There Be Dragons! (and other stories)

Yesterday I steam cleaned our Motorhome carpet(s). Today I needed to return the steam cleaner. When I went to the car I discovered that the passenger  side floor was soaked from the previous nights rain AGAIN. Sometimes problems come back and once again you find yourself in a not so pleasant situation. Seems to me that in the not too distant past, I wrote something about this …and some other things as well. Might as well post them all. 

 September 13, 2013

There Be Dragons!

It is commonly believed that early geographers used this phrase to mark the uncharted areas of their maps. They had not explored these areas and therefore assumed them to be dangerous. The actual wording was Hc Svnt Dracones. The mapmakers would put images of sea monsters on the edges of the map because it was the best way to say there is bad stuff “out there”.

This past August 2nd I turned sixty years of age. I am now entering into uncharted territory. It is for me anyway. Others have been there before me and can offer me some advice as to what I shall be facing. When I was a newlywed man of nineteen, I was also moving into uncharted territory but I did not foresee trouble or hardship. I saw a bright future, full of promise with the hope of La dolce vita, the sweet life. In many, many ways at times, it has been just that, but there have been dragons to face along the way.

The majority of us live our lives somewhere in between the sweet life and the habitation of dragons. We come into this world empty headed (and that is a good thing) and as we grow we learn that life has its pleasures and its pains. We get married, have kids, go to work, and have passion for it all, only to discover that we have to struggle at it. We have to slay the dragons of work or lack of it, sickness, losing loved ones, suffering financial setbacks..

I have said before that owning a motor coach can improve your life if you let it. Sometimes I think we have to spend a part of our life, including our bank balance, to improve our coach. It can become, if we are not careful, a dragon in the driveway.

In July we headed to our spot in the mountains. We had hoped to leave our house by July 1, but were delayed a couple of days by business problems. Those problems were not easy to overcome but we did and we were happy to finally reach our lot and park.

It rained almost every day for the next 19 days. In total our coach was soaked by thirty five inches of wet. One morning I discovered mushrooms growing out of the bottom of our main slideout. This caused me a few moments of uncertainty. The repair of the obvious leak didn’t go so well. I learned two things…..capillary action can cause a lot of mischief and use the right kind of screw when repairing a slide out floor or you might not get the slide out to slide in….or out.

At the same time our Vue sunroof starting leaking. This required a trip to the local Chevy dealer where the problem was resolved for very little cost.

After two days of repairing broken cables, drying out rotting wood and car carpeting I was thinking I was tired of feeding the dragon. However, the day after we repaired the coach and the car the sun came out.

Diane, The Bear and I took a long ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and we soon felt that life was kind of sweet again.

We brought our coach home in late July. Soon after I learned that my daughter Jeri and her family would be coming up from Florida for my birthday. I was quite surprised and pleased to hear that. My kids threw me a surprise party. My Mom and Dad were there, my brother and his wife, and most unexpected our friends Gary and Janis, who I am always glad to see.

I will see them tomorrow as a matter of fact.

The four of us are hosting our FMCA chapter Christmas party/rally in December. The theme of this party is “It’s A Wonderful Life!” We plan to show the movie on Friday night along with food, including lots of popcorn, and beverages. Saturday Morning will be a big breakfast, and dress up Saturday night we will serve traditional Christmas fare. During dinner there will be a “It’s a Wonderful Life” quiz. A bell will ring a question asked and the table with the most correct answers will win the contest. The winner’s prizes will be determined later. Also we plan on having a reward for the best period costume. We want everyone that attends to dress like it is the forties or any other year that the movie takes place in. I think I expressed that the best way.

This should be fun, if all goes well in the scheduling and preparation. If I have to keep some dragons at bay to do it I will.

I look forward to all our chapter meetings. The one in December, I have to admit, I am looking forward to more than usual. I need it. I have a couple of dragon bites in my backside and that coming weekend in December will help to reduce the pain.

It is a lot of work to try to make life (and that includes owning a motor coach) sweeter, all of us know that. It doesn’t get any easier with age now does it?

Enjoy your life and your coach,



Route 89

June 3, 2013

It has been a peaceful two weeks since May 22, the day we left our brick house in Portsmouth. Once again we had to take our coach on the road for service before we could actually start our first long trip this year. The coach hasn’t been parked the whole time since our last long venture, which took place last September, I think. We made a fall trip to our spot at Deer Creek Motor Coach resort (the one in Virginia). I left Diane there while I made a trip back home in the car for work-related reasons (why else would I leave the mountains?).

