Friday, November 23, 2012

November - a very short month!

I admit I knew when we were sitting in Wallowa Lake State Park that we were going to have to hit the ground running when we got to McMinnville.  We had so many things that needed to fall together during the month of November.  It was a true gift to arrive a week early.  We needed that extra week!

Among many other things, our list of "action items" included:
  • Participate in and celebrate my Dad's 80th Birthday!
  • Visit Camping World for more warranty work (don't get me started...)
  • Find/Purchase a new tow-able car
  • Get the new car and motorhome equipped for towing
  • Find/Purchase a new mattress
  • Dental Appointments
  • Eye Exam Appointments
  • Find Church to attend in McMinnville
  • Participate in and celebrate Thanksgiving with Skeels family
  • Visit as many friends as possible

It's November 23rd as I write, and I can report that we've made some good progress, but have a little ways to go.

We had a great time celebrating my Dad's 80th Birthday.  We went out to dinner as a smaller family unit on his actual birthday, and then had a much larger party for extended family and friends for following Sunday.  What a great time that turned out to be!  I got to spend some quality time with my sister as we baked pies and a cobbler for the party, and it was great see friends and family we haven't seen in a long while!

We've been able to see a few close friends so far, but haven't nearly got to do the visiting we'd hoped.  We're hoping to do more before the month is over, but it's getting frustrating ... It feels that McMinnville is a lot further away than it was last July ...  Must be because daylight hours are shorter, and the rain and wind storms much harder!  By the way, we thought our coach was going to fly through the area during the wind/rain storm just before Thanksgiving.  I haven't been that scared in a long time.  In the dark, it sounded much worse than it was!

We spent another day at Camping World having more warranty work dealt with on the 31st of October.  The repair list had got shorter, but sometimes seems it will never end.  The first year warranty period is almost half way gone.  We can only dream of the day we won't need to go back there again...  After this October appointment, we had to continue waiting for new fireplace pieces.  The fan rattles and the remote died.  If you are going to have an extra source of heat, you really don't want it to rattle the whole time you use it!

We received a call mid-month saying the parts were already in.  Consequently, we went back for a second visit Tuesday before Thanksgiving...

All this continual packing and moving has felt bothersome for me.  I guess I hadn't realized how much packing and moving for short term periods there would be in this lifestyle.  I expect I'll just get used to it over time.  I need to just "buck up" and look at packing and moving as a necessary inconvenience which, prayerfully, won't be as frequent once we get past all this warranty work and have established a new "normal" in our life.

Let me insert something here about dealing with all this warranty work:  Let's just say, if you can find service people with good communication, good skills, good communication, who don't tell you want to hear and then send you away to get you out of their hair, and with good communication skills, hire them!!  We're still looking for more of those people in the RV service business ... 

In case you feel that's too vague, here's one of our many, many experiences:  We had a closet door latch which wouldn't latch on the 4-door wardrobe in our bedroom.  It came unlatched during travel and wouldn't latch again.  It's important to latch doors, as doors can slide back and forth in travel, potentially causing damage.  Doors always need to be latched.  Feeling I could perhaps figure out the problem, I took the latch off while we were at Wallowa Lake (just two little screws).  I failed trying to fix the latch, so I went to the hardware store and looked for a replacement latch, with no success.  Steve helped me, and we got the latch to work again.  I put it back on the door, and after 3-4 latches, it quit again.  Though it could be fixed with a screwdriver each time, it didn't seem realistic to expect we should be satisfied with this situation.  I mean, it's only a latch needing to be replaced! The results - more warranty work.  They won't just mail you a new latch.  You have to go to them and let them fix it when it's on warranty.

Our service people said they could not reproduce the error.  Therefore, to them, it was not defective.  (This alone is SO frustrating to me!)  However, because I had said it was defective, and I believe they are tired of seeing and listening to us, they replaced it.  The cost was $10.99 for the latch, but we'd have to pay for it.  I said OK.  When we picked up our coach, the bill was $70.  Seems there was a bit of labor costs involved as well.  They later waived this charge when we complained, though they claimed they'd told me of the labor cost on the phone.  Like I would've missed that?  I'm just saying that. once again, good communication could've saved a lot of frustration.  We've experienced this over and over with mostly much larger tasks.  I'll move on now ....

Steve and I joined the "Family Motor Coach Association", which gives us access to the lists of vehicles which can be towed "4 down", meaning 4 wheels on the ground - the most common way of towing an extra vehicle.  We'd both been studying the lists, and talking about what kind of vehicle would meet our needs and "float our boat" for the next 10+ years.  It took a lot of evaluation of needs/wants, but we finally came to a decision that we really wanted to find a vehicle about the same size as our 2002 Buick Rendezvous - a cross-over utility vehicle (CUV) is what they are calling them now.  We wanted to be able to drive distances in it comfortably, have room for Parsley's cat carrier and litter box, and feel good about it's "driveability".  Also, we wanted to feel like it was a car we could be happy with for a long time.  We've always kept our vehicles for 10-13 years.  Also, we really like buying new - because of the warranties, because of the comfort of knowing the true history of the car.  Just a personal thing - if we can swing the $$.

