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The Thankmas Party

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-Gramps-

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The Thankmas Party and the Christmas Bash

Well, the weekend of November 20 was another short but nice trip. Diane, Nickolas and I, took off at about three o'clock on a Friday for North River Campground near the southern end of the Dismal Swamp in Currituck, North Carolina. We headed for our annual Good Sam's local chapter combination Christmas and Thanksgiving party; our Thankmas party. It is something we look forward to each year. It was supposed to have happened the weekend before at Camp Hatteras but the Storm of the Decade wiped out the road leading to Rodanthe so we had to move the location.

We would have left earlier than three, but I waited until the last minute to purchase my gift for the party. We always have the give a gift/steal a gift ceremony. It usually works out better with a large crowd because someone will get into the spirit of things and steal something. When we have a small crowd, which was the case this time, things don't get quite so rowdy. I purchased a Mexican Train game in a metal travel case, along with a gift bag and some grocery items that Diane needed for the Saturday night pot luck and Turkey Dinner.

It was a quick trip down. We setup camp and all was well until I tried to turn the 12 volts on for the water heater. I received a fault alarm. After some double checking I discovered I had no propane flow. Now why was that? It worked the last time I used it. Well, I switched to 110 volts and we left for the Friday night get-together without hot water to wash our faces first. We had some snacks, played some cards which was fun, and then went home.

The next morning, after the group breakfast, my friend Jerry and I decided to take a look and see what was going on with the propane. The first thing we made sure of was that the tank was turned on. Which it was, but it didn't sound right. Usually when I first turn on the flow you hear a hiss, but we didn't get that familiar sound this time. We took a couple of wrenches and disconnected the rubber hose from the coach line and discovered some kind of olive oil like substance in the fitting. Once we blew that unknown substance out everything started working again.

For most of the day I worked around the RV, repairing sweeps and some other small items. There was a group committee reworking our charter bylaws, so I stopped by the meeting room to offer some hopefully helpful input. Around five, we had our really good ThanksmasTurkey dinner followed by the gift swap. I was the master of ceremonies and I tried to liven things up a bit, but for some reason people were not in the spirit of stealing at all. I was the first one to draw a number and picked a gift which I later swapped. Afterward I did entertain us all with some tales of mine and Diane's first Christmas together as husband and wife and others piped up with some funny stories as well.

We left the next morning pretty early, right after breakfast. As we were leaving we watched a bear cross the road in front of us. We were home by noon.

For Thanksgiving, my daughter and her family drove up from Florida. I turned the coach into a temporary hotel room for her, her husband and the baby. We had a very crowded house for about four days. Diane loved it. I felt claustrophobic, so I hid in my office with my grandboys and played computer games with them. Austen and I swapped off sessions of Battlefield Heroes, a somewhat goofy online cartoon shooter. It was fun and helped me avoid all the Legos and Duplos scattered around the house. We went to my brother's house for Thanksgiving dinner along with about 25 other members of my extended family, including my parents. It was a very good dinner and lots of fun including a loud session of football watching. I really don't know how my brother and his wife managed to pull it off so well, but they did.

Now this past weekend Diane, me, and our friends Gary and Janis traveled to the Beth Page Campground in Urbanna for the annual FMCA Colonial Virginians Christmas Bash. And it was just that, a Bash, a good one too.

We planned on leaving on Friday around noon. Our two coaches would rendezvous at the inspection station for the Monitor and Merrimac bridge tunnel, the M&M as it is known around these parts, and then it would be about an hour drive to the campground. We'd set up camp and then have plenty of time to relax a bit before the group happy hour at five.

Simple enough, right? It didn't work out quite that way.

