Downsizing…again

I’m downsizing. Again. As much as I love my home, Pegasus is feeling cumbersome, like a big, gorgeous, costly anchor.

I wanted to go to Milwaukee but diesel to drive the 1,600 miles would cost about $960, conservatively estimating five miles to the gallon at $3.00 per gallon. Almost $2,000 round-trip. As much as I want to see my sisters, I could stay here at the LoW-HI RV Ranch for nine months for two grand.

And then there’s our plan to spend this winter in Mexico. We’ll start in Puerto Peñasco aka Rocky Point aka Gringolandia due to its heavy U.S. and Canadian winter population.  We’d move as our whims blew.

I can go down to Mexico with Pegasus — lots of large Class As do it all the time — but the thought does not appeal. I don’t want to be stuck in an RV park.  I picture myself on the beach; it’s not Pegasus I see on the sand.

And so, I began looking for a Class B, a van conversion for my non-RVing friends. I could store Pegasus and my car here at the Ranch. But then my insurance renewal dropped, a boulder in my Inbox.

When I asked my agent why the premiums went up 17 percent, she said, “Liz, unfortunately, insurance claims are at an all time high and every company is facing rate increases.” A familiar refrain. Molina Healthcare — which doesn’t even cover me outside of Wisconsin — said the same thing after increasing their rates 20 percent.

To cut costs, I could drop down to one engine. But, if I have to get a trailer, there is only one choice — the Airstream. As Ron would and does say, “I’m a sucker for beauty and form.” Ditto Doc.

Airstream Flying Cloud
Airstream Flying Cloud Series. I’ll look for a 25- to 28-foot trailer.

Jackson asked:

Why do you want to buy an Airstream? In your view, what are its pros and cons? Just curious.

To which I responded:

Pros: Beauty, simplicity, modern design, easy to tow, an active and enthusiastic community, the manufacturer is still in business, 80% of Airstreams ever made are still on the road (or so I’ve heard).

Cons: Higher cost relative to other tow-behinds, no slides.

I’ve looked at a few trailers and fifth wheels over the past three years being on the road. The Airstream is the only one I get excited about. It’s an emotional response, similar to finding the right house.

And so, despite previous plans to summer in the Rockies (Rainbow bound), I’ll be staying here in Deming where the only thing rising is the temperature into the low 100s.

As I do with any desire, I’ve begun shooting tendrils of intent out into the Universe. To be more specific, I’m researching and searching — RV Trader, Craigslist, the Airstream Classifieds. I’ve appealed to self-affirmed “crazy” Vince at A to Z Motors near Napa. I sense that he could be my ace in the hole.

And I’ve contacted a few dealers inquiring about trade-in values for Pegasus. Needless to say, the amounts quoted disappoint quite given all the money I’ve put into my home since Spring 2013. I’ll pocket the dealer mark-up, thank you.

So, that’s where it stands now dear friends and readers.

I began living as a full-time RVer to go with the wind. I’ll downsize — again — to continue to be able to follow the flow.

It’s only money

I didn’t want us to be that family. You know the one: kids nitpicking over Mom and Dad’s stuff, nickel and dime-ing each other to death. Family ties being re-defined in terms of spreadsheets and dollars and cents.

I didn’t want us to be like that and for the most part we haven’t been since Mom and Dad died in 2013.

But recently something’s changed, something I’m not proud of.

I’ve become what I’ve so despised and judged in others — someone who cares about money, or the lack thereof.

What’s changed? Let me count the ways…

2/29/16 – $622.11 – AutoNation
4/19/16 – $419.46 – Spartan Motors
4/21/16 – $1488.34 – Rincon Truck Center
5/10/16 – $204.98 – Jimmy’s RV Repair
5/10/16 – $94.00 – Amazon
5/16/16 – $750.81 – EPDM Coatings
5/24/16 – $332.29 – Spartan Motors
5/24/16 – $860.70 – Cummins
6/2/16 – $150 – Gary

TOTAL: $4922.69

Add on another grand or so for E & M Auto Repair for Pegasus and to re-fix my car’s air-conditioning, the same A/C that AutoNation “fixed” back in February. A/C is good to have when it’s 90+ degrees.

money raining on man holding umbrellaWhat do the ubiquitous “they” say — when it rains it pours? Consider me drenched already.

So, what to do? Run for cover, find someplace dirt cheap to live, hope that major expenses are behind me. And start making money.

And so yesterday, I asked Gary about his experiences working for Amazon — they hire RVers for the Christmas season. He’s done it for several years. And I navigated to the Workamping for Amazon CamperForce website.

