In October I continued work at Syncrude, and Juanita continued minding our youngest grandson. I managed to get home to Meadow Lake for Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate with the entire family except for son-in-law Nick who was working a shutdown at the Lloydminster Husky upgrader.
All my ambitions of updating the web site and accomplishing some other computer tasks in the evenings in camp fell afoul of a nasty, grinding cold which sapped my energy and ambition. After the 12 hour combined bus ride and work day all I could manage to do was eat, skim e-mail for the few that absolutely had to be answered and then exist in a somewhat vegetative state until sleep prevailed each night.
On October 20th I worked until noon and drove the eight hours from Mildred Lake to Meadow Lake with a brief stop in Ft. McMurray to submit my out-of-work slip at the union office there.
When I arrived in Meadow Lake we drove out to the property and transferred stuff from the truck to the house and from the fifth wheel to the truck just to get that part of our getaway out of the way. Then we drove back to town and skimmed the worst of the camp parking lot grime off the truck at a wand wash. Not really a priority, but it was disgusting me. The greatest build-up of dust was on the side of the roof that had been treated with Nu Finish. Never would have guessed that.
The Trip South
We woke early on Thursday, but took our time saying good bye to Debbie and the kids (Ernie was at work) and then headed out to the property and hooked up the rig, getting on the highway at ten.
The new highway south was great until we hit the part they were still working on. We played chicken with a grader closing off the single lane we were traveling on. As we got close he moved off the roadway and somewhat reduced the height of the mound of gravel defining our lane. I surmised that he wanted us to cross it which we did. I guess that is where the stabilizer on the back of the rig got hung up and greatly deformed. Oh well, it was getting old and rusty anyway. I had been debating whether this was the year to buy new ones. Debate resolved.
A few miles further on we went through a pinch point sharing it with an oncoming gravel truck who obviously didn't believe in slowing down for anything. One of the larger pieces of gravel he sprayed us with took a nickel sized chip out of the windshield. The other paint chips and windshield dings are not worth mentioning.
At Saskatoon we stopped at the Flying J, fueled up and met Weldon and Alice Gray (The Wacky Wizard) for lunch at the attached Denny's restaurant before getting back on the road. We had a good visit and in the conversation I learned that I had enlivened Weldon's story repertoire. Apparently he had accompanied me through Costco at lunch time one day and my hyper frugal practice of dining on "try-me's" was a more frugal practice than he was used to. The experience has become one of his oft told stories. I get the feeling he doesn't quite approve. I'd say it doesn't bother me, but it is more than that - it kinda makes me feel warm and special!
After lunch we got back on the road and made our way across Saskatoon looking for a glass chip tent or glass shop we could access. No luck. Later, about half way between Saskatoon and Regina we found a body shop in a small town and for forty bucks got the windshield chip "repaired". That is, he injected a resin into the chip that should prevent it from expanding into a spider web of lines across the windshield. He also gave me a ball park quote of $1,800 to repair the keying done by somebody homeward bound from the bar in Meadow Lake on the Thanksgiving weekend. We'll look for alternatives while in the valley.
We arrived at Regina near the start of rush hour which meant we sat with the other cars and waited for the rush-hour train to cross the ring road. But it wasn't long before we were out of town headed toward Manitoba on the Trans Canada highway. We bought gas a few towns before Moosimin and then pulled off the highway to sleep amongst the semis in the gas station on the edge of Moosimin.
We were up early Friday morning and rolling again toward Winnipeg. We stopped for fuel and a late brunch at the Flying J/ Denny's in Headingley. We followed the ring road around Winnipeg and headed south to the border. After some curious questions ("How do you two know each other?" answered with "We've been married since 1975") and a bit of an inspection of the inside of the rig we carried on.
We stopped at one Indian casino in South Dakota, but decided to carry on. The parking lot was busy, the RV parking cost $10, (which would be good if you were hooking up to utilities and actually spending some time there) and the buffet was $14.95 each. Not being particularly hungry and not really being ready to quit driving for the day we bought some bleach and some jugs of water at their convenience store.
An hour or so later we felt more ready to stop for the night and pulled into an Indian casino which had a choice of supper special for about six bucks each and who didn't charge for parking at the north end of their parking lot. The first place might have been fine if you were interested in loading up with a variety of food and were looking at making a weekend of the location. We just wanted a snack and a quiet place to spend the night in our rig. Choice two worked.
Saturday morning we got up and added some water and bleach to slosh around our freshwater tank and were on the road before eight. We stopped at the Flying J in Sioux Falls and fueled up, added more water to the freshwater tank and ate lunch. After lunch I flushed the anti-freeze our of the waterlines, put the drain plug back in the hot water tank and beat on the bent up stabilizer a bit. While I was lying under the back corner of the rig another RV'er came by and started chatting. He wanted to know where we were from. I told him "Meadow Lake" and asked if he knew where it was.
