Home Away From Home

We Got the Car!

Since Johnson City, Tennessee is a good six hour drive from our home we decided that we would split the drive and go halfway to Clemmons and spend the week-end with our younger son and his family. His older daughter was in a dance competition on Saturday so that would work out for everyone as we would be there to help with the two younger children. We left Thursday and made our way to Clemmons and along the way were able to spot exactly where the tow dolly caught on fire. We left our mark!

A week later the evidence of the fire was still there.
Since we had been unable to reach the owner of the tow dolly company by phone we decided to stop by the business on our way up. Unfortunately he was still out of town. we left our name and number AGAIN. He did finally return our call but dang it, Jerry missed it. Jerry called back just minutes later but the owner did not answer. Do you think he’s trying to elude us?

Up and att’m Friday morning and on our way to Johnson City. Aren’t GPS’s interesting. We took one route to Johnson City last Friday, took another route home Friday evening and then this Friday we took still a third route. We went right down the main street of Boone, NC and then began rambling through the mountains. We were not in a hurry so we were able to enjoy the scenery as we went up and down and around. The flowers were all in bloom and beauty was everywhere. If you get a chance visit the mountains of North Carolina in the spring. You won’t be disappointed.

When we arrived at AutoNation there was our pretty red jeep all ready to go. We signed a few papers and then headed toward Leonard Trucking where they had installed the base plate, etc. for our Blue Ox towing system. They showed us how to attach it and although I don’t think there’s a steep learning curve we will definitely need some practice. Back at the dealership Jerry picked up his car and we headed back to Clemmons. That was a little mistake. We should have gotten some “training” on how to use all of the electronics but more on that later.

I input the final address in the navigational system and off we went but we missed the first turn and then I don’t know what happened but we ended up going back through the lovely mountains only they weren’t quite as pretty to me as I wound through all of those turns! At one point I realized that I had inadvertently turned on the cooling seat and my butt was freezing but I had no idea how to turn it off. It’s kind of difficult to look at the input screen and maneuver the mountains. I chose to pay attention to the road rather than go off of the side of the mountain trying to regulate the seat temperature! I finally pulled off the side of the road and found the answer ti that problem. Obviously after having driven a 2006 Avalon for a number of years it will take me a while to learn about the options on this car.

During the week we went by Campers Inn in Raleigh – well, it says Raleigh but it’s really in Selma – and ordered the Air Force One Braking System for the car. That will be installed next week and then we’ll be ready to travel.

When things began to fall in place I went ahead and finalized the June Chattanooga trip and then registered for the July FMCA International Rally. It feels so good to be the planning stages again and I am ready to take off as soon as possible!


Shopping for a Car to Flat Tow is NOT Easy!

When we began RVing we did not have a car that would flat tow (four wheels down) so we opted to buy a tow dolly and tow my Toyota Avalon. Until Saturday, April 15 we had never had a problem with it but watching Jerry hook the car to the dolly was tortuous for me. Rain or shine, hot or cold he had to put a tarp on the ground and then crawl under the front of the car to hook the chains and tighten the straps. I had the easy part. I drove the car up on the dolly. It seemed during those first few trips it was always raining when we got ready to hook up. I began to wonder if he could do it in good weather! It also took a few minutes to get it done so if we were leaving from home we’d try to do it the night before because not only was it just a bit time consuming it was hot(or cold), sweaty and dirty work. Hooking up early gave Jerry a chance to shower and put on clean clothes. When leaving a campground we had to either find a designated place to hook/unhook or block the lane. At some campgrounds we had to put the dolly in a location away from the motor home and Jerry didn’t like doing that. In other words towing with a dolly was not fun, however since neither of our cars would flat tow we surely were not going to buy another car. After all we had just bought an RV! We’d make it work and we did for three years.

