Tag Archives: Alabama

Repairs & Maintenance At Tiffin Motorhomes
February 22, 2009
Thonotosassa, FL, Happy Traveller Park, Site 187 — 0 days
Sunday, February 22, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 9 Months
Sunday, February 1.  Superbowl Sunday in the Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL.
Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Our first morning in Red Bay was Super Bowl Sunday and it was 40° at 7:30 am but sunny. I guess this is our time to catch up on our winter experience. 

It was also time to catch up on clerical work.  I went online to find a dentist to fix my tooth that half sheered off.  Soon we will be going to Tampa, FL for Dennis’s first annual appointment at H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center so Dennis and I looked at the various RV parks near the Moffit Center and chose Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa because it is only ten miles away — a straight shot on one boulevard.  We don’t know if we will be delayed with follow up appointments so I made a reservation for a week to take advantage of the one-week discount — $245.  I found Nails City for me and the Pampered Pooch for the dogs in Tupelo. I also researched the location of a good Neuro-Ophthalmologist in Florida.  I will call all of these places tomorrow morning.

We took the dogs for a walk.  Right now the campground is half empty and today no one is around.  The twenty closed bay doors rattle in the wind. The wind was very cold on my head. It came from the south behind us and when we walked over to the street on the north side, the wind died down.  Without a wind, 49 degrees feels fine.  I like crispy, sunny days when the sky is blue and clear.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Of course the dogs love it.  They run back and forth on the huge gravel lot sniffing and peeing.  I asked Dennis, “Do you suppose they remember this place?”  We get our answer when we walked down the street by the cow pasture.  Both dogs ran right along the barbed wire fence, looking and peering intently into the pasture.  They even stood on their hind legs searching for those cows.  This is where Rudi got loose when I dropped the handle to his 20’ extended leash.  He ran under the fence to chase a nearby curious cow in circles before I grabbed the fallen handle and pulled him back.  That was a year and a half ago, but he remembers and so does Margot.  They can’t wait to get in that pasture and raise a ruckus.  No way, you two dogs!  Anyway, there are no cows right now, only a couple of horses in the distance. See photos:  http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/11WaitingForTiffin.html

Dennis made a terrific breakfast with his pan fried potatoes and vegetables.  Delicious!

Since July ’07 we’ve made notes about improvements or repairs for the bus. I got out our Master Wish List:

01. Fiberglass crack……..driver’s side, crack under slide
02. Dishwasher…………..wash cycle interrupts & doesn’t finish
03. Engine, generator……annual service: oil & filter changes
04. Fire Extinguisher…….install new fire extinguisher system
05. Roof vents …………..put covers on 3 roof vents
06. Bedroom closet……..cut a door in wood cabinet closet storage to face bedroom/add shelf
07. Desk shelves………..install shelves under window by Dennis’s desk/shelf for printer
08. Flat TV bedroom……install new cabinet for rectangular flat TV/adjust cabinets accordingly
09. TV ears………………install TV ears for bedroom TV
10. Modem……………….prevent BR modem from changing LV TV channels
11. Radio/CD ears………install radio/CD ears for sound system
12. DVD…………………..install DVD for living room TV
13. MCD…………………..install power shades for front windshield
14. Desk extension………extend passenger desk to slide over lap of passenger
15. Shelf extension………make computer mug tray hold a plate of food with top that flips over on hinges
16. Hydrohot……………..annual service
17. Window……………….prevent rattle and cold air leak at driver’s window
18. Bay doors…………….adjust bay doors; won’t close without lifting
19. Bus computer………..install WIFI card to use Co-Pilot Live with Internet
20. Bedroom wallpaper…fix/change stretched and wrinkled wallpaper by counter closet
21. Bedroom glue spot….remove spot created by workers in May ‘07

We are not sure who does what exactly: Tiffin Motorhomes for some repairs, Bay Diesel for the Spartan chassis, Brannon Hutcheson at Custom RV for electrical things, and Chris Berry’s Woodwork for cabinet stuff, etc.  For the Tiffin Motorhomes portion of our list, we have to turn in our work order list at the Allegro Campground office before 8:00 pm tonight.

At night we watched Super Bowl XLII in Tampa — the city where we will go next.  Our team, the Arizona Cardinals almost beat the Pittsburg Steelers — but not quite.

Monday, Feb. 2, Red Bay Day 2.  Get busy Monday.

It was 37° at 7:30 this morning — and gray.  It rained a lot last night — big noisy drops kept me awake.

In the afternoon, Brannon Hutcheson of Custom RV Inc. dropped by.  He works for Tiffin and has developed a side business after hours.  Among other things, he is going to remove our front curtains and install MCD — automatic pull-down shades for the windshield.  You press a button and they run up or down. There are two:  One is a see-through black shade that keeps people from being able to see inside.  It can be used during the day in crowded areas with little privacy or to block bright sunshine.  The second is a beige woven fabric with a backing that is thermal to keep out heat or cold.  It can be used at night for complete privacy.  These shades will eliminate the pleated beige curtains that we slide around on a track to cover the windshield.  The new shades will be better looking and more convenient. They are expensive, but we told him to go ahead and order them.

Tuesday, Feb. 3, RBD 3.  I drive to Tupelo for nails and teeth.

It was 23° at 7:30 this morning but sunny and clear.

Yesterday I did a lot of busy work regarding appointments and lining up care for my eye.  I got a reply from my eye doctor at PAMF.  She says the best eye clinic in Florida is the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.  I discovered that the famed Dr. John Guy is there so I called them.  Hurray!  I got an appointment with Dr. Byron L. Lam, (also well known) on the morning of March 3rd.  Now I must have my records sent to them.

We got a call from Dr. Weber’s office in Tampa.  He will be out of town on Wednesday so we changed Dennis’s appointment to Tuesday, the 24th and now we must get his radiology tests lined up for Monday. Dennis is upset.  He wants to arrive on Sat. and have Sun to learn where to go and be ready for tests on Mon.  He is thinking of our trips from Burbank to downtown LA. Finding the USC Norris Cancer Research Hospital, parking in the garage, navigating the hospital complex and the hospital building was complicated. However Moffit is located on a campus on the outskirts of Tampa so I think it will be much easier to manage. We paid for a week from Mon through Sun. at Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa.  Now I have to try to change that and arrive a day early — and I know they are crowded.

Around mid-morning I took the Honda and drove the fifty-some miles to a Vietnamese salon, Nails City in Tupelo. I got my nails repaired as well as a spa pedicure between 12:30 and 2:30.  I had to kill an hour before my dental appointment so I stopped briefly at Danver’s Restaurant on Main St.  It looked like a coffee shop and I had high hopes for it but I was disappointed.  It was a fast food buffet with uncomfortable wooden booths.  It was chilly so I sat on a hard wood seat by a sunny window.  I had my current book so I ate a bite and waited. How I miss Dinah’s, my restaurant at home, where I am known.

Two brothers, Dan and Tom, own Kellum Dental Clinic.  Everyone there was very pleasant and professional.  Cheryl took x-rays and then cleaned my teeth and she did an excellent job.  Afterwards I met Dr. Tom Kellum and learned about my lower left #20.  Just as I thought, it sheared off — not the filling but part of the tooth itself.  It is not infected and there is no nerve damage.  I can have him smooth it down and leave it alone or cover it with an “”Onlay-porcel/ceram-4 + surface” for $785.  Although we don’t have dental insurance, I made an appointment for next Tuesday at ten o’clock as I don’t want future problems and I don’t want to worry about it.

To my surprise Dr. Kellum was more concerned about my back tooth, #18 on the lower right.  He suspects that it has an infection that begins inside the tooth and works outward.  He referred me to Tupelo Endodontics, Dr. Crumpton, for a consultation regarding a possible root resorption.  In this process they remove the infected cells to prevent further interior decay.  Oh terrific!  This sounds both expensive and painful.

By the time I left Tupelo, it was cold and windy and getting dark.  I drove home in pitch black.  The first 27 miles are on an excellent freeway but it was not fun to drive the last 17 miles on dark country roads.  I was very relieved to arrive home safely sometime after 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, Feb. 4, RBD 4.  We take the bus to Bay Diesel for Spartan chassis and engine maintenance. 

