Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer at Stub Stewart - and More Challenges

We’ve passed the one year point of our new life, and we can see that we are still in the learning curve! Perhaps it’s just an on-going part of life that we are continually learning?

I consider myself to be a “glass half full” person. Certainly, I have moments of feeling hopelessness and despair (to exaggerate a bit), but most often I am what I consider to be a “realistic optimist”. I made that term up myself, so don’t be looking in any documentation for it. What “realistic optimist” means to me is that I realize that life inevitably comes with problems, however I hope for the solutions to those problems to be better than I am prepared for. I love looking back and seeing how things could’ve been so much worse, if not for God’s grace and goodness,  and the goodness of some of the people we encounter along the way.  It encourages me to keep on!

A new challenge developed on June 30th, during our trip to LL “Stub” Stewart State Park from our May and June home south of Monmouth. The day went really well overall. Our replacement hosts at Sarah Helmick had showed up about an hour early, but we’d been able to vacate the host spot early for them and hooked up the tow vehicle while they were getting settled into their new digs for the month of July. They had come from their home in Gresham, volunteering for Oregon State Parks (OPRD) for the milder weather months. We handed over all the tools, paperwork and keys, having said our goodbyes to our new friend, Ranger Steve, the previous day.

It was my turn to drive the coach. While we were prepared that Steve might need to go sit next to Parsley for a few minutes at least, we never heard a single meow escape her lips. She has truly been the most perfectly suited cat we could imagine for this life we now live. With our cat content inside her cute little cat carrier on her favorite blanket, belted onto the couch behind the driver’s seat, I was able to enjoy Steve’s company up in the cab. We really don’t travel that often (every couple of months usually), so we haven’t got to enjoy that kind of traveling much yet. It was a treat that it worked out this trip.
We have long envied (in a good way) those people in motorhomes, traveling down the road side by side. We thought it was so cool that they could just pull over into a road side view point and enjoy their lunch. The first time we got to enjoy that very thing, on a stormy day heading down the coast, it was like a dream come true!

Our June 30th trip would be short – a couple hours at most. We decided to just travel up hwy 99 to McMinnville. We then preceded on hwy 47 the rest of the way to Stub Stewart. We were incredibly very close to right on schedule – not something that happens often with us. Our objective was to not arrive at the park any earlier than 1pm, when our site was to be available to us. We knew we’d be in Dairy Creek West loop, site 37. We were looking forward to 50 amp service, and full hookups, after having only 30 amps and 300 gallons of black/grey storage each week. Oh, to be able to use water without worrying about how much more until we filled our limited storage tank! With the early arrival of summer weather in Oregon, with sun hitting our coach for a good part of the day, we’d already been forced to use one of our a/c units in order to avoid baking in our deluxe oven. Unfortunately, using that one a/c unit meant we could do little else, as it used a good portion of the 30 amps available to us. So, knowing of our new, more deluxe accommodations compared to Sarah Helmick, was something we were really looking forward to.

We had such a lovely drive through the country side. Even pulling the Cadillac behind us, we can barely tell a difference driving our 400 hp diesel engine. Except for making sure it clears curbs and vehicles on corners, it’s a dream to drive. I love driving in general, and I love driving our big Moby Homa. It’s fun, no matter what, but I also take great satisfaction in being able to do it. Life is good.

As we drove through the small town of Gaston, we noted some nice wide parallel parking available along the main drag. It was perfectly suited to accommodate our long coach & tow vehicle, so we decided to stop and enjoy lunch, to ensure we didn’t arrive at the park before our site was available.

One of the really cool things we enjoy in our motorhome is the great battery power available to us. We are able to even use the microwave at rest stops. We have extra batteries and an extra hefty inverter as we have a residential refrigerator, not so different than the one we had in our Hillsboro home. The power system gives priority to keeping that refrigerator working, and the microwave is on that same system, making for some great lunches of leftover soups or stews. We never had that option in our fifth wheel trailer, where we just kept the fridge closed to keep in cold until we could get to the next place with a power post for us to plug in to.

After concluding our lunch, we hit the road again, turning onto hwy 26 for a period of time before continuing on hwy 47 toward Vernonia. Stub Stewart is about 10 miles south of Vernonia, perhaps 4-5 miles off hwy 26 on the way to the coast.

I noticed immediately that there were quite a few campers obviously leaving the park coming toward us. I mentioned to Steve how narrow this portion of highway 47 was, and how little shoulder there was. We are pretty “chunky”, and while I do fine keeping our rig in the center of the road, it always feels better if there is a little “wiggle room”. That was obviously not the case on this road.

hwy 47 curve
We took a curve off to the left – no problem. Ahead I could see a posted 35mph curve to the right. I watched a couple travel trailers come out of that curve on our side of the road to some degree. That made me nervous. Just as I entered the curve, another truck, pulling a small travel trailer, came around that very curve toward me. The front wheels of his truck were on the center line, and his travel trailer was at least a couple feet into my lane. Having nowhere to go, I “snugged” the coach over just a few inches, hoping to avoid making front end contact with his travel trailer. We missed his trailer. Unfortunately, we heard a long “screeeeeeech” down the side of our motorhome. I’d obviously scraped something on the shoulder! Major bummer.

