Our journey began on Saturday morning, January 18th at 4am, less than 48 hours after taking possession of the RV. No practice drives or testing the systems, we’d be doing that on the road. We were hoping to methodically organize and stow all of our belongings onto the moving house over several days and then meander our way from Dallas across the panhandle of Texas and parts of New Mexico on our way to Arizona. But the ice storm that hit the eastern part of the US in early January grounded our rig at the manufacturing plant in Indiana forcing us to shove clothes in drawers and hit the road in record time. There were golf tournaments scheduled within seven days of our arrival into Phoenix, AZ. All this rush for golf?
You see, our oldest son, Blake, opted not to return to Baylor after his freshman year. He didn’t flunk out but his grades prevented him from receiving his scholarship and the lack of funds caused some soul-searching. His heart was fixed on golf and our West Coast RV trip seemed the perfect fit for swinging clubs during the winter months. He was determined to play an amateur tour and see if he had what it took. We supported his decision.
That makes the official count at two adults sleeping in the master bedroom and sharing the master bath. One adult man-child, one teenaged boy child, and one teenaged girl child, sleeping on two bunk beds and a sleeper sofa, and sharing the second full bath. Oh, and don’t forget Dixie, the white Maltese, and Cookie, the brown Yorkie, sharing a kennel.
Our course was set: 12 hour drive from Dallas, TX to Las Cruces, NM for an overnight and then another 7 hours from Las Cruces to Phoenix, AZ. We had RV park reservations and our destinations were entered into the RV Trip Wizard app. With iPhone alarms set for 3:15am, we collapsed into bed at 11pm.
The drive was smooth. Blake, the man-child, and I drove the brand new Mini Cooper with the dogs in front of my hubby, John, with the rig and the teens. Blake and I researched which exits offered truck stops that could accommodate our height, length and the need for diesel and DEF (diesel exhaust fuel). My hubby just had to follow the back-end of his beloved, sport edition Mini.
Our goal was to keep John’s distractions to a minimum so he could concentrate on the simple stuff: drive his Ford F-450 towing a 43’ fifth-wheel. And watch the tire pressure display monitor all 12 tires, sporadically blinking and chiming, and watch tailgaters on his rear-monitoring camera, and determine braking distance for 22,000 lbs while traveling downhill on mountain passes. Easy enough, right?
Truck stops were a welcome relief for my husband. After waiting in long lines, he’d pry his hands off of the steering wheel, walk inside to the cashier and prepay for the unknown amount of gallons he’d need. Then he’d walk back to the pump and watch the display stop at his prepaid amount leaving his fuel gauge just slightly below full each time. Ah, yes, it was like getting mini yoga breaks each time. Not sure why the diesel pumps for truckers are prepay but I can tell you that my husband nods at truckers with new appreciation.
With only one U-turn made on the entire trip, we pulled into our space at the RV Park in Las Cruces and went through all the steps to lower the front jacks and disconnect the fifth-wheel from the truck hitch. The auto-level did the rest of the work while we connected to the electrical power. At this point, my husband had only shushed me once. Success. All we had left to do was get inside the RV, open the five slides, and be on our way to dinner.
My husband leapt up the RV stairs to the locked front door, slid the key into the lock, and turned it, but the door remained locked. He tried unlocking the deadbolt. No success. He tried several more times. He examined the door and convinced himself it had become jammed during the 12-hour drive from Dallas.
I suggested that maybe I should try the lock. He held up his hand and shushed me, again. “Really?” He asked. “I think I know how to unlock a door.”
He called his brother in Dallas, the long-time RV’er who had walked us through the entire RV purchasing process, and before I knew it, my husband was using all sorts of hand tools trying to pry the ‘jammed’ door open. The short night’s sleep combined with the long day of driving was mocking us. Tensions rose.
I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I ended up with the door keys in my hands. While the six-million-dollar-man was digging through his tool bag for more devices, I took a deep breath, climbed three RV steps, inserted the key into the lock and opened the door. John had simply been over-rotating the key re-locking the door each time. He rounded the corner as the latch released. The look on his face was priceless but not to be enjoyed in his presence.
I went about the business of opening the slides and getting us to dinner, which happened to be a quaint Italian restaurant, just a short walk down the street. Two glasses of wine later, he and I still weren’t getting along. He was embarrassed about the locked door incident and couldn’t admit it. I was getting blamed for an otherwise smooth day. I finished my meal and walked back to the RV Park alone, sun setting in the New Mexico sky, already convinced the trip was a mistake and we should probably call the marriage quits. My thoughts and actions making it clear that I’m not childish like him.
Morning came and two hours into our drive to Phoenix, the man-child convinced me to switch vehicles with the teens to prevent the need for a divorce attorney in Arizona over a locked RV door. My husband and I proceeded to carry on a very adult-like conversation for a couple of hours and came to see each other’s perspectives, not discounting our lack of sleep, the enemy’s attacks, and our need to be spiritually girded in God’s word and covered in prayer.
That was our first stop on a planned, five-month journey up the west coast. Yes, it’s laughable, now. It was also necessary. We needed to slow down and remind ourselves that we’re both totally out of our comfort zones. We need to lighten up, not take things so seriously. We’re doing something we’ve never done. We knew this trip would call for patience but geez; this was early in the trip.
No longer had our pep talk ended, we crossed the Phoenix city limits, and the rush was on, but this time with good reason. The Broncos were hosting the Patriots with home field advantage and we were determined to cheer on the blue and orange to victory. I gripped the RV door keys with excitement. Yes, we had reassigned tasks. It’s the key thing, we learned.
Next stop: Sights in Phoenix, AZ