Time & Again
Cross-Country Tour

RV’ing 101
Linda Horton

A slightly edited version was printed in MotorHome Magazine in the Fall of 2004. It was reprinted in it’s entirety in The Edmonton Journal in 2005.

Okay, so I’m on the downhill side of fifty, female, and had never even been inside a recreational vehicle until this wild idea hit to take my “show on the road” across the country to promote my new book, Time & Again. My only companions for three and a half months would be Blue (my Queensland Heeler), Bunny (my miniature Pomeranian), my five string banjo, and Boomer, my Glock 45.
To give you an idea of how “RV challenged” I was in the beginning, I thought class A and class C referred to the type of Driver’s License you needed to drive them. Ignoring comments from female friends like “Are you crazy?!” and “I’d NEVER attempt anything like that by myself!”, and secretly relishing the wistful follow-up comments (from men and women alike) that they’d give their right arm and/or first born son to be able to tag along, I purchased a 1992, 28’ Georgie Boy Swinger. Then, I subscribed to Motor Home Magazine, and joined Sam’s Club and Camping World. Finally, I found a local driving instructor, did two hours behind-the-wheel instruction, and hit the road on Thursday. Feb., 26th, a beautiful, warm, crystal-clear California day. I was up at five a.m., unhooked the hoses, locked the storage doors, retracted the TV antenna, fueled up with gas and propane, aired the tires and headed out. No problems that first day, I was feeling great, looking forward to what would develop.
Twelve hours later I pulled into the Kingman, AZ WalMart parking lot for my first overnighter. There were no other RVers there but I’d read an article that said I was supposed to park in an out-of-the-way spot. The first time around the lot I saw a big rig parked up front with his engine running and lights off so I knew he was doing the same thing I was. I decided to park in that area. As I headed back that way a flashing yellow light in my rearview mirror caught my attention. It was a golf cart with Security written on it in big black letters and it was chasing me! I continued slowly to the lane next to the big rig, parked just like he had and turned my front wheels out—the direction I was going to leave in the morning—just like the driving instructor had counseled, so I wouldn’t get blocked in. I shut the engine off, opened my window, leaned out smiling and said hi to the little man who looked about eighty years old. He was wearing a baseball cap jammed down to eyebrow level. And he wasn’t happy!
“What’re you doin’?” he demanded.
"I’ve been driving all day and need to rest awhile.” I said.
“Well, you can’t park like that.” he said.
“I was trying to park just like that truck over there.” I nodded in the direction of the big rig.
“Well, you ain’t doin’ it—look at your wheels!” he growled, jabbing a finger in the direction of my front tires. “If you’re gonna park, move it over there and keep your wheels straight!” He stomped back to his cart.
I grinned, waved and followed his directions without even a ruffled feather. Who was I to mess with authority? I was probably the only person he’d been able to “boss” that shift and he wasn’t going to spoil my first day on the road.
The next morning I followed my mechanic-friend’s advice to check underneath the RV for puddles and found none. The oil and coolant levels hadn’t changed either. All good news. Georgie was performing perfectly. All systems were GO!
Five miles before Seligman that changed. One second I was driving in a slight drizzle, the next, snow was falling fast and furious. Now, I’ve never even driven a passenger car in snow.
I didn’t worry much at first because the oncoming cars had no snow on them. But as I continued, it got so thick I couldn’t see the I-40 white line even with the wipers working furiously. I used my cell phone to dial the Arizona weather number and reached a recording that said to call back later. All I could get on the radio was static. Up ahead I made out an exit sign advertising a service station and a Denny’s. I took it and headed into the restaurant to ask about driving conditions going east. The waitress said, “We used to have the phone number but somebody lost it”. She advised driving on to Flagstaff. She said it was “wet snow” and they drove in it all the time. I didn’t know the difference between wet snow and any other kind so took her word for it and hauled. I finally reached my daughter-in-law by cell, who went On-line for weather information and reported, “If you can make it past Flagstaff everything looks good.”
Sure enough, fifteen miles later the snow stopped as abruptly as it had started.
That calm didn’t last. Just before Winslow the wind came up and I’m talking WIND! It rocked me side to side and was even worse when the big rigs flew past. I slowed down to forty-five, gripping and fighting the steering wheel. After awhile my shoulders ached, my head hurt and my nerves were shot. I kept berating myself for not being content to sit home and learn to crochet?!
In the middle of the wind storm my dog, Blue, who had changed places every hour, from the couch to the shot gun position where he was presently curled up snoring, passed about a gallon of flatulence. I gasped and slid open the driver’s window trying to breathe, steer and yell unkind things at him all at the same time. Well RV’s are like cars in that they don’t have screens on the driver’s side window. When I leaned out to get a breath of fresh air, the wind blew something large and fuzzy into my open mouth. I think it was a bug but don’t know for sure because when it hit the back of my throat, I did what comes naturally—I swallowed!
