Southbound and Down

What’s the old saying about guests and fish?  That they start to stink after three months, right?  Something like that.  I may be mixing up time units – not sure.  Regardless, we cleaned up our mess and departed my parents’ driveway for points south on the last day of February.  As much as we enjoyed our quality time with them, it was time to set out on our own once again.

“Dawn Patrol” has become a kid favorite mode of departure.  I’m a fan, too, frankly. We get everything ready to go, including disconnecting from any hookups and pulling in Davista’s large slideout, at bedtime.  Keeper sleeps on the couch since his bed drops down over the driver’s seat.  And I set an alarm for oh dark thirty. Upon awakening to the first few lines of Everything in its Right Place (my current alarm tone of choice, which, I literally just now realized, may not be setting the proper tone for my days), I hook up the Toad if necessary, make a quick cup of coffee, and off we go, ideally with everyone else still asleep.  The kids like it because it effectively shortens the travel time – nothing like waking up to find yourself halfway to your destination already.  And I like it because of the quiet, inside and outside.  Though guiding the Davista-Toad complex safely down the road takes nothing near the intense concentration it did when we first started, it’s still taxing, with the attention required and fatigue induced almost directly proportional to the traffic on the road.  So an empty freeway is nice.

Like the kids, I also enjoy having made a large dent in our travel day by the time the sun rises, and this particular leg was a long one.  Not wanting to navigate LA’s spaghetti bowl of freeways again during high traffic time (i.e. anytime other than midnight to 4 AM), I had worked with Tacco to devise a route that bypassed it entirely and netted us another National Historical Site along the way.  This one was dedicated to Cesar Chavez, and sits in the Tehachapi hills at the south end of California’s Central Valley, on the way to the desert that surrounds LA.  It was a relaxing and educational stop; I lived a large part of my life in California and never knew it was there.

I also learned that the LA basin’s traffic is a vastly more formidable force than I had given it credit for.  Though we may have avoided about an hour of start/stop and multiple forced lane changes on “the 5,” we traded it for about two extra hours of driving due to the circuitous route, and a good forty-five minutes of start/stop on a few other numbered SoCal freeways preceded by the definite article, which I’d previously considered remote enough to be non-busy.  I’d tell you my whole route, but I don’t want to sound too much like The Californians on Saturday Night Live.

Oh, and the flashing check engine light?  Not fixed.  Again.  Yeah, that didn’t take long to discover once we actually started moving in earnest.  I’m now learning far more than I ever wanted to know about misfires, what can cause them, how they’re sensed, what damage having them can do to your engine components, and on and on and on.  I still don’t know if we’re actually misfiring or just incorrectly sensing that we are.  Evidently no one does. All I know is that something is wrong and I’m drifting toward investigation into what recourse we have if our under-warranty power train simply can’t be fixed.  That’s a path I hope to avoid.

We arrived back at Camp Pendleton’s beach in the afternoon and set up on the sand once again.  This time we actually managed to snag a front row site, with nothing between us and the waves but an expanse of sand.  Such a setup is very hard to beat.

One gene I don’t have is the one that tells me it’s imperative, wherever I go, to ensure everyone in my vicinity knows my interests and loyalties before we meet.  Our neighbor apparently does.  He didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea I guess.  Unfortunately we never actually did meet, but I’d like to believe we would’ve gotten along just fine regardless of our differences, genetic or otherwise.

We settled back into pure RV life (from the hybrid that our stay at my parents’ house had been) quickly, and the beach was relaxed and pleasant.  It’s not particularly warm in Southern California in the Winter / early Spring, but neither is it particularly chilly.  Beach play in fleece and hoodies was just about as much fun as is summer beach play, and the water temperature was entirely tolerable in our wetsuits. 

I am sensing a distinct difference in general family vibe, though.  The push for a smooth landing and the proximity of our travels’ end has worn down some of the edges.  Where the kids harbored a good bit of excitement for what was to come at the end of last year, they seem now to be thinking much more about settling.  There’s more of a focus on routine and speculation about what life will be like in a few short months when we stop moving.  Keeper has gotten his Invisaligns and is wearing them diligently in an attempt to have his teeth fixed prior to starting school in the Fall.  Firebolt is digging deep into an online class about World War 2 historical fiction (and loving it).  And Woodsprite talks often and longingly about the day we have a house of our own.  Actually all three do that. 

The frenetic activity and motion have all but ceased, and Tacco and I spend much of our conversational time combing through the intricacies of how and where we intend to drop our anchor.  It’s a transition phase – we’re still traveling, but in many ways it doesn’t feel like it.

Our planning calendar is something we adopted a few months into our travels when we did an evaluation and realized that we had been doing a poor job keeping the kids abreast of where we were and what was upcoming.  We update it every three weeks or so, as well as a list in the side column of things to look forward to.  There’s much less on it now that our pace has slowed.

We do have another large trip, or more accurately trip-within-a-trip, planned for Spring Break.  Tacco’s sister’s family is flying out from the Chicago area to Las Vegas, where they’ll rent an RV and we’ll join them.  The plan we crafted has us doing a semi-whirlwind tour of the Southwest, hitting Zion, Antelope Canyon near Lake Powell, and Grand Canyon before returning to Vegas.  The go-go-go thing we’re looking forward to, if a bit more warily this time, and the time with cousins / aunts / uncles even more so.  And surprisingly this will be the first time we’ve made it to the Grand Canyon.

More than anything, though, it’s become about striving for balance between savoring our last few months living this extraordinary experience, and diligently working out and executing a plan to return to “normalcy.”  It’s a challenge to keep the potential (and actual) stress of the latter from bleeding into the former.  We don’t want to miss anything.

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