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Friday, May 30, 2014

The Costs of Simplification

Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. Henry David Thoreau
Ever since Thoreau planted himself for a time by Walden Pond many of we humans have sought to emulate his search for simplicity in our own lives. Needless to say, few have succeeded. Even in his days of simple living by the water of Concord, MASS the New England of the 1850's was bustling with industrial activity, business opportunity, and the riches of monetary success to the hardiest and craftiest. Henry D. needed to find a simpler, less hectic life and he finally did. Thoreau died about 10 years later, in 1862, as his beloved country was split in two with the infernal bloodshed of civil war.  His Aunt Louisa, at his bed side, asked him if he had made his peace with God.  In almost his final words he said, "I did not know we had ever quarreled."
Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life. Katherine F. Gerould
Simplicity is not something we come to naturally. We look back at the agricultural America of the earlier 20th and 19th centuries and say, "Ah! If only we could live in those more simple days!"  But who among us, as my dear old dad used to say, would wish to pee outdoors in -20 again, or chop wood to keep from freezing indoors.  Of course, some would.  My cousin Richard Devett, pastor to hundreds in rural Union County PA, loves to cut and split his winter's heat supply... with a chain saw and a gas powered splitter.
The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn't simple. Doris Janzen Longacre
We have taken almost two years of time to research the concept of simplifying our lives from a 1,500 square foot home to 400.  And that work only really began six months before we finally bought our motor coach. As we began to home in on the style we felt we would be most comfortable in, and could afford over the long haul; a haul which may actually never end till death do us part, much more study time was required. None of our search for simplification has been simple, least of all the painful learning curves of crashes, broken water lines, levelers, etc. The result, Mona and I agree, is so far very rewarding. But the effort to get to where we are today, a week from our departure date, is what, I believe, keeps many from simplifying at all.
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Hans Hofmann
There is no one set of 'Necessary'.  John Wesley, the founder of my chosen faith tribe once said, as I paraphrase, "In essentials unity, and in non-essentials discussion". And then fought a half life battle with a dear friend, George Whitefield, over Calvinism (predestination) versus Armenianism (Free Will). It's amazing that either of them ever had time to start a new church. God will make a way, in spite of His pastors.
I find that as you get older, you start to simplify things in general. George Clooney
Age does seem to clarify the need for simplification. Some forty years ago a dear elder woman, who owned a lovely rancher on Blossom Hill, overlooking Lancaster City, PA, was caught from behind by a Lancaster Newspaper photographer as she sat in an old kitchen chair in her front yard watching fireman play streams of water on what was left of her home. All of her personal possessions and at least a million in 1970 dollars worth of rare and lovely antiques collected by she and her husband for all of their 60 years was ash and smoke. Asked by the photographer the ever present press question of those immersed in tragedy, "how does it feel..." she answered something like, "Peaceful.  I don't have to worry about any of it anymore." Note: I believe she was also well insured.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Leonardo da Vinci
Ah, Leonardo, you've hit the nail squarely upon its noggin!  I spent much of my formative decades believing that sophistication was all about the 'right' clothes, car, school, job, social club, etc. What I've learned is that the person with the most money, who can buy all the 'right' stuff is often the least sophisticated of all. In 1983 Eric Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for writing ten books on life as he understood it. True Believer and Ordeal of Change are considered his best. Self educated and, sadly, a self proclaimed atheist till he died, he refused to allow anyone to call him an intellectual. "I'm a longshoreman." he would declare.  And so he was, on the Embarcadero of San Francisco.  He thought as he worked, and wrote his thoughts in simplicity so that he could think simply on the job. That's sophistication at its best.
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. Charles Warner
Mona and I have owned stuff.  Still have the basement of our coach fairly stuffed. At one time a much more of it.  I had purchased what ended up being over 4,000 Beta and then VHS tapes on which I recorded religiously every TV show and movie I enjoyed from the end of the seventies through the beginning of the 90's.  "For posterity", as my dear old dad would have said. I kept them too long after the advent of the DVD though.  The Beta versions went to trash and the VHS sold at 50 cents per by the time I realized my hobby, while interesting to make, was a waste as a collection of anything but recyclable plastic. I laugh today every time I rent a DVD from Redbox for $1.20 or stream it live from Netflix, in unlimited quantity, for under $10.00 a month.
Our Alpine motor coach, QUO, has so many thousands of electrical, hydraulic, pipe, wire, tubing and hose connections, PLUS the entire drive train, that I cannot be surprised anymore when something needs repaired or I need to learn a new procedure for using it so I don't break it again.
But with all of this 'baggage', we are far from living burdened, and we are being blessed by it.  We walk a couple of steps from bed to refrigerator to Surround Sound TV and any man worth his salt cannot argue with that kind of simplicity!
Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion. The Talmud
The Holy Bible is full of such advice and I have taught, preached, and believed it all of my true adult life (from age 26 on). Perhaps now, after all these years, Mona and I will successfully live it.  We will be receiving less income in our retirement than we have earned since I was made a buyer of Craft Supplies for Stauffer's of Kissel Hill's original four stores in Lancaster County, PA (as figured at inflation adjusted dollars). We will be living in the smallest quarters we have ever lived in since renting our 1 1/2 room honeymoon apartment in Cape May, NJ in 1969. But we will be living our lives on wheels, with a 400 horse Cummins diesel to push them, and, we think, sufficient funds to pay our way annually with a bit to spare, and enough to TITHE back to God.  Who cannot rejoice when freedom of travel beckons, and your portion is enough to cover the fuel?!