But, even as I clicked my way through the online application, it didn’t feel right. I withdrew my application halfway through the process. Nevertheless, I signed up for a free jobinar on the CamperForce program for June 14, Teri’s birthday, Flag Day.  Dad used to tell Teri that people flew the American Flag just for her.

So, Amazon is out. What’s “in”?

What does my heart say?

– Work on your book
– Continue to teach yoga
– Post more of your t-shirt designs

And so that is what I will do.

In the past, I’ve avoided saying “I can’t afford it.”  As we all know, we can afford to do what we want to do. And, often, as in the case of my yoga teacher training, when we’re on the right track the money magically appears to supports us. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience.

I don’t want money dictating my life.

Let it pour.

Deming-bound

No somewhere over the rainbow for us, at least not this month (Rainbow bound).

The good news — the engine overheating on ascending grades (1907.80) was likely caused by a totally gunked-up radiator. Mike at E & M Auto Repair on Pine Street blew out the radiator from all angles and sent me on a test drive out towards Adobe Deli.

“There’s a slight grade on the way,” he said, “Lay on the throttle as you go up — it’s steeper coming west — and watch the temperature.”

Done and done. The highest the temperature got was between 175°F and 200°F. One problem fixed.

Which still leaves cracked exhaust manifolds, a leaking air bag, and a turbo oil supply line to replace. After waiting a few days to hear back from Kenny at E & M, I called.

“What’s the word on the parts?”, I asked.

“I’ve called a couple of my suppliers and haven’t heard back from them,” Kenny replied. “I can’t get a straight answer.”

Kenny and I decided that I would order the parts. Which left another quandary — which parts would come from Spartan, the chassis manufacturer, and which would come Cummins, the engine manufacturer.

I thought I had it all figured out and parts ordered from the right place until I took another look at the part numbers on Rincon Truck Center’s estimate. It looked like Cummins part numbers began with the number “3.” But I had ordered the exhaust manifolds — part numbers 3937477 and 3943841 — from Spartan. Which explained the mark-up.

And I had forgotten that I was a Cummins Power Club member which entitles me to a 10-percent discount on parts.

So I’ll be back on the phone first thing Monday morning with Matthew at Spartan and Ivan at Cummins in El Paso to get it all worked out.

*****

We’ve been on the road for three years.

About 2 PM on Sunday, May 5, 2013, Pegasus et al headed out of the Northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. heading west.  I eased 50-plus feet of vehicles through the narrow streets of a Fairfax neighborhood, taking my time to get by cars parked on either side of the curvy road.

Once on I-66 heading towards the Beltway, I felt more comfortable but still like I had swallowed a hive of pissed off wasps. I merged left onto I-270 north, REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” playing on the radio:

Time for me to fly
Oh, I’ve got to set myself free
And that’s just how it’s got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But it’s time for me to fly

My home of 25 years faded in the rear view camera on Pegasus’s ample beige dash.

Fast forward three years to May 2016. What has happened in those 36 months? A lot.

  • Several family members died: Mom, August, Dawn, Carol, and Sue (“Dear Sue”).
  • I became a great aunt twice.
  • I discovered that living full-time in a motorhome isn’t a mode of transportation, it’s a lifestyle.
  • I’m not a tourist — never have been — just ask my sister Cathy about my five minutes in St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • I learned with the help of the husband of fellow yoga teacher trainee Parul, that “home” (“When I think of home”) isn’t about where the best weather is — it’s about relationships. Yes, I am a bit slow at times.

Which brings me back to Deming, New Mexico. I have friends here, the area is familiar, and there’s wine and margaritas.  I’m OK here.

And when it’s time to leave, I’ll be OK there too.

And OK is good.

It’s all part of the journey.

Journey on Dear Reader.

Rainbow bound

rainbow

I’ve been in Deming, New Mexico for two weeks now reconnecting with old friends over margaritas, teaching and practicing yoga, working, cleaning, and writing.

I teach yoga on Wednesdays and Saturdays to a dedicated quartet; designed and launched the LoW-HI RV Ranch website; and spring cleaned.  Roan, the carpet, couch, two chairs, and car got much-needed scrubbings.  My teeth are next in line; a cleaning in Palomas, Mexico costs $35.

And I sold a few items: a too-big-for-my-hands acoustic guitar and a too-big-for-my-coach 45” Visio TV I’ve been hauling around. I still want to sing so a small keyboard may be in my future.  Anyone in the market for a gently-used red Kenmore Progressive canister HEPA Vacuum?

I started Writing the Memoir 101, an online workshop through Writer’s Digest University. I wrote 53,563 words of a very rough first draft during National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) in November 2014. But the words are disjointed, the structure nebulous, the theme nonexistent. The assignments and deadlines will force me to focus.

