cement to food sources sometimes 20 yards away.  Out to the food supply they would follow each other, and back again, carefully making sure that they never lost a bit of the sustenance their young needed in the maternity wards below.

A whole morning I spent there, fascinated by what I saw. Now, if I am held up an extra 30 seconds at a red light by another driver unsure of which way to go, my right hand reaches for the horn button, and on the new Alpine, that is a roof mounted dual air horn that will cause a heart attack in a sleeping teenager. We... I, need to slow down.  Not just because its healthier for our own hearts, though it is, but because God has a wonderful world of creatures and creations just waiting to be seen while we are moving our hands toward the horn buttons of our lives.  "Get out of my way! I'm on the move here!"

I saw a dolphin several dozen yards off the beach this morning and I shouted to the mom and daughter shell searching near me, "There's a dolphin!"  "Oh, we missed it", mom said not even looking up. "We have our eyes glued to the life at our feet for the moment".  She missed a dolphin, and saw hundreds of other entities I missed... because I did not have the patience to slow down, and focus my eyes on the life at my very feet.  Where is the 8 year old boy when you need him again?


PS: The coach is mechanically repaired and winterized for our journey north, and the Toad also has completed it's body and frame repair and gets it's new baseplate and hitch on Monday.  We drive to pick up first the coach, and then the car, on Tuesday and then over to I-95 and north to hopefully see some old friends along the way home.  Your prayers for us will always be appreciated.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Job learned, and so can we

Job.  The biblical; and eternal symbol of bad luck, hard times, and ... faith.  Despite his wife's plea to , "...curse God and die." Despite his best friends advice to the contrary, old Job, who lost all his family and all his possessions still found, after much, much hard and hurting time, that his only true hope was  in the Lord.

We haven't come close to the Job-ian hard times ourselves. But tonight we feel a little closer to his situation than we did Monday night.  And prayers are very much in order.
After working through all the necessary issues to get our Toad repaired and ready to be picked up from the Ocala, Florida Honda dealer and the Hitching Post specialty shop next Tuesday, we left the Ocala North RV Park in high spirits at 7 am this morning for the five hour run south to Marco Island. It was a great ride, and Quo Vadis was wonderful to drive and live in all the way.  Then we arrived in Marco; an island filled with tiny streets on water access causeways and as we learned this afternoon, all-too-tiny cul-de-sacs.

I tried oh so carefully to get us around the median. But the left rear hung up on some decorative cut off telephone poles.  As Bill Cosby once said, “They came right out and bit my car.”  Well, not so in my case.  Our coach bit into them and then they bit back.

Thank God for Good Sam’s fast action.  Bobby from alligator towing came out in an hour and cabled the RV right up in the air and off that post.

Then Ric, owner of Horner’s RV Repair in Punta Gorda, where Bobby towed her to, called twice tonight to let us know he definitely can have the body work and the mechanicals completed by the time we pick her up next Tuesday morning.

Then our good friends at State Farm, Cindy and Carol, assured us that once again we were well covered and that the Enterprise rental car and meals while repair was going on, was covered to a generous minimum for both of us.

Yes, Mona and I are a bit more leary of tight turn arounds, asis only correct. But my mistakes in these two situations make us only wish to learn more about this new skill God has given us to acquire.

Just last evening we sat facing each other over our books in the warm, snug living area and agreed that “this really does feel like home.”

Tonight we are safely in our hotel room, the heat is on (still cold down here! Maybe better tomorrow), and we've just come in from Mona's favorite: A Mexican restaurant. But we MISS our own home.

No it's not all roses, but I've learned another important lesson, the hard way, about driving a 35' coach. And while our insurance rate may not be the same the next time it's billed, Cindy and Carol say I'm  in good hands with... oh, wait a minute... that's those other guys! "Hey Cindy! Carol! Wait up!  Just what did you mean by..................!???"

PS:  When it hurts too much to cry, some laughter goes a long way toward dulling the pain.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Our Toad's got a Toad

Who can resist at least looking at a Crackerbarrel Restaurant closeout table? And what do you know, this time there is something just plain irresistible (to me) right out in front.  It's a toad.  a round, soft, cuddly green toad.  And he's 25% off!