That's SIMPLY wonderful

PS: For those following our adventures, mis or otherwise,  regularly:
-We have had to order four new HWH levelers from the plant in Iowa.  They are coming east via UPS  with an expected arrival date of Tuesday next.  I didn't think UPS would deliver 400 lbs. of freight like this. I don't think Mona wants to know what the cost of our 3 day shipment guarantee will be.
-Tom Riggs of Tom's TV in Baumstown has completely reworked the audio/video system of the coach so everything works satisfactorily and he even installed a switch to shut off the rather noisy cooling fans above the cab control section when the weather doesn't require them.  And his re-decor of the in house TV cabinet surrounds is... simply sophisticated!
-But then, to remind both of us that life in an RV, as in a marriage and a brick and mortar house, is always in need of proper maintenance, Just a minute ago I heard Mona entering the screen door, followed by a metallic clatter, a long silence ensued and I found her with the 'look' below.  Fortunately a SIMPLE Allen Wrench was all that was needed to reattach the door handle, but for a moment we both thought, simultaneously, "Just what will this simple life really cost?"

The answer... always ENOUGH.   :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gettin' 'er done

Today QUO spent the day at D & D Truck & Bus Shops in Pottstown (Charlie and Paul's crews rebuilt the rear side panels when we brought the coach north last January) getting some lower cost but very important repairs accomplished.  A wheel hub was leaking some oil.  Fixed, sealed, and done.  Both huge windscreens experienced tiny leaks at their tops and a bit of sealant fixed that when their location was discovered.

The bigger, and much more frustrating challenge, our hydraulic levelers which refuse to rise correctly, was looked into or discussed by no less than four different shops today. Tomorrow QUO takes a trip back to McGrath's for a final attempt to make the rebuilt levelers store properly. The manufacturer, HWH, was consulted; no response yet though. Charlie and Paul at D & D, Joe at Clark Hydraulics, and John McGrath all spoke with me and a bit with each other about this vexing problem.

You see, without the massive hydraulic levelers functioning we can still use the coach, we just have to park in relatively level places and even this 30,000 lb behemoth rocks a bit when you walk around it unleveled. So don't come knocking...  You understand (or maybe not, but I like to leave you guessing!).

If we level it without being able to store the levelers safely the computer system will not allow the transmission to move from neutral.  QUO doesn't like to have her four feet dragged along the highway at 65 miles an hour.

John will try two final solutions tomorrow and possibly over the next several days, in which case we'll be his next door neighbors as his home is right across his farm lane from his large shop in Monocacy Station. He will take apart the levelers to see if any air, or other obstruction,  is trapped in the system which is keeping them from rising and if necessary adapt or replace the pairs of large helper springs on each leveler which should have sufficient tension to pull up the levelers on their own.  Barring success here, we think the only solution will be four new, very expensive levelers.  And only 1 1/2 week now to get 'er done. As I said, vexing.

