I wanted to leave around 9:30 am — after rush hour — figured we’d actually leave about 11:00 am; we succeeded in setting out on our RV trip about 12:30 pm. Traffic wasn’t bad, for a Friday but it was hot. The RV’s outside thermometer gave readings of 120°F+ on the I-405 North. We threaded our way through the traffic headed to the Grapevine and the Central Valley of California. Our AC worked fine.
Di appreciated being able to smoke in the RV. When we pulled over into a rest area/stop, she could use the RV’s toilet without having to get out into the heat and I didn’t have to get out her scooter or push her in the rollator/walker. She can no longer walk any distance (more than a couple of dozen feet, and sometimes not that far) even using the rollator/walker.
The RV’s ride was quite nice and stable and fairly “easy” to maneuver in traffic. The caveat being when one enters or exits a “driveway” — you know the steep/abrupt changes in levels from parking lot entry to street level. Go straight, the front tires (together) and then the back tires (together) rather than turning while entering/leaving (left front, right front, left rear, right rear) and the RV rides OK, but, if you are turning, the RV rocks and rocks.
The trip north was without incident but as the fuel gauge reached the 1/4 mark a warning light and message came on telling me to stop for fuel soonest. Yeah, there are still 4 or 5 or 6 gallons of diesel in the tank but warnings come on. Pulled into a Shell station off I-5 and fueled up (14.02 mpg).
The RV handled the Pacheco Pass well and on the other side the smell of garlic permeated the air.
A few minutes later we pulled into our friends’ driveway.
Moved the cats and our overnight gear inside. We shared some drinks, conversation and dinner with our friends; a pleasant evening before re-embarking on our journey the next morning.
It was towards the end of June and we were going to leave on our Summer Trip in the next couple of weeks. I quite look forward to these trips except for one thing: hotel/motel reservations.
You see, we have a pair of cats, Di smokes and needs an ADA/Handicapped Accessible room — especially, the bathroom. We have to have a hotel/motel which accepts cats and where she can smoke — those are non-negotiable. The accessibility? Well, that ‘s on the “want” list.
Di does not want to make the reservations herself and I hate three-way conversations/negotiations between the hotel/motel, myself and my wife. I’ve done it (grumble, grumble, grumble) but . . .
It is getting increasingly difficult to find places that have rooms available for smokers and many allow dogs but not cats. In fact, two places we stayed at on our last few trips have converted to non-smoking and no cats. Neither Di nor I want to spend our trip in ten Motel 6 rooms across the country.
Well, to make a short story long, one morning in late June I dropped Di at Mimi’s in Fountain Valley to have a late breakfast/early lunch with one of her friends and took an hour and a half walk.
I passed by an RV dealer (Mike Thompson’s RV / https://www.mikethompson.com/) and began to browse — mistake. I looked at van-conversions/Class-B motorhomes. Something large enough to take me, Di and the two cats for a week or two or more and still small enough to drive around town and store in our driveway.
Found some nice ones built on a Mercedes (diesel) Sprinter chassis 20+ feet long. Seating for two or three up front, toilet, shower, cook-top, oven, sink, fridge, storage and a sofa/fold-out king/queen bed.
I phoned Di at the restaurant and she liked the idea so I brought her to the lot after lunch. Eventually, she picked a white Road-Trek Eco-Trek model (2018)/ (https://www.roadtrek.com/models/e-trek/) — the, of course, most expensive one. I’ll be paying for it beyond my currently expected expiration date — which I will do my best to extend.
I picked it up July 5th but: the kitchen sink leaked and they didn’t have the parts to fix it before we were going to leave — the next day. So, (dirty word, dirty word) we were without a working sink — the one in the bathroom was fine. Also, the bar which held up the engine hood was bent and needed to be replaced, but was adequate if you were careful.
That night and the next morning I stocked the RV with food, drink, luggage, the cats’ litter box, toilet paper. And Di’s rollator and Tzora battery-powered mobility scooter. It was quite crowded. Things had to be moved around to use the toilet or get to the sofa/bed in the back.
On Friday, July 6th, we set off for Minnesota — first stop, Bill and Artie’s (Artie and Bill’s) in Gilroy, California.
Time to take a swim before the day gets too hot to go out in the sun; after all, I’m not an Englishman.
Don and Kathy took the bus to Kassiopi; Becka walked to the harbor to do a little swimming in the bay (and maybe a bit of shopping); Di and her sisters are in and out of the pool and I’m reading the “local” papers online.
