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A Tale Of Woe

9 July 2005

Lake Louise Lodge
Lake Louise, Alaska

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned..."

       - Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Well, okay. Maybe it's not all that bad. I get a little carried away, sometimes. This year I got carried away up to Alaska.

The fact is, I've abused my venerable old Mallard on many a bad road these last 5 years. It's held up reasonably well, but not perfectly. Those who have occasionally followed my adventures may recall some cross-frame members falling out into the middle of Highway 1 a couple of years ago. Stress fractures. I got the whole frame re-membered, stiffened and reinforced at a welding shop in Fort Bragg. Then my dinette caught fire. Fixed that, then finally tore the whole thing out and put in chairs and a table facing the window. Then I dropped a hot skillet on the vinyl flooring. Redid the floor with sticky squares from Home Depot. The idea was that I'd never have to do the whole floor again, but just replace individual squares. Right. Then last year in Colorado my converter fried itself. So I replaced that. In May my doorstep tore loose at a weld and hung cattywhompers. Got it. Moving right along.

You're right. This SHOULD be leading somewhere. Let's survey the current scene:

1. Many of those spiffy little vinyl squares are now curling up at the edges from all the flexing of the trailer. Or maybe the glue was just no damn good in the first place. And I find that Home Depot has discontinued the pattern. Great. So I've got all that to do over again. And I've yet to discover a material suitable for trailer flooring that chairs won't scratch up and eventually dig a hole in, sliding back and forth. Carpet would just collect dirt. Somehow I bring in a lot of dirt.

2. While at Valdez last week, the lock retractor on the right arm of my A&E awning quit retracting the locking pin. When I finally got it apart, a piece of what appears to be pot metal fell out of it. That little piece was what held the locking pin in reach of the release arm. If you can't picture this, you probably haven't got an awning. Shame on you. Go get one. I'll wait.

I screwed it down, as a temporary fix, but in a week or two that will fail, no doubt, and then I'll just rip the guts out and go to a simple through pin to hold the awning up. I've already drilled out multiple holes in the arm to fit one.

3. At Blueberry Lake, the gas valve on my water heater quit passing gas. I took apart what there was to dismantle, and everything looks fine. Whatever's wrong is internal. So I'll hope Anchorage has a replacement thermostat/valve assembly. I did try one of Mark Nemeth's old tricks: if you leave just the pilot light on overnight, there's usually plenty of hot water come morning. But the pilot light won't stay lit. The electrical side still works, though, so every morning I have to fire up the Honda generator for 30 minutes so I can get a hot shower. How blooming convenient.

4. Oops. The locking female plug on the generator isn't locking anymore. It pulls loose if there's any strain on the cord. Somewhere in Anchorage, I'm sure I'll find parts and a parking lot to fix this too. Thing probably needs an oil change, anyway. Anchorage is starting to loom large in my plans.

5. The Prowatt 650 inverter that powers everything but the TV inexplicably gave up the ghost only an hour ago, after performing flawlessly for 3 years. The green light doesn't come on, and AC power doesn't come out. No fuses, and the DC side is fine. I gave it a knucklethump, which actually fixed it for about 10 minutes. Then it quit for good. Further thumps fail to resuscitate. I even tried a little light cussing, followed by sweet talk. No go. That about uses up my technical expertise in these matters.

I have a couple of cheap Vector inverters put away just for just this situation. But they're 350W, and won't run the coffee grinder. That Krups grinder is only rated at 100W, but it won't work on these inverters. Another reason to run the generator every morning, even if I have to duct tape the cord in place.

6. The Vector 350 already wired up and ready to use is in an inaccessible place, and operated via a remote switch and relay hidden in a closet. Suddenly that relay has started clucking loudly at me every time I flip the switch. I fear the worst.

I've come to like being home 4 or 5 months a year, despite my early ambition to be a full-timer. You may have guessed at least one reason why. Things Fall Apart. And it takes a month or so, at my usual heady retirement pace, to get all that broke stuff working again.

Lately the pace of decrepitude has quickened, and I don't think I'll be able to wait until winter to deal with it. It looks like I'm going to be fixing things on the side of the road, and then fixing the things that fix things, on a regular basis. Which has got me started on a little wistful RV window-shopping. I had a couple of hundred units cheek by jowel around me down in Valdez over the Fourth, and dozens of people to compare notes with. I turned the whole question over in what currently passes for my mind.

All the choices, starting from scratch. Forget money for a moment. Yikes. Well, okay. What's the best RV for me?

I'll share a little of that higher math with you in the next episode. Right now I'm going down to the beach and check out the hovercraft.


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