Steve said there had been a bridge. I never saw anything. I was just intent on not hitting that trailer. Immediately beyond the curve there was a wide enough spot that I could pull over. Neither of us wanted to go look, but I told Steve he had to make sure our basement bins were still closed, etc. He came back in to report that they were all closed, but that we’d definitely scraped down the side of the coach. Why is it that I always seem to be driving when these bad things happen, I wondered. Very major bummer.

I should say here that both Steve and I have “issues” we struggle with from time to time, or a lot of times. I struggle with a term I’ve learned – “perfiction”. Yes, you read that right -- not perfection, but "perfiction"! That applies to me because there will never be in me on this earth anything even close to perfection. I’m as imperfect as the next one perhaps more. However, I often seem to feel that I am required to be “perfect”. I feel I let everyone, including myself, down when I am less than perfect. Do you suppose it is a coincidence that God allows so many cruddy things to happen on my watch? I think not! I am learning not to think poorly of myself for not being perfect, but I still struggle.

We managed to get to the park, and into our site without any further issues. I did have to laugh when Steve was assisting me with backing in the coach into our site though. For most of our 20 years of marriage, Steve was the “backer-inner”. I would dance back and forth behind the travel trailer, and later behind our larger fifth wheel trailer, making sure he could see me, and that he wasn’t going to hit anything. In the early years I would at times dissolve into tears as I attempted to communicate correctly where the RV needed to be. We had some really tough backing in spots to deal with. Steve had to back up a side drive-way and then make a near 45 degree turn, then threading our former trailers into the “trailer port” he’d built especially for our first trailer. It was stressful feeling it was my responsibility not to let anything happen, while learning to communicate effectively with my husband. Steve learned to be very patient with me, and we found our communication style.

Our former RV/truck at Champoeg - a lovely Autumn Day
I drove our former RV’s also, but I never learned to back in. I always let Steve, since my issues with “perfiction” made it impossible for me to back into a site with other campers waiting for us to clear the road. All that to say we never had to learn to communicate with us being in the opposite positions!

I had to laugh as I watched Steve use his fingers to try to tell me where he wanted the coach to be. At times he had both fingers pointing in opposite directions! I remember well those moments when I wasn’t sure which way to tell him to go. Now, it’s his turn! We will, of course, eventually get a set of hand motions that I can understand and that feel comfortable to him. I’m thinking perhaps we’ll adopt the motions the rangers we work with use. They appear very straight-forward and simple.

I know you may be thinking, “Doesn’t she have a camera on the back of the coach? Why couldn’t she just use that to see where she needs to be?” Yes. I have a camera on the back of the coach. We also have cameras on either side of the coach. However, even with the backup camera on our little Cadillac SRX, it’s a very different perspective having that camera mounted right on the back. I remember my first time backing in Moby at our McMinnville RV Park. There was a deep drainage ditch behind our coach. I could see Steve wanted me to continue to back up, but that camera was looking straight down into the ravine!! I was certain my back wheels were going to drop down into that ditch! What a lesson in trust when backing in our huge whale of an RV!

Okay. So now you must be wondering where my “realistic optimism” is coming into play in our current challenge of having a somewhat damaged motorhome. We began counting our blessings pretty quick actually: 1) I didn’t have a head-on collision with that travel trailer; 2) We were not injured (except mentally); 3) We didn’t hurt anyone, nor cause anyone else any stress by our actions; 4) Not a single one of our basement bins opened, meaning none of our “stuff” was damaged; 5) Though the handles are bent, each and every compartment still opens and locks securely; 6) Our front door was not even scratched. This is a HUGE blessing, as our RV repair place was unable to get the door off when they were replacing screws with sheered off heads. How would they be able to replace it?; 7) The damage was limited to those lower basement doors, and did not touch the gigantic slide on the passenger side of the coach, which would’ve been a massive repair; 8) Not a bit of our siding was ripped off – just scratched/dented a bit; 9) Our new insurance company appears to be dealing with this very nicely – we even have insurance to stay in a hotel if we were to have to; 10) Our favorite RV repair place is able to handle the repairs for us; 11) We already had an appointment at the service place for 1 ½ weeks later, at which time their body guy was able to look at and assess the damages for the estimate; 12) I was complimented on not over-reacting with my driving, as it could’ve been much worse, and they thought it was absolutely wonderful that I was capable and willing to drive this coach when their own wives did not or would not drive theirs.

We believe that God does not promise to save us from all the struggles and problems of life. What He does promise is to see us through those problems and turn them into something good. I just listed 12 good things, and we have barely gotten started dealing with this current challenge.

A little bit hazy afternoon view - still beautiful!

I guess it is very clear that challenges come in life, no matter where or how you live. It is our job to learn to accept and work through each one as it comes and enjoy the moments of peace in-between. I’m sure looking forward to more of those moments!

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