Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RV and Biker Babes

Ron always breaks news to me gently. It’s almost like cutting off the monkey’s tail, a little at a time. His doctor suggested months ago that he have surgery to remove a section of colon that might break due to weakness of diverticulitis. After seeing a surgeon, he decided he would have the surgery after we returned from China this last time. It was scheduled for May 6.

Ron, being so sure his surgery would be minor, scheduled appointments for the next weekend. His doctor quickly advised him that he would not be traveling that weekend. Ron put them off for one week.

Ron informed me that when we left we would be traveling across Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas for the next 6-8 weeks.

Ron’s surgery was not as minor as he expected. They removed 20” of his colon and he had some complications that kept him in the hospital two extra days. He was also very weak for the next 10 days after he returned home. But, in spite of this, he continued to prepare for the long fund-raising trip to begin as scheduled.

Ron received a call from a church in Nashville asking if we could help a minister from Morocco find a hospital for his five year old daughter that needed heart surgery. The minister was already in the U.S. He visited Ron in the hospital to get more information about finding surgery for his daughter. After some days, Ron told me that the family needed a place to stay so he thought they could live in our house while we were traveling. The minister’s wife and their two daughters were scheduled to arrive a few days after we left on our trip. They also have a one-year old daughter.

Not only did I start packing for a 6-8 week trip, I also saw many things that needed to be done in the house to leave it clean and ready for a family to live in. As I removed clothes and packed, I also straightened up all the closets. I changed the beds and cleaned the baths. I defrosted a freezer in the basement and moved my frozen food to it. I cleaned out the refrigerator and pantry. I put away trinkets and things I did not want left out with small children in the house. The more I did, the more I saw that needed to be done. I did not realize that my house was not childproof and so disorganized.

Remember, we had been to China for three weeks and soon after we got home, Ron went in for surgery. There was just no time to do things that need to be done routinely. All the while, I have 40 hours per week of computer work waiting for me. It was truly overwhelming to get it all done.

As I began packing, Ron informed me that he’d talked with my brother in Oxford, MS and there was a good chance that we would use his RV to drive on the rest of our trip. My brother has not used his RV in several years, having had some health problems. He told us that some things needed to be done and he had ordered parts but did not know if he would get it done in time for us to use. It turned out that the parts were on back order and the RV was not ready.

It may have been a blessing because it’s not always good to borrow or buy something from a relative. My brother loves that RV and since it means so much to him, I was very hesitant to borrow it. I don’t think he was really interested in selling it to us. It was originally very expensive and a large model anyway. I was rather pleased that the deal fell through. Ron was terribly disappointed and started looking at RV’s everywhere we went.

We arrived in Baton Rouge, LA more than a week ago. We had churches to report to over two weekends. It was only days before Ron spotted an RV for sale by owner. He called and set a time to see it on Memorial Day. On Tuesday, he bought it. I did not see it until the deal was done, but it really didn’t matter anyway. Ron’s heart was set on having one for us to use as we travel to give reports.

We always appreciate the hospitality of people asking us to stay with them but it’s not always convenient for them or for us. Ron regrets spending money for hotels so we stay in the cheapest (some flea bags are as bad as the 2 star hotels in China). We really had a bad one in Baton Rouge when we arrived so that spurred him on to buy the RV. He is convinced that a few trips like this and the RV will pay for itself.

The RV he bought is an Airstream and like a bus to me. It has 60,000 miles but Ron said that is still O.K. for us to use the next five years if we are able to do this work that long.

We have been waiting for the RV repair place to get in the trailer hitch to attach to pull the car. We brought the older car because it's lighter but because of it's age and make, it also created a problem finding the correct trailer hitch. It had to be ordered from Shreveport, LA.

In the meantime, we parked at one of the churches’ parking lots and connected up to their electricity and water (with their permission, of course). Some things did not work on the RV or Ron could not figure out how to get them working. We went to get propane but could not start the stove or get hot water. This past week, I went into the church’s ladies room to wash my hair and clean up because we didn’t have hot water in the RV. Ron doesn’t understand why I can’t shower and wash my hair with a cold shower. Unless it’s 95 degrees inside, I’m not finding that a very pleasant experience. I told him today that an RV or Biker Babe just can’t be expected to look very good on the road so get used to it.

It is 95 degrees with a heat index of about 106 every day so the humidity is terrible. My usually straight hair is frizzy and wavy.