Say hi to Quo Vadis, our genuine all American, China-made toad.  I hope he doesn't get too tired of looking at the back end of his namesake- the coach! In a super cold Florida Hard Freeze (going down to 20 os so tonight in Ocala).

Quo Vadis the toad had a tough first day on the job. not only did he have to follow the coach around wherever he went today, he got to witness one of his two drivers, me, take an orbital journey on this learning curve we've called so far simply 'picking up the coach."

Tonight, in the deep dark of a crowded RV campground, with trees separating one close site from another, we found our site number, 3, and pulled through.  A little too far.  When I got out to plug in the shore power 50 amp cable I was about 8 feet too far away.

We've had 5 hours of driving today, and some other minor challenges we are still learning from. It's dark, and we had to drive completely around the perimeter of the park's 156 sites because   a) I missed the correct road to turn into the first time and   b) you NEVER back up a coach with a toad behind.  All kinds of not nice things can happen since the combo coach & toad are only meant to go forward together. But I was very tired, and so was Mona.

To Mona's credit she has not hooked up or unhooked the car yet, so I'm the part of our pair with all the experience, such as that is.  To my credit I asked her to go outside the coach with a flashlight to tell me when I had backed the combo toad and coach the requisite, simple, short 8'.  Did you read where I typed 'backed'? You see, I was tired, and I did NOT want to have to wind up that heavy cable, and drive out and around the entire park again just so I could drive in the correct distance for my cable to reach. So...

It wasn't the act of simply backing that caused our problem. A straight back push with no obstacles for such a short distance should have been problem free. No, the toad was ready to be pushed; both red and green versions.  But one of his drivers, me, was not ready.  I had not put the gearshift in neutral first.  It was in park.

Do you see, at the lower left of the picture above, how nice and straight the toad's tow bars are?  NOT anymore.  With a snap loud enough for me to hear in the cab they both took the pressure of the slowly backing 30,000 lb coach and the un-moving car in the rubber covered tubes that slide in and out of the Blue Ox brand towbar exterior channels. I didn't take a picture of the damage.  Actually, I can't bring myself to. Both of them are equally bent so that that make two of the letter's 'U'. The wonderful mechanism that is a Blue Ox Toad Towing system is scrap metal. Oh the humanity!

Well, it was quite a shock. Especially for Mona as she stood behind the Honda and thought the entire front end of it had been destroyed. But God has better plans than ours every day, especially where learning curves are concerned.

Our call to Good Sam Service (our replacement now for AAA) confirmed that they will have a tech out at 7am tomorrow morning to look over the damage to be sure only the hitch is hurt.  And there is a huge camper and RV center just 20 miles south of us, at Ocala, Florida.  I believe I can get a new Blue Ox, or it's equivalent, tomorrow morning. Lord willing, or unless He has another lesson for us to learn somewhat differently tomorrow, we'll be on our way to Marco Island (about 7 hours south as we drive) and warmer shores, by noon.

So what does today's part of my learning curve teach me? What I kept repeating to others since deciding to buy a toad... NEVER back it up. Really. Just don't. And If I ever try to do so again Mona will, well, it won't be a learning curve.  It will be a learning BUMP!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

When does a journey really begin?

When does a journey of a thousand miles really begin?  The Chinese philosopher said with the first step.  But really?  Isn't that just the beginning of one part of the entire journey?

I like to ask folk in my sermons, "At what point did King David of the Jews begin to sin when he decided to sleep with his soldier's wife, Bathsheba?" The normal response is, "When he thought (or decided) to sleep with her." But I contend that his sin began long before that; when he thought (or decided) to leave his army in the field without it's leader so he could relax a while at home.

I do NOT think of the journey Mona and I are on as one of sin.  Hardly!  But I do believe, like David, it began when we first had the thought (or decided) to live light, on wheels, and travel collecting memories rather than 'things'.

But today we broke our rule. We collected a very BIG thing. We picked up our new home, the 34' Alpine Motor Coach we will be living in full time come June. But that's the point.  There is little enough room for the necessities of life even in a motor home this size.  Once she is fully loaded the rule will have to be, "buy one new thing, give one old thing away".

But don't all you follower's of our BOOK BLOG worry.  There will be plenty of room for Mona's and my books, or we would not have taken the thought (or decision) to begin this journey with today's first REAL step at all.

Now for the first thousand miles, and many thousands more!