I’m no princess, but there’s a good joke here about kissing frogs

I've never kissed a frog. I have, however, kissed a fish. (Mayport, FL, 1993)

I’ve never kissed a frog.
I have, however, kissed a fish.
(Mayport, FL, 1993)

People ask from time to time if our RV has a name.

It’s been 18 months since we bought the thing. Shouldn’t it have a name by now?

We already know, or know of, vehicles with adorable names like Kermie, Betsy, Goldie, and BART (Big Ass Red Truck). We ourselves once owned a GPS we called Dolores, pretty much from Day 1, because she sounded so much like a Dolores.

But it took until today for RV inspiration to strike. Or maybe it was my head’s unfortunate encounter with the screen door on Monday?

Anyway. Ladies? Gentlemen? Allow me to introduce you to our freshly christened home on wheels …

The Toad

The Toad

Because as a fifth wheel, it goes where it’s towed.

And as an 8-year-old unit that has required numerous, frequent, and expensive repairs in its year and a half with us (this week: shorn off front shocks, probably as a result of the Tire Incident), I think it’s fair to say the beast’s got warts.

Thank you, Google. I'm not sure which definition I find more pleasing. Or accurate.

Thank you, Google. I’m not sure which definition I find more pleasing. Or accurate.

Our next move is Saturday, so if you’re driving between San Antonio and Castroville, be on the lookout for The BFT & The Toad!

Important update on things that aren’t working right, one of which involves surgery

Katy Perry had Left Shark.

Tim has Left Adrenal Gland.

It produces too much aldosterone, which is why it’s being ejected from the game next month. Ready for a little medical education in an RV lifestyle blog?

I’ll try to make this very long story (6 months worth of doctor’s appointments, imaging, testing, and waiting, to which I obliquely referred in this post) a little bit shorter:

Although Tim had no obvious lifestyle or dietary risk factors (genetic factors are an unknown because he was adopted), he was diagnosed with high blood pressure a little over ten years ago, in his late 30’s, and has been on medication ever since.

Within the last 3-5 years, he’s also had very low potassium levels, as in, “Sir? Are you sure you’re feeling OK? Because your readings are barely above the mandatory hospitalization mark.” Hello, gigantic horse pill potassium supplements.

Then last summer, right about the time we moved into the RV, Tim internet-stumbled upon a rare condition called Primary Aldosteronism, and asked his doctors to start the testing process.

“In primary aldosteronism, your adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, causing you to lose potassium and retain sodium. The excess sodium in turn holds onto water, increasing your blood volume and blood pressure”

High blood pressure. Low potassium. Ah haaaaaa.

“Diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism are important because people with this form of high blood pressure have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, the high blood pressure associated with primary aldosteronism may be curable.”

Ohhhhhhh. So… curing it means no more meds?

“Options for people with primary aldosteronism include medications, lifestyle modifications and surgery.”

Turns out that surgery is indeed an option for Tim, as the left adrenal gland was determined quite clearly to be the culprit. Had both glands been overproducing aldosterone, then the only recourse would have been daily, lifelong medication in the form of a hormone blocker — because like kidneys, you can live with one adrenal gland, but not with none.

Anyway, once the pesky left one’s out, Tim will be able to discontinue his potassium supplement for sure, and his BP meds can either be significantly reduced or eliminated entirely. So it’s a good thing, and we’re thankful we’ve got the military healthcare benefits to make it happen.

What it means though, is that we’ll be putting off our rolling adventures for another few months. Surgery is scheduled for 3/23, and it’s followed by 4-6 weeks of recovery and follow-up appointments to make sure the remaining adrenal gland picks up the slack, so San Antonio is home through at least the end of April.

Two really cool things

  1. We’re talking laparoscopic, robot-assisted surgery. Robot, y’all. Oh, how I wish I could watch!
  2. Tim’s surgeon is the same doc who saw me for follow-ups after my breast cancer surgery two years ago, and he remembered me when we showed up for Tim’s consult on Thursday. I greeted him with a cheerful, “Hi, Dr. N. You’ve seen me before. Quite a lot of me, actually!” He looked at me for a second and then said, “Oh I remember you. You’re the funny one.”