After the dolly and car burned up on April 15 we knew we would have to buy another car and I hate car shopping especially when I have a long list of requirements. One sales person I talked with said to me “Whoa Girl, you’ve got a long list” and she was right. There are only a few cars with automatic transmission that will tow four down and I’m not about to begin shifting gears again at this point. Fortunately as members of FMCA we have access to lists dating back to 1999 of suitable cars and believe or not the cars on the list change from year to year. We knew we didn’t want a new car to tow behind the motor home and possibly get dinged by debris but we also knew this was going to be “my car” and I didn’t want a clunker.

So the hunt began. Our first stop was at our local Toyota dealer to talk with our favorite salesman. We knew that Toyota no longer had any manual transmission cars that would flat tow but wanted to know if possibly our Forerunner could be adapted. Possibly it could but not without a lot of modifications that we were not interested in. Toyotas hold their value and we would really like to have stayed with them but was not to be.

Our next stop was a dealership that carried Honda, Ford, Jeep, Chevrolet and Buick and possibly some more. We looked but didn’t see anything of interest so we went to another dealership and looked at some more. They had a jeep but when we opened the doors Jerry and I both said “no way”. It smelled horrible. They said they were going to have it fumigated in the next day or so and would call us when they did. They never called. We drove a CRV –EXL but the salesman was clueless about the details of the car. In fact he told us that until last week he thought RV was a motor home and had never heard of a CRV. Maybe he needs some work on his selling tactics.

Our friend at the Toyota dealership suggested we try the website “Car Guru” so when we got home we began the search. We finally narrowed it down to either a Jeep Cherokee, Honda CRV, GMA Terrain or Chevrolet Equinox. In addition to using Car Guru I posted on a couple of RV message boards asking for suggestions.

The next day we had to go to Durham to the salvage company to sign papers to release the car to the insurance company. When we went in the head guy just looked at us, laughed and said “Yeah, I think it’s totaled”. Gee, you think! We got a few more things out of the car but they smelled so badly that they’ll probably be thrown away.

Our next stop was a CarMax lot in Raleigh. Boy, they have a lot of cars. We looked around for a bit, eliminated some cars due to weight (we needed to stay with a car that weighed about 4,000 pounds) and then some I just didn’t like for various reasons. We found one CRV that we kind of liked and we test drove it.

Our next stop was the other CarMax in Raleigh, a smaller lot but it had a pretty bright red jeep. Being a NC State fan Jerry has always wanted a red vehicle. Actually he wanted a truck but life is about compromise. We drove the jeep and liked it a lot but we asked the salesman if it was possible to get the CRV transferred to this lot so we could drive both them one right behind the other giving us a more accurate feeling for the two cars. He said that he could so we told him we’d return on Friday to try both of the cars out.

Our next two stops were the Honda dealer and the Jeep dealer. We saw a nice CRV at the Honda dealership and thought we’d also return there on Friday. And then we went to the Jeep dealership where I found my car. It was a white Jeep Cherokee Limited with every bell and whistle that I wanted. We didn’t test drive the car since by that time the 5:00 traffic was in full swing but we said we’d be back on Friday.

After returning home I hit the computer and found out that a Jeep Cherokee had to have Active Drive II in order to be towed. We also found out that there aren’t many of those around. Both Jerry and I searched the web for hours and hours and then I finally took over. We didn’t see any descriptions that listed Active Drive II but if we looked at the gear shift (if there was a picture) we could see if it had a neutral button there which indicated it had the Active Drive II. Can you even imagine how many pictures I looked at stretching them as best I could to get a clearer picture? I found out later that there is a tag on the back of the car stating Active Drive II. That surely would have made things easier. In searching I put in a filter of 400 miles so we were contacting dealerships as far away as New Jersey and Pennsylvania with no luck in finding the right car. We were receiving e-mails and calls quite frequently but either the car didn’t have Active Drive II or they didn’t know what it was. Jerry finally called Jeep headquarters asking what Jeeps could be towed. The lady put Jerry on hold for about five minutes and then came back on and said that the only Jeep that could be flat towed was a Grand Cherokee. Wrong answer!

