Saturday, January 30, 2010

A day at the Indian Hills Inn

When traveling, it is easy to find a nice place to stay. One can find something nice to say about even unpleasant parks (At the worst, there is the pleasant moment of bidding the place farewell.) Places that exactly match the whims of an entire crew, however, are few and far between. The Indian Hill Inn and RV park has made it onto the small list of campgrounds that have all of the most important things.

First off, friendly people. Being welcomed to a camp always makes it better. Only having to connect one end of the hose because a campground person has already taken care of the other end, is a very nice perk as well. Also, pull through sites. There is nothing like not having to back up in the snow and ice.

And of course...

Ice skating.

Or rather, ice sliding.

Hmmm. Ice tumbling maybe?

Well, whatever it was, it made for a very happy crew. 

The 2nd AB.

The 1st AB.

And the 1st Mate.

 Oh Yeah!

Whilst the crew was gone ashore, the Commodore decided to ready a large piece of venison for eating. The ship's dog offered to help, but the Commodore declined assistance.


After the crew returned to the ship, we drank some hot chocolate, and then decided that it would be nice to go swimming in the Inn's indoor pool. It turns out that the best place to get warm around these parts is in the swimming pool's building.

The 1st Mate and the 1st AB.

 The 1st Mate, 2nd Mate, 1st AB, and 2nd AB.

The 2nd Mate.

The 1st Mate, 1st AB, and 2nd AB.

Of course, the day did begin and end at about 4 degrees, we did have a slight problem involving a frozen black tank valve, and there is the terribly annoying and messy combination of gravel snow and boots, as well as the aggravation of having to add six layers of clothing in order to go outside for even a minute, but overall, we really are finding the Indian Hills Inn in Albia, IA to be a delightful place to spend the weekend.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Welcome To Iowa

After packing late into the evening on Wednesday, we were preparing for an early departure on Thursday when we made a most unwelcome discovery. The slides that make living in a thirty-five foot long space with six other people possible refused to move. Not in and not out. The motor for them made not a sound, and the button only gave us a very, very disheartening "click." After a meltdown or two, we decided to plug in the camper and wait until morning. Morning came and offered only the revelation that the slides are run by the same motor as the leveling jacks. The leveling jacks being the persnickety beasts that they are, this was not exactly comforting news, especially since the breaker that the jacks pop wasn't popped. Fuses. How many fuses are there in an RV? Dozens, and all in different locations. And what are the odds that the bad fuse would be exactly the one that the Commodore pulled out? I don't know, but that's what happened, and that is why we were only a few hours late getting out of the yard of Thursday morning.
Those few hours, however, were critical. As anyone who watches the weather knows, there is a fairly horrible storm threatening the south. Terrible Winter Storms are not things that one desires to drive through. Especially not in a thirty-five ft long thirteen ft high bus. No indeed. Winter Storms are things to be raced and circled around and avoided. Fortunately, despite our late start, we made it north of Tennessee by mid afternoon and just at nightfall we pulled into camp in Mt. Vernon, IL.
We started alright this morning, but immediately after pulling out of camp, we realized that all of the stores we needed to stop at for supplies existed in the very town that we were in. Nowhere else in Illinois would this unprecedented phenomenon repeat itself. We stopped, of course, and completed all of our errands at once before heading on to Albia, IA.
We have never been to Iowa in the winter. Quite honestly, we have never been in winter. I cannot actually recall ever seeing temperatures drop below 10 F. in AL. We did experience 9 F. weather, back in Douglas, WY, but somehow, 9 just seems so much warmer than 1. I think that that 1 degree has completely changed my outlook on the weather. Really, what IS that degree thinking? Why is it still holding on? Why can it not summon eighty or so of its brethren? I do not know.
Actually, right now, it is much warmer than that. It is a full 10 F. So we're good. It isn't supposed to get down to 1 degree until around 2:30 AM. Whew! Am I glad to hear that!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not-a-Plan B

Well, it is Sunday evening and here we are, sitting at base camp. The crew has caught a really horrible case of landlubberiness and is fighting being whipped back into shape. So now it is time for not-a-plan B. Not-a-plan B will probably play out something like this:
1. Panic
2. Destroy any semblance of order. Begin digging through the mountains of stuff that has somehow migrated to the living room and attempt to convince it to exit to the camper in an orderly fashion.
3. Scream. A lot.
4. Spend the entirety of Monday night completing the process that is called packing, but which should be called something that sounds much more menacing. Chaucer would know a word for it.
5. Go to sleep at 5 am on Monday. Leave at six.
That's the new not-a-plan. Our crew is done with planning.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Packing Again

Take off has been set for 11:00 am tomorrow, Saturday the 23 of January. This, of course, means that by that time we will have clothes, books, toys, cooking ware, cleaning ware, maps, computers and cameras and cords, (oh my!) shoes, food, blankets, more blankets because we are going to IOWA, a dog, and (most difficult of all) people, loaded into Tallulah. Preferably without any casualties.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Wedding Story.