And then he drew a diagram for us, right there on the examining table paper:

The four dashes on the right side of the drawing, at the lower end of the kidney, represent 8-12mm incisions where the laparoscopic stuff goes in. If for some reason things go sideways, the doc will make a traditional incision instead, and take care of things "the old way." This will mean more pain and a longer recovery for Tim, so we're hoping all goes well with Dr. N and the Robot.

The four dashes on the right side of the drawing, at the lower end of the kidney, represent 8-12 mm incisions where the laparoscopic instruments go in.
If for some reason things go sideways during the operation, the doc will make a traditional abdominal incision instead, and take care of things “the old way.” This will mean more pain and a longer recovery for Tim, so we’re hoping all goes according to plan with Dr. N & the Robot.

And what other things aren’t working? As if a human gland weren’t enough?

Lola. She has retired as our hiking dog, and she still willfully ignores her bed in the most in-your-face way possible.

Lola.
Due to her age and kidney deterioration, we opted against surgery for her torn ACL. Thus, she has officially retired as our hiking dog. Also, she still willfully ignores her bed in the most in-your-face way possible.

The RV clock/thermometer. It was in here when we bought the thing, and has since decided to ignore new batteries, and submit us to 105 degrees all the time. "Honey, the thermometer's broken. We need a new RV!"

The RV clock/thermometer.
It was in here when we bought the thing, and has since decided to ignore new batteries, and make us think it’s 105 degrees all the time.
“Honey, the thermometer’s broken. We need a new RV!”

Comparatively speaking, this RV does not weigh a heck of a lot more than I do

Not the RV I’m sitting in. Our big booger weighs about 12,000 pounds when it’s empty.

I’m talking about this little red myPod, which we saw yesterday at the Austin RV Expo. It weighs 500 pounds! I most certainly do not, but I could still probably pull this cutie my own self.

Not sure I could lift it, but I'm rather confident it would fit in the bed of the BFT.

Not sure I could lift it, but I’m rather confident it would fit in the bed of the BFT.

When we hit the convention center floor in Austin, two things made it different from last week’s show in Houston (wrote about that one here and here):

  1. To save time, we were prepared with a list of only three units we wanted to see and learn more about. A fourth got thrown in at the last minute, which means that somewhere in Austin, a Winnebago factory rep probably woke up with one helluva hangover this morning. Have I mentioned that Tim asks a lot of pointed and technical questions?
  2. It’s Austin, not Houston. And by that I mean ATX has its own vibe, and it was palpable even at something as mainstream as an RV show.
    Not just garbage cans, but bins for compost and recycling too. And a man wearing a kilt. And two rows of adorable little Airstream bubbles, as opposed to the two units in Houston. Never change, ATX. Never change.

    Not just garbage cans, but bins for compost and recycling too. And a man wearing a kilt at not-the-highland-games-festival. And two rows of adorable little Airstream bubbles, as opposed to the two units in Houston.
    Never change, ATX. Never change.

    FullSizeRender 2

    I was amused by this. It’s a staging area for staging items. And apparently no RV kitchen is complete without a basket of fake fruit on the table, you know, to tempt other people into buying it. Us? Not so much. “Yes, that plastic banana looks lovely, but do tell me, does this rig have a 6-point leveling system? And what’s the R-rating on the insulation? OK, now how’s the frame constructed?”

    Found some swag I liked, but did not buy. Photos are enough. Own less, and all that.

    FullSizeRender 12 FullSizeRender 9

    Tim, as mentioned, is the data head at the RV show. I wear socks that fit my attitude.

    Tim, as mentioned, is the data head at the RV show.
    I wear socks that fit my attitude.

    The attendant at the door stamped our hands to make sure we could come and go. It occurred to me that last time I was in Austin with a stamped hand, I was the Longhorn in the family. (And the stamp definitely did not come from an RV show.)

    The attendant at the door stamped our hands to make sure we could come and go. It occurred to me that last time I was in Austin sporting a hand stamp, I was the Longhorn in the family. (And the stamp definitely did not come from an RV show.)

    And speaking of Longhorns, that's ours in the center. We treated him and his ol' buddies -- friends since freshman year of HS, and now all freshmen at UT -- to dinner.

    And speaking of Longhorns, that’s ours in the center. We treated him and his buddies — friends since freshman year of HS, and now all freshmen at UT — to dinner. They uh… they can put down a lot of barbecue, it turns out.

