Musings of An Old Man

by Brian K. Moore

Phyllis Across the USA

About twenty years ago, in the late 80s or early 90s Phyllis and I took a motorhome trip. It turned out to be a special motorhome trip. We had been on many motorhome trips and all of them had been great, but this one was different. This trip took us all the way across the USA to Myrtle beach South Carolina!

Phyllis liked going in the motorhome. She and I both liked traveling a road by a pretty little stream and saying let’s pull over here and fix some lunch, and going back in the kitchen and fixing a sandwich, and setting up the folding chairs and eating our snack outside. And we liked pulling into the parking lot of a market in some little town and going in and buying some things for dinner and for the next day, and then heading down the road to find a place to “camp” for the night. Sometimes the place would be in a camp ground but frequently, especially in the western United States, we would just go down a little side road and find a place where we could pull off and level up and be cozy.

Our non motorhoming friends would tell us that if we would have used some of the money that we paid for the motorhome to buy a new car, we would have had plenty left over to stay in nice hotels on our trips for an interminable length of time. Maybe so, but that’s not the idea. We liked having our home with us even though it was big and awkward and harder to park, we still liked it, so we did it.

Even though Phyllis liked the motorhome and liked traveling in it, she also liked going home, so usually after a couple or three weeks, she would be saying things like, don’t you think we should start going back toward home? I usually didn’t think that we should start going back toward home, because after all, we had arraigned to have the apartments and the business and Medical Center and the animals and everything else looked after and we had the time available.

At this time it became my job to find a reason for going a little farther. I was able to stretch some trips quite a bit with things like, “but just about 150 miles up here is ~~~ and I have always wanted to see that.”

On this particular trip I did especially well with my stretching. Finally when Phyllis could see that we were within striking distance of the Atlantic Ocean, she acquiesced and said, in effect, “Let’s go for it.”

We ended up in Myrtle Beach which is a nice resort town, that we had not known of, in a nice campground in a space with the back of the motorhome projecting a few inches over a two foot high step down right to the beach sand, with the surf of the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred feet away.

I had carried the windsurfer on this trip and had stopped at anyplace we came across that had suitable wind and water for a little windsurfing, so at Myrtle Beach, I took my windsurfer down from the roof of the motorhome and windsurfed in the Atlantic Ocean!

Although it was not Phyllis’ intention to go this far, she was quite taken with the fact that we had completely crossed the continent and the Atlantic Ocean was right out our back window!

Our trip, both east and west, involved a fair amount of “motorhome fixing.” Fortunately I was a pretty good mechanic having grown up on making old vehicles run, and I took along, lots of tools.

Our motorhome had always had a bit of “wander” in the steering, and it seemed to be getting worse and it was getting harder to keep it going straight down the road. A, crawl under inspection, indicated that the plastic bushings in the steering tie rod and drag link were badly worn. I decided it should be fixed at the next town where we could get parts. That town was Lebanon, Kansas. In Lebanon I drove to a parts store and bought a new tie rod and drag link. Then we found a camp ground where there would be room to do the work. It was late in the afternoon so we had dinner, played Cribbage and went to bed. In the morning I did a “crawl under and work” job and installed the new parts. It steadied up the steering quite a bit.

Our next problem came when, as we were approaching Bowling Green Kentucky, a vibration that had been developing got considerably worse. I diagnosed it as a universal joint gone bad. I could have bought the parts and done the job myself but U-joints are usually pressed together and are hard to disassemble so we found a repair shop that could do it “right now” and had them fix it while we sat in the motorhome. Much easier and cleaner than the do it yourself gig.

Toward the beginning of our return trip, we noticed a scraping noise when the brakes were applied. A, crawl under, to an inspection hole showed that the left rear brake lining was worn through. We didn’t want to go to a brake shop because the job would probably involve an over night stay for us in a hotel. We wanted to get it fixed it and be on our way, so we found a parts house with a grassy vacant lot beside it.

I asked the proprietor if we could do a brake job on the lot so we could buy the needed parts from him. He said OK, so I stomped down the tall grass and backed the motorhome in, jacked it up and removed the wheel, brake drum and worn out brake shoes. I took the old brake shoes into the store and matched them up and bought new ones, and reassembled the brake/wheel assembly. I washed the grease off me, first with gasoline, and then with soap and water and we were back on our way in a little over an hour.

The last job done on the trip was just switching the front tires and wheels right to left and left to right, to prevent further uneven wear. This was by far the easiest of all the jobs but got more attention and offers of help then all of the others. We did this job on a pullout on a well traveled road and passing drivers could see this old man of 70 or so handling these big tires and wheels and just naturally assumed that he needed help. It was pretty hard to convince some of them that I was old but still good, and would probably do OK.

Although Phyllis certainly had no intention of ever going this far, she had really enjoyed it and would talk about how I had “led her on.”