October 23, 2010

2 Keys to Travel

It was a dark & stormy night…no, wait! That part comes later! You'll probably have to get used to my weather comments. I've lived in the Seattle area for the last 33 years, so anything other than plain old gray deserves observation and mention.

It was October, 2010. There was lots of retirement excitement and plans to tour the whole US at our leisure. I'd already completed the last working day in my whole life, and was on 3 weeks of vacation until I needed to show up for the exit interview.

The 5th wheel's paid for. So is the truck. I'd been making lists for months. George wanted a few "shake down" trips, so we started with a weekend trip to 1000 Trails La Conner mid-September. First problem wasn't something that shook loose, but something that wouldn't come loose. The pin that kept the slide-out from sliding out was bent and wouldn't release, so we spent the weekend in a scrunched up trailer. It's amazing how much difference a 3x14 space can make to comfort and convenience. Couldn't get to the pantry…couldn't open the cabinet where the dishes were stored without a lot of contortion (think an off-the-mat version of a yoga "Eagle" pose), couldn't move from point A to point B without asking the other person to move first. Good grief! Could we actually do this long-term???

Fast forward 3 weeks: a trip to Spokane so George could make contact with a couple of cousins he hadn't seen in years, a visit with his daughter Judy & her kids, and a round of golf with someone he went to HS with. Me? I'm just along for the ride…

Ready to go!
We left the house at 11:00 am. It was an hour later than George wanted to leave but we're retired and shouldn't have to worry about clocks and schedules. We were misled by sunshine and temps warm enough to keep me from protesting (mid-60's) as we pulled away from the house. It was a little nippier at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass when we made our first stop, but after all, the elevation was almost 3,000 feet higher at home... We were going to fix lunch; neither of us had the trailer keys. We looked in the truck, but couldn't find them. You can't go RVing without a way to get into the RV, so we turned around and went the 69 miles back home.

Back at home—couldn't find the trailer keys (although we did find George's phone that he'd left in the garage). While he was searching the house, I started taking everything out from behind the seats of the truck and putting it on the sidewalk. And guess what?! I found the keys where they had fallen and rolled beneath the passenger seat. I stuck everything back in the truck, and went inside to tell George. Way cool—only I'd automatically hit the door lock when I closed the truck door. He'd left his keys in the ignition and I'd left my purse with my set of truck keys in the truck—so now we can get in the trailer, but not the truck!
After a bit of stomping and stuff, George called the dealership where we've bought every car we own and begged for a spare key. Then we made a trip in my car to Monroe (car keys to the Cobalt were in the house) and came back with a new spare key to the truck.

By now it's 3:00 pm, but we're ready to go again. It's western Washington in October—so no one should be surprised that it had started to rain. We hit rush-hour traffic delays through downtown Seattle. We eventually made it back to Snoqualmie Pass and the rest area. George walked around the trailer and checked the hubs on the trailer…one of them was really hot to touch! He's depressed, discouraged and defeated and says we might as well go back home. My first thought was that if we've got bad brakes, it's downhill all the way back home and I don't want to go that direction, especially in the dark. We agreed to wait until morning so we ate sandwiches and went to bed early. (This is where the dark and stormy night comes in…it rained pretty hard several times during the night.) Trucks parked at truck stops keep their engines running—I didn't mind the noise because it made me think the furnace was turning on and made me think it was going to get warmer.

After it got light enough to risk the drive down the mountain, we drove to Les Schwab in Ellensburg. Turned out the brake had simply disintegrated and pieces were all over inside it.

They had to get parts from Yakima so we went on down the road sans trailer. The lady at Les Schwab wasn't very helpful in making suggestions of what we could do for 4 or 5 hours—she said she'd lived there for 30 years and the only thing she could think of was shopping. Then she happened to think of the wind farm…

The Wild Horse Wind Farm was built by Puget Sound Energy on the top of Whiskey Dick Mountain to generate power for Seattle. We got to the visitor center just as they were starting a tour with another couple. They plopped hard hats on us and took us outside. It was obvious why they put all those windmills on that ridge—the wind was really ripping! Our guide was not only really cute (hey, I'm retired but I'm not dead!) but he was both informative and funny without all the cute patter they sometimes do on tours like that. There was a broken blade on the ground so you really got a perspective of how huge those things are! Then he took us into one of the towers—no, we didn't get to climb up that long, long ladder into the turbine but I learned that the guys who maintain those windmills definitely deserve more than minimum wage! Back inside, we turned in the hard hats and watched a video on the construction of the project.

George in his hard hat ready for the tour

After that, we stopped to explore the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. I'd heard about it but had never been there. It was pretty disappointing. Most of the petrified logs were in holes in the ground and covered over with chain-link fencing. I didn't take many pictures of the imprisoned rocks. We saw more impressive petrified wood outside a store down the road.

The brake was finally fixed after 6 hours, and we were on the road again. Imagine--2-days to get from Seattle to Spokane. Then the morning we left to go back home, there was a flat tire on the trailer from a screw we probably picked up when they were fixing the brake.

I figure we're getting all the bad stuff out of the way early in the trip. Isn't that the purpose of a "shake-down"???