    Not just my reflection in an RV, but a lesson. If you visit an RV dealership on your way to the RV show, and happen to mention that's where you're headed, the sales dude just might hand you a couple of complimentary tickets. That little excursion saved us 12 bucks!

    Not just my reflection in an RV, but a lesson. If you visit an RV dealership on your way to an RV show, and just happen to mention that’s where you’re headed, the sales dude just might hand you a couple of complimentary tickets. That little excursion saved us 12 bucks!

    Until next time, ATX!

    Until next time, ATX!

Departure sequence: Swear. Crank. CLUNK. Swear. Fix. Go.

Remember that day I said it was time for me to start learning how to do more of the “Tim stuff” with the RV? (It’s here, if you want to refresh your memory.)

Well yesterday, since we had to move from Point A to Point B, we chose to make it an Emily’s Learning Day.

We knew it would take a little longer to get through our pack-up-and-go routine, since we’d be doing everything together in sequence, instead of splitting the tasks into our usual concurrent lists of “He Does, She Does”.

Turns out it took a lot longer.

The landing gear motor quit working, which meant I had to learn where the cranking tool thingy is, and then use it to raise the legs manually, which meant that my arms eventually got tired, which meant that Tim took over with his stronger and fresher arms, and then that turned into CLUNK.

And that was followed immediately by, “Shit. That didn’t sound right.”

And then that turned into a delay of more than hour, because Tim had cranked the turny thingy one crank too many, and that broke the one part of the landing gear that was not already broken. So he fixed it.

Wait. You didn’t know about the landing gear issues? Ah. I swore about that first here, and again here. And since we’re picking up the second set of replacement legs this afternoon, I’ll probably be swearing about it a third time later.

Anyway, I ended up learning not only how to hook the RV to the truck all by myself (finally — and in practice, not just in theory), but also what a bottle jack is, and that we in fact have one onboard!

What broke? The fat metal pins that lock the front legs into place (which is up off the road) when we travel. To our great relief and amazement, we had a spare set on hand!

What broke, you ask?
The fat metal pins that lock the front legs into place (which is up off the road, thankyouverymuch) when we travel.
To our great relief and amazement, we had a spare set on hand! That’s one of the new ones on the left behind Tim’s head. The ol’ useless one is on the right.

I’d have more to report, but the legs were the wrong size

Before I start this post for real, allow me to show, for the idly curious among you, how our big blue crap hauler uh, hauls the crap. It gets a ride to the dump station! Three tanks (one black, two gray) means three trips, and we do this only when we stay longer than a week in a location that does not have an on-site sewer hookup.

I know it looks kind of petite for hauling with the BFT. Tim can, and has, pulled it himself, but at this park, the dump station is almost a mile away, and that’s a long way to schlep 42 gallons of anything — times three — by hand. (1 gallon of water = 8.34 pounds, so that tank weighs nearly 350 pounds when full.)

Wagons ho!

Shit wagon ho!

And now the real post:

In yet another case of project creep, replacing the landing gear switch to fix whatever-the-hell-was-wrong with the coach battery (details here) has turned into replacing pretty much everything having to do with the landing gear, and upgrading it to a dual switch operating system instead of single switch.

After multiple discussions with both the original manufacturer, and several local RV repair shops, Tim ended up ordering all the required materials from Texas RV Supply, which definitely received the largest slice of the paycheck pie this month. Whee. But at least we’re not paying for labor: Tim works for the satisfaction of it, and for regularly spaced transfusions of cold root beer or lemonade.

Anyway, he set out to get the job done on Friday morning, only to find that the new legs were the wrong. damn. size.

Not these legs. The metal ones, resting there on top of the stacks of yellow leveling blocks.

Not those legs. Those legs are fine.
It’s the metal ones, resting there on top of the stacks of yellow leveling blocks.

Sigh. Project suspended. New parts are due to arrive Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday, we’re rolling east for the 5-day Houston RV Show, and its seminars, gimme caps, people watching, and a special appearance on Saturday by — wait for it — Yogi Bear.

I know.

The question is, will Yogi’s presence be enough to distract us from what will no doubt manifest as raging cases of RV Envy?  There’ll be “600 sparkling brand new recreational vehicles in the climate controlled comfort of one of the nation’s top entertainment venues” — and I’m guessing not one of them has broken front landing gear.

Maybe we’d better leave the credit cards at home.