Thursday we headed out again and ended up at a dealership in Wilson, NC. Although they did not have a Jeep with Active Drive II anywhere in their network he knew what it was and was eager to help find one though it would probably take time. We then went to the Honda dealership right across the highway and looked at a CRV. Interestingly enough Honda quit making CRV’s that could be flat towed after 2014 so that limited our selection as well. I didn’t really like the CRV. I should never have seen the white Jeep in Raleigh!

On the way back home we stopped at the grocery store and Jerry went in while I sat in the car using the iPad to continue my search and voila – I found a silver jeep with the neutral button and it was in North Carolina! I can’t tell you how excited I was. We called the dealer and made arrangements to go up on Friday. A bit later I found a red one with the neutral button at AutoNation in Johnson City, Tennessee. Oh boy, we had two to look at!

We got up early Friday morning and our search began. On the way to Gastonia to see the first car I called the dealership in Johnson City and made an appointment for that afternoon. In the meantime I found one at the Mercedes dealership in Charlotte which was only about 45 minutes from Gastonia and it was white, fully equipped just like I wanted. Hot dog, three birds with one stone. We soon got a call from the Charlotte dealership telling us that the car was actually in Birmingham, Alabama and they couldn’t transfer it unless we bought it first. I know in these days and times a lot of people buy cars sight unseen but not us so we nixed the idea of Charlotte.

Upon arriving in Gastonia we immediately saw the Jeep and yes, it had Active Drive II. It was a nice car but it had two things going against it. One, it was four cylinder and two, it was silver. Guess what color our Forerunner is. Don’t think I want two silver cars but we’ll see. They made us a terrific offer but we told them we were going to Johnson City to look at another one and would let them know what we decided.

On the way to Johnson City I continued to search the web and found a white jeep at a dealership in Charleston, SC. I called and although the Jeep was indeed in Birmingham they would transfer it to Charleston without us having to first purchase it. Things were looking up. A bit later though we received another call from the Charleston dealership saying that the lady who told us we would not have to pre-purchase was “dead wrong” and since it was transferring from one state to another we would have to buy it sight unseen. Nope, not for us. Obviously we were willing to travel to get the right car but when I looked up the distance to Birmingham from Kinston it was 660 miles and too far for us so no white Jeep in the picture.

Johnson City is not as far as one would think as it’s not far from the North Carolina border. In fact on the way we passed several places that we had visited two years ago when touring the North Carolina mountains.

Not a very good picture but won’t Jerry love going to the State games driving this?
Just to make a very long story a bit shorter – we bought the red Cherokee. Jerry has always wanted a red car and though white would have been my first choice red is fine and heck, I’ll be inside! We will pick the car up next Friday. In the meantime they will have a tow package and a Blue Ox Tow package installed. All we will have to do is get the brake system installed and we’ll be ready to travel again!

We finally left the dealership around 7:00 knowing we had at least five hours of travel ahead. Unfortunately we ran into the heaviest rain we’ve ever been in. In fact in all the years of marriage I have never know Jerry to pull over but he finally did along with several other cars. It was a treacherous and long drive home. Although the heaviest rain lightened it rained all the way home. Our house was a pretty sight to see at 1:30 am! And just think we get to go back next Friday to pick it up. Hopefully it’ll be a sun shiny day!


Our trip to South Dakota Goes Up in Flames

Up early and on the way to South Dakota via Clemmons to visit with our son and his family and celebrate his younger daughter’s first birthday but that was not to be. Almost 2 hours after we left we were traveling down a four lane highway (fortunately) when someone pulled up beside us constantly blowing the horn and pointing. Not knowing what was wrong we pulled over on an overpass, jumped out of the RV and then saw flames coming from the tow dolly and then the car. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and Jerry tried to put it out while I was trying to put it out with towels. Neither worked so we just stood there in horror watching it burn. A couple stopped, called 911 and cautioned us to stay away from the car and the motor home. Then a fireman from the Wendell NC fire department stopped and told us to remove the dolly from the RV. Jerry frantically searched the trunk, found a jack and the fireman actually jacked the dolly up enough so the motor home could be moved away from the flames thus saving the motor home and its contents.