We were up early this morning to close slides and raise jacks and drive the short distance to Bay Diesel.  I followed Dennis in the car.  It was 20° shortly after eight o’clock when we arrived.  We had to leave the bus and kill a few hours while they do engine, generator, and chassis servicing, annual oil and filter type of stuff.  So with the dogs in the back of the car we drove around the small neighboring towns looking for a breakfast restaurant.  We thought we remembered a dismal sort of café in Belmont.  We saw a few places but they all open at eleven so an hour later we returned to Red Bay and went into Jack’s.

Jack’s is a fast food place on the order of Burger King and it has a large pleasant dining room with plastic booths and tables. As Red Bay has no real restaurants, Jack’s is it.  They always have customers and it seems to be fairly popular.  It was sunny outside but still very cold so we sat inside for an hour.  I ordered rubbery scrambled eggs, dried up bacon, a biscuit (without gravy or grits, thank you) and some fried potato nuggets in a bag together with a small carton of juice and a Styrofoam cup of coffee.  I requested butter for the biscuit and received a container of melted margarine!  Dennis had coffee and ate half my potatoes. (See photos/comments on Sparks Restaurant, Belmont in 7/07.) http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/12BusImprovements.html

We picked up the bus (#3 finished), stopped in the Allegro Campground to load up on more water at the water bay and got back to our site by 11:30.  Aside from walking the dogs, we didn’t go out again.  I made more appointments and did some clerical stuff and worked on webpage #115.  I am going to see Dr. Crumpton next Tuesday at 1:00 pm so I have combined both dental appointments on the same day. I talked to my old friend, Dawn, in my home dentist’s office, Dr. Starr of Menlo Park, and told her about the planned onlay. She laughed and said, “You’ve got a bargain. Here, we charge $1,250.” Ohmigod. I guess I won’t complain….

I think Dennis loves the idea of this cold weather.  He subscribes to the Weather Bug and he can get up to date weather reports for our local weather anywhere, anytime.  At night, when the temperature drops, he likes to come into the bedroom where I watch TV and give me half hour weather bulletins.  He grins with masochistic delight: “It’s dropped to twenty degrees.”  “It’s down to fifteen degrees.”  It’s going to be six degrees tonight.”  I don’t mind the cold weather so long as I’m warm inside the bus and it looks sparkling bright and sunny outside during the day.  It would not be much fun if our days were gray and stormy as well as cold.

Thursday, Feb. 5, RBD 5.  Dennis and I drive into Tupelo with the dogs for a grooming appointment.

Margot takes her ease in the driver's cab chair. Yep, she's looking very shaggy.

Margot takes her ease in the driver’s cab chair. Yep, she’s looking very shaggy.

Using the Internet as a guide, I chose a grooming salon on Main St. very near Nails City, where I went last Tuesday.  My big mistake was that I only talked to the receptionist but I did not talk to the actual groomer, who is also the owner.

We left at 7:30 as we had to put gas in the Honda and we arrived early at 8:40 for our 9:00 am appointment.  I had combed each dog somewhat over the past week.  However it has been two months since their last grooming appointment.  They look grubby and have accumulated many mats in their long, white hair.  I should have combed and brushed both of them thoroughly on Wednesday but I didn’t do it.  I was remembering Isabel at the Pampered Pooch in McAllen, TX.  The dogs were in such bad shape I thought they would have to be shaved.  But Isabel pulled out her magic little brush and said she could save them.  And she did with very little fuss and in a very short amount of time — a few hours each.

However Lee Ann Holloway of The Pampered Pooch in Tupelo was a different story.  We waited ten minutes because she was late.  A middle-aged woman, she seemed to be in a bad temper.  Margot was doing her loud nervous barking.  Most groomers pick up the dogs and put them on the counter to pet then and talk to them. They examine the dog while I explain what trimming I need to have done.  Lee Ann was holding a cup of coffee and Margot stayed on the floor.

Lee Ann bent down, put one hand on Margot’s back and exclaimed that she was full of mats.  She said she couldn’t do them, that she’d been in the business for twenty years and that anyone in town would simply say that they had to be shaved.  I listened and said nothing but Lee Ann’s voice rose as she became defensive and solidified her position.  I did not argue but I did not agree or apologize for the condition of the dogs and we left.

I no longer buy into this “must be shaved” position.  Over the past year and a half I’ve been to many dog salons.  I’ve learned some tricks from the groomers we’ve visited.  They all have different methods and attitudes about brushing, combing and trimming.  Most of them are dog lovers.  They fuss over Margot and they are quick to forgive her barking and they work to get her to calm down.  I have never had someone refuse to work on our dogs.  Here and now I am putting out a bulletin:  Avoid the Pampered Pooch on Main St. in Tupelo, MS.

Well, wow.  We drove into Tupelo at an early hour — for nothing.  We went up to Barne’s Crossing to a mall with Pet Smart, Staples and Cracker Barrel.  At 9:30 am, I went into Pet Smart and asked if they had any grooming openings.  I made appointments with two groomers for the two dogs for 12:30.  I said they were full of mats but I didn’t bring them in.  The dogs are in their record book because Pet Smart did them in July of 2007.  They said the dogs would be finished about 3:30 or 4:00.

We went into Cracker Barrel for breakfast and I decided that hanging out in Tupelo and getting back at five o’clock made for too long of a day.  I felt that I needed to comb and brush Rudi and Margot and get them better prepared for an appointment.  So after breakfast I went back and cancelled the appointments.

I went next door into Staples and bought a big Rolodex together with plastic inserts for business cards.  I’ve tried using the business card storage books and they just don’t work.  I have scattered business cards everywhere.  I haven’t kept track of the many people we meet on the road who give me cards.  A Rolodex is big and will be in the way but I have hopes that this method will work and be worth the inconvenience of the size.

We’ve decided to have the cabinet in the bedroom changed so that we can install a larger TV.  We have a 20” that fits into a wood cabinet that is 24” high and 21” wide.  When lying in bed I can’t read the print on the credits and I would like one of the new flat rectangular screens.  We were told that Wal*Mart had the best prices so we went over to price their 32” flat TVs.  The issue is the size of the cabinets and placement of speakers as well as the comparative resolution and prices.  We found that the TVs in their metal frames range from a width of 30.25” to 35” wide and from 21” to 22.75” high.  A new TV would cut into the space of the cabinet to the right by 10 – 14+”. Prices with the 720 pixel resolution for Phillips, Polaroid, RCA, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, and Viizio ranged from $447 (Sanyo) to $598 (Sony).  We were told that Sony, Sharp, and Phillips were the best.

Wal*Mart did not have 32” TVs with the higher 1080 pixel resolution so we drove over to Best Buy.  Here we talked to a very helpful and knowledgeable guy named Ricky.  The 32” with the higher resolution TVs range from $799 (Sharp) to $999 (Sony).  Ricky recommends Sansung at a bargain $949.

Our current Panasonic has a built-in DVD so we would have to buy a DVD for the new TV.  Ricky demonstrated the differences between a regular and a Blu-Ray disc player.  The Blu-Ray will play standard-def DVDs as well.  Then he explained the advantage of going with a combined Sony PlayStation 3 Game Console/ Blu-ray Disc Player for $399.99.  It’s not the games that attract us.  It’s the fact that with an air keyboard it interacts with your computer — something about “play back streaming” and “web-enabled interactivity”.  Oh, my gosh!  It’s so hard to keep up with this stuff.  Ricky is not on commission and had nothing to gain by selling us any of this.  He was just an enthusiastic young man and I appreciated the time he took to give us an education.  We will return to Best Buy after we talk to our Tiffin custom carpenter, Chris Berry.

Our last errand was to find a vet that sells T/D or D/D, the approved dental kibble that we feed our dogs.  I made a call and we found Animal Care Center over near the Natchez Trace.  On the way we stopped at the Indian Site and let the dogs run.  We bought the kibble and we were back in Red Bay by 2:00 pm.

For the rest of the day I was a happy little clerk as I retrieved all my business cards and put them in my new Rolodex.  Because we travel I decided to organize them, not alphabetically by last name but by cities.  Behind M I put a card labeled Mission, TX and behind that I put a clear plastic sleeve insert with Betty and Jay’s card because their permanent casita home will be in Mission.  Behind Billings, MT I put a card for the RV place where we stayed, Trailer Village.  I filed all my RV park cards; nail salons, restaurants, and acquaintances by their home address city.  I put Escapee acquaintances behind a card for Livingston, TX.  It is working out great.  Dennis was so impressed he dumped all his business cards on me.  They are mostly a collection of auto parts and other RV business types of places.  Gee thanks, Dennis!

