Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Beached Whale

We acquired The Whale through a dealership that leases other people’s MH’s for them, sort of like a time-share I guess. Anyhow, the mobile home would become our albatross.

Before we even left Oceanside we had to replace all four of its batteries to the tune of about $600.00. San Diego-based crew had bought a ton of food-type staples to start us out on our journey. Pre-race I stashed all the goodies and labeled all the drawers and cabinets. Keeping life neat and organized in a 39’ mobile home with 14 people living in it intensely 24/7 would require ever bit of organizational skill I could muster.

When it was time to turn our headlights on our first night out, we had virtually no headlights. So we climbed the mountains of California with our parking lights. YIKES! We got them “sort of” repaired the next day.

We quickly became acquainted with the limits of The Whale’s black and gray water tank capacity. Those were terms I knew nothing about before this, my first MH experience. But let’s just say that what we learned is this. First, only the riders would be able to take showers and only seaman showers at that. You know, where you turn the water on long enough to get your self wet; turn it off while you scrub; and then turn it on again only long enough to rinse. The rest of us would need to use “wet ones” or, at the most, sponge off in the sink. Second, no # 2’s in the MH’s toilet. We learned that the graphic way as raw sewerage was one eye winker from washing down the galley as it rolled up through the shower drain. Yuck!!

This particular MH was selected because it had a washer and dryer in it. That seemed like quit a nice perk as we would have riders needing a lot of clean and dry clothes. Well, it took 3 hours for the washer to finish its cycle and it did not dry the clothes at all. Furthermore, it used up a lot of our fresh water tank. So riding clothes were washed by hand and hung to dry in the MH. The rest of us wore the same clothes all week long.

Our Whale had no shocks. So my job of cooking while standing up in a moving vehicle hurtling up and down mountain passes was a better ride than any at your favorite Theme Park. Many things were hurled down the galley—a jar of olives, the coffee pot (more than once), coffee grounds (only once), the microwave glass turntable, and me.

Our most scary Whale moment came in Yates Center, KS Saturday morning, when out of the clear blue sky we lost our entire hydraulic system. What that means is no power steering and no brakes. With a whale this big, both are essential!! Our good fortune was that we WERE in Kansas. Kansas is flat and we were able to coast to a stop with the help of our Jake brake and the curb. While the mechanical guys on our crew fixed the hydraulic system, I rented a hotel room across the street so our riders who were not on the road could sleep, and our mechanics could have a place to shower after the fixin’ was done. The motel desk clerk drove me in her own car to the town Laundromat so I could do a real load of wash.

It truly was a miracle that we had our mechanical challenge in Kansas and not in the middle of the night screaming down a mountain pass. There would have been 8 of us who didn’t make it.

Only two of our crew knew how to drive the Whale. One had poor night vision so the division of labor was apparent—Wayne by day and Larry by night. Even though each of these guys had a lot of MH experience, driving one of these huge rigs under the influence of sleep deprivation in ever-changing terrain was a challenge none of the rest of us could truly appreciate. So, when the Whale lost two of her under-belly cargo doors because she was pulled in too tightly against the protect-the-pump-defense poles, well, we knew our drivers were doing the very best they could.

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