After the motor home was moved
I have heard the words “goes up in flames” before but never quite pictured it like this as I watched my little Toyota burn up. The firemen arrived and it took a few minutes to get the fire out. Raising the hood of the car to wet down the motor proved to be very difficult and they finally had to pry it open. Jerry said there was one small bit of humor that day. Since all of the electronics burned they couldn’t get the doors open so the very kind fireman asked Jerry if it was OK to break the window. I understand why he asked but at that point what was a broken window?

I can’t say enough good things about the Efland Fire Department. They were efficient, courteous and caring realizing that we were probably in total shock. Interestingly enough neither Jerry nor I thought of calling 911 as we were so busy trying to extinguish the fire. Fortunately the first couple that stopped immediately did that.

What can I say?
After the fire was out and I could get closer to the car I noticed the burned tires and they was nothing but strings. Parts of the inside of the car were melted and my sunglasses were melted to the floor. We were able to get some things out of the car but they are heavily smoked damaged and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to use them again. Regrettably we had put more than we usually do in the car. Because the slides were already pulled in Saturday morning the last minute items that were in the house were put in the car. Things like our king-sized comforter, three shams with pillows, Olivia’s birthday gifts, the special Easter cards with money for our three grands, Jerry’s camera case, camera and lens and MY PILLOW! Do you have that special pillow that you take everywhere? We had also put our heavy down coats in the trunk since we thought we’d possibly run into some cold weather in South Dakota. They take up a lot of closet space so we just stuck them in the trunk. We were able to retrieve those items but they absolutely reek. In fact, later at our granddaughter’s birthday party I put the camera up to take a picture and it smelled so strongly that I couldn’t even use it to find out if it would work.

With help from everyone we got the items that were in tact out of the car and then sadly watched my little car be towed away. I’ve had that car several years and if you know anything about Toyota’s you know they last a long time. I was hoping for another 150,000 miles. Buying another car was not in my plan or budget!

When we finally arrived in Clemmons we stopped at a grocery store and Jerry got some large garbage bags to put the retrieved items in to try to contain the odor until we got home. (Obviously our trip was canceled and we would be headed home after the week-end.) We checked into Tanglewood Park RV and quickly got the electricity hooked up so we could turn on the water heater as we both desperately needed showers. We had stopped at a Rest Stop afterward and I realized that not only did I smell like smoke my face and hands were covered with soot. It was a pretty pitiful sight! Luckily we have a washer and dryer in the coach so after our showers we immediately threw our smoky clothes in hoping that they would be smelling a lot better after a good washing.

David, our son, came out and picked us up and we spent the rest of the afternoon at his home and with his family. With difficulty we put on our smiling faces and tried to enjoy being with our family and celebrating Olivia’s first birthday.

I don’t sound very grateful do I but indeed I am. First of all to the Lord Jesus who saved our lives, to the people who blew the horn to get our attention, to the couple that immediately stopped to help, to the fireman from Wendell who probably saved our RV and to the fire departments that came to our rescue my words are so inadequate to express my gratitude. As I sit here with tears streaming down my face I realize that they are tears of thanksgiving, of sadness, of confusion, of being overwhelmed, of fear, or relief – yes, a jumble of emotions, some I can’t even express but again most of all to our Lord and Savior who not only kept us safe yesterday but whose resurrection we celebrate on this Easter Sunday as he died and rose again to give us eternal life.

You know – it’s just a car and it could have been oh so much worse. The thought of being on a two lane road and possibly no one to alert us to the fire has been so frightening. Had we not known it the fire could have crept up to the motor home and yes, we have an 80 gallon gas tank plus propane on board. That thought alone is enough to make us realize how very blessed we were. Like I said, it’s just a car. Hopefully our insurance will help with the purchase of another car and replacement of the contents. We’ll see. Although we’ve never had a claim before they will raise our rate and I doubt they think our things are as valuable as we do! It’s kind of a darned if you do and darned if you don’t! Oh well, the Lord put the necessary people in place when we needed them and we are safe and that is what is most important.