In the evening, a Tiffin guy came by and told us we should bring the bus to Bay #34 at 7:00 am tomorrow morning.  They are ready to start on our list of repairs.

Friday, Feb. 6, RBD 6.  Dennis and I spend the morning in a Tiffin repair Bay.

Stan kids around when I take his photo. He's replacing the driver side window. Stan's son, Scotty, works in Parts.

Stan kids around when I take his photo. He’s replacing the driver side window. Stan’s son, Scotty, works in Parts.

We were up early and Dennis was parked in front of our assigned Bay at 6:56 am.  Up went the doors and in we drove.  The bays at Tiffin face each other in a long line.  They are well lighted and heated.  Our Bay #34 faced a Zephyr in Bay #7.  There is space to put out our slides on both sides and we are allowed to stay inside our coach while they work on it.  They hooked us up so we could run our electric heat.  Our two guys, Ricky and Stan were talkative and cheerful and very easy to be around.  We were there until 1:45 pm and the entire experience was just as nice and pleasant as could be.  It is amazing.

Ricky fixed some wrinkled wallpaper and a glue spot on the rug in the bedroom.  Stan fixed the driver’s window that rattles and lets in cold air.  The hydrohot was serviced.  We left the door open for them to come and go.  I kept the dogs tied up on short leashes and they snoozed in their dog beds.  They barked at the first few entries but the guys petted them and talked to them and they soon settled down.  I was able to work on my computer and I finished #116 so instead of a lost day I had a very productive day  Dennis hung out with the workers and watched what they did — guy stuff.  Instead of getting roof vents, Dennis got new filters for the vents that are easier to remove and therefore easier to clean.  (#2, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21 finished and part of #5).

 After taking on water, we were back in our site by four o’clock.  The cabinet guy, Chris Berry, dropped around in the evening and we laid our wish list on him.  We came up with a plan for installing the 32” TV.  Others have cut into the overhead cabinets, which cuts down on storage room.  I asked why we could not hang the TV below the cabinets.  The current TV box could be cut up to the level of the row of storage cabinets so then we actually gain some storage.  The cabinet Charles made for us has to be sacrificed but there will be plenty of room in the new cabinet to hold the DirectTVPlus receiver as well as the Blu-Ray player.  Generally, people feel that this design solution places the TV too low to view from the bed.  But we both feel that it will be fine so we agreed on this plan.  Chris told us the five CD player in the LR doubles as a DVD player.  (Why didn’t we know that? #12 resolved).  Chris has some other excellent suggestions also.  He’s going to make a shelf to move the printer off the kitchen counter and down by Dennis’s desk.  He’s also going to make a TV table that he calls a Joe Buck that can be placed in the cab when we need extra counter space while we drive and eat.  I’m excited.

Saturday, Feb. 7, RBD 7.  We did a few errands and just hung out.

The weather is still sunny and it has warmed up.  Dennis just finished making his delicious breakfast and right now I think it is about 60° outside.  However, I can hear a wind blowing the canopies.  I have been catching up on my daily entries.

I used up 80 Rolodex Business Card Sleeves and I need more.  I wish I could finish this project but there are no business supply stores in town.

We went to True Value and CVC for prescriptions and we grocery shopped at Piggly-Wiggly.  We sliced vegetables and added them to a frozen cheese pizza for dinner. This turned out to be an excellent substitute for my favorite pizza, Round Table’s Guinevere’s Garden, which I haven’t had for more than a year now.

I posted #116 about Houmas House and the Inauguration and driving to New Orleans.

Monday, Feb. 9, RBD 9.  We took the Bus to Tiffin Bay #40 and to Custom RV.

Yesterday was 60° and a very mild day.  We walked the dogs twice and hung out around the bus.  This morning we took the Bus to Bay #40.  They are repairing the crack under the slide, which involves a fiberglass operation so we can’t stay in the bus.  To kill time we took the dogs with us and drove to Florence to look for a breakfast restaurant but with no luck.  We couldn’t even find the mall.  We stopped at a place called Country Boys and had a dreadful breakfast.  We drove back and after taking on water we were back in our site by 11:30.

In the afternoon at 3:00 I followed the bus up to Custom RV — I guess because we weren’t sure if we would need the car.  I stayed on the bus while Brannon worked on installing the automatic fire extinguisher system that Dennis bought from Mac the Fire Guy in Gillette at the Escapee rally.  He’s never installed one before but he knows how to do it.  It involved stringing wire from the engine up to the cab and the guys decided to do that above the ceiling through the air filter vents.  Brannon had some questions and is going to call Mark Quasius of RVCruzer. Mark installed one and wrote about it. http://www.rvcruzer.com/fireindex.htm

Tuesday, Feb. 10, RBD 10.  I have two dental appointments in Tupelo.

I drove to Tupelo for my ten o’clock appointment with Dr. Kellum.  He did the on-lay ceramic crown in only one and a half-hours.  In the old days he would have made a mold and I would come back in two weeks for the permanent.  Now they take x-rays and a computer plots the dimensions of the missing tooth in 3-D.  Then it is cut in a machine with two needle size cutters that chisel down a small block of porcelain.  I watched and it was fascinating.  The tiny piece was glued in and I left with a tooth like new.  I am so impressed.

I had a one o’clock appointment with Dr. Crumpton for a consultation about a possible root apsorption.  My mouth was entirely numb and I couldn’t eat lunch so I went to Office Max in Barnes Crossing.  I looked for a plastic sleeve and 3×5 cards.  In case of an accident, I want to hang a sleeve in the car that will hold cards that give our local RV Park location with a warning that we’ve left dogs in our motor home.  If something happened to us, who would know that we live in a motorhome, or where it is parked or that there are dogs in it who need care.

Dr. Crumpton took more x-rays and had good news.  If the tooth doesn’t bother me, leave it alone.  It is blocked by a wisdom tooth and it will have to be pulled if it gives trouble.  He will send copies to me and to my dentist in Palo Also so I have a reference if there is a problem.  He said he knows a lot of people on the east coast and will refer me to someone if the tooth gives me a problem.

I went back to Barnes Crossing and went to what I thought was Hallmark.  I needed to find some Valentines.  It was inside a Books-A-Million store so I ended up buying some new books also.  MyBad!  Then I went next door to Red Lobster and ordered a dinner to go.  Dennis said he didn’t want anything.  I couldn’t stop to eat because my mouth was still numb.  It rained on the way but I was back in the bus by four-thirty.  By then my mouth felt normal so I could eat.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, RBD 11.  We take the bus to Bay Diesel for a new hitch because of a Spartan recall.

At 10:30 am it was raining very, very hard and there were big gusts of wind.  It was windy all last night with the canopies flapping.  We went out to do a few errands and I asked if we could eat at Denny’s.  So we came home and Dennis made one of his delicious breakfasts.  Then we took the bus to Bay Diesel for a new hitch.  This wasn’t on our list because it is a recall item.  By one o’clock we were back at the Allegro Campground getting water and returning to our site.

Thursday, Feb. 12, RBD 12.  We drive to Tupelo for a dog grooming appointment.

Discouraged by my experience at the Pampered Pooch, I gave up and made appointments at Pet Smart.  The dogs had been there before in July ’07 and I couldn’t remember what kind of job they did so I decided to give them another shot.  This time I’ve done my advance work and combed out the mats.  We dropped the dogs off at 12:30.  The dental staff had recommended Harvey’s on Glouster to me so we went there and had an excellent lunch.  Then we did errands and picked up the dogs at 4:00 pm.  They were butchered.  They are overly shaved on their rear ends and on their hind legs.  The styling with scissors is a seriously terrible job.  Their long, stiff eyebrow whiskers have been cut off.  They look awful.  As a grooming alternative, Pet Smart is off my list — forever.

Friday, Feb. 13, RBD 13.  I have a stomach upset.

For the first time, we decided to try the Cardinal Drive-In. It looks so romantic and fifties so we thought, why not? We picked up hamburgers for lunch.  We also chose onion rings and they were big and very good but I am not used to eating that much grease.  Either they affected my system or I have a touch of some stomach bug.  Anyway, I was out of commission and could eat nothing more for the rest of the day.

