Tag Archives: Huntsville

This Wonderful Tennessee Valley
June 4, 2007

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

Day Twenty in our bus.

Elsa & Rudi_smMonday, June 4. We wait for a tow kit.

Our tow kit arrived but then we had to make an appointment for it to be installed.  Bankston is busy.  Right now we are waiting for it to be installed — on June 7th — this Thursday.  Meanwhile we have extra time on our hands….

Originally we were scheduled to leave this park on the Thursday before Memorial Weekend.  Thank goodness, there was a cancellation and we were able to stay.  Otherwise we would have had to go back to the Bankston trailer sales lot.  We much prefer the green lawns and trees here at the Space Park.

The US Space and Rocket Center is a most remarkable place and I do heartily recommend the Campground here to other RVers.  It is located at One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805.  It sits just above I-565 at exit 15 for Sparkman Ave.  It is quiet and spacious with big green lawns and lovely tall trees scattered about.  The personnel are very nice and we feel very much at home here.  http://www.rvparkreviews.com/regions/Alabama/Huntsville.html

In terms of choosing an RV park or an RV space, if you like to watch TV at night, you have to think like an RVer.   For TV reception, we have a King Dome in-motion satellite receiver on our roof.  This means we don’t want trees directly overhead that might block reception, but we do want trees nearby to provide shade and scenery.  Picky, huh?  We have good reception here and we like the spacious views.  (I am slightly claustraphopic and I don’t like to feel closed in. I prefer views.)

On average most spaces are sixty feet apart — or more.  There are huge grassy fields all around us and some empty roads and dirt trails that are perfect for walking and running the dogs.  Marriott’s Hotel is next door and the Space and Rocket Center next to that — all within walking distance.  (We dressed up a bit and walked over to Marriott’s one night for dinner.)  From our point of view the location is very handy because it is near Bankston and also very near all kinds of necessary shopping.  It’s been ideal.  (Marriott)

Insurance provided a rental bus for our neighbors, Roy and Wanda, and we watched as they settled into their new 40’ Monaco.  We waved goodbye as they were finally able to leave to begin their vacation with their grandson.  They took a bad hit like champs.  Very game people.  We began to feel less tired and more cheerful.  Symptoms of stress began to drop away. Our second week here we felt more comfortable in our bus.  We began to relax and develop some routines.

We started to take the dogs for a long walk early (about seven) before the heat of the day.  Giving two-year-old Margot a chance to work off all that nervous energy is so good for her.  We take her on the lawn and she runs in circles to the full extent of her 20’ extended leash.  She is like an undisciplined horse on a lunge line.  Round and round she goes but more in a figure eight pattern.  At a mature four years old, Rudi is more content to trot along.  Sometimes if we feel we are far enough away from people and roads and other dogs, we let them loose for a few minutes.  It is surprising.  They run but they don’t go much beyond thirty feet.  They are tied to an invisible umbilical cord.  However, we don’t let them run free for more than a few minutes.  It is a brief, calculated gamble between their need to run freely and our need to keep them safe.

The US Space and Rocket Center is a gigantic indoor and outdoor museum. http://www.spacecamp.com/ I’ve discovered that it is one of the most comprehensive US manned space flight hardware museums in the world.  NASA’s Official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Space Flight Center is here.  The Space Center offers programs for kids and adults such as Space Camp and Aviation Challenge and Leadership.  Every day we see teams of kids around the area.  Some are standing on top of a tall platform getting ready to take some kind of zip line to the ground.  Many are shooting off small rockets on the lawn in front of our RV Park.  It is not particularly noisy and it is great fun to watch them.  They are each so excited to shoot off the rocket that they made.  (Rocket debris is evident everywhere for miles around.  Rudi and Margot have turned gray from running around here.)  The museum is gigantic.  We spent two hours looking at all the exhibits and an hour at an IMAX movie, “Mars” about sending the geology rovers to Mars.

Tuesday, May 29. We explore Decatur, AL.

“I am tremendously impressed with this wonderful Tennessee Valley.” — FDR 1933 Decatur visit.

