Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stranded in Statesboro

Destination: just north of Atlanta, Georgia

We left South Carolina with enthusiasm as the rig glided through Savannah towards our next destination near Atlanta. After five weeks Leesburg felt like home to me, and I still had yet to shake that homesick feeling. Sometimes moving can make you feel better. The sun burned bright and the traffic was light. Throughout my life I find that most disasters big or small occur when you are feeling good and least expect it. For some reason we believed we would reach our destination in three hours. 

     After the first hour the rig filled with smoke. I immediately pulled over and cut the engine. A few seconds after we stopped a huge pool of transmission fluid formed beneath the radiator. Without getting into details of the boredom of being stranded on the expressway for five hours while you bake in the sun and listen to every other car push towards their destinations at seventy miles and hour, the coach was finally towed to D and R Intensive car car in Statesboro. Since it was late on a Saturday, we had to wait until monday morning to get it looked at. What seemed promising was that Bob, the main mechanic, lived in a 1994 class a rig right behind the shop. He was off duty and on his way to pick up his kids, but I didn't have to talk to him long to see that he was knowledgeable, and that he wasn't the type of mechanic to rip anyone off. He seemed like a content guy, and had a big, round face that smiled a lot. The thing that stuck out with me was that he seemed perfectly content living in a motorhome parked right behind the autoshop where he worked. 

    To us Statesboro felt like someone made a copy of Ypsilanti and printed it in Georgia. It has a nice, spread out university, but the town is lacking. We stopped at a few different motels to check the prices. I went into a Super 8 that we weren't sure was open since it seemed dark, but the few cars parked in the back indicated that there may have been life in the building. The lobby was dim but there was a guy behind the desk who informed me that there was no vacancies. I immediately guessed that the business was a front. 

    Besides the anxiety of all the flashbacks of Ypsilanti, with the oddball characters you find in cheap motels included, I found myself obsessed with the preservation of the frozen fish I had caught the previous months, constantly running back to the RV to make sure the refrigerator was either operating on the generator or propane.

   We made the best of the situation.  For a minute it seemed like our dream was being suspended, but by sunday evening I realized it is all just part of it. I woke up at 6:30 on Monday morning to show up at the shop at 7:30. When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that there were already two customers ahead of me. The woman behind the desk made it sound like I would be lucky if they would even be able to look at it, claiming that they only had one mechanic on duty. Moments later I saw Bob walk out of the garage, and he walked out to the rig to take a look, along with two other mechanics that were way more interested in the coach than the other repairs. 

  When I heard Bob say, "You just may be the luckiest man alive" I knew we would be leaving Statesboro that day. Someone left a metal clip on a hose that came from the radiator, and the clip got too hot and blew the connection. That was it. 

  Since Hana had to work, we had to wait until she was just about done to blow out of town. The two hour drive we thought we had ahead of us ended up being five.  I thought I lost the captain's hat which I always wear when driving the coach. I abandoned superstition years ago, and put my trust in a power greater, not rabbit's feet, buckeyes, or monkey paws. Still I was not quite feeling like the captain. I had my hair pulled back, but all of those shorter pieces of hair strands that broke kept getting in my eyes. It was a windy ride, and the coach was wobbling like mad. One thing I do know is that a good captain stays calm in all situations. Well.....I was a good captain until we had to drive through the six lanes of I 75 going through the metropolis that is Atlanta. I thought I was doing good since my bladder held out so well the first four hours that I didn't stop once. Anyone that knows me will know that this alone is a wonder. I then had to go, and there was nowhere to stop. Semi drivers that should have known better were playing lane hockey along with every other fool that believes that they are immortal. My bladder had declared a state of emergency. We were in the middle lane while rows of cars zipped past us like it was a Jetson's cartoon.

    We finally arrived, and after spending an hour leveling the couch on our sloping site, along with cleaning up the two gallon of water that spilled all over the floor, I took a walk at around 11pm to scope the place out. I walked down to the small, private lake to look for downed trees and logs where fish may be hanging around. When I walked up there was a large man with two boys and a dog who was giving me the stink eye. I would have to say I didn't like the look of him much either. I don't know if it was because he was giving me a look, or if he reminded me of someone I wasn't crazy about. I do have to take the beam out of my own eye and interject that my facial expressions do not always accurately depict what I am feeling inside, and since most of us don't walk around with pocket mirrors, I am oblivious to what message I send to people. As I walked up I said hello to the man, and asked him what kind of fish were in the lake. He sharply said he didn't know.

   I continued to walk around the campground to attempt to burn off some of this extra weight I have gained. Since I quit dancing It has been hard to eat the 3,000 calories I used to take in and stay fit at the same time. I was talking with my dad on the phone as I aimlessly wandered. Now I have been a night walker for years. It worries my dad, especially when I did it in Ypsilanti, but I have always enjoyed the freeness of my thoughts without the distraction of cars and people.

  At the end of one road I saw a pickup that passed me a couple of times sitting with it's headlights on. It was the one time I didn't have my pocket knife on me so I turned and went the other way. Not long after, the pickup pulled over a little ahead of me along with two cop cars. I found it odd that they were pulling him over without using their lights. 

