So, after almost 20 years, I find myself back in Phoenix. It feels like I’ve come home. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed the desert until I got back to it. Mind you, getting here was a bit of an adventure. The wife and boy came out the first of October, as she had to start work on the 5th and we wanted to get him into school as soon as possible. I stuck around in CNY until late October, finishing up some projects for my employer, figuring out what was coming to Arizona and getting the RV and Jeep ready for the trip.
We decided to use the move to Arizona as an opportunity to shed a bunch of baggage (furniture and other stuff) that we never really liked and didn’t want to move. So the decision was made to bring only what would fit in the cars and the motorhome. This meant leaving behind the bulk of the furniture (except our bed, Sleep Number beds break down into amazingly small packages, even for kings) and being pretty selective about what else made it on the RV. As it turned out, Kara drove out with the Malibu packed fairly full, then I packed the motorhome full as well, with clothes, tools, computer equipment, pictures, etc. I had to leave the Jeep fairly empty, as I was towing it behind the motorhome and it was already pushing the towing limit for the RV.
Monday, October 19th was originally supposed to be my pull out date, but I didn’t finish loading the RV until late on Tuesday the 20th, at which point I decided I was leaving no matter what. So I wrangled the dog and all three cats out into the motorhome and started off. The adventures started before I even managed to get out of town, the battery door on the RV popped loose and I had to stop to fix it before I could go any further. While getting back into the RV, Bob (one of the cats) decided he’d already had enough of this and was getting the hell out of there. Fortunately, there was a friendly coed nearby from the college who managed to coax him to come to her and we got him back into the motorhome.
From that inauspicious start, things progressed fairly well (I did discovered that cats don’t recognized Chicken McNuggets as food) until about 2 a.m. in Ohio, when the first of the tires blew out. Fortunately, it was on a rear wheel, which are duals, so the only real evidence was the noise. I have AAA, including RV coverage, so I called them out to change the tire (I was pretty sure I didn’t have the right size socket for the lug nuts, I later found I was right). However, the AAA service provider for that area didn’t have the tools to change the tire on a 32′ motorhome either. They were able to refer me to another service provider, who came out and put the tire on (still waiting on the reimbursement from AAA). Luckily, the cats decided to behave through this and I didn’t have to hunt down and recapture anyone.
I got back on the road at about 6 a.m. and made it through Cleveland and Columbus before the next tire blew. In the same position. In retrospect I suspect that the spare was quite possibly the original tire from 1991 and it just died of old age. I limped along to a rest area and spent some quality time taking a nap and then checking Google for the nearest tire place. Apparently 19.5R8 tires are getting fairly difficult to find, as I was only able to locate one within safe limping distance. In any case, I purchased a new tire and had it put on, then hit the road again, heading south through the Smokey mountains. Other than tires, the RV had run flawlessly and the ReadyBrake I had installed on the Jeep was working great. I was even getting reasonably decent gas mileage, which was good, because I was spending a lot more money on tires than I had planned.
I had gone into this trip with grand plans to make sandwiches on the road as my food supply, but that was soon thwarted by the fact that the RV alternator wasn’t properly charging the auxillary batteries and the cooler I had stored my lunch meat in wasn’t cooling. So I was eating at random times, when I got hungry enough. I didn’t want to stop to eat, but I almost had to, because it was impossible to drive the RV, eat a sandwich and fight off Bob at the same time. Any time I would put my food down, Bob would be on it in a heartbeat, tearing off what he could and taking off to eat it somewhere in the back of the RV. Never mind that they had food (in fact, the cats had dumped their food, so it was everywhere), he wanted my food. So meals were rather sporadic and hurried affairs, usually very late at night while the animals were asleep.
It wasn’t until I hit Arkansas that I had another escape attempt by Bob. I had pulled into a rest area to get a few hours sleep, which meant taking Morgan (the dog) out for a walk. While trying to get her back into the RV, Bob decided to make a break for it. This was a bad thing, it was 3 a.m. and the rest area backed up against a swamp, if he went in there, he was gone. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon that Bob couldn’t resist… cold cuts, specifically, bologna. I laid a trail of bologna back to the motorhome and then worked my way behind the cat. While he was scarfing down the bologna, I snuck up on him and grabbed him, throwing him back in the RV. That done, it was time to hit the road again.
The trip proceeded without excitement until I hit Dallas. At rush hour. In torrential rain. And the windshield wipers decided they had had enough and were going on strike. Fortunately, traffic was moving fairly slowly and there was a clear patch on the windshield, so I was able to keep moving until I got out of the rain, but it was a bit exciting there for a while. I made it to Abilene, where I stopped at my sister-in-law’s and stayed for a couple of nights of much needed sleep and food. The sleep was needed because any time I stopped to sleep for a couple of hours, the dog insisted on being walked every ten minutes and wouldn’t let me sleep. So, I hadn’t had more than about an hour of uninterrupted sleep since the trip had started. This also let me wait out the remnants of hurricane Patricia, which were sweeping over West Texas at the time.
Once out of Abilene, I once again had a fairly uneventful day of driving, the weather was good, the RV was running well (even managing to keep up with the 75+ mph speed limit) and life was good. Until I hit Benson, Arizona, when another tire blew out. This time it was on the same side (driver’s), but it was the inner tire of the dual wheels. The problem was, it was 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and nobody within 40 miles of Benson stocked an 19.5R8 tire. I had planned to make a side trip to Sierra Vista to drop off a keyboard and six boxes of vinyl record albums at my father-in-laws, instead, I had him meet me in Benson and we off-loaded the records the next morning, after I’d spent a night in the Motel 6 at I-10 and SR-90. After we’d transferred the albums, I waited for Kara and the boy to meet me while I moved the RV to a truck parking lot and unhitched the Jeep.
Once Kara met me, we transferred the animals to her car, loaded the shredded spare from the RV into the Jeep and drove on in to Phoenix. After a night in Phoenix, I finally found a replacement tire for the RV and got it mounted and balanced, then headed back to Benson with the tire in the back of the Jeep. At which point, I had to wait for AAA again to put the new tire on (I really have to get a proper socket for those lug nuts). Finally, I was able to hitch the Jeep back up to the RV and get the whole load to Phoenix. I was never so happy to see South Mountain in my life.