Pit Stop, The NEW Nut Tree at I-80, Dec 2008
Having just stopped for dinner after several hours of driving, my quick-to-the-restroom spouse and I each decided a visit the restroom was in order before deciding where to eat. I finished first thanks to a flock of elderly German ladies that swamped the female restroom as we arrived.
When she escaped the pit-stop, my much-relieved spouse found me standing at the entrance to the park, transfixed on the little train. It was exactly the same as in my memories, and in the photos, only a little smaller. Perhaps it was I that was much bigger, but if you could see into the windows of my soul, I was small and 5 again, if only for a few moments.
“You want to ride the train?” Incredibly-sweet-spouse asked.
Ha-ha, I tried to pretend I didn’t, but she saw right through me, batted her eyes and said “Come on, lets take a quick ride!” I was at the ticket booth in a flash, goofy and beaming.
The older gentleman operating the train gave my wife and I a knowing look, and welcomed us aboard along with several small children and their families. It was brightly colored and clean, hardly a mark on it. They seemed to have done a great job with the restoration.
The train started up after a few grinding misses of the starter. Both the starter and the engine sounded very Datsun-esc to me, and I craned my neck to see if I could recognize any mechanical components. The train began to move slowly through the grounds, the gates lowered with bells clanging and lights flashing. I quickly realized the route was greatly truncated from the original, but I didn’t care. It had just enough of the old to remind me of what once was. I could still see the grounds as they once were in my minds eye, and it was almost just as neat now.
Half way through the ride I looked at my wife and once again realized what a lucky chap I really was. Imagine the odds, millions of people in this world, and I found this one. She was content and as happy as I was to be sharing the moment with me… what an incredible woman. She caught me looking at her, smiled and snuggled up to me as we watched another tiny park roll by.
I treated her to a nice dinner at the nearby Fenton’s Creamery & Restaurant where we splurged again and had more burgers, and split a ginormous basket of onion rings. The atmosphere was nostalgic and the food was great. It became painfully obvious we were not going to be able to finish it all, yet in a moment of debauchery we said “YES!” when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert. We settled on 2 scoops of ice cream, and were floored when the 2 scoops showed up. They were huge. Oh dear… this is gonna be bad…
Somehow we plowed through the thickest part, and were able to waddle our way back to the RV without falling down. Another quick check of all the systems and safety devices and we pulled back out into the weekend I-80 traffic as the last bits of dusk faded to black. The radio played hits from the 70s, and my food-coma-spouse drifted in and out of consciousness while I piloted our herd down the highway, in a fuzzy state of consciousness while Loggins & Messina’s "Vahevala" boogied out a beat in stereo.
“What’s that sound?” I blurted out.
“Whaaaa?” came the reply.
Do you hear that?
“Hear what?” my droopy-eyed-spouse said, now more fully awake.
That noise. It’s a “wha-ding, wha-ding, wha-ding” kind of noise…
“I don’t hear anything. Actually, there are a lot of noises”.
Hmmm. It does seem a bit loud in here. Maybe louder than before.
Brownie, the worlds greatest piece of junk but rare as hen’s teeth RV needed some work for sure. It was rescued by my parents out of Arizona a decade and a half earlier, and lived many happy years in southern California before my parents moved up to Monterey. There, they bought a nearly condemned house on a large lot for dirt cheap and spent the next 4 years renovating the house while they lived in Brownie parked in the driveway, along with their German Shepherd.
Comfortable he certainly was as far as class C RVs go. It had a full bathroom and tub in the rear and most the amenities you would expect, but with a twist… full shag carpeting installed by the previous owner, Ala 1979.
By the time my parents were able to move into their house however, Brownie has fallen victim to the overuse and under maintenance woes. It was starting to show its age, and nearly everything in it had an issue. My parent just had too much of it, and did not want to see the thing anymore after years of using it as an extra bedroom.
One day in 2001 I got a call from my Stepdad, “I can’t start the damn thing and I’ve replaced everything already. The damn wiring is whacked out” I volunteered to come down and troubleshoot it for him, and got it running. I thought that was the end of it until a week or two later when I got another call “You want the RV? Come get it, ha-ha-ha!”
I thought the man was joking, but the next day my parents showed up in my driveway with the RV, threw me the keys and left in their new truck. “Uh, Hi Mom! Bye Mom!” I shouted, bewildered. “That was frigging odd.” I muttered as they disappeared down the narrow country road.
Inside the title was signed over to me.
Huh. I walked around it, then took a few steps back.
What the HELL am I gonna do with an RV? I’m a sleeping bag in the back of a pickup or pup-tent kind of camper. I still have and use my vintage Coleman white-gas stove and lanterns. This thing loomed LARGE in my driveway, staring at me blankly. I liked it instantly. I had NO IDEA what I was supposed to do to operate it. Luckily, there were scribbled notes left behind from when my parents went through the same learning curve, and a bag full of clothespins above the sun visor, each with a task written on it. The sun visor had marks where the pins had clipped hundreds of times. Ah! Some sort of system!
I pulled a pin out of the bag that said “Water heater”. I lit the water heater. I turned it back off. And put the pin back in the bag. Ok, I can dig this.
“Wanna go for a ride?” I asked into the phone. “I’ve got an RV!”
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