Being as this is our last full day at the villa, the sisters who own it came to say goodbye to Di, and the rest of us, this morning and brought her a few small gifts. They’re good people as Di has gotten to know them quite well through two years of email communications and frequent conversations while we’ve been here.
Dinner was a home-made affair of chicken, pasta and salad provided mostly by Trish and Helen.
Our last day, Friday, dawned just as beautiful, with promise to be hot, as most of those in the previous three weeks. I had my swim about nine and then went in to shower and finish packing. Di and her sisters swam later and sunned until after one in the afternoon. By that time I had most of Di’s stuff packed, including the items she’d purchased on Corfu for herself or for gifts.
Our taxi was late and arrived about two-fifteen. We loaded our belongings, Charlie’s scooter and ourselves and we were off. The drive to Corfu airport took about a half-hour.
At the airport we went to check in and all went fine until we came to Charlie’s scooter. First the security had me load it on the luggage belt to go through the scan — it wouldn’t fit. Later they decided that it had to have its battery attached — contrary to what had been AA and BA policy on our two flights previous. They had me wait in an out of the way area until the scooter was brought out from the luggage loading area.
Can you see me getting ticked off at both BA and Corfu security?
Then they came and got me and told I now had to go through security with the rest of my party, who had also been held up, and go to “6” just past Gate 5. (Gate 1 is where the rest of the passengers on our flight were to board.)
Di and I were hurried through security and to “6” at the end of the Departure level of the terminal. We were taken outside into the 90°+ heat of the day and I had to attach the battery to Di’s scooter. It was then wheeled off to be loaded onto our A320. The gentleman who had taken charge of us wanted Di and I to wait in the chairs there to be taken to the plane in about “5 minutes.”
NO, we were not going to wait in the heat and sun for him to return, so he reluctantly brought us back into the terminal with its minimal air conditioning. And, no, Di did not have time to shop in Duty Free. Yeah. Fifteen – twenty minutes later our guide returned to get us to the plane.
Now we were a bit ticked off but the next part was actually neat. Di was wheeled down a long ramp and to the back of rather large truck, but it wasn’t exactly a truck. The back end had a lift gate which we all got on and it lifted to the passenger area of the vehicle. The airport worker opened the door and pushed Charlie in. There was an identical door in the front to the right of the driver and another lift.
We drove to the front of the plane and parked just inches from the plane. The entire passenger section of our vehicle was then lifted to the level of the plane’s door and Charlie was wheeled forward. All she had to do was walk a step to the plane and then another fifteen feet or so to her seat in Aisle 1.
After we were seated the buses from the terminal carried the rest of the passengers out to be boarded. A weather delay over western Europe caused a half hour delay of our takeoff, but the plane was cool and it wasn’t a problem.
The flight itself was smooth; the Jack Daniels plentiful and the prawn dinner tasty. We had a twenty-five minute wait until a wheelchair arrived to take Di into the terminal at Heathrow. A longish walk and a two-stop tram ride brought us to the baggage area . . . Problem.
Last night was the most comfortable of our stay. We caught the southern edge of a front crossing Europe and had some clouds and a very nice breeze. Today dawned cool and breezy with clouds. The temperature in the sun, without cloud cover, is still brutal, however.
Charlie got up a bit earlier than ususal and I was able to get my swim in before Kathy and Don rose. Trish, Ivy and David drove to the market and David drove back with the groceries while the two ladies walked back for some exercise.
Don and I later walked to the market for exercise and to get some more milk, as we were about out — Di has to have some milk for her tea. We also picked up a newspaper and some soft drinks. The price came to €10.60 and I gave the cashier €15.00. She didn’t want to make change, however, so she only took the €10 note and I now owe her €0.60.
Charlie’s former student, Becka, is supposed to arrive some time before we go to dinner — she’s landed and we’re just waiting for her taxi to appear; our dinner reservation is for 7:30 pm and we’ll probably be a couple of hours. Ahhh . . . relaxing with good food and good friends.
Well, Becka showed up before we left for dinner and we showed her around the villa. She took a few minutes to rest in her room and then we talked a bit and went to dinner. David drove Di and I to the restaurant and found a place to park the car. The remainder of our party walked from the villa.
Di had wanted to browse at The Loom, the shop across from the taverna, but to the consternation of all it had closed early for the day. There weren’t many people in the taverna either nor at the beach. Ah hah, the winds had blown in seaweed and grass to the beach making it difficult to swim — I guess that accounted for the small crowd.
