Monday, February 8, 2016

The January Trek

Sorry this one took me so long to post. One exposure has followed another...

Thursday, Jan. 21 2016

My father's birthday is in January. Every year he throws a party. . He usually rents a large house out of Newport, Oregon. He pays for the accommodations of anyone who attends, that there's no room for in the house. Usually its people with small kids. The party goes for a couple of weeks. People come and go the whole time, with a big dinner on Saturday. This year he had scheduled the beach house, but the weather was so bad they rerouted the festivities to his house. He was a bit disappointed; I think he didn't think people would come. But, we go to see him, not the ocean.

Last year we loaded up the RV and headed down after my husband got off work. It was an eventful trip. Since I didn't want a repeat, I scheduled an alignment for the RV. We also were planning on leaving first thing in the morning, so if there were problems they'd be in daylight and stores would be open. Ron and I did pre-trip equipment checks a week before.  All systems were go. The only thing was that crabbing thing the front end was doing. The alignment didn't resolve the problem. The mechanic said it was the tires. So I had them rotated, balanced and inspected. They had lots of tread and looked fine. Rotating helped a lot but she was still pulling to the right. We figured we'd have the mechanic take a look at it again when I took it in after we return. When he was under there, I asked him to check for a gas line leak. He found a tube hanging down. He said it was going to an activated carbon filter connected to the exhaust system. I had him hook it up. The day before we were to leave I discovered the refrigerator wasn't working right, just after I stepped out of the RV into a horrific cloud of super stinky exhaust fumes - dirty like I'd never smelled them before. Since the mechanic had hooked up a loose hose while he was under there, I thought it was possible the two were connected. The previous owner could have made modifications. I don't know!!! After that, every time I turned on the refrigerator, the ground fault plug-in that the power runs through, kept tripping. I hit the internet trying to figure it out. There wasn't much. The most common culprit, a blocked flue. We checked the flue; it was clean. So, could that tube have been additional air for the refrige? For the trip I figured I'd just have to use an ice chest. Finally this morning, before we were to leave, Ron thought to check the ground fault plug in itself. It was the problem. He put in a regular receptacle. I packed ice bags in the refrigerator and freezer and we got on the way about 10:00. It went well until Hood River, only I didn't figure it out until Cascade Locks. At Hood River I smelled fresh gas really strong. I thought it was a car that was passing us. At Cascade Locks another tire lost its steel belts, just like one did last year. This time there was no warning thumping. All of the sudden horrible loud banging on the wheel well and the RV was bucking and jumping. Ron pulled over to the shoulder, put on the hazards and continued slowly to the exit. This year the horrendous racket only lasted 5 minutes. Then it got ominously quiet. Ron said he saw the tread spew out behind us and roll off the road. We crept into a Dept. of Transportation work yard. It was nice and flat. Ron had bought a bunch of tire changing tools for me for Christmas. He climbed out of the RV, put on his coveralls and started "playing" with my Christmas tools. I was in a particularly generous mood, so I let him. ;-P The delaminated tire was on the left rear inside (duallies). It was completely inflated. Just naked. When the belt started to go, I'm guessing back at Hood River, it probably tore out the gas feed hose, causing that smell. It runs from the fill cap to the tank. Ron said there wasn't much left of the feed hose. Those tires hadn't been removed in a long time, so Ron had quite the wrestling match getting them off and then the spare and outside tire back on again. It took about an hour. As we set off in search of the nearest Les Schwab tire center (I got directions from my roadside assistance concierge), we both had come to the conclusion that the mechanic may be more right than he knew. Since that was the second tire of a set to blow up with out warning, due to steel belt failure. We both figured the whole set was probably bad and we were teetering on the edge with the remaining two front tires. I had a gut clench on that was so tight it was making me nauseous the whole 32 miles it took us to get to Les Schwab's. I prayed the whole way. I have to say, they won't be making a commercial out of any letter we write. It was an hour of waiting before they even got to us. The people at the front desk we surly, rude and ill tempered. We bought 4 new tires. It didn't improve their demeanor. It took them an additional 2.5 hrs to get them mounted, balanced and installed, though the young man doing it was pleasant. I'm reminding you that we run without heat in areas of traffic due to no "recirc" on my older vehicle's air system, and way too many toxic VOCs in the outside air. It gets brutally cold in here. I cuddled up with Rosie on the sofa. She was pretty stressed out by that monster trying to bust in through the floor. She handled it well, even though it scared her. She didn't freak out. It did take a while for her breathing to return to normal. Anyway, when the technician got the right front tire off it had a large bubble. We were lucky to make it there without another tire failing.  Getting all new tires did resolve all the front end problems. 