I am sure there will be people wondering what caused the fire. We really don’t know for sure but think it had something to do with the brakes on the tow dolly or the bearings on the dolly. After we got out of the RV we heard first the tow dolly tire pop and then the car tire pop so we know it was not a tire problem.

When we bought our first RV we didn’t have a car that would flat tow so we decided to tow with a dolly. Since we now have to buy another car we will be looking for one that can be flat towed but that’s a story for another day!


And We Are Off to South Dakota

Our lives have been so up in the air since we found out that Jerry had DVT’s in his leg so we put off making any plans. As he began to improve we began to realize that maybe, just maybe we’d be able to go on our scheduled trip to South Dakota. With that in mind I spent Wednesday preparing all of the foods that we usually take (meat loaf, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joe, stuffed peppers – yeah, I know, a lot of beef) and knew that even if we didn’t go I’d have some foods in the freezer that we could use later.

Jerry’s doctor appointment was Thursday morning and we knew we’d know for sure then if we could travel. Our plan was to not mention South Dakota to the doctor but to just ask when we could travel again. When we did his immediate answer was anytime you want to! I asked about stopping every two hours and he said Jerry was in less risk of having a blood clot now than he’d ever been due to being on the blood thinners.

Yea – we were going to South Dakota via a week-end in Clemmons celebrating Olivia’s first birthday on Saturday. I couldn’t wait to see Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Black Hills and so much more but that meant we really had to hustle. The new plan was to go straight to the warehouse from the doctor’s office, pick up the RV and take it home. I had two hair appointments (yeah – it takes a lot for me) that afternoon but we were still fairly confident that we could get everything ready and leave Friday afternoon. With a bit of hope in the air on Wednesday I had made tentative reservations for Tanglewood for Saturday and Sunday nights. Since it was Easter week-end we were fortunate to get them although we would have to move Sunday morning to another site. That was fine with us and we’d just stay at the Cracker Barrel only three miles from our son’s house on Friday night. We’ve never stayed at Cracker Barrel before but we really had no other options at that late date.

After an exhausting Thursday we realized that we would not be ready to leave even late Friday afternoon so we decided we’d leave by 7:00 Saturday morning. Wow – that’s early! Because I seemed to have a bit more free time on Friday I went out to Eva’s school and had lunch with her and then went to see Mom for a bit. She really is not too happy about us going so far away.

After I returned home we finally got everything loaded, the car on the dolly and then exhaustion set in. Like I have said earlier, one day we’re going to have a peaceful restful preparation for leaving. Yeah, right! Little did we know.


Life is Short, Take the Trip, Buy the Shoes, Eat the Cake

With a 91 year old fragile mom and seven grandchildren nearby we are frequently being asked why we travel so much. My answer is always that we want to do it while we can because we don’t know how long we’ll be able to do it. Although we are both in good health we are no spring chickens!

That answer became a lot clearer to me recently. Since we are in the process of having our house on the market thus trying to update and keep it presentable to buyers we’ve been home since returning from our Texas trip. In the meantime I’ve been planning a trip to South Dakota. Plans were to leave our home in Kinston on Friday, April 14 for Clemmons where our younger son lives. His baby girl (refer to last April’s post) will be celebrating her first birthday a little early on Saturday, April 15 with a family party. Of course we wanted to be there for that so plans were to go to Clemmons on that Friday, stay at Tanglewood Park (great park) and then spend Easter with them. Monday, April 18 would be departure date for South Dakota. Great plans. Right? Not really.