On Tuesday, May 29th we took the dogs and drove our new Honda 20 miles east to Decatur.  We spent a wonderful afternoon at a big grassy park right next to the Tennessee River.  It was a lovely, breezy day.  From all of the TVA dams placed along its course, the river is very wide and impressive at this location.  It is more like a lake than a river.

Rhodes Ferry Park has a path along the edge of the river with benches placed at intervals under shady trees.  Between the river and the path is a railroad track.  We sat on a bench with the dogs to enjoy the shade and the breeze and the wonderful river view.  We speculated that the tracks must be out of use.  No sooner said, than we heard a train whistle.  A freight train slowly approached as we hastily pulled in extended leashes and held the dogs in our laps.  We watched amazed as the engineer waved to us and passed within fifteen to twenty feet in front of us!

What’s the chance of that happening in California?  There would be a fence for sure — or a law suit from a railroad death!  Do we in CA live in some kind of la la Disney World where we have to be protected?  Are people in AL more grounded in reality?  Is it a population density issue?  I don’t know.

We found a cement ramp that led down to the river.  It stopped about three feet above the level of the river, which gave us a short, rocky beach.  We sat on boulders and the dogs roamed to the extent of their leashes.  Soon they were balancing on rocks and in the branches of a large fallen tree that was lying half in the water.  Once wet, they took to wading through the shallow waters.  They had a terrific time.

We did too.  At five o’clock we saw umbrellas flapping in the breeze on the patio facing the rivers by the edge of the park.  Just opening, they welcomed our dogs and we had a marvelous dinner at the Market Street Café and Deli.  It turned out to be a popular place and soon we were entertained by the Tuesday night Decatur dinner crowd.  I was a happy woman.

Wednesday, May 30. We visit Old Town in Huntsville, AL.

This past week has been hot and muggy and the skies have been gray from the Georgia fires for the last few days.  It is not tempting to go out.  However on Wednesday morning we finally drove into downtown Huntsville and explored the Old Town.  It is impressive with many refurbished mansions identified by signs.  The city is more than 200 years old.  We took a fascinating and extensive tour at the Alabama Constitution Village (est. 1819) and came away impressed with the dedication of the docents who showed us through the houses and business establishments of this antique village where the Alabama State constitution was written.  We also enjoyed wandering through Harrison Brothers Hardware Store Museum.

Saturday, June 2. We visit the Joe Wheeler Dam and State Park.

With smoky gray, overcast skies, Saturday did not beckon much either.  However, for the length of time we’ve been here, we haven’t done much in terms of exploring the area.  I guess we felt bus-bound so we thought we should make an effort.  We headed west on I-75, a two-lane suburban-rural road that passes through a number of small towns.  We wanted to see more of the Tennessee River so we aimed for the Joe Wheeler Dam and State Park.

Before the dam/bridge, we paused to drive through the RV Park.  It is a pleasant, leafy area located above the river.  There are 116 sites and they looked doable for our 42’ bus but were a little narrow and would be a challenge for us — not that we plan to move there!  Then we drove across the dam to the south side of the river and walked the dogs around the paths overlooking the dam.

Completed in 1936, Wheeler Dam is the first of eight dams that TVA (created by FDR in 1933) constructed on the Tennessee River.  Behind the dam (right) to the east is Wheeler Lake and in front of it is Wilson Lake.  At this juncture a tributary, the Elk River, contributes in large part to the Wheeler reservoir.  Before the dams were built, Muscle Shoals was a stretch of shallow rapids that made navigation impossible.  The dams allow barge traffic to navigate up and down the river. http://www2.una.edu/geography/tn_web/Dams/Wheeler.html

We drove around the state park and saw marvelous brick “cabins” lined up with a view of the river.  They struck me as great luxury for a cabin.  For families with small children or for combined families, this is a wonderful way to have a holiday where there is recreation and convenience available for all requirements.    www.JoeWheelerStatePark.com

Driving eastward back towards Decatur on ALT I-72 we stopped to drive through “Historic Courtland” and further on we stopped to look at the home of Joe Wheeler.  Who was this famous name of dams and parks and lakes?  He was a Tennessee Confederate General.  I am impressed with the resume of his daughter, Annie Wheeler.

