Promises

I watch as we all do, the infinite amount of promises advertised on television. Medicine guaranteeing to improve your life completely. Diets that run the gamut of eating everything to almost nothing. New cooking items that will make your life easier. Cleaners that will remove any stain. Cars that will transform your life into a more virile man or beautiful woman. The problem with all of these of course is that there’s little recourse to the consumer when, after making the purchase, problems arise with the item.

Take a new car for example. There’s a marked difference between all the attention you receive during the initial purchase of a vehicle and when something is wrong with the vehicle. You go from stardom to just another clog in the wheel. Worse is when the problem is a recurring item that the dealership is unable to repair.

We purchased a new Jayco Pinnacle just a year ago and so far we are out about 20 days of use of the 5th wheel due to a combination of factory installed issues and dealership inability to repair an item. For instance, there are usually two to three slides on these RVs and for the most part with proper maintenance, they last a long time. We however, started out with problems. The main slide would not retract or extend without several stops. The dealership, Dunlap RV, told us it was the circuit breaker resetting each time. OK, so how do you fix it? That was the first reason for them to keep it several days while they cut through the bottom of the RV, worked the wiring, adjusted the slide several times, reset circuit breakers, etc., all in an effort to uncover the “why” it was happening. Giving up, having reached the limit of their expertise, I was referred to the factory. To make a longer story shorter, twice we’ve been to the factory to find out they could not get to the repair “that week” (what do you think I’m in Indiana every month)? And this last time after numerous emails and calls back and forth were told they would definitely repair it in March. They never called me back.

Now I understand the brand they sold to us, Jayco, had been in business “forever” was “family owned” that they “they really care”; that company was sold about two months after we purchased our RV. Now, they are part of an even bigger RV empire of Thor RV products. Fine. I’ve still a warranty; I’m still a customer. Well, this is where things start to slow down no matter if it’s your bricks and sticks mansion on the hill with a leaky faucet or the Fiat you purchased last week, the longer the problem takes to diagnose and repair the less likely it will ever be fixed. You start getting sideways glances from other dealership employees. People talk in hushed tones around you. The order for your parts takes longer or it’s no longer available. The service department parts girl goes on maternity leave, come back when the kid graduates.

I was at a Ford dealer in Louisiana not too long ago and in the service waiting area was a young family that had purchased a new vehicle just weeks before and they stated they’ve spent more time in the waiting room than driving the car. They felt ignored despite the service department manager keeping them updated, it never seemed like their repair was getting priority. They discovered through a friend of theirs who worked there, that the setup, cleanup, and delivery of new vehicles was the number one priority and often times people working on other vehicles were taken from those jobs to insure the new product was delivered on time. It’s just business.

We changed from a motorized large RV called a Class A to this 5th wheel last year, simply for the room. The difference is remarkable and the creature comforts are excellent. This is not an indictment on RVs at all, because there does not seem to be an industry out there where taking care of the customer is truly a core concern of most large businesses. Don’t even start me on cell phone companies. Now many people knock Camping World and it is the big box store of RVs granted. My experience with them however has been better than most I’d say, perhaps because I never went in there expecting to be treated like the king, I just wanted quality work completed for a fair price in a reasonable amount of time. And for the most part, that’s what I’ve received.

It’s different when you purchase new and buy into the hype about how great their business is and they’ll always stand behind what they sell: well maybe they do but they failed to say how far behind they stand. So today is day 7 without the camper this time. It seems Lippert systems, the manufacturer of the leveling system, the axles, the slides, did not have a leveling jack in stock. According to the parts department at Dunlap RV, nobody anywhere had one in stock. Do I believe them? To be honest I don’t anymore. I don’t believe them because the caring the pride the concern for the consumer, is just not there anymore. I’m sure there are plenty of caring service technicians and parts people out there who care but are hamstrung by the system they work for.

I just hope that when the part is finally available, installation will follow in a timely manner. But I’ll not hold my breath.

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Easter Family

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We had a beautiful Easter Sunday.  Mass with the girls and family, great meal, kickball, and beautiful weather.

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We had an excellent time just taking pictures and being together, a rare time we’re all together any more.