  I said hello to the one female officer and she let me know they were there for me. The man that got out of the truck was the man I saw forty minutes earlier. The police began to ask me where I was going, what I was doing there, what site was I staying on, and a bunch of other questions of that nature. The man informed he called because he didn't recognize me. "I thought this place was welcoming to travelers," I said. He said he didn't recognize me, and was worried because he had seen me come out of the woods at night. Now the "woods" was a small row of trees next to a shed at the side of a lake. I have to say that I do suppose that I am looking a little rugged these days.  I could shave the beard, but I have gotten so much sun that I would have a farmer's tan on my face. I had my hair tied in a man bun, but if I let it down I sometimes scare myself, looking all to reminiscent of Charles M in his helter skelter years. Hana says I am looking like an RV park Tarzan. I did not think the man bun made me look too threatening though.

  "How long do you plan on staying in Georgia?" the young male cop with a buzzed head asked.

 "I was going to stay until the weekend, but I am not sure I am having that great of a time in Georgia so far."

  He asked for my driver's license, and I politely told him I didn't think I needed it for walking. He asked what my name and birthdate was, and went to his car to look me up. I tried to be as lighthearted as possible, and continued to smile a lot. The female cop was friendly, and when I told her I was trying to lose weight she said I didn't look out of shape. The guy who called became apologetic when he realized he had overreacted.  

  "Are you here in Georgia because you are running from warrants in Michigan," asked the cop when he got out of the car. He then said he was joking and that I was free to go. The man apologized some more, and so did the female police officer. 

  The thing we learned about police in Ypsilanti is that you feel safer seeing them around when you are in a bad area, but knowing that some of them are as bad, if not worse than the crooks makes you uneasy when you see a lot of them pulling people over just to bring in revenue. 

  I woke up with a cranky mind the next morning, prejudging everyone in Georgia to be unfriendly, but as I mentioned earlier, I have to work on the beam that is in my own eye.  I made it a point to say hello to a guy that my mind said was a jerk, who I ended up talking to for over an hour. He was a four star Michelin chef from New York that had a cooking program for a while on a local channel that was weary of all of it and longed for the same peace and simplicity that we are after ourselves.

  That afternoon I went to take a walk down some trails in a nearby park and was immediately tailed by a police officer that was sitting at the entrance. The recreation park was extremely large with everything from soccer fields to a skate park. The nature trails were long, but busy and close to all the business of the area. I drove the speed limit of 25 but it was clear he was scoping me out. I had my hair tied up with a ballcap on, so I thought that maybe because I was a lone male from out of town that I was suspect. I wasn't nervous about anything I was doing, but more or less what he would pin on me. I pulled off and parked as soon as possible and walked a longer distance to the trails before I could see him flash his lights. I didn't enjoy the walk much, and figured since he was out for revenue that he had to get it other ways than staking out one person. 

   Driving around the area Hana and I noticed several subdivisions with signs at the entrance stating things to the effect of "We call 911". We drove into one to find another entrance to that park, and I got paranoid when I saw a man with his daughter in one arm start to dial his phone. To be fair, even though the area we were in was a bit hoity toity, there is a lot of crime in Atlanta and I would think that maybe they are worried about some of the crime moving it's way into their neighborhood.

  Still, the dream continues. Driving is stressfull at times, but the idea of being dug in (Ronnie's trademark phrase which I am now always using) keeps us discussing how we can avoid conventional life for good. We may disagree about how the world came about and don't share the same world views, but we chase after the same dream. A dream which is relatively vague to us now that is guided by our gut. We would have never guessed this is what we would be doing a year ago, nor do we completely know where we will be a year from now. Tree huggers with a portable grill for life? Maybe. We will just have to continue to hold the reigns and push this coach through our modern day pioneer dream into a horizon filled with mystery and wonder. 


Product review: Mini Duo True Induction cooktop

Our crappy little single burner electric cook top finally died this week. That on top of the breakdown, being stranded, and nearly being arrested for walking at night, this may have been our worst week yet.

 We were forced to make a decision: buy another cheap cook top or invest in a better, more expensive, induction burner. We went with the induction. We got a nice little double burner, True Induction Mini Duo, that can sit on the countertop or be inset into the counter. In the event that we actually do renovate an Airstream in the future, this will work perfectly as an inset cooktop for our custom kitchen (!!). It looks a little wonky now sitting on top of the gas stove though.

The major drawback to converting to induction is that we had to buy new induction-ready pots! Not a major investment, but still.. 

This type of electric stove uses less energy because it heats only the surface area of the pot itself. This model allows you to either adjust by power (1-5) or by actual temperature (120 degrees to 460 degrees) and heats up WAY faster than our last burner. It also has a built in timer, locks when not in use, and will straight up not heat anything that is non-inductive, like your hand for instance :). I liked this model because it was by far the smallest double burner, but it is in no way too small, it's actually plenty big to fit two large pans at once. Not sure why you would need anything larger.

RVs typically come with a built in 4-burner gas stove and oven. I cannot fathom needing to use all 4 burners in a kitchen this tiny. The oven unit has been a complete waste of space. Without it we would just have so much more storage.. But I would hate to take it out and get rid of it since we'll likely be selling this RV at some point in the next year or so, so for now we'll deal.

Farewell Georgia, we'll be back never..