Tom of Tom's TV is hoping to complete the install of our new audio visual system in the living area of the coach tomorrow, or at least by the end of the day. We already upgraded our audio experience with a Samsung surround sound system and now will be installing a new slightly larger (size does matter where a guy and his TV are concerned!) flat screen LED by Magnavox. The former unit works fine but is not made to pair with all of the features now available for optimum on-screen interactivity.  Mona simply says, "Read a book!"

Finally, today marked a minor milestone in my sermon writing experience.  While I've done research before in libraries, and online in cafe's and cyber shops, I never spent an entire day, from the beginning of the research to the end of the first draft in a McDonald's. Such was required as I could not write in my new office (the coach galley). I must admit, with mostly adults coming into the restaurant, and free refills of coffee, I made it through quite well.  But if you attend hope Church this Sunday at 8:30 or 11:00 am, I'll let you be the judge.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Coach Garden

Every human being, since the very foundation of time, has had an innate desire to till the soil; to grow the fruit of their own hands; to plant, water, cultivate and harvest the produce of God's great bounty for their own family table. I, Ken DeWalt, nearly retired pastor of Hope Church and planter of a few seeds of the Heavenly nature have had such agricultural desires myself.  I have known years of several bright early springs in which I roto-tilled my green yard to plant marigolds which I was sure had been tomatoes; summers where I hoed up pumpkins I thought were weeds midst the corn; and autumns when I was all too happy to plow under the garden and plant grass in the plot again.

Now, as Mona and I get closer, day by day, in this new spring of 2014, to venture out upon the endless highways of our great North American Continent that same compulsion to plant, addiction to grow SOMETHING, overtakes my weak heart again and I succumb to the need, even while living several feet above the tarmac, to 'take care of God's garden' (Genesis 1:29, sort-of).

And so is born, out of this, our shared human primeval core, the Alpine Coach Garden. Or as the Stauffer's of Kissel Hill Lititz Store Greenhouse Manager told me yesterday when I made my auspicious purchase, "At least you won't need a barn to store your harvest."

 And so convenient is this single potted golden mini cherry bush tomato plant! It will produce well at a maximum of 24 inches. It may be pruned to a small 12" in width.  And best of all, it will serve as a welcome to all visitors who come to the coach just outside our triple latch double door and automatic slide out step and beside the electric motor driven screw drive generator housing bay. How positively romantic!

And when the morning calls us to once more take up our jacks, roll in our slides, lower our antenna and depart for new places as yet unknown, this brave and bountiful potted miracle of the good green earth will fit neatly on our bottom entry step, covered from harm by the electric step slide cover Mona will activate to produce a floor for her weary feet before we get to the next interesting town, camp site, or church parking lot.

There, in the midst of all our metallic rolling home-i-ness we shall once more set out our much loved Coach Garden to absorb yet more sun, rain, and healthy bacteria with which to grow our tiny morsels of warm golden candy.

Unless, as in all too many of my life's garden mis-adventures, it dies.

Hey! No need to plant grass this fall then, 'eh?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spaghetti Coach!

The coach looks SO ready to go.  

Till you look inside and see the work that's being done.

Tom, of Tom's TV, Birdsboro, is replacing our 5.1 with a new 7.1 audio system by Samsung so the Wii, TV, wireless headset and Netflix will all benefit from  HDMI connected surround sound.

Thank God Tom knows where the spaghetti all belongs!

Tom has a 2004, 39 foot diesel Bounder.  He says he would like to hit the road some day.  One thing that holds him back is a passel of grand-kids; 15 of them. And several he's taught or teaching music too.

Yes, Tom is a retired music teacher who still teaches, and plays, trumpet, etc.

You never know what a person does, or is capable of doing, until you let them play in your spaghetti.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2 1/2 Weeks and Still Much to Do

Hope Church held a wonderful retirement party for me on Saturday then told me I must still work three more weeks!  Well, I knew that already, and so did you, probably, but it was funny to be reminded by so many to show up on Sunday as we left the party.

