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What Happens in Santa Fe...

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Dear Readers,

By now you know we have made it to Witchita Falls and, of course, we made it to our final destination for our shake-down cruise, which was Santa Fe -- not without incident(s), of course. But we made it there and back home to Longview, Texas.

Although we had our share of mishaps along the way, I'm pleased to report that my marriage to Ms. Wendy is stronger than ever (I hope) and that Gracie and Coco enjoyed the trip immensely. You would have thought the two of them had been RVers all their lives, although they did tend to bark a little more than I would have liked. Being small dogs, I suppose they have to try to show how tough they are.

Along the route to Santa Fe, I will report that we had one of the windiest (is that a word?) trips that I have ever been on. We had crosswinds the entire trip from Texas to Santa Fe and back. I know that my forearms are a little stronger as a result of trying to hold our 42-foot Gulf Stream on the road. Ms. Wendy's eyes kept getting big as we would drift to her edge of the roadway. She would grab for her imaginary steering wheel and pump her imaginary brake -- I suppose because you feel so darn helpless in the passenger side captain's chair. Plus, I will admit that I tend to be somewhat of an aggressive driver when I'm in my pickup truck. I'm usually in a hurry and have little patience for people who seem to have all the time in the world to get wherever it is that they intend to go.

So, Ms. Wendy and I struck a bargain when we purchased our coach: I had to sign a contract to drive safely and not aggressively, or else she would abandon me somewhere along the road and leave me with the dogs. Now, that might be a tempting offer to some folks, but I rather enjoy my wife's companionship and the dogs don't cuddle near as good, though they do cuddle.

So, I am pleased to report that on our initial journey Ms. Wendy only had to scold me a couple of times about my speed: "Slow down, you're going too fast to suit me" is what she said. And, for the sake of our marriage, not to mention my legal obligation under our safe-driving contract, I would slow to a safer speed, and everyone was happy.

I mentioned that this trip was our first RV Adventure but said it would not be our last, and it won't, if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, as they say in Texas. I used the word "adventure" because that is descriptive, I believe, of the entire trip, including night two in Santa Fe.

Now, for those of you who have been to Santa Fe, you know that this charming town is blessed in many ways, including having an array of wonderful restaurants. I am somewhat of a foodie in that I love to cook and fancy myself as an amateur chef. So, I asked my friend from Longview, who owns a home in Santa Fe, for some good recommendations on places to eat. He suggested a number of places and we ate lunch at one on our first trip to the Plaza and we made a reservation for the next night to go to another. But, as we sat around our coach, enjoying the Santa Fe Skies (that is where we stayed, too, by the way), we decided we would rather stay in than eat out. So, since I did not bring much in the way of food to cook, we called in burgers and I went to pick them up and brought them back to our camp site, where we sat outside with Gracie and Coco and watched game 6 of the NBA finals. I knew at this point that we were true RVers because that is what we preferred to do -- stay in camp, rather than eat out.

I also mentioned that I hoped this blog would sometimes be informative, if not funny. You may say, "How can a new RVer have anything to say that would be informative?" Well, I'm sure many of you reading this have years of experience in an RV. But, Ms. Wendy and I had an experience in Santa Fe, on our second night, that has hopefully prepared me like a good Eagle Scout should be.

You see, after we had gone to bed, along about 1 in the morning, Ms. Wendy woke up to the sounds of someone yelling outside our coach. She thought at first that it was some kids who had come by our campsite earlier in the day. She told me to wake up, that I needed to go outside and see what was wrong.

Now, I was in a dead sleep and I figured that some couple was fighting and I am smart enough not to try to get in the middle of a fight (I learned that lesson the hard way, but that's another story). Then, my wife looked out of our bedroom window and saw a huge fire burning up the other side of the ridge of which we were on top. More importantly, the winds, now blowing at about 40 mph, were blowing the embers toward our coach and over the top of it. I was aware that very day there was a grass fire burning northwest of Santa Fe that had consumed over 9,000 acres at that point.

I told Ms. Wendy to get the dogs and put them in my truck and get in the truck and get ready to leave. I brought the jacks up and started the engine to let the air pressure build. My plan was to be ready to get ourselves out of the campground if the fire spread toward us.

Then, I went to see what was on fire and discovered that a gentleman's Fifth Wheel RV was totally engulfed in flames. He had managed to get himself out and get his vehicles and propane bottles away so they would not burn. I am pleased to report that the fire department got there quickly and contained the fire to his RV, although the RVs on either side had some heat damage. Thankfully, and praise God, no one was hurt or killed.

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time falling back to sleep when I've been asleep for any length of time. So, as we lay back down that night, we got to thinking and talking, What would we do if our coach caught fire? Would we be able to get out if the fire was blocking the door?. So, we put this experience to good use for us. We made an escape plan. We found the exit window and are prepared to use it if necessary. We are buying a second fire extinguisher to put in the rear of the coach where we sleep. And we will have a designated meeting place if we get separated. And we decided that we would save ourselves over our property, if it came to that. Hopefully, it never will.

So, to sum up, I learned three things from this, our first RV Adventure:

1. Always check the weather of your destination before you leave. A temerature of 114 degrees is no condition to travel in, what is, in effect, a metal box.

2. You can't back up a toad vehicle with tow bars attached. Don't try it; it doesn't and will not work. You will regret it.

3. Have an escape plan in the event of a fire and a meeting point every time you camp. It might just save your lives.

Oh, yeah, I learned one other thing: I love RVing and cannot wait for our next adventure.

See you down the road,

Brad Steele

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