Friday, October 3, 2008
The best vacations are when you're a kid
10/1/08 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser When it comes to vacations, I’d like to be a kid again. Right now, I’m an adult, sitting here at my computer nursing a cold and trying to make sense of a vacation gone bad. A box of Kleenex, a bottle of aspirin, a handful of vitamin C and a hot cup of tea with honey are nearby. I’m not a happy camper. As a kid, my summer vacations were magical and the camping happy. My idea of a great vacation was (and is) simple: a cozy cabin, sunny blue skies, a place to swim and a good book. Gooey S’mores cooked on a campfire are just icing on the cake. My family took two summer vacations. Each June, we spent a week on Santa Catalina Island where we stayed in tiny cottages, rode the glass bottom boat, admired the yachts in the harbor and longed to be all grown up. As children we could visit the massive 12-story, circular Catalina Casino but only the adults could dance in the ballroom. The month of August was spent at our mountain cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. There, our routine was always the same. We swam in the lake, rode horses, ate beach stand hamburgers peppered with gritty sand, read books and played board games. Grandmother cooked on a wood stove and Grandpa teased the Stellar Jays with peanuts. Life was simple. Vacations were a time of nothing to do and all day to do it in. Then I grew up. Chuck and I married and started a family and he only had one week’s vacation a year. But we held to tradition and every year, the last week in August, we piled our vintage station wagon high with kids, water toys, groceries, swim suits and towels and headed for the mountains. The scenario changed dramatically in 1983. All three of our kids were in college, we were remodeling our restaurant and ready for a change of pace. One Sunday afternoon, completely on a whim, with no planning or foresight, we stopped by an RV dealership in Santa Barbara and drove out in a brand new 24-ft. Tioga! A few hours later, the enormity of what we had done, washed over me. “Buyers Remorse” does not begin to describe how I felt. The payment on this extravagant rig was $500! What were we thinking? Chuck, the eternal financial optimist, was not worried. I was beside myself with fear. I turned gray and couldn’t eat. My question for days was “what if?” What if we couldn’t make the payments? What if we broke down in the wilderness? ‘What ifs’ dogged my days. Well, I’m here to tell you the ‘what ifs?’ never happened. That little Tioga chugged along over hill and dale for 22 years with never a problem. While other folks were upgrading to bigger and better RVs, we were happy with our mini-motor home. Low maintenance, relatively gas efficient, it was small enough to fit in state and national park sites and big enough to be comfortable. Life was good. It’s hard to say what made us decide to trade up. Was it the aging motor home that needed new upholstery, carpet and a paint job? Or was it our aging bodies rebelling against not having a sofa to sit on? Who knows? But trade up we did — twice. We now own a 32-foot Suncruiser that when it runs, suits us perfectly. We purchased this ‘gently used’ RV with less than 5,000 miles on it. The interior was so spotless that it took our breath away. The bread board was still wrapped in plastic, the stove had never been cracked, and the recliners were perfect for the dogs and us. It was heavenly. You’ll notice that I said ‘was.’ On our first trip, everything worked perfectly and the rig was comfy and cozy. Since then, I could write a book about all the things that have repeatedly gone wrong. Problems the technicians cannot fix, find, or even duplicate. Without boring you to tears I will simply say that since May our difficulties have included popping fuses, smoke coming from the dash, a short in the backup lights, headlights dimming and no power during transit. Our rig has been into the shop multiple times simply because the refrigerator will not switch from 120V to LP. What’s the problem? We don’t know. And evidently neither do the invisible, isolated technicians who report via a service adviser that they “reset the codes.” Leaving town last month, we barely arrived in Eugene before the refrigerator went down (again). We spent hours in the service department leaving at 5 p.m. Upon arrival in Florence our refrigerator was once again dead. We loaded it with $40 worth of dry ice and eventually tossed most of the refrigerator’s contents. Finally, a mobile RV technician tested and pronounced the cause of our problems: the batteries were dead. Yep. All three of them were two years out of date. No one had ever checked. By that time it was the weekend and we were dry camping. The marine battery shop was closed. Mon. we drove to Coos Bay. There, the installer grimaced, shook his head and essentially said, “This is not good,” as he took out the old and installed several hundred dollars of batteries. Suddenly, everything started working. But just briefly. A few days later we heard the dreaded sound of the refrigerator dying again. We came home. Life on vacation has become complicated and frustrating. As life’s problems go (in terms of importance) this one is just a drop in the bucket. A mechanical problem should be fixable. I mean, with thousands of RVs on the road, how difficult can it be to fix a refrigerator? Evidently it’s nearly impossible. Oh, to be a kid again when life was simple, everything was possible and vacations were — vacations. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.