Our grandson Tristan placed the party balloons on our house's lamp post.  That makes it easier for the house inspectors to find the address; as if the presence of a 20 ton motor coach wasn't enough.

Its been really great living in the coach since we moved in permanently last week.  The size makes some think it will be a problem but both of us like the fact that it takes about 5 minutes to vacuum all the floors and a walk from one room to another is, like, three steps.


SIMPLIFY has been a popular 'word sign' in home decor for a couple of years.  Interestingly it often appears on walls or mantles of anything but simplified homes of people who lead the most complex lives.  We don't have that sign in the coach. We are simply living simplification.

We do have a refrigerator magnet that reads, "SLOW - Grandparents at Play", but we've owned that, and have tried to live it, for years.  And the 'SLOW' part, I think, is a signal from Mona to me.  What do you think?


Just a word about the reason for what we are doing. Some call this, "living the dream". Others look in wonder at the size of our new home and politely smile, or share their misgivings about living quite this simply.  For instance while we will have running hot and cold water all we drink and cook with will be bottled, or otherwise truly fresh. And some can't fathom why anyone would not want to live in a fixed community with the same friends, church, doctors, and neighbors.

Our reasons are somewhat simple.  We have always enjoyed new experiences, and our travel times and vacations have always been high points of our years together.  Witness the joy our kids take in traveling themselves when they can. But beyond what I typed above living simply does not mean living sparsely.  It means, for us, living well, comfortably, and with less worries than we've ever had since either of us lived at home as teens. North America, all of it, is more than well served by medical professionals within a short hop by the Good Sam medical helicopter or ambulance team to where we may need to go.  and besides, All of our most serious accidents have happened around our homes.  Less home to maintain- less accidents?

And community?  There is a vast community of RV'ers around this continent who we have just started to get to know.  From the service people we've dealt with since purchasing the coach who do their darnedest to get us into their shops and out again because they know we live in the coach, to folks like the Snader's, who we met last week at French Creek Park.

There are countless new people God has in mind for us to meet in churches, historic sites, natural wonders, campgrounds and even a few bar and grills.  With the internet we can all stay reasonably well connected until we roll into someone's home town, put down the levelers, and stay a while.

Where will we spend Christmas this winter?  Wherever it will be, it will be warmer than we had it in 2013!


Some minor updates on 'stuff':

On the HOME:
-The replacement latch for the basement door which I broke last week came in and I actually installed it MYSELF!  Mona applauded but told me not to get a swelled head.
-We take the coach to the D and D garage in Pottstown next week to have the two windshield leaks we discovered in the storm last Friday checked out and they will also replace the dried out hub seals in the two front wheels. Paul told us we'd have to leave it overnight.  I said, "No problem, but do you have a level spot for us to live in it?"  He said, "Live in it?  Uh. bring it Tuesday early. We'll get it done." How accommodating!
-Tom from Tom's TV in Baumstown comes tomorrow to give us the final, we hope, set up on the main TV. We want it's audio to run completely through the home theater system, and the Wii to play well on that TV and through the 5.1 speaker system.  We may need to get a new signal distributor (receiver) to replace the 8 year old model we now use. technology does cost, doesn't it?

On the HOUSE:
-A house inspector for the buyer has found sign of carpenter ants in our basement so we had Ehrlich come out to check themselves. Tomorrow they come back to eradicate the little buggers. We don't want anything to hold up settlement on June 10!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A few Silver and a few Gold

 Tonight a few friends gathered with us at French Creek to share hot dogs, a birthday, and our new back yard.  Some from our more distant past, and a couple from yesterday.
 Brian and Carol (Boose) Lawrence have been friends, though often far away, since our early years at Lititz UMC. Home on a brief furlough and visit to home church friends, they are currently serving as missionaries in Hamilton, Ontario for their 11th year, I believe, to former Kurdish Muslims who are starting new Christian Churches in their immigrant communities.

The Choudhry's, Tony, Jenn, Chase, Cayden and Skyler came over to celebrate Cayden's 4th birthday and eat hot dogs.  I will never forget the first Sunday Jenn and Tony visited Hope Church.  They were planning their marriage, and to live in our area.  And before that happened, they were looking for a church to attend. That's putting first things first!

