Sunday, July 6, 2008

Entry 3: Oklahoma and Texas

I tried to post this last night....Apparently everything is bigger in Texas except for their Wi-Fi network. So here is last night's entry:

Today started normal enough.....

Got up, went into the Flying J for breakfast (after some funny looks I was finally able to order 2 hard boiled eggs, dry wheat toast, and a fruit cup haha) and headed down the road ready to tackle "Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain".

Oh yeah, Oklahoma sells big beef jerky:

The first adventure for the day happened during and after a fill-up. My dad found a 'Love's' (Kinda like a crappy Sheetz) down the way using the GPS so we set a course. Turns out it was a Love's "Country Store" and not a "Travel Center". So it was a tiny gas station with one diesel pump. I was able to squeeze my way in without too much trouble.....

The dude at the pump across from us asked in a nearly incomprehensible accent: "Y'all goin' on a treeep?" Feeling that a sarcastic response to point out the obvious reason I was hauling a massive 5th wheel trailer could leave me dead in the middle of Oklahoma, I played nice. From what I could translate, he had just been doing 150 in his car and got pulled over then got off without a ticket.....maybe...or something. He was friendly so I can't rag too hard on the guy.

Annnnyway. Getting out of the Loves to head back the way we came proved impossible. The right turn was far to sharp and there was a stupid median in the way. So we headed left in search of a place to turn around. We ended up on a side road where my dad "thought he saw a factory" that we could use. What we found was an underpass that was pretty much the exact height of my trailer. Not wanting to chance it, I got to practice my 3 point turn skills with the trailer. And of course as soon as I started maneuvering, the once dead quite street had a line of 5 cars on either side giving me the death stare. I was able to nail it on the second attempt so yay me. We will now clarify which kind of a Loves we are pulling into. Good grief.

That was just the appetizer though......

So we're cruisin' back down the road and I got to experience some hardcore Oklahoma cross-wind (I'd been warned that OK wasn't the worst of it). Whether or not that had anything to do with the next surprise I'm not sure.

My dad happened to notice we had some of the plastic that wraps from the side of the trailer and connects underneath was floppin' away in the wind. Although probably not the best idea to pull immediately off onto the shoulder of I-40 with cars and trucks zipping by, that's what we did. This is what the problem looked like:

So yeah, not good. We were able to use the bungee cords I had in the trailer to keep it temporarily stabilized. We got back on the road and as if by some divine hand, a chorus of angels resounded as the familiar Blue and White sign appeared after cresting the hill:Wal-Mart.

Yeah buddy.

So we went in and bought the tools we had decided the previous day we didn't need to buy. What had happened was the plastic covering was ripped from the rusty bolts on the undercarriage. We got some washers, a basic tool kit and some WD -40. I hosed down the rusty screws and was able to get them out. Put on a washer and re-screwed everything back through the plastic covering. Held pretty well but there's a bit more work to do. Maybe tomorrow morning before we pull out.
Yeah that's really me doing something mechanical..

We felt like badasses afterwards

So yeah, I felt even more like a different person after that. I've changed my own oil before and put front brakes on the Subie with close supervision from my ex's dad.....but that's it.

Two good things came out of it. I got a little intimate with Lawrence Long (the trailer) and my dad and I had a cool bonding/funny incident thing. Maybe it was the rush of working on the trailer but he got Rather Dashing with my camera and started snapping away (and the candy bar he bought that had melted ended up in the air conditioning vent so it would 'unmelt quicker'). He scored some good 'Mac and Me' windmill shots (would be pictures but the interwebs here is too slow).

Annnd we saw a billboard advertising: A "Spiritual experience beyond compare" "Come see the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere". For real. Thanks Texas. Heeerrre it is:

Inspiration for the Mark Griffin's stage name? "MC 900ft Jesus"? Possibly.

The drive was awesome. I've never driven through that part of the country and seeing that much sky and that many clouds was just....well huge. I don't know, if you've driven around there you know what I'm saying. Cool stuff.

The only drag about the drive....and Oklahoma in general....was that at least once every hour and a half we spotted a dead dog on the side of the road.....and one Armadillo. Only in that state though.....

T'was a good day. We're at the Flying J on the Eastern edge of Amarillo, TX for the night parked on the trucker side. It feels like I'm in the middle of Maximum Overdrive or something with all this idling. Tomorrow we tackle New Mexico which I'm sure will be even more amazing.

The I-Pod battery died during the drive and I'm pretty confident driving my rig so I had some time to wander in my head. I can't seem to make the reality of what I'm doing sink in. I think maybe I'm prolonging it since I haven't called anyone to talk on the phone (mainly because I don't like talking on the phone). But I know if I hear some voices or start looking at photos from my last few nights in town. it'll really sink in that I'm not there anymore....Well shit, it just did a little bit. I miss you guys a lot.