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Home Sweet (lookin’for a) Home

As a military family we’ve had many houses/homes over the years, and since retiring and then my second career, we owned a house we lived in for several years.  Of all the types and styles of homes we’ve lived in there were only a few we would return to; some based on the house and location itself, others just on memories of good times.

Perhaps our favorite home was our Colorado house, a split level, we lived in and fixed up, over an almost four year assignment there.  It was perfect for raising kids and by the time I go the backyard converted from a desert to a tree, vegetable garden, pool and deck, it turned into a sort of paradise.  It even had solar water heating which was wonderful.

One of our goals traveling around the country, is to decide where we want to live next.  Do we want a home close to the kids?  Or one in the southern part of the country and one in the northern part for the different seasons?  Perhaps just some land somewhere we can park our 5th wheel when we’re in town that has utilities.  Monica has this picture, or rather a newspaper clipping from many years ago, that had her dream home illustrated.

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Taped inside our pantry in many homes for many years

There are so many beautiful places to choose from and some to easily discard.  Everyone has their idea of beauty and to some the sandy rocky soil of the Southwest draws them.  Some have to see or live in the mountains and others the ocean.  While others are content on their little piece of land they can putz on every weekend of their life.  I think ours is more of a small chalet, with a wrap around porch.  Now about the places we do not want to live, it’s just not for us and besides we really cannot take the heat anymore.  So the Southwest is pretty much out of contention with the exception of San Diego.  Idillic weather, beautiful ocean, and a mixture of mountains and plains.  Southeaster US has much to offer.  It almost has mountains, well they call them that but the Adirondacks. are really old and have eroded so much over time that while beautiful, cannot compare to the Rockies.

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But the Southeastern part of the country is really too hot for our liking.  As I pen this it is mid-April and yesterday it was 91 degrees.  I mean come on, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life inside trying to stay cool more than 3/4 of the year round.

Anyway this summer we’ll make the Maine trip; the Northeast and then later along the Northwestern part of the country.  I’ve a feeling we’ll really love Maine and also places like Oregon and Washington states.  We’ll see and you’ll just have to follow along to see where we end up!

 

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White Beans and Biscuits

Traveling this season reminded me of a time my parents visited me at Eglin AFB Florida.  When they arrived got out of the car, my father and mother were covered in sweat.  They had driven from Long Island to Florida in my Dad’s giant dark blue Plymouth station wagon with no A/C (a/c was not offered as standard equipment then) and the windows were up.  When I asked my dad why, he said my mother was worried about some of the small southern towns they had to drive through (before many interstates existed) and made him close the windows!  That evening while watching TV my mother could not understand why Walter Cronkite was on channel 9 instead of  channel 2 like it was in NY.  It baffled and irritated her just like even today some of the television stations across the country with their relatively small broadcast footprint using some of the technology common to major marketplaces (like all digital broadcasting) but announcing it as a new development.  Even the commercials and jingles used are not what you expect.  There’s a law firm in Nashville that uses a jingle that’s the same, with some lyrics changed of course, to a plumber’s ad in Tucson.

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Just outside of Nashville we stopped in Loretta Lynn’s Buffet for dinner the other evening and I could not help but be a little shocked at the number shape and size of confederate flags and rebel hats being sold in this store.  The buffet was the traditional southern spread: chicken, pulled pork, catfish, white beans, collard greens, hush puppies, gravy and biscuits.  The white beans and gravy were delicious; the rest, well it was cooked at least.

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Not sure if I’m supposed to be offended or confused?

Down one section of the store was, besides a thousand different portraits of Elvis, this art work below with a definite religious tone.

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Spare the Rod!

I don’t know who, where, or why someone would buy this particular one (although there were a total of three variations of this) but there were many with punishment as the main theme and if not that, snakes that would heal you.  And that’s one ugly looking woman.

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Gone With The Wind

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Those of us with more than a few miles under our belts, can remember one of the first “Technicolor” big movies to hit the screen Gone With The Wind a 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell, was set in and around Atlanta, Georgia.  But the only structure still standing from this epic 1939 movie is the Old Grist Mill, seen in these pictures, and located in North Little Rock.