Saturday, Feb. 14, RBD 14.  We had a non-Valentine’s Day

In the early evening we went to a restaurant called Gill’s BBQ.  We had lunch their once in July ’07 and it was pretty bad.  But they have a new sign and we thought they had switched owners.  The $19.99 Valentine’s special was to split a 20 oz. sirloin and two sides (half a baked potato each and mixed vegetables) plus the salad bar.  They gave me a little steak knife but I couldn’t slice my meat!  Then I saw a cockroach on our oilcloth tablecloth next to the wall where I was sitting.  My stomach still felt upset from yesterday and after that I couldn’t eat at all.  We packed it up in a box and we were out of there in under an hour.  We gave our leftovers to the dogs.  Gill’s BBQ did not switch owners.  I’m sure we will return to Red Bay but I will never go into that restaurant again.

Monday, Feb. 16, RBD 16.  We spent the entire day out of our bus while it was in Bay 19.

We had to be out of the bus with the dogs from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm.  They are repairing the fiberglass and then it has to be repainted.  Dennis spent a lot of time hanging out in the Bays talking to guys and watching them work.  I sat in the lounge and read “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.  At night, Chris came over.  He brought our “Joe Buck” and it looks great.  It serves as a self standing TV tray with a little drawer and a magazine/book rack.  We did this instead of extending the counter in front of the computer.  (#15 resolved).  He took our old Panasonic 20” TV out of the box and removed the box.  He left the TV hooked up and propped up on the counter so I could watch my programs.  He disconnected the eye that causes the front room TV to change channels from the bedroom.  (#10 resolved.)  Chris is a very nice, hard working, family man.  He is very cheerful and funny.

Tuesday, Feb. 17, RBD 17.  Another long day out of our bus while it is in Bay 19.

Our new TV sits on a little table and is secured to the cupboard above. The old TV box has a new door that matches the other cupboard doors above the counter.

Our new TV sits on a little table and is secured to the cupboard above. The old TV box has a new door that matches the other cupboard doors above the counter.

While they painted the bus, we drove to Tupelo to buy our new TV.  At Best Buy we got a 32” Sony with 1080 pixels.  We bought a Play Station 3 that plays Blu-Ray DVDs with better definition.  We also got the “Sex in the City” movie in Blu-Ray.  We had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.

When we got back we drove over to the Tiffin Motorhomes manufacturing plant.  We went into the visitor’s center to get visitor badges and then we were able to look at the new ’09 Allegro Bus.  It was the 43’ tag axle model.  We did not like the floor plan or decorations anywhere near as much as our ’07 tag axle model.

Tiffin put the kitchen in front near the cab and the living area behind it, which seems counter intuitive to me.  The bathroom is at the rear behind the bedroom and the master closet is in the bathroom.  There is less storage in the bedroom in terms of cupboards and drawers.  The bedroom length is shorter than ours.  The only new thing I liked is the new wider entrance door.  I would sacrifice some couch length on the passenger side of the living room to have that.

After looking at the new bus we walked over to the office and met Bob Tiffin.  We probably visited with him for twenty minutes.  We did not try to meet him when we first came here in July ’07 so this is the first time we’ve met him.  He is very affable and talkative.  His people have been in Red Bay for six generations.

In the evening Chris came over and installed our new TV.  He put up the cut down box that held the old TV and then set the new TV below it on the counter.  He will hang it tomorrow.  The box holds the Direct TV and the DVD player and has room for a second pair of TV ears.  (#9 resolved). Chris also moved Dennis’s desk over towards the aisle just enough to make room for a simple shelf that holds the printer.  We didn’t get the rest of the shelves built under the window by Dennis’s chair.  (#8 finished & part of #7).

Wednesday, Feb. 18, RBD 18.  Another half day with the bus in Bay 19.

From seven to eleven in the morning, we hung out around the lounge and waited.  The painting guy painted some scallop black where it should be red and we had to bring it back for them to repaint it.  The bus gets put in a bay with many heating lamps so I spent time sitting in the lounge reading.  When we got back to our site we made breakfast and for the rest of the day I rested.  (#1 finished). In the evening Chris installed the TV cabinet and secured the new TV. He put a hinged door on the new/old cupboard above. It matches the other cupboard doors with hinges that push up out of the way. We are very pleased.

Thursday, Feb. 19, RBD 19.  We take the bus to Custom RV

In the afternoon we drove the bus up the hill above Red Bay to Vina, the tiny town where Brannon has his work bays and offices.  He finished the installation of the fire extinguisher and installed the two new automatic windshield shades.  (#4 & 13 finished).

Friday, Feb. 20, Travel Day 1.  We leave Red Bay.

Yesterday I didn’t want to go out or do anything.  After being out of the bus and in the lounge for two and a half days I felt very tired and discombobulated and depressed.  We’ve been in Red Bay for nineteen days — almost two-thirds of a month.  The people here are very nice but Red Bay is not an uplifting place.  It isn’t pretty and there is nothing to do. The Allegro Campground is all gray gravel and gray buildings. It’s even more gray than Leisure Valley! Often it has been cold.

I feel broken — like I’m a well broken in RVer.  I didn’t fight Red Bay the way I did in July ’07 when we here for three weeks.  This time I didn’t hate it the way I did then.  Now I plod along. Red Bay is not a delightful place.  We got stuff done and for the most part we cooked and ate on the bus and put in our time and endured.  We got lots of stuff done. Of course I am very pleased with our new bedroom TV and our other excellent additions so I feel guilty about being depressed. Anyway, it is over and I’m glad to get out of here.

This morning I baked cinnamon biscuits in the oven to have with coffee.  It is sunny but very cold outside.  According to Dennis’s computer it is 19°.  Air temp is 25° and the mirror says 36° ICE.

Chris Berry came over this morning and installed the last bit of trim to hold the TV in place.  We accomplished all but #6, 11, 14, & 19 on our list.  Chris is a busy guy.  There just wasn’t enough time for him to implement the closet door storage idea (#6).  The idea of ear phones for the radio/CD sound system just isn’t worked out and it seems complicated (#11).  I really don’t need or want the desk in front of the passenger chair to be extended.  I don’t use it when we drive (#14).  And to put Co-Pilot on-line for the bus computer would involve adding another air card so we put that on hold (#19).  Dennis really wanted the windshield shades and I really wanted the BR TV so we both splurged and got what we wanted. Tiffin fit us into their schedule for all our maintenance needs so our time was definitely well spent.

We stopped to load up on water and then stopped at the office to pay our bill.  Then we drove down the street and stopped at Parade for fuel.  We left Red Bay at 9:45 am.  It was a sunny 45° day.  We took AL-19 to I-78 E. It is a country highway with fields and farms. As we whizzed by one driveway, I noticed a mailbox perched on a tall pole at my eyelevel — far above the convenient mailbox height. A clear sign attached to it said, “AIR MAIL”. I wish I could have gotten a photo of that!

From I-78 E, we switched to I-65 S near Birmingham.  Somewhere along the line we saw a dead alligator by the side of the road. It’s not often that we see alligator road kill…. After Birmingham, we stopped in the first Rest Stop we saw at 1:00 pm.  We passed through Montgomery and came to the first available Wal*Mart in Greenville, AL at 3:00 pm.  We traveled 250 miles, which is perfect.  We are probably 120 miles north of Pensacola, FL.  From Red Bay it is 660 miles to Tampa so 220 miles a day is enough.  From the Allegro Campground, we were in the bus for six hours exactly.

I feel tired and sleepy.  We are parked next to a field so we can put out our passenger slides.  We are on the entrance road so there is a lot of traffic going by.  This is not a large parking lot.  There is a sign by the entrance saying NO TRUCKS and two yellow metal arches that are 11’ high block the exits.  The entrance/exit is not blocked but we will have to turn around by driving through the lanes to go back out the same lane.

Chris Berry moved Dennis’s desk toward the aisle and then installed a shelf by the window to the left of his desk for the printer.  Now it is off the kitchen counter and near the floor by his desk.  It is totally inaccessible to me.  It will be tough to align special papers (like business cards) or load special papers like photo paper or greeting cards.  I didn’t want to move it but it does give us more kitchen counter space.

We are out of Red Bay but I feel very dispirited.  It occurs to me that we spend a great deal of time driving to places where we must be but wouldn’t necessarily choose to be and we spend many nights enroute in places like this that have no beauty and no appeal what so ever. I am overdue for spending a lengthy amount of time somewhere that I really like.