At 11:45 a.m. we were ready to go. That would give us just enough time to make it to the meeting spot. We headed out to the rig only to find that a car was parked on the street blocking the coach. Diane, on the walkie-talkie, tried to get the rig past it but it would not make it; just not enough room. So she walked up to the door of the duplex where she hoped to find the owner of the car and ask them to move it. I turned off the coach and then realized my tail end was still out over the road and I needed to move it. It wouldn't start. Dead. Nothing, No lights on the dash, no click, not even the dome light would work. The steps were dead, too. I was not getting any voltage from the chassis battery at all. So I jumped out of the coach, took a meter to the battery and I got 11 volts. My brain was racing now trying to figure out what was wrong, and how was I going to get this rig started and moved. Could we still make our trip? By this time Diane has found no one at home in the duplex and was standing behind me.

"Can you jump it with the car?" she asked.

Jump it? Wait, I can boost it!

"I forgot about the battery boost!" I told her.

I rushed back into the coach, hit the boost switch, turned the key and she started right up. Diane got on the phone with Janis to fill her in on why we are going to be delayed. We still had the problem of getting around the parked car. I fixed that. I had Diane back me straight back into the yard across the street, which is mostly gravel, around the car and then I made a forward right turn. She jumped into the coach and we were off.

An hour and some minutes later, including the time it took to meet up with Gary and Janis, we arrived at Beth Page. Diane registered and we were led by a campground worker in a golf cart to our head to tail (or tail to head) site.

It was really cold. My hands were freezing as we leveled, hooked up the power and ran out the slides. Lastly, I hooked up the water and discovered that the right door piston was shot. I found that out after the bay door dropped and hit me on the back of the head. Usually I bang into a door or the slide out not the other way around. I also discovered that there was no water. I knew that Beth Page was closed for the winter and opened just for this rally, but I didn't get the memo telling me to bring my own water or I would have arrived with more than a tenth of a tank. Gary didn't get the memo, either, and his fresh water tank was bone dry.

We had no choice but to break down, go to the office, where there was one working faucet, and fill up. That's what we did, along with five other coaches. I left first, arrived at the office and with some help, threw my fresh water hose under the coach, hooked up and waited about 15 minutes to acquire three quarters of a tank of water. That was enough. While I was filling, Gary informed me his main slideout had decided to malfunction as he was bringing it in at the site. The bottom right corner had torqued itself so bad that the frame had broken lose from the outside of the coach. He had a heck of time getting it to come back in.

With full tanks, or close enough, anyway, we headed back to the site and set up again. I was still having to use the boost to get the coach started so obviously something was going on, but I managed to get the coach leveled, slides out, power connected, not in that order, and the Snowmen that Diane had set out when we first arrived were still smiling at me from their place on the dining table credenza. I walked back to Gary's coach only to find out that now he can't start his coach either. I am beginning to find this a bit freaky. I suggested he use his boost. That worked and he was able to level the coach, which requires the motor to be running, and then he nursed his slides out a bit tentatively but they made it. At this point, Gary is now an unhappy camper. I don't blame him. I have been there a bunch of times.

"What's going on with my battery?" he asks.

"Not sure," I replied. "But since we both have the same coach and we both have the same problem, well it's weird, that's all I can tell you."

Our common weird problem had to wait. It was almost five o'clock and time to head over to the happy hour, which by this time we both needed. I went back to our coach, changed into something a bit nicer, grabbed a plate of shrimp and a bottle of beer, shoved the beer into a picnic backpack, that I bought from one of our Sun chaser friends who got it at the Thanksmas party but didn't think they would use it, and we loaded everything and everybody into Janis's Vue and a couple of minutes later arrived at the evening's party.

There was lots of fine finger foods there, including good sized shrimp, meat balls, cheese and crackers, hot wings along with brownies, cheese cake and other things that are easy to eat and easy to eat too much of. I did eat too much, but I didn't care.

Along with the goodies we had pleasant conversation. Two friends of ours, Bill and his wife Mickey, were at our table. They are also members of our Good Sam's chapter. They didn't make it to the Thanksmas party and we missed them so it was very nice that they were at the Bash.