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Now the site of weddings, baptisms, and summer picnics, this beautiful little park is a must see if you’ve 30 minutes to spare.

 

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I’m not sure if the park is this pretty all year long, but this spring it is a knockout.

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Trees and Birthdays

(Apologies to my Twitter and Roadtrippers readers for the loss of images  – just a temporary bug)

Joyce Kilmer once wrote a poem about trees ( I’ve posted it at the bottom of this blog) that has forever stayed in my mind all these years after reading the poem in my high school English class.  I’ve always had favorite trees that I’ve thought of from time to time.  Next door to our house in Mineola, old lady Konradson had an apple tree at the back corner I used to climb and spy on the neighborhood.  In Ronkonkoma on Brown’s Road was a beautiful maple that would change colors ever so slowly every fall and I would anticipate seeing that tree every day on my bus ride from school to my grandfather’s house.  As we drove through northern Texas and the landscape not only turned green but lush with trees, both Monica and I sought of let out our breath, as if we’ve been holding it in, while traveling across desert landscapes.  While we would not have traded this part of the trip for anything, we are definitely big tree and green grass people.

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Sister Jessica and Niece Meena by John’s grave.

Birthdays are often a time of celebration for many marked with parties and cake, but today is our son John’s birthday.  He would have been 36 this year and has been a pivotal, influential  person in our lives despite his short life.  If he had been born with today’s medical advances, he would certainly have lived.  But he died so doctors could learn how to save young babies today.  His life served a supreme purpose, one that took Monica and I many years to accept and eventually understand.  At Mass today, the gospel was about the resurrection of Lazarus and I can’t tell you how many times during John’s short life we prayed for a similar miracle.  We just didn’t understand John’s purpose at the time; but with God’s help, we’ll live with John in heaven.

Everything here in Texarkana is green with spring’s rain and sunshine.  The air is clean and cool and the trees with brand new brighter than life green leaves.  Spring brings everyone new hope and our hope and wishes are for our children and (great) grandchildren, nieces and nephews we’ve met or have yet to meet, that this and every spring brings them good health, that their future holds great promise, and their years after we’ve all gone much happiness.

I think that I shall never see   
A poem lovely as a tree.   
   
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest   
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;   
   
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;   
   
A tree that may in summer wear   
A nest of robins in her hair;   
   
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;   
Who intimately lives with rain. 
   
Poems are made by fools like me,   
But only God can make a tree.
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Guadalupe Mountains

We left the El Paso KOA on Tuesday just ahead of a blowing dust and wind advisory was to take place.  I had driven through one such event years ago driving from Tucson to Phoenix.  Tumbleweeds the size of a car blew across the road and when the dirt/dust storm hit there was zero visibility.  I remember sitting on the side of the road, engine off of course so it did not plug the air filter, eating dirt despite every window shut as tightly as I could get them to.  While the storm lasted less than 30 minutes, it left a memory I’ll never forget.  So with that in mind we headed out of ElPaso and across the Texas/New Mexico border headed east.

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Both my GPS devices took us along Texas Highway 180/62 that lead straight toward the Guadalupe Mountains and through the Texas Mountain Pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we didn’t realize was that there were absolutely no gas stations, markets, anything all along the route.

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The first half of the trip was on a mostly two lane road headed into the mountains.

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When we were below half a tank I started to worry.  Monica searched the GPS for other options, used the CB to try and contact trucks or anyone for assistance, none to be found.

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Finally on the other side of the mountains, in a small town? village? called Mentone, we happened upon a few trucks filling at a lone gas and diesel pump.  No store, just a few pumps only one of which was working.  Hoping it was not a company pump just for the trucks lined up there, we found it was a commercial station that used just credit cards and linked via telephone line to authorize the purchase.  After what seemed like an incredibly long time waiting for authorization (remember dial-up?) we were approved, filled up, and headed for our destination in Gardendale Texas.  In this day and age I never expected to be on a road so desolate and devoid of any type service.  Lesson learned: there are still places in this country that are as remote and wild as they ever were.

 

 

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