Saturday, Feb. 21, TD 2.  We enter Florida

We left our Wal*Mart parking lot in Greenville at seven this morning because with those truck barriers we were worried about parking congestion and being able to maneuver to turn around and leave on the same street.  We drove a few blocks to a Cracker Barrel that we had seen from the freeway exit yesterday.  They have RV parking.  By five after seven, we were inside for breakfast.

It was sunny and 48° when we left at eight and we drove 365 miles to Perry, FL. The drive was easy and we only made a few brief stops in Rest Areas.  At one we were approached by a big guy who said he was stranded with a broken truck and couldn’t pay for a tow truck.  We suspected it was a scam but he got twenty bucks out of Dennis.  We stopped at 3:00 pm so we were on the road for a long time — seven hours.  The freeways were all good but the scenery along the freeways is boring.  All you see are pinewoods.  It makes me sleepy.

The bridge over Escambia Bay provides a beautiful view of the water ways.

The bridge over Escambia Bay provides a beautiful view of the water ways.

The only unusual events along the way were when we came into Florida and got on I-10 E.  Just east of Pensacola, we crossed Escambia Bay.  It is beautiful.  Shortly after we crossed Blackwater River.  High on the bridge I saw the huge expanse of sparkling water and I saw a pelican.  I’ve had the blaz but I noticed it lifted immediately when I saw the water.

I believe this is the location of Mother’s famous train story about meeting Dad in Florida when he was working on plane designs with the military in 1942 or 1943.  (She came from New York City and the train was crowded with soldiers and the bathrooms were filthy.) I would like to see the famous white sands and the area in general and try to piece together her saga.  She had no mind for geography and never knew where she was.  She never said the name Pensacola but from the details of her story I deduce it was around there.  So it is disappointing to have to pass through so quickly.  Maybe we can come back and see more of the gulf coast along the Florida panhandle at another time.

We made it to Tuscaloosa and then turned south from I-10 onto FL-19 and FL-27 S.  This is a nice divided road but not an interstate.  The route is more direct towards Tampa and closer to the gulf so we felt we would see more.  Near exit 70 towards Niceville, we saw a great deal of smoke in the sky. It seemed to come from the west and we stayed under this cloud for about 15 minutes.

We stopped 25 miles south of Tuscaloosa in Perry at another Wal*Mart.  We parked by grass, sidewalk and fence on the side and put out the passenger side slides.  The temperature was 63° so it was pretty nice outside.  Not to slander Perry, but it looked like a poor town as we passed through and I feel a bit nervous parked here.  (I looked it up:  In 2000, Perry has a population of 6,847.  Median income for a household was 26K. About 28% of the population was below the poverty line.)

In the afternoon I called my brother, Jerry, and his wife, Marsha.  They live in St. Augustine and we will visit them later. They were with Marsha’s daughter’s family enjoying Disney World near Orlando with the grandkids.

Dennis was very tired.   After we walked the dogs, he laid down on the bed and we watched TV movies.  He had soup and I quick cooked a Bertollini mix of chicken, pasta and vegetables.

Somewhere around Tuscaloosa, we passed into Eastern Standard Time.  I keep the time in my log the same and then start with the new time on the following day.  So we turned off the lights at 10:30 EST but it was really still 9:30 CST for us.

Sunday, Feb. 22, TD 3.  We drive to Tampa.

At 11:30 pm last night, we were sound asleep when someone knocking on the door woke us up.  Dennis opened the passenger window.  He says it was a young man with a backpack who said he was homeless and hungry.  Dennis didn’t give him anything and then he sat and watched this guy knock on motorhome and car doors or stop people all over the parking lot.  Dennis says he zig-zagged like Margot, so maybe he is mentally unbalanced.  With hard times upon us we think there will be many more and we can’t support them all but I feel sorry for them.  We were so tired we went back to sleep quickly and the rest of the night was quiet.

It is 7:00 EST and my computer says it is 42°.  We have 190 miles to go to Happy Traveler Park RV in Thonotosassa, just north of Tampa.  I warned them that we must arrive a day earlier than our reservation and they are going to squeeze us in.  But I worry that it will be under pine trees and our satellite will be blocked.  Today is the Academy Awards so I hope we get settled quickly so that I can watch it without aggravation.

We left the Wal*Mart parking lot in Perry at 7:37 am.  We chose to stay on FL-19 and FL-27 S, which is a major divided road and it was excellent with little traffic.  We had to slow from 65 mph to 55 or 45 mph when passing through towns.  In a town called Withlacoochee we saw parallel parking for RVs along the side of the road and we spotted a restaurant, Hickory Island Lounge.  We stopped and ate at Hickory Island Coffee Shop and Bakery.  It was passable.  Coffee was served with our choice of Coffee Mate flavors, Amaretto, Irish Crème, and Cinnamon Vanilla — but no half ‘n half.  I chose Amaretto and couldn’t drink it — how to ruin coffee….

We continued south on FL-27 and then had to leave it to go east to I-75 to arrive in Thonotosassa.  Co-Pilot directed us to turn east on FL-98, which would have led us SE to I-75.  But it immediately turned us south on FL-598, a toll road!  Too late, it put up a toll road warning and we had to pay $4.00 and then worry about how to get off and get over to I-78 before the next tollbooth.  Thanks, Co-Pilot.  (Many toll roads charge by the axle so when you have a total of five, that gets expensive.) I got us off on FL-578 E and took FL-41 S to FL-52 E, which brought us to I-75.  We arrived at Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa at 12:18 pm.

We aren’t pleased with the park and we are tired and cross and nervous.  As I knew, there are many trees and it is tight.  I requested a site that hopefully will have satellite access so we are at the back of the park in a back-in site.  Backing in was difficult and after Dennis got into position I could hear the KingDome searching and I was pissed.  We were as far back as we could go and facing south where trees across the lane could block the southern sky.  But then it located and locked in so we calmed down.  Otherwise, we would have been in big turmoil.  I’ve programmed the Academy Awards to record and I plan to stay up to watch.  Of course we no longer have the early advantage that we enjoyed in Mountain and Central Time as we watched the eastern TV channels.  Now, we have to watch them in real time — late.

Right now at 2:47 pm it is 77° outside.  Because many people here are long term and the sites are tight there are many nearby people and dogs. That means if windows are open our dogs will be barking.  So we’re closed up and running A/C.  However, we heard an odd noise and we think the zone 2 heat pump is frozen.  Oh great! We just left Red Bay where something like this could have been fixed if it had gone on the fritz a few days sooner.

Tomorrow morning we will go find the Moffitt hospital and then in the afternoon Dennis will get his tests done before his appointment with Dr. Weber on Tuesday.

NOTE: For other views of and information about Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc., the Allegro Campground, and Red Bay, AL see letters and photos from July ’07:

A Slow Week in the Allegro Campground
July 9, 2007

Red Bay, AL, Day Eleven in Allegro Campgroun, #5

One month, 25 days in our bus.


Red Bay is a tiny town and there is little to do. Tiffin Motor Homes, Inc. must be one of the larger employees here and they take the entire week off as a July fourth holiday. So not only is Red Bay slow, but the Allegro Campground is three-fourths empty. However, some of the employees choose to work this week so that they can take off later for hunting season.

Red Bay is also hot, often pushing close to 100º on a sunny day and still in the high eighties on an overcast day. It is humid also. The result is that we find it difficult to push ourselves to go out and explore or do much of anything. We’ve become computer geeks and TV couch potatoes. The dogs get their walks and that’s about it. We could make an all day outing in the car but often we are waiting to hear from a service person and also the heat does not encourage exploration.


A service guy came around yesterday to look at our service requests. He said we would be scheduled for next week but he would try to squeeze us in this week. We were up in the air. We didn’t know if we had to stay here all week. We didn’t know if we could go somewhere. What if they come by to schedule us? We decide that we had better not leave the campground.

Sure enough, about 2:00 PM a service man pulled up in a red Tiffin pickup truck. He told us to take our bus to Bay #5. He said that they were ready to look at it. Dennis leaped into action. He told me to hurry and put in the slides. He went outside to unhook power and water and sewer. I was startled. I really didn’t expect them to come around.

