Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Maiden Voyage of the Dawn Treader!  Last Friday we climbed in the Dawn Treader, our brand-new-to-us RV, and rocketed out of Dallas. Well, perhaps that analogy doesn't quite fit. Our speed was way below the limit, qualifying us as the dad-gum geezers in the slow lane, but my fear and trepidation rivaled that of any astronaut. This, after all, was the maiden voyage of the Dawn Treader. 

Downtown Dallas

Despite all Tim learned from the three days spent with the manager and the mechanics at the service center in Dallas, there's nothing like on the job training for learning new skills. Swing wide, Tim!!!

What We've Learned
1.  Swing wide, Tim!
2.  Take it slow and limit your road time to less than 6 hours. 
3.  Learn to read a truckers' atlas. 
4.  Call ahead to Walmart. Not every store allows overnight camping. 
5.  Practice hitching and unhitching the tow car, preferably when you're not in the heat of the moment after a wrong turn. 
6.  Communicate effectively using hand signals. 
7.  Arrive at your overnight site prior to sunset. 
8.  Squeeze the RV carefully into a parking spot between two semis for an overnight stay in the overflowing lot at Love's Country Store. 
9.  Up your data plan with your provider.  We've used way more than expected.  Of course, it didn't help that Tim downloaded a map or that I've uploaded photos to this blog.
10.  Head south before campgrounds close for the season. Otherwise, practice steps 4 or 9 nightly. 

That's the Top Ten short version.  If you need more details, continue reading to the end of this post. 

Turning a 45-foot bus with a towed vehicle behind takes practice. Swing wide, Tim!  Luckily Tim has had some experience making his turns due to his stints driving the grain semi during wheat harvest. Still, it takes conscious effort and a very slow speed to negotiate a turn, especially to the right. Swing wide, Tim!

There are also other skills we've learned such leveling the coach when stopped, monitoring the water level in the fresh, gray and black tanks, and the all important how to raise & lower the privacy blinds when the button is hidden behind a cabinet door. 

I'm learning my role as navigator and signalman. The navigator reads the atlas BEFORE as well as during the expedition, plotting a course that requires no backtracking or, God forbid, backing up.  That's a direction involving much swearing while unhitching and moving the car away from the bus. 

Prior to departure, the signalman practices her sign language, standing to the rear of the towed vehicle in sight of the RV's rear-view mirror. A wave to the left means the car's left turn signal works. Repeat for the right. Two fists held high tell the driver the break lights are functioning. My favorite sign reminds me of preschool story hours--"open, shut them; open, shut them!  Give a little clap."  Ok, maybe I need to demonstrate that action in person but it signals that the emergency flashers are working.  Thank goodness, I'm a farm girl who grew up in the pre-digital age. I've had lots of practice, waving responses to my farmer father's hand signals from half a field away. 

Spending the night at Walmart felt safe because of all the security cameras in the parking lot. Last night's stay at Love's Country Store initially seemed less reassuring. But there appears to be a truckers' courtesy that makes spending the night cheek-to-jowl with semis on both sides civilized. 

Two more items we've learned on this maiden voyage: 

Memphis' Pyramid Arena

11.  We live in an amazingly beautiful country, albeit with somewhat quirky cities. 

Nashville's nighttime cityscape - See the Batman building?

12.  We are thankful for a safe trip. 

The Dawn Treader has landed in Vonore, TN. There we've scheduled some maintenance on the bus. Wednesday we'll take our car up to Nashville to spend Thanksgiving with our family. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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