From the list of tow-ables, we narrowed down our search to perhaps 6-8 vehicles.  We needed to go look at them to narrow down our list.  We pretty much assumed that we could eliminate some just by sitting in them.  They might be too big, too small, not comfortable enough, or whatever.  Then we'd get serious on whatever vehicles were still on the list.  We didn't waste any time getting busy with our vehicle shopping.

We started in Beaverton - Buick/GMC, Chevy.  We have always thought ourselves to be "Buick people", and it was difficult to come to the decision that the Enclave was just too big for how we now believe we will use a vehicle.  The GMC Terrain felt just a little too small.  The Chevy Equinox seemed very possible, but didn't have the same feeling we'd felt when we bought our Buick Rendezvous.  It's that thing you just can't put your finger on.  We decided against the Subaru, and the Honda CRV because of their smaller engines.  We really like our V-6's and were hoping for a bit more" pep" than we'd had in the 2002 Buick Rendezvous.  Our list was getting shorter.  We had a Cadillac SRX on the list, but didn't really think we were "Cadillac people".  Funny how we get certain impressions, while never even looking ... Still, there was a GM dealer right in McMinnville, so we'd go check it out.

We left the dealer that evening with a 2012 Cadillac SRX.  God's timing was perfect and there were 3 end-of-the-year SRX's on the lot - two black, one white.  White was the only thing that made sense.  It's hard to find a car wash on the park host circuit ... and State Parks don't allow car washing.

We had a great salesman at Larsen Motors in McMinnville, and even making the deal was a great experience for us.  They gave us what we wanted on our trade-in, and we were satisfied with the price we agreed to pay overall.  We would trade being able to pick color and conveniences for a great deal any day!  We have continued to feel good about our new car since driving it off the showroom floor that night.  It's just the right car for us.  It just feels right for us.

We had Wilsonville Camping World install the towing equipment on the car and motorhome.  We reasoned they'd done lots of these installations.  Experience made us feel better about making these modifications to our new vehicle.  They finished it in one day, however the walk-thru was by flashlight in the dark.  We decided to spend the night and try it again in daylight.  Steve was the first to drive the motorhome with the tow vehicle behind for the 30 mile trip back to our McMinnville RV Park.  No problems!  The hooking up is going to take us a while until we get comfortable with it.  It's scary, wondering if you've done it all correctly!  We are amazed when we watch others quickly hook up or unhook here at the RV park.  They make it look simple.

We had a funny moment on our first towing trip.  We made a planned stop in Aurora at the truck stop to fuel up the coach.  As Steve prepared to take the exit, he turned on the right turn signal.  As he drove onto the off-ramp, he glanced down at the monitor, expecting to see, via the rear camera, the car still safely behind us.  Instead, he saw open road!!  It only took a moment of sheer terror before he remembered we have cameras on the side of the motorhome that automatically switch our view to the side when we turn on the turn signal!  The car didn't show up in that view!  So many things will become less scary with experience.

Our dental appointments are complete.  The only pain was the bill ... we don't have dental insurance since we retired about 4 1/2 years ago.  We are blessed that it hasn't posed any major difficulty for us financially at this point.  We plan for those visits in our budget.  We also carry our own individual health insurance policies, with higher deductibles in order to keep our costs down.  We are committed to keeping the deductible amounts in our savings account, just in case we need it.  The rest is up to God.

Finding a new mattress has been a high priority on our list this month, however even that task had to be put off as we dealt with the new vehicle, family matters, etc.  Our new friends from Wallowa Lake, the Schaffers, told us about a Newberg mattress manufacturer who they'd been very happy with.  We decided to check them out.  Mattress purchases are costly these days!  It's also a very important choice for me particularly.  I have a bad lower back that has given me lots of grief during and after moving from our Hillsboro house.  The mattress in our new motorhome is a knock-off "sleep number" type bed, and we really hoped it would work.  I was in tears within a couple weeks of trying to make it work - from pain and a lack of decent sleep.  After a particularly bad night, while in Washington, Steve's cousin Steve had helped us find a 3" memory foam topper in Olympia.  It made enough of a difference that I could at least get some sleep again.  While I am still unable to lay on my side, it was a great improvement.  Over time, it seems less and less effective.  For the past couple weeks, I've been sleeping on the couch in the living room, which thankfully lays down into a bed.  While not perfect, it is working better for me.  I miss having Steve next to me though ... the couch didn't work as well for him.