A couple of weeks ago Jerry started having trouble with his left leg when he turned wrong going up the steps from the river room. He thought he had probably pulled a muscle and already suffering from a nasty cold he took it easy for a few days. Then on Saturday, March 25 while we were in Raleigh attending a horse show his leg began to hurt quite badly. Of course he didn’t tell me about it but on Sunday rather than going to church and our granddaughter’s soccer game he rested all day. Again thinking it was a muscle or tendon problem we called my cousin who is an Orthopedic PA and he agreed to see him on Monday.

Since someone was going to be looking at the house that afternoon I stayed home to get it ready while Jerry went to the doctor in Greenville (generally I go with him for something like this). About 5:30 I got a phone call from Jerry saying he was on his way to the emergency department (ED) at Vidant. When the PA x-rayed and couldn’t find a problem he sent Jerry straight over for an ultrasound where they immediately found blood clots in his leg! Vidant is roughly 45 minutes away but there was the 5:00 traffic to contend with so it took me a bit longer and I can’t even begin to describe the panic I was in.

Let me just tell you, that is a scary diagnosis but apparently not as emergent to the staff at Vidant. After 4 ½ hours we were finally taken back to be assessed and treated. I will say that once we got back things moved very smoothly and quickly. (I would think the long wait could somewhat be attributed to the many people seeking emergency care that really weren’t very sick. To say the waiting room which is quite large was full of people would be a great understatement.) They assessed and ran tests and affirmed that yes indeed he did have several blood clots in his leg. Unlike the old days when he would have been hospitalized they gave him a dose of blood thinner, a prescription and told him to see his regular doctor the next day.

We went to our internist the next day and I won’t bore you with the rest of the details but will tell you it’s been a week! We were told that DVT’s were painful but other than the initial pain Jerry didn’t have much pain until Saturday night when suddenly he was hit with excruciating pain. For the next several nights I had my clothes nearby and one night I didn’t even take off my makeup because I was sure we were going to the ED again.

By Wednesday we were back in the doctor’s office again. Fortunately everything is OK but it will just take a while to heal. The danger time with a clot is obviously when it forms and then for three days after that, then three days after the medicine begins. Praise the Lord we are passed by stage now. Actually the doctor told Jerry yesterday that he could do anything he wanted to if he could stand the pain because to do very much at this stage would be painful. Oh yeah, we know that!

Thus, the reason for this post. We are not RVing to Clemmons, not going to South Dakota and I am not sure when we will be able to hit the road again. I know that we will be a lot more vigilant about stopping every two hours and walking around for 15 minutes. I know I may be driving more. Actually I told Jerry he better ask for something for his nerves if I will be driving a lot! We have no idea what caused Jerry’s clots which is in itself frightening but we know what symptoms to look for now. Needless to say we have learned a great deal about DVT’s (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in the last couple of weeks.

DVT’s generally occur after a major event such as surgery but that is not always the case. Some of the indicators that could put you in a high risk category could be being over 60, a smoker, overweight, or sitting for long periods of time which RVer’s often tend to do when traveling. Also, there could initially be no obvious symptoms as in Jerry’s case. Warning signs to look for are swelling of the leg (most DVT’s occur in the left leg), discoloration (Jerry’s leg was quite red), warm skin (Jerry’s leg was hot) and pain when you stand or walk. Each of these symptoms could be contributed to something else but together they can indicate a DVT. Except for the initial pain on Saturday night while we were at the horse show Jerry had little to no pain initially. His pain came about a week later after he had been on the blood thinners for 5 full days.

Travel when you can. Don’t put it off. Life is short and can change in a moment. We all “know” this but sometimes we get reminded in a most alarming way. We were fortunate and we know it. We talk a little bit more now, hug a little bit more now and just say “thank you Lord” a lot more. We are temporarily on a sabbatical but will be RVing again as soon as we can. There’s so much to see and so many people to meet and as always we are grateful to our Lord and Savior for the protection he offers us, many times when we are totally unaware that we even need it. Such was surely the case for Jerry on March 25. I’ve got a feeling that the Lord has some plans for us!