In the immortal words of former President Gerald Ford, “Our long national nightmare is over”.
After 5 long, fun, but exhausting months, grandson Jace is back with his mother; and Barbara, Grover and I can now sleep past 7 AM if we choose to. If you've read the last few blog entries, you know we've spent lots of time and effort trying to keep an almost five year-old entertained since the beginning of January, and while it can be tiring to normal parent-aged people, it's downright exhausting for grandparents as old as we are. Let's face it; some people become grandparents in their mid-forties, and might have a five year-old grandson by 50. We're well into our sixties, which just confirms Barbara's belief that there is a reason God invented menopause!
Our last two months of April and May took up 5 weeks at our favorite North Georgia campground in Cleveland, GA – Leisure Acres – where we were able to have an occasional restful Friday night, Saturday or Sunday afternoon while Jace was reacquainted with his mother and father. And while we had hoped for a hand-off in early May, we still managed to finish the month with some more memories with Jace.
One of them was introducing Jace to the mothership, Red Bay, Alabama. Every kid with grandparents who own a Tiffin needs to see where all the Tiffins go to get fixed or modified, and Jace was no exception. No warranty work this time, so we were once again ensconced in Convenient Campground behind the Tiffin Service Center, but this time all our work was being done by third-party providers in town, so we had appointments made with each.
We had heard good things about Belmont Diesel just over the line in Mississippi, so since it was time for our semi-annual chassis maintenance on the Ford gasser, we decided to check them out ourselves. Very glad we did! They did our oil and filter change, and lubed the chassis for about half the cost of Bay Diesel over in Red Bay. The only knock against them (and we heard it only from some diesel owners) is that they don't have the big hydraulic lifts used by Bay Diesel to allow the owner to check things out under the chassis with the technician. Not a big deal for us. I know nothing about the underside of the Ford F-53 chassis, and have no desire to see it firsthand. As long as the technician tells me he rolled underneath and checked everything out and it looked good to him, I'm a satisfied customer.
Our next stop was back at Red Bay Body Shop, just outside the entrance to the Tiffin manufacturing plant. These were the guys who did such a great job of repairing the damage to our rear basement doors and tow dolly last year. No damage to repair this time (thank Heaven!), but a bit of an upgrade to Enterprise's exterior. On all new Tiffin high-end Buses, and optionally on their Phaeton line, the solid colored slide ends are painted to match and join up with the pattern of the rest of the coach, and it's really a great look. So I figured, “Why can't my gasser look just like those high-end diesels?”
So now it does.
Jeff and Jeff did a fantastic job on the front end of our main slide, and the rear end of our bedroom slide. These guys are perfectionists. It was their first time doing this upgrade, and even though they underestimated the time and effort to do the job, they stuck to their original estimate like the professionals that they are. A final night to let the new silicone sealant set properly, and it's back on the road to Jace's final vacation spot: Myrtle Beach, SC.
We had planned 6 months previously (pre-Jace) to meet up with long-time and best friends Rick and Marielle Penney in their new-to-them Grand Design Reflection during their first long distance excursion in the new fifth wheel. They had spent a weekend with us last year at our campground in New Hampshire, but that was only about 45 minutes away from where they lived. This was their first real long distance drive with the new rig, and a first for both of us at a true beach resort.
Our destination was Pirateland RV Campground, an older location that had a lot of amenities for kids and adults (Rick and Marielle were also traveling with her brother and sister-in-law Michael and Marie, who had their son and two grandkids with them in an Open Range travel trailer), so entertaining kids was pretty important. The campground was built in the late 1960's, and there became the first problem we encountered. Thank God our friends had the foresight to book the relatively few pull-through sites in the park, because I'm not sure we could have backed into some of the smaller sites we saw. Others did, but it all depended on whether the people across from you were not parked in the narrow streets and hadn't taken a walk to the beach so they couldn't move their car or truck.
The streets in Pirateland are narrow. Like just wider than your motorhome narrow. As we were turning onto the one-way street to find our spot, I had to negotiate a drop-off into water on my left side to swing wide enough so that I could thread a needle between a truck parked too far into the street on my passenger side, and the awning of a fifth wheel parked too close to the back of their site on my driver's side. No exaggeration: I had 6” of clearance from scraping the truck, and 4” from taking out someone's awning. And due to our tow dolly configuration, I can't back up to better reposition my approach, so it's get it right the first time, or else.
I stuck the landing.
The good news was that our three sites are all in a row next to each other, so visiting with friends was easy, and because they were at the front of the row it was just a short 3-minute walk to the beach. The wind kept things comfortable on hot days, but the awning stayed in all the time. The mini-golf on site, the splash pad for kids and the lazy river for adults are adequate, but the on-site support is spotty. The previous residents on our site must have had a budding engineer with them, as someone had dug a fairly deep hole right off of our concrete pad, which almost resulted in a serious injury to Barbara. A call to the office got someone out right away to fill it, but a similar hole at the end of our site remained unfilled before we left, even with two requests to fill it. Bottom-line is that no one at Pirateland checks the sites out when people leave to see if there is anything that needs some attention.
The other issue is golf carts. For some reason people feel the need to rent them and drive them constantly around the campground. Too many of them are driven by young people who don't follow the speed limit and play music too loud. One of our travel companions actually stopped a cart going too fast and pointed out the 4 and 5 year-olds playing around the campsite to remind them to slow it down.
Still, we had our fun with friends and with Jace. We alternated days on the beach with days at the pool. Jace made new friends with everybody he met. He also collected shells. Lots of shells. We had to buy a container for all the shells he collected, and that went home to mom along with Jace at the end of our trip. Myrtle Beach was a fitting end to Jace's long stay with us.
A day or so before being handed over to mom, Jace announced that he wanted to bring Grover with him to his new house, because he loved Grover. Grover, however, wanted nothing to do with that deal. Grover likes Jace just fine, but he also likes alone time, which never happens with Jace around.
As we transferred Jace and the rest of his belongings to his mother's car, Jace promised that he would do video calls – to Grover, not to us – and he promised to be good for mommy.
And we got back to blessed peace and quiet, even though we'll miss the little stinker.
Next stop: New England and the return of an old friend . . .
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.