It was very hot. We needed to keep ourselves and the dogs cool. We were told we could wait in the Tiffin lounge. The technician told us that if we wanted to go somewhere, he would park our bus outside the bay when he was finished. He would leave us a note if they needed us to bring it back in the morning. So we decided to get out and take the dogs for a drive.

When we returned we found our bus parked outside of the bay but there was no note. What did that mean? They closed at 3:00 PM so they only had an hour to work on it. Dennis decided that we better get up early and bring the bus back to the bay at 8:00 AM. I thought that was a big effort for nothing because they didn’t tell us to return and wouldn’t expect us. But Dennis didn’t want to be late — just in case.


In the morning Dennis told me to get ready to move the bus. I said, “No. That’s a waste of effort. We don’t know if they’re expecting us.” I walked over to the bay and came back with information. I found Dennis busy unhooking. “The Spartan Smart Wheel is no good,” I told him. “The cellenoid is destroyed. They are sending away for a part. It will be flown in. They don’t need us over there today.”

We decided to leave the dogs in the A/C bus and make an expedition to Florence. It was a pretty drive but it took an hour and a half to drive forty miles on the county highways. Surprisingly, it took another hour to find a decent breakfast place. Go figure. Maybe people don’t go out to eat as frequently as we do in the Bay Area. We had breakfast at Shoney’s and I bought some nice garlic rolls there. It was worth the outing however and we were able to pick up our prescription drugs from RiteAid for the next month.

The dogs were glad to see us return. Margot is very excitable and dominent. I sat on the couch and she got on my lap. She growled at Rudi as if to say, “Get away. I own them. If you get on the couch I will bite you.”

Rudi is so easy going. He looked at her as if to say, “Can I stand up and put my paws on the couch to say “hi?”

Margot said, “NO!” but I said yes. I put him on my lap.

Later, we met our neighbors, Mary and Steve. They have a little white dog like ours named Shotsie. They also have an African gray parrot named Max. Mary invited us inside to see their identical bus. She gave me lots of ideas for custom improvements. Dennis told me to make a list and he arranged for Charles Coburn to come by after work to talk about doing some custom cabinet work for us. Tiffin allows their workers to do custom work after hours.


This was a holiday and no one was around except for we campers. It was very hot and there was little activity here. Dennis asked if wanted to go somewhere but I felt that it was too hot to go out. I didn’t feel motivated to drive to Muscle Shoals to watch a fireworks celebration. We had no energy. We just hid out in our A/C bus and watched movies.

I groomed the dogs and watched “The Guardian.” Dennis made a plan to talk to the Service Manager. He wanted changes made to the closet similar to what they have done in the new 2008 bus. We had hotdogs and corn on the cob for dinner but we ate them inside because so far we have no grill and no camp chairs and it was too hot anyway. I think I watched three movies in all and got a big headache. In the evening we never heard any firecrackers or fireworks.


A technician came to our bus and installed a new Spartan Smart Wheel. Now our windshield wipers work and cruise control. We didn’t have to move our bus to a service bay. That was the good news.

The bad news is that we have an oil leak on the tag axle. The bearings must be replaced. To quote Dennis, “We can’t drive. The bearing is fried and the plastic cap is melted.” Naturally it can’t be fixed until next week. It’s on a Spartan warranty and Spartan has given permission to let a local company fix it but he’s on vacation this week. Hopefully Chris at Bay Diesel & AIC can work on it next week. Meanwhile we cannot drive the bus. This is a recall issue and we tried to discover if our VIN number was involved before we got the bus. We thought we were OK but we are not. A number of others have the same problem. I feel like we will never get out of Red Bay.

There other reasons to keep us as well. Dennis requested that our closet be reconfigured like the newer ’08 Allegro Bus. Tiffin does this gratis upon request. There are two ahead of us but now we are in line and waiting. The closet remodel is a warranty item because it is a bad design. The main electronic panel will be turned so that there be more room for clothes.

In addition we’ve come up with a to-do list for the woodworking guy, Charles. Steve and Mary showed us all the custom cabinet improvements they’ve done in their bus and we added their excellent ideas to our list.

We went across the street to La Estancia for a Mexican dinner and were pleasantly surprised. It was pretty good.


We talked to Charles and went over everything on our list. Dennis has a computer table that will be expanded with a slide-out tabletop. My dining table will become more of a desk with a wider counter and drawers over the cupboards. Storage under the sink will be expanded with a slide-out drawer and higher cupboard doors to accommodate a full size kitchen trash bin. We are having extra lights, towel racks, and robe hooks installed. The list is long.

It is overcast and cooler. We took the dogs for a walk around the park and the neighborhood block. We discovered a large hardware store and bought a few little items we’ve been needing.


Saturday morning I made a huge mistake. Across the street is a small place called Marty’s Restaurant. I asked Dennis if he would like to try it for breakfast. He answered that he didn’t think it had a good reputation. But what the heck. How can you ruin breakfast, right? Well, it was the worst, ever. I think they were mad that we walked in to bother them. After some delay, we were presented with a cold piece of sliced cheese set on top of cold fried eggs and served with cold, dry toast. I can definitely say that this was a memorable meal.

Since it was Saturday, we knew for sure that there would be no service at the bays, so we didn’t need to sit around and wait. I suggested that we drive to Tupelo. It’s a larger city than Florence and half the distance is freeway. For shopping, it offers two Wal*Mart Supercenters. I suggested that maybe we could visit the Natchez Trace Visitor’s Center.

“I’m going to tell all your friends you’re shopping at Wal*Mart,” Dennis teased.

“I’ve been reduced to Wal*Mart. Where’s Stanford Shopping Center when you need it?”

“Far, far away.”

Tupelo turned out to be a good idea. We bought a few things to help us cook: cookie sheet, meatloaf dish, baking dish and a pizza pan. We had a nice lunch at Shoney’s. And we found a Starbucks where I was able to buy my favorite pound of French Roast beans. We loved the Natchez Trace Visitor’s Center. Now we want to drive the whole length of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Our time in the visitor center made us realize that we set out to see fascinating places that are full of history and scenery. But much of the time we’ve been sidetracked. We haven’t chosen our own destination yet. Maybe we don’t need to hurry home. What’s the deadline?


This morning we saw men working on Steve’s bus. Dennis said that Steve is protecting his cap, (the front end) from nicks and scratches. He took his mug of coffee and went outside to join others watching the process. He returned to say that it looks like an amazing process. He thought we should get one.

I don’t know when we’re going to get out of here. It doesn’t seem like there is any hurry anymore. I was thinking that we should hurry home but now we are re-thinking. We can visit family in Utah and then go north to catch the good August weather in Idaho and Montana before it gets too cold. Then we can go see family in Washington and then drop south to California.

Is our newfound freedom going to our head? What’s on the list for Monday? We have to see Wade and make sure we’re on the list to get the closet changed around. We have to see Chris at Bay Diesel and find out when we can replay the tag axle bearings. We have to talk to Charles and see how long it will take for him to do all of this custom work. We have to see Trevor about making that ottoman and doing the leather upholstery cover.

I wonder. Is this freedom or are we being held hostage here in Red Bay with all these unexpected repairs and additions. Maybe, it’s all in how you look at it.

Dogs Don’t Talk
May 25, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day Four at the US Space & Rocket Center RV Campground, #6

Day Ten in our bus.


Get Away from the controls_sm

Dateline Friday, May 25, 2007, Huntsville, AL.

Elsa and Dennis Walton, owners of the infamous hijacker dogs, Rudi and Margot, currently have their Tiffin Allegro Bus parked next to the Winnebago Vectra that was destroyed by their dogs last Monday. Relations between the two neighbors was strained on Monday and Tuesday.

However, insurance adjusters did their magic and now the two couples are able to visit and discuss the event. Roy is a retired Boeing executive and Wanda is a retired nurse.

Adjustors have looked at the damage and insurance has agreed to give the Cantrels a rental bus so that they can continue their trip. It will take months to order parts and repair the Vectra. Estimates for repairs run upwards of $38,000 or more. Rental costs for a bus will add another $10,000. to total costs.

Although Rudi and Margot appeared to be shocked immediately after the crash, they have apparently agreed to keep their story to themselves. When questioned as to how and why the incident occurred, all they would say is “dog-gone.”