Gary and I mentioned our electrical problem, slide out problems, and how aggravating it was. That was nothing compared to the lightning hit that scorched Bill and Mickey's stored coach. The lightning did some fourteen thousand dollars worth of damage to the coach and took months to repair. After hearing their story I thought about that old saying:

"I complained that I had no shoes until I met a person with no feet"

Many times our coaches may have a problem, but many times someone else will have a bigger problem, one that you hope will never happen to you. It's best to just keep it in perspective.

After too many shrimp and meatballs (for me anyway), a couple glasses of wine, a beer (also for me) and a lot of Mexican train we called it a night, packed up and drove back to the coaches.

After Gary, Janis, Diane and I said our good nights, Diane and I decided to curl up with Nicolas and a good movie. Diane had experienced some minor back pain most of the day. A bit of self medication at Happy Hour seemed to help, but she still wanted to ice it for a while. She curled up on the couch with the dog; I started the Curious Case of Benjamin Button spinning in the DVD player and settled comfortably in my Euro chair. It wasn't long before Diane was out like a light. I watched the movie by myself, and enjoyed every minute of it.

As soon as the movie ended I was ready to hit the sack. I woke Diane up so she could go to bed and go back to sleep.

The next morning all four of us, with Diane's back feeling much better, headed back to the conference center for a catered breakfast and another opportunity to eat too much. There were good biscuits, gravy, bacon, light and fluffy scrambled eggs, and pancakes. All of it fixed really well. I didn't overdo it. I know-you don't believe me.

Bill and Mickey were at our table again and this time the conversation was about the remodeling of their Allegro Bay that was done down in Red Bay Alabama. It sounded like they had some really fine improvements made so we all agreed that sometime before the rally ended we would visit their coach and take a look for ourselves.

After breakfast and back at the site, Gary and I decided to tackle this strange electrical problem we were both having.

We used my volt ohm meter to try to trace down where this problem could be coming from. While we were at it a couple of other campers, Jack and Buddy, walked over to see what we were up to. Jack was a bit of an electrician so he said "let's tackle one of the coaches and see what we find out."

After a bit of poking around inside the electrical control panel, which was located in its own compartment, and some crawling around under the engine, we discovered that both coaches were suffering from a manual battery disconnect switch not making good contact. What are the odds of that? After some manipulation to shake the rust off so to speak, and some squirts of electrical silicon spray, the problem seemed to be solved. One down, who knows how many more to go.

Well, we had some hours to kill before the big dinner and gift giving/gift stealing (yes another one!) party that night. We decided to head into the little waterfront town of Urbanna and see what there was to see.

First we stopped at an auto parts store so Gary could buy a new gas cap for his coach. He misplaced his somewhere between Tampa and Tidewater. I brought mine along so that the store could match it. I have found it difficult to get parts for my coach at an auto parts store, makes no difference which one. As soon as you say this gas piston, light bulb, gas cap, whatever part, comes from a motor home, the guys or gals behind the counter look at you like you just ordered a cheeseburger.

On this occasion the store had a compatible locking gas cap, at a good price so that problem was solved. I asked about a basement door piston, but not having the bad one with me, there wasn't anyway to match it. That would have to wait for another day. While there we saw something unusual on the counter. It was a large block of cement with shoes stuck in the middle of it. I am not sure what that item was for, but it did make for a number of in-law and ex wife jokes that I don't think I will repeat here.

Our next stop was a good size flea/collectible/antique market located in a metal building. There were a number of interesting things in there including some Blue Danube dishes. Diane has a small collection of those and left the store with a purchase of a cup and saucer.

We visited a couple of variety stores. No being in the market for variety, no matter what kind, I purchased nothing. Diane bought something else but I don't remember what it was.

We did visit a nice clothing store where I found a black shirt with vertical colored stripes. It looked Christmassy and more important, it was forty percent off. Diane bought it for me along with a nice fleece vest for herself.

The last thing we did was walk up the street to Olivia's Seafood Restaurant. We all had a cup, actually a bowl, of crab and shrimp bisque that was to use their words "Food of the Gods" and it was. I also had a fried oyster and shrimp salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. It was really good. I have not had good fried oysters in a long time.

We made a stop at the local supermarket for a six pack of libations and then it was back to the campground.