In October, we hoped to make a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary, but that didn’t work out, so we decided to go to Cape Hatteras, instead. We had a beautiful three days out of a planned seven, and then an uninvited guest named Sandy decided to crash our party. We had to pack up the coach and flee … as fast as we could. If we had stayed and tried to ride out a storm with an unpredictable potential for damage, we would have been stuck there for months; at least our coach would have been.

We dropped the coach off at North River campground, which was the site of our next two group campouts, and then jumped in the car and made it home. Fortunately for us, Sandy decided that Portsmouth was not worth her time to visit. We sat in front of the TV, glad that we escaped all the wet, windy, destruction but at the same time feeling very sad for the people of New England.

Between November and March we camped one weekend a month with either our Good Sam’s chapter or our FMCA chapter friends. This included two Christmas parties and three trips back to North River Campground (located near the Great Dismal Swamp) one to Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and one to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. They were easy fun trips. Our close friends Gary and Janis, who relocated their coach back in Elizabeth City, were there with us which made the trips extra special.

One of the great highlights of our last group campout was the fact that my brother Rod and his wife Sharon joined us with their brand-new 26-foot Forest River travel-trailer. It is a very nice rig, I might add. They love it, and Picard, their Saint Bernard, does too.

April and May were dedicated to using the weekends to shop for parts and materials to refurbish our kitchen. That project left very little energy for motor coaching. We christened our almost finished new kitchen with a special Mother’s Day/Joel’s Birthday Brunch. I did all the cooking…which consisted of a really good French Toast Casserole, Spinach Quiche, and a fresh fruit including bannans, blueberries, strawberries, (I forget the grapes) and strawberry-honey flavored yogurt salad.

During the week of May15 our new Kitchen floor was installed and then all was done. Now, we really had the bug to hit the road again.

We needed to get the coach inspected, and it needed an oil change. On the way to the service facility I discovered that the dash air was on the fritz again. It was a hot day and all it did was blow nice, warm air. I hoped that all it needed was a bit of Freon, but it turned out to be a much bigger problem than that so we made an appointment to visit Terry Labonte RV service. The guys there always take good care of us and our unusual Workhorse chassis.

We arrived at Terry Labonte's lot late in the day, spent the night, and the next morning the techs discovered that we needed a new compressor, which they had in stock. They had the coach repaired by five that afternoon, so we spent another night in the lot, had Chick-Fil- A for dinner, and hit the road early the next morning.

This all brings us to the afternoon of Friday the 24, when we climbed up Route 89 to Edmonds Road and then soon arrived at our beautiful lot at Deer Creek. It was a bit rainy and cold, but we didn’t care a bit. Early the next day I received a last minute invite to play golf with three friends (including my good friend Gordy) at the Blue Ridge Country club.

I didn't play as well as I would have liked but I have improved since the last time I played the same course, so I guess I am moving in the right direction. Gordy said so and his opinion is very valuable.

The next eight days provided a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things we enjoy. We made a few day trips to the small towns we love to visit around here including Galax, Sparta, Mt. Airy, West Jefferson, and Elkin. Each town has its own personality and things we like.

Galax had a fifties car show which was fun. While there we made a run to Lowes buy some small parts for the coach including parts to mount my Z-Boost cell booster antenna.

Sparta is an artist community with art galleries, good places to eat and clothing stores with squeaky wooden floors. We found some great clothing bargains there.

West Jefferson is a very quaint and pretty place with a cheese factory and factory cheese shop located downtown along with an old classic movie house that shows first run movies for five bucks. There is a great old hardware store with a creaky wood floor where I found and purchased a handsome red handled Case pocket knife. The people of West Jefferson are some of the friendliest you will meet anywhere. We had lunch there, sitting outside with Teddy Bear. We devoured Bar-B-Que sandwiches, potato salad and fresh apple pie with ice cream for 7 bucks each. Remember, you can’t have good southern Bar-B-Que without sweet tea to go with it. That is a rule.

We traveled back down route 89 so we could visit Elkin with our friends Bob and Wanda. We made a special trip to the Slightly Askew Winery, where you can buy some very unusual flavors. We love their wines and came back with a mixed almost case of bottles. From there we visited McRitchie’s winery and cider works for our second wine tasting. It was a beautiful day full of good flavors and good conversation with good people.

The next few days were a mixture of coach washing, waxing, trip to Wal-Mart, more coach maintenance, and two more golf outings…both to the beautiful Crest View Golf Course just around the corner from Deer Creek. We met new owners, who will become friends, and we were reunited with already friends while attending the graduation party for Louie and Jesse, son and daughter of Laura and Barry, who built this special place. We enjoyed drink, food, fellowship and games.