Having completed the reports and meetings with this church, we left early Monday morning to drive to the RV repair place. They corrected a lot of minor things on the RV while I sat in a dirty waiting room and crocheted for four hours. The stove is working but we still don't have hot water. They will check this out again.

The trailer hitch was supposed to arrive Tuesday morning but they claim the truck bringing in the part broke down and it's been put on another delivery truck. Apparently, it is heavy steel and can't just be shipped by UPS or FedEx. It will take four hours to install it. Since we had another night or two in Baton Rouge, the owner of the RV repair place let us park inside his chain link fenced area. He connected us up to his electricity and even offered us a key to his building. We could not have found a nicer guy. He has extended hospitality to us like we are his long lost favorite relatives.

For anyone that does not already know, I am not the camper type. I have never liked camping of any kind. I am not the adventurous type either so I immediately thought of the danger of driving this big thing on the road with a car behind it and the limitation we would have. It’s almost like running a race with a sack of potatoes on your back. None of my protests or cautions had any bearing on the purchase of an RV.

I believe a wife has the right to express her views, her needs, dislikes, concerns, etc. Most everyone knows that I am very free to do this but it’s almost like pouring water on a duck’s back. I never put my foot down and simply say NO because I have been so concerned about being an overbearing and unsubmissive wife. I don’t want it to be a long remembered mistake that I made. After I see that I can’t win in a situation, I start changing my attitude and turning it over to God.

My reflections on someone that likes RV’s is that these type people should also like motorcycles, pick-up trucks, race cars, tailgating, boats, airplanes, jet skis and such like. Not a single thing in that list has ever appealed to me. My brother is 80 years old but he has a Harley and two very expensive jet skis! If the deal on his RV had worked out, I was hoping the Harley was not part of it. I knew the jet skis weren’t because this is a business trip, not a pleasure trip!

Ron and I have been through the airplane and boat route and I was a happy wife the day we gave both of those things up. Starting a stretch of RV living was simply not in my picture. I like my hot showers, meals out most of the time and someone else cleaning up for me. I have enough on me when I’m home so I somehow feel that there should be some incentive if you must travel.

When we had a sailboat, I thought it was more work than fun. I was the person assigned to the jib so I worked the sails constantly while Ron gently guided the boat with the tiller. Of course, I couldn’t do that part and I was good at handling the sails but it was hard work. I always said sailing was 80% work and 20% fun. I think an RV is about the same ratio on my scale of having fun.

I’m sorry, all of you campers out there. I’ve never understood why anyone with a nice home would go to live in the woods with insects, sleep on cots or poor beds, get eat up by mosquitoes, carry everything with you and have to do the cooking while you are there. I want someone to tell me where the fun is in all of this. Camping is returning to live like nomads or poor people.

All kidding aside, I will manage with my “home away from home” but it is for the work in China and for Ron that I’m doing this. It would not be my choice, EVER! When you see the picture of the RV, you will say “what’s she complaining about, it looks pretty good.” It is, quite frankly, nice enough and spacious enough and comfortable. I’m not hating it, but it’s not like home. We conserve water, gas and live in a space not much larger than a walk-in closet. But, I was thinking that if the "present Mrs. Brown" didn't do this, there would be plenty of other women that would be very happy to have an old man and a camper and travel like this.

If we have more time to work, not have to check out of hotels at noon, packing and unpacking the car at every stop, able to save money on hotels and eating out, then I’ll gladly do it. I realize that this is not for me anyway because if it were, I’d insist on staying at the Ritz and eating most of my meals at Red Lobster.

The meetings with the churches have gone well. I have signed up 10 sponsors for the next orphanage children. Others have written asking questions and stating that they may sponsor a child. We have been shown great hospitality by everyone.

We will be in Orange, TX on Wednesday night. From there we will go to Houston for a few days. Then our route will take us to Dallas and on to Oklahoma.

Many of you have asked about Ron’s health. He’s had a few minor difficulties but for the most part, he’s recovered quite quickly. I think he should have rested a few more weeks before we headed out but it is impossible to keep him down.

Remember us in your prayers, for our safety and for the success of this trip.

P.S. We will return to China about July 20th for the cleft palate medical mission and trips to the orphanage in Zigong and the newest orphanage in Luxi. Ron will make a side trip to Hong Kong to report to two groups that support our work in China. We will be in China one month this time.

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