He said "sure, I used to call on the pulp mill there." I asked what he sold. He told me. I identified myself. We knew each other, but had not recognized each other out of context or at my much lower than former weight. He had called on me in Whitecourt, Alberta in the late 1980's and had carried on the sales calls in Meadow Lake over the years, but less directly to me in the later years of my employment. Small world. They were headed to Florida so our paths would have diverged around Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Speaking of Council Bluffs we stopped there at the Camping World getting the exit right the second try. Getting the exit right is easier coming from the south - you see the store before you have to exit. From the north you only see it after it is too late.
We bought a pair of stabilizers, plus some items that had accumulated on the CW shopping list over the summer. When the clerk went to total the bill I said, "Cover your ears, Juanita.". This caused some amusement to another couple in the vicinity. Even at close to a couple of hundred dollars it was a bargain. For some strange reason, RV products in Canada generally are priced at twice the Canadian amount of their US dollar price e.g. a $US 120 toilet will cost $CDN 240 in Canada.
We opened the drain line on the fresh water tank and fueled up at the nearby Pilot station before crossing the Missouri River to Omaha, Nebraska and driving to the Double Nickel campground, a Passport America RV park near York, Nebraska.
When we got there I removed the old stabilizers and bolted on the new ones using the old bolts. The old rusty bolts came off smoothly since I had been forced to re-use them one night in August after the stores were closed and had cleaned them up with a tap and die nut. Before we set up in Harlingen I ran to the hardware store and bought galvanized bolts et cetera and replaced the old hardware.
In the past when we stayed at the Double Nickel we would disconnect the fifth wheel from the truck and drive into town to find a wifi hot spot to check e-mail. The park now has wifi internet and we opted to stay hooked up and let the air out of the truck air bags to get the rig mostly level and then pump them up in the morning. The water there is pretty good so we added some freshwater to the tank to replace the sanitizing solution that had been sloshing around.
Sunday morning we were up and away early. Not having to reattach the trailer, but only pump up the air bags helped make that easier. We headed west on the interstate to the exit for York and headed south on US 81 which is a familiar path to us. At that point it is four lane almost all the way south to Wichita where we join up with the Kansas turnpike.
The weather is beautiful. A far cry from the last time we passed this way dodging storms and timing our travel to miss the worst of the wind and rain. We dressed better than normal in case we passed through a town that had a church service starting and access for our rig, but the opportunity never knocked and we had to content ourselves with the relaxing drive and a bit of radio.
The billboards for Lindsborg, Kansas have enticed us over the years. This year we succumbed. We drove part way into town and stopped before the tree-lined streets became a hazard to the rig's rubber roof and parked where it looked like we should be able to turn back toward the highway.
Most of the stores in this Scandinavian themed town were closed, but we had a pleasant time walking through the few that were open. The bakeries were closed as well. No Danish or Swedish temptations to blow the diet. A mixed blessing and disappointment. If you are into kitsch and watching carvers make dala horses etc. come here during the week. We are not true gift shop people and were satisfied with the few stores that were open and enjoyed walking the almost deserted streets. Neither of us are a fan of crowds so a sunny Sunday afternoon stroll through town window shopping was perfect. Then it was time to walk back to where the truck and fiver were parked and negotiate a u-turn using the almost empty parking lot of a church.
One of the stores we went through was filled with Scandinavian kitsch, including flags from the four nations of same and themed trinkets and knick knacks and books and CD's of humor. Who knew there was so much Ole and Lena stuff? The store web site is here.
Guthrie, Oklahoma was the territorial capital of Oklahoma and went on to become the state capital for a few years until a statewide vote moved it to Oklahoma City. There is a Passport America park a few miles west of town. We had stayed there once before, but had not had enough time to explore the town in daylight. This time we planned to stay two nights and see more of the town.
After arriving and getting the rig set-up and eating supper we went into town to the Braum's. A lot of people are very negative about Oklahoma, but what can be wrong with a state that has a chain of Braum's ice cream parlors?
We walked through the store and read labels on the huge variety of ice creams and frozen yogurts which come in grades ranging from no-fat to clog-your-arteries-and-die-of-bliss. At four, half-gallon cartons for ten bucks we were tempted to buy a freezer full (that's about four cartons in an RV fridge) and live off ice cream for a few days. The inner adult won and we got in line for a no-fat frozen yogurt cone each.