Memorial Day morning found us at a huge breakfast at Bob and Marlene’s beautiful site where there was plenty of smiles and food for everyone to get as much of both as they wanted.

We made some new friends while walking thru Cool Breeze RV resort which is located right across the nine hole golf course next to our resort. We discovered a Holiday Rambler club chapter having a rally there. A new Vacationer caught my eye. It was a very late model one with a full wall slide and a great paint job. Eddie, the owner, happened to be outside trying to get his cable to work. A couple of other members were in the coach trying to figure out why there was no signal. This is the kind of think I love to figure out, so I immediately volunteered to help Eddie and his wife Sylvia, solve this electronic puzzle. I discovered that the TV antenna amplifier, which is supposed to switch to park cable when turned off, was not working. I made a temporary fix and advised Eddie that he should replace the stock amp with a more powerful Winegard digital TV antenna meter and amp. Eddie did just that, after visiting our coach to see how the same device works in our coach. It meant a trip to Camping World in Statesville, but it was worth it.

That evening they invited us to be their guests at the club dinner out at the Mountain Surf Seafood restaurant, one of our favorite places, located just up the street from both resorts. We accepted, and as a result had a good dinner, and more good conversation with good people. Diane and I were also invited to join the club. We are giving that serious consideration.

After dinner, we had dessert at the Cool Breeze meeting room. Before that Eddie and I performed a successful install of the new amp. We tested it and found that the park cable and off air worked just the way we wanted it to.

We received another invite to attend a birthday dinner for Teddy, one of the owners and a golfing buddy of mine. We caravanned to Dobson, N.C., to a really fun place called The Depot, where I consumed a great half rack of baby back ribs with sweet tea, Cole slaw, sweet potato casserole, and hush puppies. We sat across the table from fellow owners Bill, his wife Connie and their son Mark, who was visiting from Washington, D.C. We talked about family, occupations, and the many things that’s go along with those two subjects. In other words, it was another evening of good food and good conversation with good people. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Diane and I drove back on our own and on the way we made a fortuitous wrong turn. We found ourselves missing our exit off I-77 to route 89 and so we took another road over to Fancy Gap where we turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, just as the sun was beginning to set on our right. It was a really pretty and peaceful drive back to our home. I opened the sun roof and let the mountain air blow in. Diane and I didn’t say much, we both were just enjoying the peaceful scenery.

Diane loves the mountains just as I do. My roots are here. Diane’s heart is here, as it has been for years starting when we were young, in love, broke and sleeping in a tent. As we were driving she made the comment that our lives are like glasses of water and sand. Most of the time we have so many things happening in our lives that we are just shook up and the water in the glass is cloudy and brown. The mountains bring God’s peace and thoughts become calmer, our spirits become still. The sand in the glass settles to the bottom and things are then clear. I am not relating this the exact way that she expressed this, but the meaning is there I am sure.

Tomorrow will find us on Route 89 and returning to our busy lives back in the big city. We do have friends and family there we want to see. Work is calling (literally) as well. We are taking some new clothes back with us, along with new pictures, but more important we are taking back new memories of this place, this special community called Deer Creek.

We will be returning here. I say the sooner the better.


Pack Rat

April 3, 2011

My wife tells me that I am a pack rat. I consider myself a collector of memories.

I have a lot of wrist watches, including six Disney ones.

I collect pocket knives. Some are quite old and some of those I have had since I was really young.

There are a lot of things in my small home office. Some of the things would be considered junk by most people. Some may be worth a few bucks. To me they are all valuable.

Hanging on the wall in front of my desk is a gold framed shawdowbox with all the pins from all the Apollo Space missions mounted inside. Above the shadowbox are two shelves holding thirteen diecast 1.24-scale metal trucks. Most of the trucks are models of vehicles made between 1900 and 1947.

Behind me are six long shelves covered with all kinds of items.

I made the shelf array. I took a trip to a ladder supply company and bought a 20-foot-tall one-piece wooden ladder. I cut the one large ladder into two 7-foot 4-inch ladders. I sanded the two sections, stained them a nice honey color and then attached them to the celing so they would be perpindicular to the rear brick wall of my office. Then I took the six pine shelves, stained them a rich Hunter Green and placed them across the rungs of the ladder sections.