The only other witness to the accident was a couple who happened to be at home in their RV at the campsite when the accident occurred. They heard the crash and came out to find out what happened. Elsa was clearly distraught and they offered her sympathy and care. After some talk they invited the Waltons to dinner for that evening. They said they wanted the couple to have a good first night in their first RV park in their new bus. Ross and Cindy Peatfield of Boston, MA served the Waltons a delicious steak dinner in their 2000 Winnebago bus. They did much to make the Waltons feel better about the terrible disastor caused by their dogs.

The Bankston people and the insurance people saw humor in the incident. “I’d put those dogs under arrest,” said Mr. Bankston, owner of Bankston Motor Homes in Huntsville. Bankston will handle the repairs to the injured Winnebago bus.

Jeff Aber, insurance agent for Dennis Walton said, “I thought it was a big German Shepherd. How could two little dogs cause this much damage?”

“I always leave my dog in the truck with the engine running,” said a sympathetic Bankston employee to Elsa.

James, the Bankston technician, was philosophical. “You might have prevented the Vectra owners from being in a terrible crash on the road over the long holiday. Who knows? Look at the bright side. It’s only property damage. That truck could have killed someone sitting in the campsite.”

Nevertheless, the future of the two dogs is in some doubt. “They currently live under a dark shadow,” said Elsa. “They may be under motorhome arrest for the remainder of their lives.” However, the owner of the two accused Cotons accepts her share of blame. “I was very nervous when we moved the bus. I wanted to be sure everything went right. The dogs picked up on my frame of mind. When I left them in the car alone they got agitated. I should have turned off the motor and I should not have let myself feel so hurried.”

The truck has been removed. It sustained $3,000 in damage. Together with the insurance claim, it was traded in for a 2007 Honda CRV EX-L with GPS and Moonroof. The Waltons plan to use this vehicle as a tow car for their new Allegro bus. The dogs are not allowed to be in the car when the engine is running. And when Margot jumps on the driver’s seat of the bus she is chastised by Dennis. “Get down! You are not allowed to drive this bus.”

Elsa has nightmares that Margot will jump on the parking brake and the bus will roll down a hill and crash into a ravine. She plans to cover the panel of bus levers to the left of the driver’s seat with a plastic box turned upside down. “All RVers tell stories about some accident that occurs on the first day in their new RV. But the damage is always to their own RV. The refrigerator door pops open and orange juice spills out or a high branch clips something off the roof. But they don’t destroy someone else’s RV. This is rediculous. It’s over the top. It’s off the charts.”

Dennis, a sub-contractor and the owner of a masonry construction company was remarkably sanguine. His business has caused him to survive many disastors. He was calm and philosophical and only reflected that his insurance rates would skyrocket next year. “This story beats them all,” he comforts his wife. “You’ll have great articles to write for the American Coton Quarterly and for the Tiffin RV Network.”

“After this, I don’t think Coton owners are going to want to be related to Rudi and Margot — or me!” she replied. “As for the Tiffin RV people? They are going to write us off as a menace to RV parks everywhere.”

Under House Arrest
May 22, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day One at the US Space & Rocket Center RV Campground, #6

Day Seven in our bus.

Headline_medsmDateline Monday, May 21, 2007, Huntsville, AL.
Two small dogs, each weighing less than thirteen pounds, are being held for questioning after they hijacked a Ford 250 turbo diesel pickup truck from their owners, Elsa and Dennis Walton. The hijack occurred at approximately 10:45 AM in the RV Campground next to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at One Tranquility Base in Huntsville, Alabama. The Cotons de Tulear are accused of driving the truck backwards for approximately 100 yards. It crashed into the front end of a 2005 Winnebago bus.

The Waltons arrived in Huntsville five days ago after driving across country in the pickup truck packed with the dogs and some of their household goods. They traveled from Los Altos, CA to purchase a new motor home from Bankston Motor Homes in Huntsville. They stayed in the Bankston sales lot while they learned how to handle their new 42 foot diesel pusher, an Allegro Bus built by Tiffin Motor Homes of Red Bay, AL.

On Monday the Waltons secured reservations at a nearby RV campground next to the US Space and Rocket Museum off I-565. A Bankston service technician helped them negotiate their first move into their first RV camp. James Wallace of Bankston led the caravan in his truck. Dennis Walton followed driving the new bus. Elsa Walton followed driving the Ford pickup truck. All three stopped in the driveway of the campground to determine in which campsite the bus was to be parked.

As this was their first camp spot it was felt that a “pull-through” campsite would be preferable because it would be easier to pull in and pull out of the campsite. The campground director was not present but she instructed Elsa to speak to the campers in site number 23 and ask if they planned to move into site number 6. If not, then the Waltons had permission to go into number 6, a pull-through site.

All three drivers left their engines running as they walked through the campground in search of number 23. A few hundred yards away from their vehicles they heard a crash. They turned and saw the Ford truck facing in the opposite direction about a hundred yards from the position where it was left parked behind the Walton’s bus. The truck had crashed into a bus parked in site number 5.

“How could this happen?” said Dennis Walton. “It’s impossible. You can’t take the truck out of Park without stepping on the brake.” He asked his wife if she’d left the truck in Reverse.

“No,” she replied. “I was going forward. I had no reason to go in reverse. If I had inadvertently put the gear in Reverse the truck would have moved backwards immediately. I was out of the truck for two or three minutes before it began to move. I definitely left it in Park.”

Elsa left the truck parked behind the Walton’s new bus on the campground road facing east. The truck backed up on the road and around a curve in a west and north-west direction. It then left the road and followed the downward slope of the land making a complete half circle and heading east — backwards. Passing between many trees it came to a stop after sheering off the front end of a 2005 Winnebago Vectra bus. The bus was parked facing north. The east bound rear end of the truck grazed the front end of the bus and tore off the fiberglass cap on the front end. It dented the fuel tank of the generator and brought the rear view mirrors to the ground.

“This is one for the books,” said James, the Bankston technician.

“I am dumbfounded,” said Dennis.

“Oh what are the poor owners going to say?” asked Elsa.

The dogs were hustled into the Walton’s new bus and are currently under house arrest. Margot is the alleged perpetrator who jumped on the brake. Rudi is the alleged perpetrator who leaned on the gear shift and attempted to steer the truck backwards. The two worked as partners to pull off the heist.

Bankston people copied the VIN number of the injured Vectra bus and traced the owners who were contacted by cell phone and brought back to the campground. Roy and Wanda Cantrell, recently of Redondo Beach, CA are fulltime RVers who live in their bus. They are in town to visit their grandchildren. They have a grand tour planned for the summer with their oldest grandson. They were devastated that their plans had to be cancelled.


We Are All Systems Go For Launch
May 19, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day Four at the Bankston Motor Homes Sales Lot.

Day Four in our bus.

DennisHomework_sm Saturday, May 19.  WE LEARN HOW TO MAINTAIN OUR NEW HOME.

Every day we learn more about how to live on this bus. It is like operating our own city. We control our own water, electricity, gas, heating and cooling, and garbage. All our utilities are in the basement of the bus — underneath the floor where we live. It is like living in a highly technical satellite in space. It is so much more sophisticated than our little house on Frontero Ave. that was built in the fifties. We have to learn about amps and fuses and batteries. We have to change filters and check coolant levels.

We have something called AquaHot that provides us with hot water.  Inside, the coach has a thermostat that controls three zones: one in the living area, one in the hall/bath area and one in the bedroom.  There are settings for each zone.  For example I can set the LR to 72 degrees and the BR to 69 degrees if I want.  And there are modes.  Do you want OFF, or heat or cool by electricity, or heat or cool by gas and electricity?  We had no A/C at Frontero and we had one thermostat that controlled the heat for a 3BR 1.5BA house.  There were two zones: the LR was cold, cold, cold and the BRs were hot, hot, hot.  And the forced air was very noisy.  This system is so quiet you don’t know it is running.

On Friday, May 18th, we walked across the street to sit with Ray Cyree and we signed the paperwork.  Dennis made me write a check for the balance of our down-payment, $44,000. I was so nervous I misspelled and wrote fourty-four. So much for the English Lit. major. Now we officially own our 42′ Allegro Bus.  We went out to dinner — at the Red Lobster again, but this time we were less tired.  We celebrated properly with a touristy lobster and shrimp dinner.