We picked out a mattress at the manufacturer's show room earlier in the month, but had asked that they come see our unique situation before we made a purchase.  Our RV-king bed has to mechanically slide up the wall (like an adjustable bed) quite a ways in order for the bedroom slide to come in.  When both sides of the room slide in, the wardrobe meets the foot end of the mattress.  There's a micro-switch which will not allow the bed slide to move, if the bed isn't raised all the way up.  Our new mattress has to be able to bend well and must be able to be raised as our current mattress does.  Also ... our RV King mattress in the motorhome isn't a 76x80 king.  We are 4" narrower than a standard king, and perhaps an inch shorter.  RV manufacturer's often make these adjustments to improve their layouts.  RV supply companies, like Camping World, sell RV mattresses, but we found them to be quite inadequate for my back comfort.  (When a mattress is delivered flat and rolled up, you have to be suspect about the amount of support it would provide!)  Our mattress manufacturer makes each mattress to order, and for an extra amount makes "custom cuts", so our 72x79" size would require custom cut(s).  The catch is that we can't return it, since it is a custom mattress.  That's why we asked them to come view our unique situation before we committed to the order!

Unfortunately, the guy who was to come see us got sick.  We began to panic as we saw the days of November ticking away.  We have to leave here November 30, and Thanksgiving would mean the mattress factory would be closed for 4 days over the holiday weekend. We were told they'd need 7 working days to make our mattress.  I called and pleaded with the fill-in salesman for help.

I remember pointing out to Steve how God repeatedly seems to have us in these "we-can't-control-this-ourselves" situations.  How would we get this mattress, and could I manage another week sleeping on the couch?  This past Monday the original salesman came to visit us.  He measured the bed, the doorway, the bed lift, etc.  He called later to say the mattress wouldn't fit through the doorway .... but they had options:  1) buy a "split king".  He didn't think we'd be happy if we couldn't sleep right next to each other though; 2) buy a queen mattress to fit in the king space.  He said he'd knew we would want the additional space of a king; 3) the factory guys had the idea of splitting our bed in a different way - about 18" up from the foot of the bed, where the seam wouldn't matter.  We'd never heard of such a thing, yet it makes sense.  The short section of bed can be at either the foot, or the head.  It actually gives us more opportunity to vary where we sleep in the main section of bed - making the mattress wear better.  Thank God!  The mattress is to be delivered 2 days before we leave town.

We found a church we feel very comfortable attending here in McMinnville - Calvary Chapel.  We have attended there except for last Sunday when we had a great time back at our home church - Cedar Mill Bible.  Steve decided he wanted to usher along side his friend, Tom, who'd recently lost his wife to cancer.  He had a great time.  I got to sit with my long time friend, Debbie, and be surrounded by a few of the friends we'd hoped to be able to have personal visits with this month ... which is becoming less likely.  It felt like we were home!  Even our lead pastor-teacher preached the message that morning.  It was a good day.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9-Inch is going to be a huge holiday hit. To make for an even better day, my birthday present - a new Kindle Fire HD 8.9" was delivered to our "home address".  I'm so thankful we pre-ordered it back in October, as I probably wouldn't have spent the money this month as we watched so much of it fly out of our savings account.  However, I am so pleased with how it's going to make life easier here in our motorhome.  I have worked hard to get recipes out of cookbooks and into my computer.  However, my laptop (a larger one) takes up too much kitchen counter space to be able to view the recipe while I'm cooking.  My new Kindle is just the right size to read from, and in it's space useage!  Also, Steve and I have an Amazon Prime membership, which has saved us lots of $$ in shipping charges, as we get free 2-day shipping via  (I find internet shopping a real life-saver in our RV lifestyle.)  In addition, I can enjoy reading books for free as a part of the amazon lending library.  We could stream videos for free also, except we don't exactly have a high speed Internet feed.  We are very thankful for our Verizon Mifi, which gives us our hotspot via our cell phones, but the speed isn't what most enjoy in their "stick houses".  Still, we can do most all the things we enjoy.  With my new Kindle, I can even do a few computer things with the cat laying in my lap.  It was difficult balancing my laptop on the arm of the chair previously.  Isn't it the little things that make life fun?

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents place.  It was a smaller group, with mostly just our immediate family gathered, missing only my sister-in-law, who'd had to work.  We have so much to give thanks to God for!  The list keeps getting longer.  God is good ... all the time.

Photo of Harris BeachWith only a week left in the area, I am happy to report that our list of things to accomplish, one by one, have fallen into place.  As much as we've enjoyed being in the area, visiting family and friends, getting some necessary things done in an area where we know where to shop, etc., we are also looking forward to our next assignment just outside of Brookings, Oregon (SW corner of the state).  We will be at Alfred A Loeb State Park, on the Chetco River, for December and January.  We're looking forward to exploring the town and the local area.  We stopped in Brookings years ago, and recall thinking it would be a great town to retire in.  I remember the beach being very different from the Northern coast, but just as beautiful in a whole different way.  We're expecting it will be a mild winter down there.  We expect to be meeting fishermen in the park, as it's said there is wonderful salmon/steelhead fishing on the Chetco River.  We've also heard the park hosts like to do breakfast together once a week - a nice opportunity to get to know hosts in the 3 state parks near Brookings (Harris Beach, Crissy Fields & Alfred A Loeb).  We're praying for safe traveling weather at the end of the month.  Our next adventure awaits!

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