When I quit choking I had visions of a newspaper headline: Author on tour totals RV by opening mouth in a windstorm. Wonder how many books that would sell?!
Thirty minutes later I was still warring with the wind when I was startled by a sound like a jackhammer on metal, causing me to jump two feet in my seat. I whirled around to see where it was coming from. Nothing but the loud constant, ratatat-ratatat. I managed to pull off the highway and moved toward the sound, finally discovering that somehow the stove vent fan had come on automatically. How did that happen? I don’t cook so had never used that fan. I turned it off, breathed a sigh of relief and got back on the road.
I arrived in Moriarity, New Mexico at ten that night too tired to go another mile. However, there was snow everywhere and it was cold! This was the area that had been hit a few days earlier with a record snow storm which had caused the Governor to declare a state of emergency. I pottied the dogs first, then pulled my curtains, turned on the cabin heater and began to prepare for bed. Before long, I realized the heater was blowing nothing but cold air! I turned it off and on several times with the same result. It had worked perfectly up ‘til now so I had no idea what was wrong. I was suddenly very thankful that I’d spent the extra hundred bucks to buy a Heater Buddy. I got it out, put the propane cylinder in, warmed the cabin and then climbed under every blanket I had. I went to sleep quickly, awoke before sunrise, took the dogs out and found fluffy little white things hitting my face. I panicked. No way was I going to get stuck there in a snow storm. I didn’t even brush my teeth or make coffee.
Fifteen miles later I had to get caffeine in my system so pulled over at a truck stop. The clerk said “Yep, You better go. It’s supposed to snow again today. But this is the last one of the season. When you come back through, it’ll be nice.”
Great consolation. I practically ran to the RV.
Just outside Amarillo the jackhammer hit again. I noticed through the rearview mirror the wind was blowing the exterior stove vent cover up and down, up and down, and that was apparently what was causing the vent fan to come on. Upon inspection I determined there was no way to latch it but was afraid the wind would blow it completely off. Thank goodness I’d listened to another friend who’d warned not to leave home without a roll of duct tape. I fastened it down and took off again
I arrived very tired the third night in Tulsa where I was to visit a couple of days with family before embarking on the actual book signing tour. Wishful thinking more than anything caused me to flip the cabin heater switch on. But lo and behold it worked perfectly! I snuggled beneath the blankets in my toasty-warm cabin and drifted off to sleep.
Sometime during the night I awakened (sort of) and glanced up at the bedroom roof vent. In my half-asleep state I marveled at how clear the night sky was, and how beautiful the stars. Tulsa was in the middle of storms—one had just blown through, there was to be a slight respite and another was on the way in. I couldn’t remember ever seeing the sky that clearly through the vent. I drifted off again.
When I awoke the next morning I looked up. The view was still as clear as could be but the sky was now dark and angry looking. I decided the hard rain we’d had the day before must have done a heck of a job of cleaning that vent cover and wondered if the one in the living area was now clean as well. It wasn’t! I went back into the bedroom, stood on the bed and put my hand clear through the roof. The cover was gone! Then I remembered the new storm was due any time. I climbed on top of the RV wracking my brain for something to put over the hole to keep the rain and cold out and thankfully found the plastic cover lying about a foot from the vent. Thank God for duct tape. That cover wasn’t going anywhere until I could have someone repair it correctly.
The last night in Tulsa as I prepared the coach for morning departure and the dogs for bed, all kinds of questions about the upcoming cross country trek ran through my mind. Would my heater work the rest of the trip? Would I be able to handle every situation? Do they make Beano for dogs? I’d read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” just before leaving home but there had been nothing like this mentioned in his book! Before turning in I looked around fondly at my home-on-wheels for the next few months and smiled, ah well, maybe that’s what he meant by “adventure”!

When it ended three and a half months later, I would look back on this tour as one of the top experiences of my life. Yes, there were challenges, but I came through them all with flying colors. I met wonderful new friends, and learned invaluable lessons like: A. If you have a 30 foot electrical hook-up cord, don’t drive 35 feet forwards or backwards, and, B. Never share a chili cheeseburger with onions with your dog in close quarters!
I also learned things about me—things I’m proud of.
Would I do it again? You bet your sweet bippy. In a heartbeat! RV’ing Rocks! But I’d stock up on duct tape.