Assignment 1: A narrative summary of the memoir you want to write, including its scope, its structure, its tone, its audience, its theme, why you want to write it, why now, and what your plans are for the book when it’s completed (500 words).

Assignment 2: The Cast of Characters for your story, with a brief description of each one’s relationship to the central character and role in the story (maximum 500 words); a brief scene that reveals your memoir’s setting (500 words).

And I’m waiting to take Pegasus back to the shop — two shops to be exact. Jimmy’s RV Repair on May 10 to address a short list of miscellaneous repairs that shouldn’t be too costly or involved. Then, E & M Auto Repair on May 16 to fix what’s causing the engine to overheat and to repair the cracked exhaust manifolds.

Summer in Deming where daytime temperatures spike into the upper 90s does not appeal. But where to go when you have no place to be? I sent an email to a few full-time RVing friends who would know:

I’m looking for someplace to spend the next several months. The ideal place would be inexpensive, in a rural area but close enough to stores, and in a temperate climate.

Beverley urged me to head up:

No matter where you go, this is supposed to be a hot summer. Going UP in altitude is your best bet, or head for the Pacific Northwest and get on the beach or near the beach.

Ron responded as I knew he would: South Fork, Colorado — 500 miles north and 4,000 feet up from Deming. Ron’s been spending summers in South Fork for 17 years.

South Fork it is. Assuming all goes well at the shops, Pegasus et al will be rainbow bound on May 22.

Rainbow Lodge & RV Park in South Fork, CO is located about 500 miles north and 4,000 feet up from LoW-HI RV Ranch in Deming, NM.
Rainbow Lodge & RV Park in South Fork, CO is located about 500 miles north and 4,000 feet up from LoW-HI RV Ranch in Deming, NM.

$1907.80

Continued from “Children and fools”

I just dropped $1907.80 and now this?

Roan looked up from his preferred traveling spot on the floor between the driver and passenger seats. “Check engine” light on. Piercing buzzer. Not unfamiliar sounds or sights. But this time a small red light on the engine temperature gauge joined the party.

Earlier that morning, I left Rincon Truck Center in San Clemente, California, beginning the 680-mile drive east to LoW-HI RV Ranch in Deming, New Mexico. It felt good to be on the road again, again.

But less than two hours in, as we climbed a long 6-8% grade into the mountains of eastern San Diego County, the check engine light went on. I glanced down — the red engine temperature light indicated a temperature of over 250°F.

Watching the gauges
Watching the gauges

I pulled over on the narrow right shoulder on a desolate stretch of I-8. No tow trucks here. I turned off the engine, turned on the hazard lights, grabbed the phone, and walked to the back of the coach. Neon pink coolant spewed out of the top of the plastic reservoir onto the asphalt. At least it wasn’t hydraulic fluid.

Rincon and I did some terse troubleshooting talking temperatures and hoses and RPMs.  They said the only thing they could think of was that the fan wasn’t putting out enough RPMs.  They couldn’t check because they don’t have a Dyno.

And so I paid $1907.80 for an incomplete job?

Rincon had diagnosed two problems:  the coolant temperature was getting too high which they traced back to a leaking fan motor and empty hydraulic reservoir. And the exhaust manifolds were cracked.

The cracked exhaust manifolds were an old problem, first identified in October 2013 at a Cummins shop in Mishawaka, Indiana. Having just spent $792.14 to replace the fuel pump, I elected at the time not to spend an additional $759.26 on a non-critical repair.

Rincon quoted me a “worse case scenario” price of $1583.01 to repair or replace the cracked exhaust manifolds. No thanks. I made an appointment with E & M Auto Repair in Deming for May 16. The hourly labor rate was $50 cheaper.

The cracked exhaust manifolds could and would wait. The fan motor could not.

Thanks to helpful folks on the iRV2 Forums, I learned a lot about Pegasus’s ISC-350 Cummins engine and saved a couple of hundred bucks by buying the fan motor directly from RV Chassis Parts. Rincon would have ordered the motor from the same place, tacking on a 54-percent markup in the process. Yes, I know — Southern California is expensive.

Four days and $1907.80 later, the fan motor was replaced, four gallons of hydraulic fluid poured into the bone dry reservoir with the extra presented to me in a five-gallon electric blue bucket, the engine cleaned, and we were back on the road.

The engine overheated again in Texas Canyon, Arizona and on a lesser grade east of that. Each time, I canceled cruise control, tapped the six-speed Allison automatic transmission down to first gear, dropped my speed to 40-45 mph until the red light blinked off, and continued limping east.