I didn’t have an opportunity to post to this blog since last Friday – I think it’s the longest lapse in three and a half years of blogging. I’ll catch up over a couple of installments.
On Saturday morning, my alarm had me up at 5:40am. Donna fixed breakfast for me while I went through my things to see what I might have forgotten. I’d scheduled an Uber ride to the airport and the driver showed up on time at 6:25am.
I used to go to the airport frequently during my working life. When we lived in Michigan I would usually arrive at the airport well ahead of my flight time and sit in the Delta lounge. I had Platinum Medallion status due to frequent travel. I don’t have any frequent flyer benefits anymore since I haven’t been in an airport since May of 2013. I haven’t missed it either.
It took about 25 minutes to get through the TSA security farce. I had liquids such as eyeglass cleaner and flonase in a clear plastic ziplock bag as required but I forgot to take it out of my carry-on bag. No problem, my bag went through the X-ray device and no one noticed.
The Boeing 737-900 jet was nearly full, only a couple of the 181 seats were unoccupied. My row was full – luckily I had an aisle seat. There were two young guys in the seats next to me. They had ear buds and were busy with their laptops or smartphones for the entire flight. This was fine with me as I had a book to read on my Kindle. The only words I uttered on the two-and-a-half hour flight were “orange juice, please” when the flight attendant asked me if I wanted something to drink.
My daughter, Alana, picked me up at the airport along with my granddaughter, Gabi. Of course it was raining in Seattle. Gabi had just come from a volleyball match – she’s in fifth grade and is developing into quite a volleyball competitor. We were all hungry and stopped in Lynnwood at a Thai restaurant for lunch. Then we went to Alana’s house in Arlington to relax and visit for a while. My other granddaughter, Lainey, came home around 2pm and joined us. Lainey is 17 years old and was at work when I arrived.
Around 4pm, Alana drove me to Edmonds to meet up with Sini. Sini has been staying at her friend’s home since she sold her house. Her motorhome was parked in the yard at Alan and Julie’s place. After introductions to everyone, I started a pre-flight check on Sini’s National Tradewinds motorhome.
First, I looked at the date codes on the tires. The tires looked fine and they were about five years old. I checked the tire pressures and also the fluid levels. I familiarized myself with the cockpit layout and controls. Then I looked at the Roadmaster Falcon tow bar and thumbed through the manual for it. We decided to do a dry run and hook up her Saturn SUV tow vehicle (toad). The Saturn was new to Sini and the tow bar had just been installed on her coach by Poulsbo RV.
The tow bar has a quick link attachment that’s easy to lock in place. Then there are safety break-away cables, an electrical connector and an air line to activate the brakes.
We had a problem. The electrical connection wasn’t working – we didn’t have taillights or turn signals for the toad. The brakes have an actuator on the driver’s floorboard that applies the brake with a plunger attached to the brake pedal. When the brakes on the coach are applied, air pressure is sent to the actuator. This means the brakes are applied as if you had your foot on the brake pedal and the brakes lights are operated by the usual car system. We had brake lights, which I figured was the most important component.
It was about 5pm on Saturday afternoon, so a call to Poulsbo RV to see if they would look at the electrical connector they installed didn’t yield any results. The turn signals and taillights at the back of the coach are mounted high enough to be seen over the Saturn toad. We called it good enough since we didn’t intend to drive after dark.
Alana said her goodbye for now – we’ll be back up there in June for Lainey’s high school graduation. Sini ordered pizza and we settled in to Alan and Julie’s family room to watch college football. I was tired from the early start and flight. Sini told me she would pick up her friend, Linda, in the morning and they would be back at the house by 8am. I went to bed in a spare bedroom and crashed out before 10pm.
On Sunday morning I was up early and showered. I put my things in the coach and we packed a few final things Sini had in Alan’s garage. Alan backed the coach out of the yard through the RV gate into the driveway. We hooked up the toad and were ready to roll. I did another walk around and checked everything over. I pulled out of the driveway and drove a short distance down the street before stopping to give the tow bar and car a final check. All was good and we were on the road!
As I drove, Sini sat in the co-pilot’s seat and Linda was in the back. I started in with driving lessons for Sini right away. As I maneuvered the coach through turns, I told Sini what I was doing and why. I explained how driving a coach with the steer wheels behind the driver’s seat is different than driving a car with the steer wheels well in front of you. I gave her tips such as using your body as a benchmark for initiating turns. I wait until my hips are past my turning point before I start to turn in. For example, when making a right turn, I drive straight into the intersection until my butt is past the curb on the right, then I crank the steering wheel to make a tight turn. This positions the wheels to properly execute the turn without cutting the corner and clipping the curb.
The toad was easier to maneuver through turns than my cargo trailer. But, you cannot reverse with a tow vehicle. It’s important to always know how you are going to exit any place before you enter – things like parking lots or fuel stations need to be reconnoitered and a plan made before you pull in.
The plan was for me to drive through the busy metro areas of Seattle, Olympia and Portland. I would talk about what I was doing, watching and thinking about while driving. Sini could take the wheel once we got past Portland. We had a few rain drops but overall the weather was fine for driving.
When we stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center for fuel past Portland, Sini made sandwiches for lunch. We carried on and I drove since we didn’t want to sit and eat – we wanted to cover more miles. Sini wasn’t keen on eating and driving on her first stint. We were pushing a bit to get to the Seven Feathers Casino before dark for our first leg of the journey.
Sini brought up the Chargers game on an NFL app she has on her iPhone. She read the play-by-play description to me so I could follow an exciting win for the Chargers. We pulled into the lot at Seven Feathers right at sunset. I had driven 400 miles for our first leg of the trip. Sini would start driving on Monday. To be continued…