We all got to enjoy some of Jenn's fantastic vegetarian baking and Mona and I (surprise, surprise!!) got to intro Jenn to TOFU hot dogs.  At 60 calories compared to the chicken dogs 170 they allow me to hold out for extra veggie cookies, and later, ICE CREAM!

Skyler Choudhry enjoyed some of Mommies home made veggie baby food.  She'll soon be digging into a TOFU hot dog herself!  Ahhh, life IS good.

Tony and the boys fired up some 20 year old plus boxes of sparklers we found while cleaning out our house at 100 Holly Drive.  The boys first chance in life to play with fire; under CLOSE parental supervision, I assure you!

 Millie and LeRoy Snader, who you met in last night's post, walked down from their site to join us as well.  My we had fun again!

Audrey Dunekack, our wonderful back door neighbor at 100 Holly for the past 17 years, and Hope Churches Trustee Team Leader, drove over from Douglassville.

You know, it will be hard to leave so many friends in 3 1/2 weeks, just as it was to leave so many 17 years ago when we left Graystone Road, Manheim and Stauffer's of Kissel Hill for full time ministry. But oh, the new friends we will meet!  And through God's gift of the internet, we will be able to stay in touch with all of them, all the time.

"Oh no!" I can hear Jenn Choudhry saying as she reads this, "You mean I'll STILL get tons of emails from Pastor Ken??"  Yeah!  No one ever truly retires from pastoring, you know!  :)


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We met a couple of PROS

This evening before supper we took a short walk around the French Creek State Park Campground; at least B loop, which we are in (B-28).  Very few are out in midweek May, and the quiet is refreshing.  Just up the way from our site we found a larger coach nestled in the trees (and some fresh poison ivy!).  The travel  map on the side of the 40' pusher showed almost every state and province of North America visited, and not just driven through, but VISITED.

We were contemplating walking to the door when a most cheerful and vivacious woman bounded out of the coach and introduced herself.  Millie Snader invited us to sit for a spell.  Then her husband LeRoy came out and together they warmly made us welcome.  That's how we learned they were full timers.  But next to them we are truly only Newbies!

This is their 10th year on the road living 12 months a year in their wonderful 2004 Holiday Rambler. The Snader's keep their legal address at their daughter's home in New Holland, Pa, their original starting place, but their home truly is wherever they happen to be today. This is the same service Jenn and Chris, our two married daughters are offering us.

Millie and LeRoy have gone where we want to go, at least in the way we'd like to do it.  No plans much beyond, "Where do we want to go today?" Stay for a day, stay for a month, but go where and when you desire. Where and when God sends you.

Millie asked what I did and Mona told her I was a soon to be retired pastor.  They asked which church.  I loved Millies answer, "Oh United Methodist!  Yes, that's a good religion!"

TY Millie and LeRoy for making our first actual camping evening such a memorable one!

PS: The gas/electric water heater is working like a champ!  TY John McGrath, once again, for your kind advice!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shhh! Mona's sound asleep!

The night closes in on a sleeping Mona and a typing Ken
Our home is now parked in front of our house.

Tonight we are sleeping in the coach for the first time since the trip to pick it up at David and Margaret Hickson's in Mobile, Alabama. Quo is 98% loaded with all we will be taking with us. Our clothing, our kitchen, our bathroom, our two offices (all greatly reduced in space requirements). The new smaller printer/copier/scanner is configured and ready for work. Our desks are either side of the dining table when dining is not happening. And the refrigerator is stocked with our fav ice cream.  It gets no better than that, unless its parked on a beach (stay tuned).

Tomorrow we off on a 10 mile away trek for two nights at French Creek State Park. There we will learn much more about how to live in our new home.  For instance, I learned today that the water pump was fine.  it just needed some air removed from the water lines with the correct sequence of start-up procedures. Yes, I read the book and Tim Gibble, our plumber, read the book and brought his own camping experience and professional skill to bear, but sometimes it just takes a learning curve, and a village of internet accessed RV techs  (TY Aaron at Shaeffer's RV above Hamburg, Pa).