The store was busy and the line was long so we ended up visiting with a geezer who asked where we were from and when he found out asked if we were "headed to the valley". Seems he and his wife retired early many years ago and went on the road full-time. He promised her that they would settle down if either one of them decided they had had enough. He said that was a mistake. It should have taken both of them. She decided after seven years that she wanted a house again so they had one and went down to the valley for the winters only. He said they were ending that this winter and he was going to sell the rig they had in the valley and stay home winters. He talked about the friends they had made in the valley and the trip to Canada they had made to visit them and then the line had moved enough for us to order cones.
Got a skinny server.
The cones the next night were far more generous. I guess I'll have to expand the "never trust a skinny cook" saying to include ice cream dippers. Good thing we don't live within easy driving distance of a Braum's. On the other hand it might not be a bad way to go.
We spent several hours walking around downtown Guthrie on Monday afternoon. There a number of well-preserved red brick and sandstone buildings. Many have signs in front detailing their history. Most downtown stores are closed on Monday so we only got a sample of the antique shops which suited us just fine, thank you. Wouldn't have minded taking in a couple of the museums, though. Oh well, gotta leave something for next time.
A recent addition to town is the Apothecary Garden which has a selection of plants historically grown for medical purposes. Next to each plant is a placard naming the plant and explaining what it was used for. There is a large Masonic temple at one end of downtown and some sort of administration building for another Masonic organization a few blocks away.
We had planned on spending a couple of days on the coast, north of Corpus Christi, and to arrive in Harlingen Thursday afternoon, but the weather forecast of thunderstorms for Thursday afternoon made it prudent to be close enough to Way of the Cross to be set up by mid morning on Thursday. A downpour can make things unpleasant to set-up. So our plans adapted to be in Victoria or Mathis on Tuesday night and in the Harlingen area by Wednesday mid day.
We were on the road before dawn to time hitting Dallas-Ft. Worth about ten in the morning - usually the best time for traffic in daylight to travel through a major city. The morning rush hour is over and the casual shoppers and lunch crowd are not on roads yet. if you don't mind driving at night, three a.m. is said to be the best for traffic, but can't say we have acted on that factoid much.
We got past Dallas okay and stopped in Waco for lunch and fuel. We had intended to turn off the freeway and use secondary highways to reach Victoria, but when it came time to get back on the road after lunch the thought of stop-lights in all those little towns seemed a worse prospect than Austin and San Antonio traffic. We stayed on the interstate. When we got close to Austin the navigator suggested we take the toll road around the city. It was the long way around and they were pretty proud of their road when we went through the four toll booths, but it was easy sailing with none of the frenetic merging and unmerging (is that a word?) from the feeder roads running along the freeway in downtown Austin. Probably won't do it again (I'm too cheap), but it was a worthwhile one-time experience.
When we got to San Antonio we managed to get on the two lane highway that forms a far flung outer circle around San Antonio. Not too fast, but a lot less nerve wracking than the routes closer to downtown. And probably, at that time of the day, probably not much slower than the busy routes.
We arrived in Mathis, checked into the humble Passport America park there, unhooked the truck, went for fuel and then came back and walked across the street to our second favorite Mexican restaurant in Texas. Managed to order something that was close to being on the Dukan diet and only nibbled a couple of tortilla chips.
When we hooked up in the dark the next morning, I did the circle checks and started to get into the truck to drive away when I was mentally prompted with "I don't remember checking the lug nuts on the trailer." So I took the flashlight and went and looked.
Normally they get torqued before a trip and then on the first day and at least once a week after that and a daily visual in between. They had been torqued when we worked on the trailer in August and then it had sat there until we hooked up in October. In my complacency fueld by never having any problems in the past, plus the general rush to get south I had not checked the torque on the lug nuts on the road on this trip.
The nuts on one tire were all backed off about a quarter of an inch. Could have been ugly. The wheel seemed mostly okay and out came the torque wrench and all the tires received attention. The one that was loose took three more stops before the nuts seemed "set". The other wheel were not too bad the first time. Praise God for that still, small voice.
Way of the Cross does outreach in the US, Mexico and Nicaragua. We have been here a number of times and the ministry has been written about often in our updates. We are on SOWERS projects at Way of the Cross for November and December. As the only couple for the November project we will tend to work together more than we do when there are other couples. We also tend to work the same hours. With the number of times we have been apart this summer we are looking forward to spending that month together.
Also, with no other couples to worry about getting settled in a couple of urgent plumbing jobs were tackled on Friday and didn't have to wait for Monday.
There was a Sunday evening pot-luck and hayride. It was good to visit with so many people we have served with in the past, to catch up on events and to meet a few people new to the ministry.