I dunno, I don't think my friends could have gotten any more awesome than they were when I left so I guess I went out like the Police. Only I promise when I return to the burgh it won't be some shitty 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' '86 remix.



Entry 2: Indianapolis IN to Joplin, MO

So today was somewhat of a blur. I acquired a neighbor in the Flying J lot while typing last night's entry.

Their rig made me feel kind of teeny. They were very nice older couple all decked out in Harley gear head to toe. Their 5th wheel (a 'Raptor' nonetheless which obviously beats 'Cougar'....definitely Gob's 'paper' to Michael's 'rock') was a Toy Hauler so they had two cycles in the back awaiting deployment. They confirmed that the 'holy shit we're going to die effect' we experienced on the road earlier that day wasn't the truck. The pavement was just grooved funny and we caught the rhythm between truck and trailer wheels at the right speed to make it pull an "all your transmission are belong to us" joke. The couple was on their way from their home state of Arkansas to an undisclosed location in PA.

We left Indianapolis and faithfully followed the GPS which insisted we head through St. Louis instead of hopping on the by-pass. That was all fine and good until it decided "oh yeah btw, hop over a lane and get off at this exit in 500ft......" Needless to say we heard the word "Recalculating" more than a few times over the next 5 minutes. We got a picture of the Arch though. Woot!

Our next destination was the Wal-Mart parking lot in Ozark, MO where we planned to take advantage of the 'park overnight' offer. Whoever designed the 'RV' section of the lot assumed that making the spots perpendicular to an uphill slant made for easy leveling. Probably some trucker designed it as a form of passive aggressive revenge for RV's having the gall to fill up diesel at the Trucker stations since the pumps operate twice as fast.....

.....On that note, I was warned to prepare myself for some good 'ole intimidation and harassment from truckers while filling up. So far I've lucked out. They've just been pulling their shit on the highway inching over on me and flying past probably guffaw-ing farting and spitting chew at the same time.....they stereotype me....I'll stereotype them thank you very much (no offense to my Uncle and Cousin who are actually cool Truck drivers). Great way to learn control though!

All tangents aside (Ha! Get used to 'em!), we decided to bag Wal Mart and planned to head down the road an extra hour and a half to the next Flying J (not just for marching band stops anymore, right Gina?).

We met my parents' old Kansas friends (they lived out there from '75 up until about when I was born) who had taken a trip to Branson (Kind of like Nashville meets Niagara Falls Tourist Hell). Since we were already parked at the Wal Mart they came out our way and we had our reunion at the Subway in the Wal-Mart. It was an enjoyable visit since the last time I saw them (17yrs ago) my conversations mainly consisted of "I think the Ultimate Warrior is Better than Hulk.....but not as cool as The Undertaker" while sporting a fanny pack and feathery mullet.

The hour and a half drive from there to the Flying J was pretty sweet. There was this one small cluster of clouds off to the left was constantly spewing all sorts of lightning everywhere. On the right side of the highway, the sky was perfectly clear and hanging on to twilight. On top of that, people were setting off fireworks along the side of the highway and off in the distance ahead of us. Coupled with hearing some old band stories from my dad, it made for a great ride.

I can feel myself changing and becoming quickly acclimated to the road. I'm turning into one of those 'truck pride' people (insert Tim Allen's 'Toolman Grunt'). I know more about a diesel engine and how to take care of it than I had ever thought possible. There's something powerful about sitting high up hauling something behind you.

I'm also realizing that I was probably a pretty shitty driver no matter how courteous I thought I was being after dealing with peons zipping both around and in front of me, then darting off an exit ramp or slowing down immediately. Now that I realize how long it takes to slow one of these rigs down and how bad it is to have to use the brakes to stop quickly, I'll never drive a car the same again.

See? I'm getting all RV snobby and separating myself from 'normal' drivers haha.

I'm a little concerned that my Nostalgia gland hasn't kicked in yet. I had a great crew of people I felt very close to back home. I'm hoping it's just my concentrating on not dying on the highway that is keeping my mind occupied

Anyhoo, when we got to this Flying J, we didn't notice any RV spots. So after "Austin Powers"-ing for a bit to get turned around we realized that they had setup the Fireworks tent right over the RV spots and there was a car with people just hanging out on their car parked right at the edge of the RV spot. Once they left, I straightened out and leveled. That was an adventure in and of itself as we weren't balanced left to right and I didn't think to bring various thicknesses of wood. Metal needs to hit wood at the same time with regards to the jacks from what I was told. But it'll do for the night. We're going to chill in Amarillo tomorrow.

And lemme know if this crap is way long winded and lame. I've never blogged before.....

But I think my feelings on blogging are starting to parallel my feelings on being an RV'er......

More tomorrow.....