Nearly five years ago the Harbor Master, whom I will call Christina for the purposes of this story, walked into a restaurant called Waffles & Cream.

Her car had broken down in the middle of the city near our base camp. She had called in the Admiral, who had come accompanied by the Commodore. He determined that the problem was not one that could be swiftly or easily fixed and in an attempt to console Christina, he and the Commodore took her out to lunch.

It happened that working away at Waffles & Cream was a young man who went by the name of RC. It also happened that upon seeing the beautiful Christina he was completely awestruck.

He began speaking to her, and soon discovered that her birthday was not very far off. He promised to have a birthday card ready if only the fair Christina would return then.
Christina, being in an amiable mood and being encouraged by the Commodore, agreed to come again on her birthday. She did, and much to her embarrassment, RC was nowhere to be found. Feeling very foolish, Christina had no choice. She knew that she could never again set foot in Waffles & Cream, no matter how good their milkshakes were.
A few days later, with her decision to steer clear of Waffles & Cream still fresh on her mind, Christina walked into a restaurant called Larry's for a bite to eat. As it happened, working away waiting tables at Larry's was a young man who went by the name of RC. It seemed that he had abandoned Waffles & Cream and with little hope of encountering Christina again, he had taken the birthday card out of his car. Once again, he begged her to return, and once again, Christina agreed.
When she came back the next day, Christina received the birthday card she had been waiting for. Here, RC made his first near fatal blunder. He spelled her name Christy. How could he!? She didn't even look like a Christy!
After apologizing, RC invited Christina back any time she wanted lunch. To this Christina replied "Why do I have to do all the work?" and RC cleverly asked for her phone number. Nonetheless, Christina insisted on driving herself to her first date.
A week or so later, RC made his second near fatal slip. Christina had been unable to find a mechanic to fix her car. Being an independent sort of person, she had decided to take automotive mechanic classes and fix it herself. When she mentioned this to RC over lunch, he answered, "But you're so delicate."
Christina did not believe herself to be delicate, but she did like RC and after he wrote her a poem about being a frog prince, she got over it, and let him drive her home from their next date. When he came to the house, one of Christina's sisters was so nervous that she tripped over a large glass jar and broke it, but he brought pizza and instantly won over Christina's brothers.

A year passed and Christina left for school. When she returned at Christmas break, RC was waiting still.

When RC proposed, he truly took Christina by surprise, so much so that her first thought was "Well he won't surprise me next time." Fortunately, there was no need for a next time. RC had become such a normal fixture in Christina's life that he was even permitted to come along when Christina and her sisters declared a girls' night out. By doing this, he earned himself the title of sister-like-figure. Though he objected to the title, he never offered to relinquish the privileges that it provided him. 

Years passed by, and as the day of Christina's graduation drew closer, she and RC finally chose a date and the day drew nearer for the happy couple.

Finally, all was ready. Four and a half years, a four foot tall frog, and a cake topper that had come all the way from Manitou Springs, CO and there we were, at the day of the wedding.

Getting ready.

There he is.

And there she is.

Altogether now.

First Dance.

Another Dance.

The cake.

The cake topper.

Cutting the cake.

Eating the cake.

Aim carefully.

Or ask for assistance.

When all else fails, call in the Marines.

 All's well that ends well. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Trip to PA

Our plan was to journey to the southern tip of Florida to accompany the Stowaway and the Harbor Master on their trip back up to base camp. These plans, like nearly all of our plans, were interrupted. The interruption came in the form of a catastrophe in the Commodore’s homeland, the tragic death of her nephew, our cousin Joey. We were forced to almost exactly reverse our course, and point our bows North to the State of Pennsylvania.

