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The Mark of Zorro [May. 5th, 2009|12:15 pm]
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Ha!  We have made the Mark of Zorro across the US!  Near-Philly to San Antonio to North-east Arkansas to Kentucky to Kansas and then across New Mexico and Arizona to California.  Whew! 

The service appointment on the fifthwheel went fine, with the biggest excitement being backing ourselves into the service bay.  I was pretty proud of us; we weren’t perfect, but we didn’t blanch like the other guy (also waiting for his appointment) on being told that we were expected to back it in.  All the repairs and upgrades were completed in good order, except for the one or two minor things that we just forgot to mention.  The glide-ride pin box is a great improvement.  Rough roads are still rough but we’re not beat to flinders at the end of a long day of driving.  Interestingly, it’s increased our average speed a fraction.  The smoother ride makes the rig easier to control so we can drive a little faster. 

While we were waiting on the service people we went into Chanute and visited the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum.  This was one of the best small town museums I’ve seen – it was fascinating.  Martin and Osa were both from Kansas; they’re buried in Chanute, where she was born.  They are the very first people to invent and popularize the modern nature documentary.  In the early 1900’s to 1930’s they traveled all over the South Seas and Africa, filming natives and animals in their natural settings.  He worked the camera, she carried the rifle to protect him.  They learned to fly and piloted amphibious planes across Africa.  In their day, they were movie stars, as famous as Mary Pickford or Douglas Fairbanks.

After the museum interlude, we nipped back to the NuWa factory to get the rig.  We nipped over to the parts department for some spares while the service guys buttoned up the fifthwheel.  By the time everything was taken care of it was time for a late lunch and a cat break.  We got into the trailer to let the cats out for a while and I started to laugh.  There in the middle of the kitchen was the service department’s stepstool.  So after lunch we made one last stop in Chanute.  The service guy who came out to take the stepstool from me was laughing too, he said his boss had said “I’d just keep it!” when they saw me walking up with it in my hand.

Last week was rough, driving-wise.  The poor cats were in their carriers for 12 hours (with breaks) while we had the rig worked on in Chanute and then drove partway across Kansas.  We overnighted at a campground in Pratt, KS, where the best amenity was the little diner attached to the motel.  Pie for dinner, eggs for breakfast, and we pushed on.  A long driving day brought us to Albuquerque, NM (which I had trouble spelling before this trip.)  The diner breakfast was good but it made for a late start which resulted in rolling in at about 10 pm.  Dark and campgrounds – not so good.  Our directions were one turn off, resulting in three U-turns as we tried to make sense of what we’d been told.  Nothing like going down a dark country road towing a 34 foot fifthwheel and seeing that “road ends” sign.  All was well once we got in, though.  The campground (High Desert RV Park) was very pleasant and the people even more so.  After the severe rain complete with flooding warnings in Chanute it was nice to bask in the sunshine while we took a rest and work day on Friday.

Saturday we were back on the road, headed for Palmdale, CA.  We made Kingman, AR the first day, battling high winds most of the way, and overnighted at a very nice campground, Blake Ranch RV Resort and Horse Motel.  No horses were staying while we were there.  Exit the freeway and the campground entrance is just a few blocks away at the end of the road.  They apologized for having to give us a back-in site.  The pull-through sites were nice, but the back-ins had gorgeous views of the high desert.  The camp store was well-stocked.  I’d love to come back for a longer stay sometime.  Sunday we got a nice early start which was a good thing as the winds were ferocious coming across the Mojave.  Our weather radio was picking up reports from Las Vegas, so we weren’t getting the wind advisories.  We stopped in Barstow for lunch and checked the weather on the laptop.  We’d been driving through winds blowing at 36 miles an hour, gusting to 43!  A further check showed that this wasn’t going to diminish until nightfall, if then, but that the winds were less fierce further down the road, so we pushed on and got into our campground near Palmdale in good time.

We are in Palmdale, CA until Saturday, primarily so that I can take a two day class in towing the trailer.  I am very nervous about this.  So far, the only driving I have been doing is short hops rest-stop to rest-stop on the interstates.  I want and need to be able to do more.  I’d be a bigger help on long driving days, and if it came to it I could drive the rig to meet J where he’s working.  Everyone has great things to say about the driving class so hopefully I will come out of it with increased confidence and a better understanding of driving the rig.