Here we are! The Spirit of Sunrise with driver-extraordinare, David, and the two co-pilots, Rose and Sonya. Our Class A Winnebago Itasca is 32 feet long, has two slides (living room and bedroom) and pulls our Toyota Corolla on a dolly. We love it!
Monthly Archives: September 2009
One of the great joys of travel is seeing members of our family, which is scattered throughout the states and beyond. In Tulsa, we got to see our 3-year-old grand niece, Lexy, for the first time. What a joy she is. And a budding violinist! Please indulge my pride as I share this photo of Lexy playing a tune on her violin, accompanied on guitar by her mother Karen, a professional violinist.
Some people admire the Golden Driller for his powerful physique. “He’s a hunk!” my older sister Suzanne exclaimed when she drove us across town to see him. For others, the Golden Driller is a towering tribute to men who worked the oil fields. For Oklahoma, he is the state monument.
He is a sight to behold. Standing 76 feet tall in front of the Tulsa Expo Center, he rests his right hand on the top of an oil derrick, which had been moved from a depleted oil field in Seminole, Oklahoma. To get an unobstructed look at him, you need to get up close, which makes him seem all the more imposing.
An inscription at the base of the statue reads, “The Golden Driller, a symbol of the International Petroleum Exposition. Dedicated to the men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God’s abundance a better life for mankind.”
The Golden Driller – a hunk of a tribute to oilmen.
People seem to hover near the highway, hugging the convenience and accessibility to services they offer. Unfortunately, private campgrounds that cater to RVs also hug the highway. The trade off for ease of access to the highway is noise – the constant, whirring and roaring of engines and tires on concrete. The KOA in Salina where we stayed literally borders Interstate 70. I met a woman who loves staying in KOA cabins. If her cabin had a back door, she could have stepped out it right onto the highway!
I, on the other hand, have a LOW tolerance for noise pollution. On this stretch of our journey, we’re focused on getting from point A to point B, so it’s the price we pay. When our travel isn’t dictated by a schedule, I’m going to seek out campgrounds in quiet natural settings, away from the roaring road!
As we cruised across central Kansas on Interstate 70, I soaked in the bucolic scene outside the passenger window. A weathered wood barn and old-style wind mill nestled in a green pasture where cattle lazily grazed. In contrast, the view out the driver window was crisp and edgy. Fields of yellow canola and rust-tufted sorghum painted stripes of brilliant color on the slope. Towering wind turbines studded the hilltop as far as the eye could see. Their massive blades gleamed in the afternoon sun. Out in the middle of Kansas, a mere four-lane highway separated traditional and high-tech farming, yesteryear and tomorrow.
Cell phones and the Internet take a lot of the angst out of problem-solving on the road. As we drove into Hays, Kansas, I looked up auto repair shops online, then began calling. The first man said he didn’t have the equipment to test the batteries, but Augie’s Repair and Towing did. Then he proceeded to give me detailed directions on how to get there. What a nice guy!
Augie’s took us right in, discovered one of the house batteries was shot, and called around town until they found a replacement to install. David knew we were being well taken care of when he realized that this was the very shop that repaired his truck when it broke down in Hays seven years earlier. And the same mechanic fixed it! Augie’s is competent, affordable and friendly.
As we left, David told Augie, ”The next time we’re in Hays, we’ll swing by, but just to say ‘hi.’”
On a chilly, gray day, towering “palm trees” bordered a gas station in Colby, Kansas. Parrots perched on the branches.
The sight of palm trees stirred hopes for warmth, sunshine, and easy living.
We needed that emotional boost when, after filling the tank, the engine wouldn’t start! And the Spirit of Sunrise needed a boost too!
The station attendant called a towing service. A cable was loose! (How did the guys miss that yesterday?) And the battery was dead, dead, DEAD!
Gary, the service guy’s tip: Check your cables and other connections first.
Minutes (and several dollars) later, we were on the road again, with advice to get the alternator checked in the next big town. A few miles down the highway, the sun broke through the clouds.
We awoke to the whirring sounds of Interstate 70 and the humming engines of semis at the neighboring truck plaza – hardly the gentle sounds of nature associated with camping. The grounds were laced with devil’s thorn, which pierced Sonya’s paws if she took a misstep. But Sonya could race carefree in a neighboring field. By noon, we had managed to find the right place for everything in the cupboards, closets and shelves, and decided to weigh and balance the RV at the truck plaza.
The RV wouldn’t start! When we told proprietor Karen Weber about our woes, we found out the nearest RV service center was in Denver. Ugh! (After waiting two weeks to get minor service done, we could see our trip fizzling.) But she’d see what she could do. Shortly, she showed up at our site with Pat, a fulltime RVer originally from Goodland. The first place he looked was at the batteries. All three batteries (one chassis and two house batteries) were bone dry! Pat’s RV tip: Check the battery fluids monthly. They had been OK when we had the unit inspected – what was going on? All three were new in December 2008, but , come to think of it, the previous owner hadn’t taken the RV on extended trips for quite awhile. Or maybe the alternator was history.
Pat got his turkey baster and filled the three batteries with distilled water. Then Karen’s son and co-proprietor showed up with a battery charger. Over the next six hours, the three batteries got a slow-trickle charge. Talk about relief and peace of mind!
Scott suggested that we go into town, run errands and get a bite to eat. No need to worry about leaving your RV door open here, Karen assured us. (The batteries are inside under the entry step.) Scott even loaned us a pickup so we wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of unloading our car from the dolly.
When I told with my sister about how Karen, Pat and Scott helped us out of the goodness of their hearts, she said, “You know, Kansas is called “The Heartland of America.”
Big hearts is exactly what we experienced that Sunday in Goodland, Kansas! And we’re mighty grateful!
The next morning, the engine started and we hit the road again. Destination – Hays, Kansas, where we could get the batteries and alternator checked.
Exhausted and grateful for a safe arrival, we opened the living room and bedroom slide-outs, lit soft lights and a candle, nestled into the sofa, and toasted our lovely new home. It’s warm, comfy and inviting. It has enough space for our needs. And the bed, though a short queen (an inch shorter than David’s height of 6’4”), is comfy too. The Kansas wind whistled and blew throughout the night, and when it rained on the RV roof, the sound reminded me of sleet.
Since our plan to spend a couple of nights camping in Denver didn’t work out, we decided to start our voyage a day early. Mid-afternoon on Saturday, September 19, 2009, we launched our maiden voyage in the Spirit of Sunrise. For peace of mind – and heeding Lesson 1 — we made reservations for two nights at Mid-America Camp Inn, a quarter mile off I-70, in Goodland, Kansas.
The sun was shining. The road was clear. And the Spirit of Sunrise purred down the highway. “We’re about to pass a vehicle for the first time,” David said, and with David at the wheel, our trusty RV did it with ease. A major “right of passage” achieved!
Less than a hour into our journey, the transmission made odd sounds, the cruise control stopped working, and the “Service Engine Soon” warning light came on. What? We had everything checked out, right? Something was amiss. I distinctly remember writing a couple of hefty checks to get everything road ready.
We decided to keep heading for our destination and hope for the best. Fortunately, we made it to Mid-America Camp Inn just after dark. After hooking up by flashlight, we jotted down another lesson for RV happiness: Always arrive at your site in the daylight.