On these shelves are more model trucks, cars and a few motor homes. I have signed baseballs (one with Roy Hobbs' autograph), a lot of paperback books including the complete works of D. Francis, (I read my first Francis novel when I was about 13), all the Harry Potter novels, the complete Lord of the Rings as well as the Chronicles of Narnia . Sitting alongside of the books are their DVD collections.

I have on display Pez dispensors, ceramic and plush Disney characters, a collection of books and DVDs about the Civil War and World War II. There is also a number of telephony novelty items like a wind-up walking telephone.

I have an old small horseshoe that I keep on one of those shelfs. On the wall of my office, just to the right of those shelves, is a wooden plaque made by my father. Two things are mounted on this plaque. One is a small brass plate with my name and birth date engraved on it. The second item, above the brass plate, is a wooden carving of a Conestoga wagon. This carving used to be mounted on the headboard of a wagon wheel bunk bed.

The bunk bed belonged to me when I was a young boy back in the late 1950s. I slept in that bed under the same-style bed spread that was on Beaver Cleaver's bed. I had a model of Nellie-Belle, the jeep from the Roy Rogers' show on my dresser along with a model of Trigger, Roy Rogers' horse.

Just before I went to bed I would remove my Hop a Long Cassidy wristwatch and place it back in its saddle-shaped box that was on my desk. Also on the desk was my horseshoe with my name engraved on it. This horseshoe came from Williamsburg and was bought during a first or second grade field trip.

The Roy Rogers action toys have long disappeared and so has the watch. The horseshoe and the wagon carving, I still have. They remind me of a time that was so much simpler than it is now. It was a time when it was easy to tell the bad guys from the good ones because the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys black. Back then TV was black-and-white and no one disagreed that father knew best. I keep the horseshoe as a reminder of summer vacations without a care in the world, as well as no air conditioning. I keep the plaque to remind me of the time we played outside, and everyone one knew everyone else in the neighborhood. I keep it to remind me of baths just before bedtime, half hour news shows, trips to Highs Ice Cream, or to the drug store for a Cherry Coke.

I keep the horseshoe and that wooden wagon carving to remind me that yes, a long time ago, I was once a young and happy kid.


Fire and Rain

August 27, 2011

That is the headline of our local paper this morning. I thought of it as the title of my blog entry days ago, but I wasn’t fast enough to use it first.

The headline sure fits our present situation. The Dismal Swamp has been on fire for weeks. The fire has thrown a big cloud of smelly, acrid, blue smoke that moves around which makes being outside an unpleasant experience. The only hope to ending the fire was a time of heavy continuous rain. Well, we are getting that now, as I write this.

It has been some week for my family. It reads like the plot of some bad short story...”The Parker Family Saga” written with 2000 words or less.

Here is the synopsis:

Saturday….Mom of wife dies from Stroke.

Tuesday….Daughter has really big baby.

Wednesday…Family (minus daughter) attends funeral of Mom of Wife

Thursday….Father of family goes back to work and hopes to finish 2 month long project. Has to make hurricane preparations at same time.

Friday….Father visits customers to help batten down their phone systems and still works to open a large medical practice. Comes home and does as much as he can to get ready for a hurricane.

Friday afternoon....Father is installing audio cables in a dentist chair when area has earthquake. Father is under the chair feeling sick and can’t understand why the room is bouncing.

Saturday….Father sits in front of computer and writes blog, hoping to post soon in case power goes out. thanks to God that family made it through one crazy week.

Also gives thanks that the Fire is out and the Rain is gone.

Makes for quite the story don't you agree?


40 Years

February 18, 2011 

Diane and I have discovered that living in a motor coach simplifies our life. We don't find the small space to be confining. Quite the opposite, it is liberating. Our motor coach frees us from thinking about so many things. She and I normally operate in two different worlds. Diane's world concerns the house, the two men, the cat and the dog that live in it with her. My world revolves around my business, my computers, and my online friends. Most of the time we are in two different parts of the house or we are in my office sitting at two different computers. We share the same room when watching TV, but there is not much conversation and it isn't unusual for us both to fall asleep while NCIS or Castle or some other program rumbles on in the background.

When we travel in the coach we rediscover each other. We are not on the same couch but we are just feet away from each other looking out the same big window. Teddy is sometimes on Diane's lap watching the world fly by with us. We have hours to just "sit and talk." We do plenty of that. We may review the things that have happened in our lives, we talk about our past, our memories and there are lots of those, or we talk about our future and how uncertain it is. We talk about God, our kids, our extended families.

When you boil it all down, the coach helps us to remember just how much we love each other and how long we have been together, and we have been together for a long, long time..