Our northward voyage was relatively uneventful. We stopped in Staunton, (Stan-ton) VA, where we stayed in a camp that charged nearly three times the promised rate. As we were already in Pennsylvania when we discovered this, there was very little that we could do besides solemnly vow never to set foot on the grounds again.

In Pennsylvania, the Commodore’s first act was to acquire an object oft scorned by her. She is in the habit of rudely referring to them as “the princess” and “mind melting machines.” The Global Pinpointing system, however, served its purpose well in the crowded streets of the Pennsylvanian countryside.

We reached our destination on a cold winter’s day, and found our camp to be a most hospitable place, with only a few faults and some very pleasant people. Our aunt, the Commodore’s sister Jennifer met us at the campsite. Although the meeting was tempered somewhat by the sad reason for our voyage, it was only a little less than a joyous reunion. Still, it may be noted that the first member of our crew greeted by Aunt Jen was none other than Robynne, the ship’s dog.

After a long battle with an overly cheerful car rental man, the Commodore accepted the fact that there were no small vessels to be had in our area. There were no larger ones either. We intended to attend the wake of our cousin, and then I would return to camp with the crew, and the Commodore and her sister would go into the great city of Philadelphia to find and retrieve the Commodore’s youngest brother, our infirm Uncle Jerrold who had gone and landed himself there. Instead, the Commodore and Aunt Jen went alone, both to the wake and the city.

The day of the funeral dawned, and we all faced the most difficult part of our voyage. Despite the obvious unpleasant purpose for the gathering, we were happy to see our relatives. Some of them we (the crew) met for the first time, for instance, some of the Commodore’s cousins, a very pleasant trio.

The Commodore, the Infirm Uncle, their Uncle, and their cousins.

Saturday we abandoned ship. There was a winter storm warning, and our Aunt Jennifer and the Commodore did not want to spend the day in driving back and forth through the snowy city. We fled to Aunt Jen’s house, where the crew spent the day in a new and wonderful task- snow shoveling.

On Sunday, after digging out our vehicles and climbing through mountains of snow to get to Mass on time, we stopped to check on Tallulah and found that our campground hosts had shoveled a path to her for us. Relieved of that worry, we returned to Aunt Jen’s, where we threw a brunch party that lasted well into the supper hour. The day was very pleasant and went well, including a very long game of Change-the-rules-in-the-middle Uno.

Monday came with fond farewells, and we headed for home with our infirm Uncle Jerrold aboard. We stopped briefly in Virginia so that the dog could stretch her legs. While the rest of the crew walked the freshly cleared paths the rest area, Robynne and I waded through the two feet deep snow to the doggie rest area located at the top of a steep hill.

We thought that we would stop overnight, but we did not find a satisfactory location. When we stopped for fuel in Tennessee around 2 in the morning, our infirm uncle requested a “breffixed” stop. The only thing open at the time was a McDonald’s, and that only had the drive through open. We all know that it would have been perfectly impossible to take Tallulah through the drive through. So, the bravest members of the crew along with the ship’s dog and the infirm uncle were chosen to go where few pedestrians have gone before.

We stepped into the empty drive through. Unfortunately, you have to have a car to set off the sensor, and the infirm Uncle was determined to order through the microphone. After only a few minutes, a car full of Tennessee Hooligans pulled up behind us. We could see them laughing a bit through the window, and after only a few more moments, the infirm uncle called to them bid them pull up and set off the sensor so that we could order. Like the Tennessee Hooligans they were, they obliged at once. After the lady inside the building had asked us to wait a moment, the Hooligans backed up and returned to their place. After another few minutes, the driver asked our infirm uncle to come over and see his hair. When our uncle approached him, the Hooligan explained that he had just had some blue dye put in it. The infirm uncle replied that there were only two streaks of blue. “That’s just what I wanted,” replied the Hooligan. “Then I guess it looks fine,” answered the uncle. Clearly overcome with gratitude, the Hooligan pulled up again, as it was apparent that the lady in the building believed we had gone away. This time the driver, with admiration in his voice said, “I went through backwards once, but never on foot.” Our conversation was cut short by the lady inside the building, who was finally ready to take our order. We did so and then left the Hooligans to their own ordering and went around to meet the lady inside the building. After giving us a few baffled questions to determine which order was ours and with a smile the likes of which can only be found in the south, the lady inside the building explained that waiting at the microphone had not been necessary, we could have just come around to the window.

We arrived home with no further incident.