The next day we looked at the briefcase of papers we must study to manage these behemoth. There are all these controls that tell us about our tanks.  Do we have enough in the fresh water tank?  (You want this to be full.) Is the gray water (used, soapy) tank full?  Is the black water (you know what) tank full?  (You want these to be not full.) Learning how to dump and clean these last two tanks is quite an operation.  We have automatic awnings that go over the patio area and we have a keyless (code) entry and we have storage on pull-out slides in the basement.  On the roof is a King Dome in-motion satellite dish (for TV) and two solar panels.  (One keeps the battery charged for the residential refrigerator and the other helps to charge the other batteries.)

I was asked about our Internet system.  Dennis has a Dell laptop that is wireless.  We have a wireless Canon printer.  We have a Novatel Air Card supported by Verizon and a Kyocera router that supports the air card so that we are both wireless to it.  I have an Apple AirPort wi-fi card installed in my G5.  In effect, we have our own wireless system.  We named it “The Bus.”  (We don’t have to park near a Starbucks to get on the Internet.)

We are now completely unpacked and settled in.  All systems are go and all my worries have been set aside.  The shower is excellent.  The toilet is fine.  The washer and dryer are terrific.  There is enough room for my clothes.  I can still see my TV programs and I still have my computer and Internet access.  We’ve made breakfast and used the propane stove burner and the microwave. In short — we are comfortable.

But life doesn’t slow down.  On Saturday, May 19th we went to a Huntsville Honda dealer and made a deal to trade in Dennis’s Ford 250 diesel truck for a new Honda CRV, EX-L.  Our sales rep, Ann Lawrence, will look for one that is fully loaded with all the bells and whistles — GPS system and moon window, 4-wheel drive, etc.  (The bus is black and gray with some dark black-brown (taupe?) so of course we must have a silver Honda.  By the middle of next week we should be set with our tow car.

A word about Huntsville and/or Alabama.  Wow.  I love southern hospitality.  These folks are on a different planet from California.  They walk slow and they talk slow.  All waiters and waitresses stop to chit-chat with the people at their tables.  They search for commonality or tell stories.  Everyone says sir or ma’am to everyone else all the time.  Young people LEAP to open doors.  One apologized for not getting there soon enough.  Ray Cyree has made us feel very welcome and so has Bankston Motor Homes.  I am flabbergasted.  Yes, the food is fattening and everyone here agrees that most people are overweight.  But here’s an odd thing.  Old men and women who look like they should be cranky — aren’t.  They walk slow and smile and look — pleasant!  What’s in the water here?

We are happy and excited.  Mikey likes it.  We would like to make time to see more of the Tennessee Valley and the mountains also.  But first, off to St. Augustine, FL.  My brother Jerry is recovering from open heart surgery and we are anxious to visit him and his wife, Marsha.

Can you see Rudi looking out the door? Curtains are pulled across the front window to keep the bus cool and for privacy. The awnings could be out but are not. Bankston Trailer Lot, Huntsville, AL.  5/20/07

Can you see Rudi looking out the door? Curtains are pulled across the front window to keep the bus cool and for privacy. The awnings could be out but are not. Bankston Trailer Lot, Huntsville, AL. 5/20/07


Hooray! Hooray! We’re in our new Bus.
May 18, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day Two at the Bankston Motor Homes, Sales Lot

Day Two in our bus.

ElsaComputerTable_smThursday, May 17.  WE MOVE INTO OUR NEW HOME.

Hooray!  We’re in our bus!  We slept here last night and today we’ve unpacked a lot of stuff from the truck.  We’re getting settled in.  AND I’ve got my own computer and I can type on a regular keyboard — much easier than trying to type on Dennis’s laptop.  AND my wireless Internet is up and running.  (It’s named “The Bus”).

Dennis has driven his new bus. He acts like he’s driven it all his life. No problems with highways or freeways. We went into a big parking lot and Ray had him practice backing up. With the rear view cameras projected on the computer monitor installed on the dashboard, it is not too bad. I practiced also and learned to drive the bus in circles around the parking lot. I didn’t take it out in traffic though!

We are parked in the Bankston RV lot in Huntsville, AL and we will stay here until Monday morning.  They are the soul of southern hospitality and have done everything for us to help us feel at home in our new coach.  We signed up for Direct TV so last night I was able to watch “Lost” while lying in bed just as I would at home.  (There are three TVs and the living area has 3 remotes: Local TV, Satellite Direct TV, and Surround Sound.  It seems very complicated at the moment.)

Our numbers air bed is very soft and comfortable.  For the first time since we left the water bed, Dennis doesn’t have a backache and he doesn’t feel all achy.  I actually feel happy in our new home.  It is new and beautiful and comfortable.  The new smells from chemicals used in making the bus needs to be aired away — so we’ve had every window open since we took possession.  It isn’t bad, but it is there and I’m hoping it will go away after awhile.

The air here is beautiful.  There was a rain Wednesday night and it cleared out the “smog” from the fires in Georgia and Florida.  There is a “cold” front so at night it’s been about 55 degrees and right now at 4:30 PM it is 80 degrees.  There is a wonderful, cool breeze and the air is “soft” with a wonderful feel to it.  The breeze is lovely and blows through our coach and we have wonderful cross ventilation.

Dennis has his computer center at the little computer table behind the driver’s seat.  I have my computer center at the cantilevered dining table.  I sit with my back to the wall (& slide out window) and face the driver’s seat.  We placed the wireless printer on top of the kitchen counter next to the couch.  It is perfect!

Yesterday a woman from Georgia, Gwen, showed me how to stow some things.  She told me about cupboard liner paper that grips the things that sit on it.  This morning we went out for breakfast (Denny’s) and then went to this gigantic Target where we bought groceries and household supplies.  I bought this stuff that looks like foam or also looks like waffle fabric.  It nails down things that sit out on a table or counter.  I have it under the dog’s food bowl and under my keyboard, etc.  I also put it in the cupboards for the dishes.

We want to be very shipshape and neat and not leave a lot of stuff sitting out because it is easy to look junkie.  So we are putting the toaster and coffeepot off the counter and into cupboards when we’re not using them.  My G5 sits under the dining table and is hardly noticeable.  I put my monitor down on a non skid bathmat on the desk when we travel so it won’t get hurt.

The dogs are adjusting.  They are happy to have some activity and not be in the truck riding all day.  They stick close to the bus and they haven’t tried to run away.  Already they know this is home.

If the Ford Don’t Break I’m Alabamy Bound
May 16, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day One at the Bankston Motor Homes, Sales Lot

Day One in our bus.

MovingIntoBus_smThursday, May 10. We drive to Burbank for doctor appointments at USC.

We left Los Altos on Wednesday, May 9th. Finally we are on the road in Dennis’s Ford 250 pickup truck with the new camper shell installed. We drove with the dogs and some of our goods from Los Altos in the San Francisco Bay Area to Burbank, CA in the Los Angeles area for doctor’s visits. We stopped in Burbank at the Holiday Inn so that Dennis could have a CT scan and see his cancer doctor at USC Norris Cancer Research Center in Los Angeles. Dennis got a clean bill of health and we made plans to see Dr. Weber next November in his new research facility in Tampa, FL.

Tuesday, May 15. We drive to Huntsville, AL.

We’re Alabamy bound.  (“If the train don’t stop and turn around, I’m Alabamy bound, I’m Alabamy bound.” — a ragtime melody composed by Robert Hoffman in 1909 and sung with many versions and by many artists as rag, folk song, blues, old-time, and jazz.)

Immediately after seeing Dr. Weber, we turned eastward to Huntsville, AL. We left LA and drove to Kingman, AR on Friday the 11th . On Saturday the 12th we drove to Albuquerque, NM where we found time to see Old Town and have dinner in the oldest private residence in the city. On Sunday the 13th we drove to Amarillo, TX and on Monday the 14th we made it to Clarksville, AR. On Tuesday the 15th we arrived in Huntsville, AL and stayed in our last motel.

Wednesday, May 16. We meet Ray Cyree at Bankston Motor Homes.

On Wednesday morning we finally got to go to Bankston Motor Homes to meet our salesman, Ray Cyree, and to see our new bus. Ray had it hooked up to power and water and told us to move into our new home that very day. We felt very shy and hesitant. Is it really okay to move into this strange new vehicle? We haven’t even paid for it yet. Is it really okay to sleep in the sales lot? Won’t we be a nuisance? We barely know how to hook up the water and turn on the tap. Can we turn on the electric lights? We brought in sheets and towels and the stuff we would bring into a motel.