the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
My Mallard is literally a 'sitting duck' in Blue Springs, Missouri. As I park at another Walmart, I'm anxiously watching a storm band creep slowly towards me. Warnings are for 60 mph wind gusts and quarter-size hail.
I'm terrified, never yet having weathered a storm in Juno, and my nerves are shot.
Although the drive started out–again–well, by the time I get to my planned stop, Juno is choking on the rises and stuttering up them, losing power. I limp into the Walmart. I had trouble finding this one as I haven't yet mastered the Garmin navigator. I have discovered I'm adverse to pulling over with these mechanical issues. All my mental energy goes towards making my final destination as if I could will myself there with sheer determination.
Today, I'm well past the rope's end, free-falling into a sea of doubts. This was the stupidest thing I've ever done. How could I have ever thought a thirty plus RV was a good idea?
This time, when I pull in, I spend more time determining the 'perfect' place to park. I try to figure out which direction the winds might blow from and where the torrential flooding, that is being forecast, might occur. I also don't want to park near anything that might crash on me in high winds such as a tree or those big lamp poles. I change spots five times. See my RVParky review here.
Of course, there is no perfect place within the parameters of this store's permissible RV area so I finally give up and just settle. With the winds whipping up, dark clouds on the horizon, and surviving 48 hours of just me, a cranky RV, and the animals, I am desperate for normalcy and people. Hugging myself and eyeing the sky, I hurry across the parking lot to the Walmart.
For the first time in years I buy a coke. It's a small indulgence. I would prefer something stronger, something along the lines of a strong whiskey, but I need to keep my wits about me.
I make up the dinette as my bed tonight, rather than the loft, take an anti-anxiety pill, and huddle down with my computer to watch the storm advance. My internet hotspot is getting good coverage so I also get on my favorite forum. I'm relieved to find some of my 'uncles' (as I've come to think of the guys that have spent countless hours offering renovation advice over the past summer) online. We chat and slowly, despite the red band on the radar creeping closer, I calm down.
Ultimately, the storm spews its worst on the far west side of Kansas City. By the time it comes over it's already late and just a rain event. I sleep through it.
I've figured out by now that the problem with the choking happens in the afternoon, after I've been driving a few hours. I cross my fingers I'll reach Hays today and try for an early start. Even though the temperature gauge never gets past the halfway mark, perhaps it's related to the engine overheating. When Rick was bringing Juno across country he had a similar chocking issue, only then it was trying to stall from an idle, and we found a mechanic in Hays, Kansas who helped him out. I felt good about his experience and have decided that I will spend the night at the Walmart there, and then show up on their doorstep the following morning. Gassing up, I head out early.
Today's battle is with the wind.
While Juno's front end is tight, there is a slight play in the steering wheel. It's been a little tiring to drive, but not a real problem until the winds find me. They are hitting me broadside today, and more than once I'm thrown over the lines. Fortunately, never when someone is beside me. I'm white-knuckled by the time the bucking and loss of acceleration starts again–and whoever has said Kansas is flat has NEVER driven I-70 across. When are these rises going to stop already?
Hays, fortunately, is an easy town - main street with side streets laid out in nice squares. I like that about being out west. The Walmart is not far down from the exit and I am relieved to once again be settled. Unlike Blue Springs, this Walmart isn't in a busy area, and has some nice open vistas. I believe the field next to me is a Sorghum field. Tonight, I count 11 other rigs besides myself taking advantage of the chain's hospitality. See my RV Parky review here.
I treat myself to another coke.
I've discovered, however, I'm partial to doing my Walmart run in the morning. No one is there yet, so there's no fighting the crazy shoppers and their carts. I often chat with the greeters and find out more about the town. I suspect that Rick, being the night owl that he is, will enjoy the 24 hour stores so that he can lurk about in the wee hours.
The wind continues, but exhausted, I sleep through the night. It's still dark when I fill up with gas. The wind blows the gas cap from where I placed it on the sideboard and under the RV. No respite from it today.
The mechanics, at Rein's Automotive, turn out to be a nice bunch who, to my surprise, remember 'the duck'. After a test drive (where they can't duplicate the problem, of course) they diagnose something called vapor lock and send me back to Walmart while they order parts. They recommend a heat shield and to wrap the fuel line.
After parking back in my same spot, I check with the store staff, explaining my situation. There is no problem with me spending the day. The wind continues to pick up and despite trying to park into the wind, it shakes the RV back and forth while I wait. As the hours creep by, it's wearing, and I'm increasingly jumpy.
It's no wonder heart jumps out of my chest in terror when the tornado alarm, 30 feet away, screeches.
I look out and up at the blaring klaxon to see the horn revolving in slow screams. I'm confused and can't think. The sky looks clear but the wind is blowing hard. I'm trying to wrap my head about what I know about Kansas...can they have tornadoes just spawned from high winds? I don't remember any storm alerts. What the hell should I do? I'd head for the store but I have a dog and cat. Will they let me in with them in an emergency? The cat carrier is not so obvious, but there is no hiding Freyja. Should I shelter in one of the closer stores? I imagine the cars leaving the parking lot seem to be going somewhat faster, but I'm not sure. All the overnight RVs have left so they offer no clue.
Finally, I find the presence of mind to call the store. She can't hear me, the employee says–the tornado siren is too loud–please hold on. Well of course it's too loud! I'm sitting right under it! It stops for a moment and she comes back just as it starts back up. I scream my question into the phone. What do I do? I'm sitting in your parking lot, and I'm not from around here, I have pets...
Oh, she assures me, it's just a test. They do this every Monday at noon.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry, and after hanging up my heart finally crawls back into my chest.
As I'm beginning to find out, finding parts for an older vehicle is hit or miss and while the heat shield is bust, the mechanics call me to return as they have what they need to wrap the fuel line. On my way back under the interstate I see them pulling an 18-wheeler from the east side exit ramp. The tracks show it crossed the road from the other side, from the west side entrance. I'm confused how that could have happened but soon find out from the guys at the shop that an elderly woman must have gotten confused and entered the freeway up the west exit ramp and tangled head on with that semi. He made it but sadly, she didn't.
As I watch the guys wrap the fuel line, carefully bending and reinstalling so it is further away from the water pump, I feel a sense of being out of time and place. Life can be over so quickly.
Another test run and just over a hundred dollars later I am back on the road feeling confident the problem has been resolved. What they have told about fuel turning to vapor when it overheats and creating a bubble in the line causing the engine to stumble seems to make sense. The winds are gusting over 40mph tomorrow as well, so I decide to find a nearby city campground in Ellis, Kansas, to hunker down. There is a back road. I can do twelve miles in the wind, I figure. I'll only be going 55 mph.
It's a long twelve miles as once again I fight the broadside gusts. This time the other lane is oncoming traffic, and although light, is ill-timed.
The town is cobble-stoned, and the charming park is an oasis. It sits on a river that has been dammed to create a small lake. I feel like I've found paradise. For $20 dollars a night, payable at the self-serve kiosk, I have electric, water and access to dump station. There is also a shower house. See my RVParky review here.