The newly rebuilt leveler's were also giving us some fits till John McGrath drove over this morning from his shop in Monocacy Station, 2 miles away, to show me the best way to drop and reload the levelers in their lifters.  Ah, education.  it's amazing what a little can do!

We're hoping to confirm the start up procedure for the electric/gas hot water heater tomorrow before we get to the park.  Isn't it great that John MsGrath's shop is actually on the way to French Creek?  Oh Jo-hn!!!  :)


Monday, May 12, 2014

Our first house guest!

Tim Gibble, long time friend, Hope Church attender and friend, spent the better part of the day with us today installing the new water filtration system he built, and discovering and repairing a freeze-cracked refrigerator ice maker valve.

He also, sadly, discovered that there is something keeping the Shurflo automatic water pump from working at full capacity when we are on the fresh water tank instead of city water, as we will be two nights this week in our first two nights of actual test-living in the coach at French Creek State Park

 But all days, no matter how challenging they may be, have a good side if we look for it.  Tim got to join us for lunch as our first with a house guest in the coach.

Thank you, Tim, for helping us, as so many others have, learn how to live well in our new home!

PS:  Mona is working hard to fit her kitchen into our new galley.  It's coming along, but you know how most women and many men love to have a BIG kitchen when they finally get their dream home?  We've definitely gone the other way.  When you have to decide which 4 of the 8 Mrs. Dash non-salt seasonings you actually have room for... that's small.  :)


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Preparing to prepare to depart

First, we have a new agreement on the house!  Settlement is scheduled for June 10, two days after we depart, but that's just fine.  The auctioneer comes to pick up all that's left June 9, and the last of our 'saved' items are in about 15 boxes and will be at our sister and brother-in-law's  (Larry and Loretta Crum) for long term storage in Lititz well before that.

After four weeks in the shop the coach has four rebuilt hydraulic jacks.  They each have new gaskets so are very snug.  I have to keep blocks under them when we use the leveling system so they don't drop all the way until the seals stretch a bit.  But they WORK, and the coach is back home again! TY John and Kim McGrath!

Mona began loading food and kitchen items into the coach.  How fortunate she did!  Our house refrigerator, which is sold in the house sale contract, is on the fritz so that was the first food that moved into the coach. We are praying the fridge may be repaired as we really don't want to have to purchase a new one to close the sale. TY for praying with us for this small blessing!

Then I got ready to fill the 110 gallon coach clean water tank. Uh oh.  Why are the two water filter holders laying on the floor under the valve heads?  And are they supposed to be snapped off from their threaded tops?? Turns out many northern RV'ers are discovering what I just did.  Even though we used the best antifreeze available the super cold winter we had, with extended periods of such cold, cracked pipes and filters all over the place.  But it's the very beginning of RV season, and every coach and trailer shop is way backed up with seasonal work!  We head for French Creek State Park for 3 days this Wednesday to test all our systems in real life before the June 8 sendoff.  Will we be using the public facilities, and washing dishes in the creek beside the trout fisher persons??

 NO!  Tim Gibble, plumber extraordinary to the rescue! Not only did he make a house call on a Saturday morning, he has arranged to develop a simpler water filter system that will be easier to replace filters and allow us to purchase less expensive filters from any home supply shop in North America, not just RV suppliers.  AND he's delivering and installing this hand built wonder this Monday.  TY Tim!

Now, if I can just get the basement door latch I broke off by leaving the door under the front slide-out open when I slid it out replaced!  The contact snapped the latch handle right off. the latch is only 8 years old but hard to find.  None-the-less Schaeffer's RV parts department is working hard to find one and have it shipped FAST to our current address.

It will be a small piece of duct tape or a bungee cord wrapped around the entire coach body like a Christmas ribbon when we travel till then!  :(

Finally Tony Choudhry, who has been helping with the TV setup has determined that while he was able to get the Chromecast units up and working on each TV for great broadband reception and the wireless headset Mona requires so my screen viewing won't mar her book reading audibly is all set up, the project is bigger than the two of us. I'll be asking a local TV repairman (yes, we still have them here in Eastern Berks County) to come out and complete the Wii and Surround Sound speaker system to the front 32" TV.  Mona says I can suffer without 5.1 Dolby for a few days.

She actually says, "Read a book!".