RAIN!  Huntsville finally got a little bit of rain on Saturday evening.  Alabama is suffering from a drought.  Their annual rain level is behind state averages by four feet.  Four feet!  California talks about inches, not feet.  Sadly it didn’t last for long but it was exciting while it lasted.

Rain changes the atmosphere in the bus.  It is very loud on our fiberglass roof — almost as loud as on a tin roof.  It scared us when we first heard it — now what’s going wrong — what is that noise?  The dogs began to bark.  They didn’t know what it was.  I had to open the front door to show them the rain.  Wow, there’s an awning over the door and the steps.  I can stand at the open door and not get wet!  Cool!  We were all very excited.  Dennis and I sat in the front driving seats and watched the rain through our huge, tall windshield.  We had a marvelous view of the park in front of us as we watched the rain coming down.  We each held a dog and we felt very happy.  Silly us.

Purchases and Negotiations
May 28, 2007

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

Day Thirteen in our bus.

Together Bus Door_smMonday, May 28.  Memorial Day

It’s been a week since our big Accident.  We are still in Huntsville and we are still at the Space Center Campground where we had just arrived when the Accident occurred.

We spent most of this week dealing with the practicalities of handling insurance for our neighbor’s damaged bus and insurance for our damaged truck.  We had a deal for a trade-in on the Ford 250 for a new Honda CRV before the accident.  We had to go back and get estimates for bodywork and then negotiate a new deal.  We took the truck to Honda on Monday afternoon — the same day as the accident.  They kept the truck and gave us a red Honda Pilot as a loaner.  By Wednesday afternoon we had our new silver Honda CRV.

But did that mean we were free to leave?  No.  We had to order the appropriate tow kit for the Honda.  Because of the long holiday weekend it won’t arrive until Tuesday.

As you might imagine, Dennis was not in the best of moods this week.  Wednesday evening he was next door talking to our neighbor (whose bus was ruined) and I was getting ready to watch TV in the bedroom.  We had just come home from dinner and the dogs had been alone for a while.  I noticed the carpet in the bedroom was damp.  Although neither dog has ever wet in the house before, I leaped to conclusions and decided one of them must be guilty.  How else could the carpet get so damp?  Like a child, I tried to cover the evidence by laying a bathmat on top of the damp area.  I didn’t want Dennis to be even more annoyed with the dogs.

Dennis came home and mentioned that he’d seen a leak under the bus.  He said that tomorrow he’d have to search for the origins.  I reached down to feel the bathmat.  It was very wet.  “I think I know where your leak is coming from,” I said.  The dampness was next to the washing machine in the hall.  Dennis figured out how to close off the water in the pipe above the dryer and that stopped the leak.  The dogs were off the hook.  Phew!

On Friday we had to get our courage together and drive the bus from our campground back to Bankston (about five miles) for small repairs.  The water leak from the washing machine had to be fixed and the “commode” as they call it in these parts, didn’t hold water in the bowl.  It is an odd contraption.  There is a ball that sits under the bowl.  It drops down when you flush and then comes back up as fresh water runs into the bowl.  It’s supposed to hold a small reservoir of water there, but you can imagine how difficult it would be to get that to fit properly.  The water was leaking out.  Two leaks on our bus….

We did major errands in our new Honda while the bus stayed at Bankston for the day.  After breakfast at I-Hop we hit Petco, Wall-Mart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, the post office and a grocery store.  We also walked the dogs in a neighborhood with lots of shady trees.  It was very hot and a marathon day.  When the bus was finished Dennis drove it back to our space with no problems.  Yea!

Sunday was a restful day as we lounged in our air conditioned bus and watched the Indy 500 race.  And Monday night Ann and Genna came over to see our bus.  Ann brought us her homemade banana pudding.  Wow!  It is rich and delicious.  It was a delight to sit and visit and get to know them better.

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.