Diane and I showered, she went first, and I scalded myself second. I can never seem to adjust the temperature of the water when it comes from the water pump. Then I put on my new shirt for the evening's catered dinner. Once ready we grabbed our gifts, our picnic bag containing glasses and a bottle of wine and we were all off once more.

I forget to tell you that Beth Page had the meeting/conf room decorated really nicely. There are beams on the ceiling, columns that ran length of the room on both sides and all had lights on them. There was a nice sized tree at the stage end of the room and all the tables had red tablecloths on them with a nice centerpiece, well in the center of the table.

The night's dinner was a house salad, pork roast, very tender, with scalloped potatoes, and seasoned long green beans. We also really great dinner rolls and dessert, which I skipped, of hot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.

I tried not to overdue it. Before dinner was served, I started out with my own thermos of hot cider to which I added just a bit of Captain Jack's favorite liquid, Meyer's Rum. Two cups of that and I was feeling pretty good.

As soon as dinner was over and the tables were cleared the gift giving and stealing time began. This took awhile, too long. People didn't attack their packages. They unwrapped them like they were wrapped with money and didn't want to tear the paper. At first no one wanted to steal anyone else's present. That changed as the evening went along. There were forty presents to give out, one per coach with a couple of exceptions Diane and I being one since we brought two gifts. The gifts that got stolen the most (and three times was the max) were animated mechanical singing floppy eared dogs. Diane took her gift and stole one of those cute singing Cocker Spaniels from someone. The very next person stole it from Diane and left her with a metal traveling case of grill utensils. I liked that present! It didn't matter that Diane was the one that bought it and brought it.

The evening was fun and it eventually ended. We all had our pictures taken with Santa, we gave toys to the Marines Toys for Tots program, and we were all full of pork and other things. The only unpleasant thing was I was called a Rat Fink by the lady who lost her nice wine carrier containing two great bottles of wine to me and ended up with a bottle of Crown Royal with two matching glasses that got stolen by someone else. Hey you can't make everyone happy!

By the time the party was over, Diane and I were pretty beat. We went back to the coach and took Nickolas for a long walk, and along the way chatted with other campers. Then we hit the sack and watched an episode of The Closer on the little bedroom TV.

Next morning we had a continental breakfast, talked to some other campers, including the nice lady who thought I was a fink. After breakfast Bill, Gary and I went back to Gary's coach to help shove his slide back in. The girls all decided to walk over to Bill's coach to see the remodeling.

As we were driving to the coach it started to pour down rain. Gary, who had tried to bring in his slide before breakfast and it stuck, now ran it back out. It dumped about ten gallons of water on me at the same time. Bill and I then grabbed a hold of it, he lifted while I pushed and with Gary on the in button, we man handled the slide closed.

Bill then realized he had the keys to his coach. The girls were standing in the rain somewhere so we rushed to the car to go open the door. We found three wet ladies standing outside, but they were under umbrellas so it wasn't too bad. We visited the coach and found some really nice work had been done to it. There were new lights, couch, dining table, new floor, and other things. Having seen it before, I could tell a major difference. We visited for a few minutes and then said our goodbyes.

It took Gary and me a bit to pack up our coaches in the rain. After he had a basement door that wouldn't close and I had a sewer line pop off and give me a brown set of shoes, we finally got underway. We were home after about two hours of driving in the rain.

Yesterday I helped Gary diagnose his slide problems. We took pictures which were sent to the manufacturer and I spent some time on the phone getting advice about how to repair it. I relayed that advice to Gary and today he called me to inform me that most of the major repairs he was able to take care of himself. We both still need to get our slides adjusted and we both have some other things we want to get fixed. The thing is we are helping each other. That's what it is about.

Diane said that one of the reasons we are so close to our RV friends is because they are there to help when you have troubles and there to share your joy when everything is going well. Friends are really the biggest part of the equation.

They are there to help your coach to improve your life, if you let it.

I think I have read that somewhere before.

Merry Christmas!

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