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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Infamous Mrs. Dash - Dec. 22, 2010 - Jan. 4, 2011 - Part One

In my posting, "How We Got Here", I alluded to the many (many, many) hours of research we had done on trailers and, I hope, the very (very, very) high learning curve we rode on our way to selecting Salt.  All of this led us to think, just before the final Airstream decision, "Hmm, we've never really driven (or camped, or backed-up) with a trailer before, perhaps we should give it a shot before we buy one."  

So over Christmas break in 2010, we did just that.  We rented a 19' Wildwood and thought we would just head out of town.  However, Pepper had different ideas - or at least the Porsche dealership did.  A few weeks prior to departure, we had taken the Pepper in to get it snow tires, a hitch installed and to have them check out the air compressor as it didn't seem to be functioning.  (Our Porsche dealer doesn't install break controllers, so we had that done via a friendly U-Haul dealer in Newport.)  The repairs/installation took longer than we thought and we retrieved the Pepper just one day before we were scheduled to leave.  But leave we did, and headed over to pick up Mrs. Dash.  (We had already decided to call the trailer "Salt", but wanted to reserve that name for the real thing.  So clever Alan came up with Mrs. Dash, the salt substitute.)  

Being new to trailer-ing (and hitching, and driving, and backing-up), it took us quite a long time working with the rental agent to feel comfortable with everything.  All the switches, pumps, what hooks-up where.  I am not sure I have told you all this before, but when we first started looking at trailers, someone had to tell me the difference between a black and a grey water tank.  That's how steep the curve was.  This rental agent actually looked at me when we were practicing hitching up and said, "Someday you will do it yourself."  I thought that was hysterical and laughed out loud.  He got the last laugh a mere five months later--but that's another story.

We finally got Mrs. Dash hooked up but the trailer lights weren't working.  The helpful rental agent methodically went through all of the Pepper's fuses to no avail.  We had no choice but to disconnect and take Pepper back to Porsche, but it was too late that day so we drove home.  (Incidentally, this was the week of the "100 year rain" in Laguna.  We drove back into a town that was completely flooded out.  Thank goodness not our house.)

Bright and early the next morning we head back to Porsche.  On the way, we see that Pepper's automatic leveling device is not functioning -- this would be a function of the air compressor we had them check out before.  But clearly they did not fix it and, since this was needed in order for the Pepper to hook up to Mrs. Dash at the appropriate height, we added this to our repair list.  

We filled in the Porsche technician on the two items (albeit with more than just a little frustration in our voices) and they quickly figured out the problem with the lights:  Pepper's computer needed to be reset when we added the brake controller so it could recognize the new hardware.  The compressor was a different story, it needed to be replaced (ahem, why didn't it get replaced last week?) so we waited (and waited, and waited.)  But what else were we going to do?  The house was packed up for a two-week vacation, the Pepper was packed to the gills, the dogs were ready.  Four hours later, we were able to get out of there and headed back to pick up Mrs. Dash.  And may I just add, that there is nothing quite like sitting in the Newport Beach Porsche Dealership, dressed for camping with two panting dogs, to make you feel like you really don't belong.

We hooked up Mrs. Dash (this time by ourselves) and drove two blocks, yes, two blocks, into a parking lot so that we could practice turning and backing up.  Alan did a great job with the backing up (although he claims he didn't know what he was doing) but I (as usual) was anxious to get on the road, so we headed out to our first night.

Our first night was at the KOA in Yermo, just outside of Barstow, about half the way to Las Vegas.  We pulled in and pulled through (having reserved a pull through spot in advance--two months prior we didn't even know what "pull through" meant), made the bed, unpacked the groceries, took the dogs for a walk and poured the sun-downers.  We sat outside in the parking area with all the other rv'ers and pinched ourselves--we felt so lucky to be so happy with so little.  For two people who have stayed in some of the best hotels in the world, this feeling of contentment really surprised us.

The next three nights were in Las Vegas at the Oasis RV Resort, a fine place with paved roads and cement pitches, two things I have learned to appreciate.  Although these "resort" stops are not our favorite, they do have their uses with the clean bathrooms, laundry facilities, full hook-ups, (incidentally, am I the only one who sees the conundrum here?  The places with the nice bathrooms also have full hook-ups, the places without the nice bathrooms often have no hook-ups), and the Oasis adds a lovely pool to the mix.  (Although December in Las Vegas is not the time to swim--brrrr!)

After that we hit the road toward the Grand Canyon and our first night without a reservation anywhere.  A little panic along the "what happens if we have to back in to a spot?" kept the adrenalin flowing on the road.  

We found a spot to stop along Route 66, in Peach Springs, Arizona, at a non-hook up campground.  My diary says for dinner we had salmon and curried lentils on fresh spinach (one of my favorite Kit Creations), I am amazed at myself for making this in a trailer.  What was I thinking?  My diary also lists Revelation #1 here:  "Do not leave for the day's driving without cleaning the trailer!  You don't know how long the driving will be nor how tired you will be -- it is heavenly to arrive and open the door to a clean, organized trailer.  Can't wait for Salt!"  Lordy, what kind of a mess did I leave the trailer in that morning?  

Following our walk the next morning, Alan went into the Caverns and enjoyed the tour.  With my claustrophobia, there was no way I was going to go down 200 feet in an elevator to underground caverns.  Hopefully I can get him to write about that experience soon.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon's south rim later that day.  No snow yet, but oh so cold.  Pulled into our site, where we had water and electricity and a ton of Airstream envy flowing toward the gorgeous 23' International at the end of our row.  (Did I mention how beat up Mrs. Dash was?  Plus a giant "R NT ME" sign plastered across the front.  The Charming Mrs. Dash.  No one would ever call her shy.)

We awoke to 3 inches of snow the next morning and 2 feet the next day.  But the sun came out and, although it was frigid, we enjoyed the snow and the gorgeous views.  (It was about a half mile walk from our site to the rim on the nicely plowed roads.)  On day three our fresh water tank had frozen despite our multiple trips to the convenience store and purchases of mini-heaters (2) and anti-freeze (gallons.)  It had now been close or below zero for three nights, we needed to get moving before more damage was done.  (Also on Day 3 we awoke thinking our front door was frozen shut -- two dogs and a Kloml who needed to get out -- it was a little bit of a panic.  Until Alan realized that the door was just locked.)

This leads us to Friday, December 31st, which seems like a good point to stop this posting.  I'll pick up the rest of the trip in the Part Deux - our first pulling in snow, melting tanks and ultimately, Death Valley National Park!  I have a lot of trips to get in here before The Day arrives!  Have you checked out the Countdown to Aventure App?  Look to the left . . . and don't forget to check out the slide-show of Mrs. Dash (right-mouse-click on the title above and opt to open in a new window.)