At any rate, we had our table for eleven in a beautiful spot and sat down. David and I had a beer, Di a Fanta lemonade; we also ordered water and wine. A few minutes later the walkers arrived, found seats (with Kathy sitting next to Di and Becka across the table from her). We talked for a while, took pictures, ordered starters and proceeded to enjoy the atmosphere and company.
Dinner consumed, the dessert course arrived: vanilla ice cream and espresso for four, chocolate and vanilla ice cream for the girls, ouzo for four and I had a brandy . . . ahhhh. The trip back to the villa was the reverse of the trip to the taverna. Soon after returning most of us went to bed, but Don and Kathy stayed up trying to get in sync with the local time zone.
This Sunday morning actually dawned cool and breezy. I had a nice swim and the coffee and . . . then it rained. Yes, it rained — for about ten minutes and then again a while later. David, Ivy and the girls left for the airport a bit before noon — they’ll next spend a week in Provence before heading back to the US. Kit leaves for the UK tonight.
Well . . . there is a definition of adventure which goes something like an event best experienced in the retelling rather than in the occurring — and, of course, you’d much rather hear from a friend who experienced it rather than your own experience from your own lips. . . well, today we had an adventure.
An hour or two after David, Ivy and the girls had left, we had lunch. Some salad, some leftovers, some bread and cheese. One of the leftover dishes was a lentil concoction . . . to some it tasted good, others, my wife, not so good. I’d had a cold spoonful from the fridge the night before and had some more of the re-heated remainder for lunch.
Of the seven of us at lunch five of us had the lentils — all five of us came down with “food poisoning.” Don, Kathy, Kit, Trish felt it early and I felt ill a couple of hours later. I barely made it to the throne room where the lentils went up and out. An hour later I again lost some more lentils. An hour later, again. This time it was mostly dry heaves, but no less painful and miserable. I crashed in bed and remained there for the next twelve hours or so.
During that time, Kit came in to find our Pepto supply Di had told him about. Someone also came in for Di’s night meds and I had to get out of bed and get these. Eventually Di came to bed, helped by Becka (who, like Di, hadn’t eaten any of the lentils).
First to baggage to pick up our suitcases and then to the surface to find our ride. She found us, because of Charlie’s scooter, and we were soon loaded into the car and bound for Hopton to the northeast of London. It was supposed to be a two and a half hour drive that morphed into a three and a half to four hour drive because of Friday traffic and a stalled lorry on a two-lane country highway — with Di and the driver nattering away about either Brexit or Trump for almost the entire journey.
It rained a bit, but we missed the day’s downpours and safely reached The Cedars, the home of Gerry and Maria, Di’s cousins. (In Britain many houses are named and without street number addresses — good luck finding a place without detailed directions and/or local assistance. Their postal service survives with a rather esoteric system of postal codes, but I don’t know how, so I guess we can too.)
Gerry and Maria greeted us warmly, and with Gerry’s help I carried our bags to upstairs to our rooms. Yes, upstairs seventeen steps and then down one step and again down two steps — then the reverse to go downstairs. It’s a bit tough on Di, but she seems, with help, to be managing. She needs both her cane and rollator “wheelie” to successfully navigate the house but does so without complaint.
We had a nice dinner the first night and slept with no sign of jet lag. Part of this may be due to the excellent company, food, wine and whisky provided by our hosts.
If you think that American television these days spends too much time and effort on the election campaign, you might be surprised to learn that British television, and newspaper coverage, spends at least as much time and effort on Brexit.
If the term “Brexit” means nothing to you, here’s a brief explanation: the United Kingdom last Thursday (June 23, 2016) held a referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU (European Union) or to leave. BRitish EXIT.
To the surprise of many, if not most, UK citizens and politicians, pollsters and bookies the LEAVE side won: 52% to 48%. Some areas, such as metropolitan London and Scotland, voted heavily to remain in the EU and others voted just as heavily to leave.
Even the bookies were wrong in their guesses as to which side would prevail. More money (the richer bettors) was bet on the “Remain” side, but more small bets (the poorer guys) were placed on the “Leave” side of the equation — “Leave” won the election.
The Prime Minister resigned; the financial markets were in turmoil; politicians, pollsters and pundits scrambled to explain the results; many Europeans said the equivalent of “Leave quickly”; and many “Leavers” were quite pleasantly surprised but unsure of what to do next. A number of disappointed (and possibly outraged “Remainers”) began signing an online petition to force another referendum.
A couple of days later the online petition was stripped of many electronic signatures for obvious irregularities such as several thousand signatures coming from British citizens living in Vatican City — with a population of about 800. Hmmm . . .