We arrived at my Dad's after dark. Ron got me situated, leveled, and plugged in. My Dad, Debby and her sister Carol, and her sister's husband Jerry, all came out to see me when we arrived. My Dad visited for a bit before they went in for dinner. I know it was a well earned dinner for Ron's part. I got the heater running, the fridge and my cell phone charging before I made some soup. Here in a minute I'm going to switch from running the heater to running the water heater so I can shower. Its a 15 amp circuit. Ron says he'll pick up a 30 amp one tomorrow when he buys a replacement feed hose. 

It was a hard trip but I'm glad I came. My Dad isn't doing well. He'd been saying that he didn't know if he would make this birthday. He's aged a lot this last year. He looked ravaged. My heart broke when I saw him. My tears spilled freely. I think he thought I was crying because of my pain. But they were due to the realization that this will be the last time I see him. 

I still smelled gas inside my RV, so I called Ron and had him stick something in the open end of the gas feed tube. He also covered it with foil.

Friday, January 22nd

I woke to typical Portland weather: cloudy, pouring rain. My little heater is not able to generate enough heat on a 15 amp circuit. So its pretty cold in here. I tried to air it out a bit as the day warmed up but a neighbor zipped up and down the street, in her car, constantly. Just about the time I'd get it opened up and I'd be sitting down, she'd zip by again. I'd have to dive for the window and vent to close them before the fumes could get in. About 11:00 a.m. There was a break in the weather and my husband and Jerry talked my dad into coming outside to see me. He refused to wear the safe clothes we brought him, so I could hug him. He's suffering intermittent dementia. He was currently acting like a 6 year old. He was playing dominoes with Jerry and was put out that they were being interrupted. Debby and Carol had gone for groceries, so she wasn't there to manage him. Ron came out to tell me they were ready. I'd put on my outside clothes. I was keeping this set sealed in a separate bin, and changing in and out of it, just for interacting with fragranced people and toxic environments. Portland is pretty toxic, but my dad's woodsy backyard was better than I hoped. Ron took just the coat for my dad along on our walk. He was going to try again to get him to wear it. When I came out to meet with them Ron went back in the house to get my dad and Jerry. They'd already gone out the back. So Ron, Rosie and I went in through the gate and hiked down the trail through the woods. We met up with Jerry and my dad at the fire circle. Rosie was rather excited to see all the new people, and I had a time reminding her to behave. Jerry introduced himself. Poor guy, we must have seemed quite rude. My dad was grouchy and irritable. This was not what I'd hoped for, but not unexpected. My sisters had been reporting that he had returned to the personality that we had when we were growing up. When he'd met Debby he'd become a much happier man. With the onset of dementia, and the insults of infirmity he was reverting back. He said some waspish things and I turned them into jokes and sent them right back. Jerry remarked that I was definitely "Don's daughter." My dad and I exchanged quips until he was in a good mood again. He always enjoyed witty reparté. Ron tried to get him to put on the clean coat (so I wouldn't be hurt as much when I hugged him). My father refused. Ron tried again. My father grew petulant and said, "No. Why should I?" I spoke up, "Because I want to hug my father! Now put on the fragrance free coat!" He did. I hugged him long and hard. He hugged me back, though I could tell at the time that the significance was lost on him. Its that way with dementia. It wasn't long before he was cold and needed to go back inside. He suffers with hypothermia. 

We tried to get me on their internet, but the field didn't reach to my RV. So I wasn't able to join in by skype. I spent most of the day resting, detoxing from the gas fumes, etc. and playing wii games. 

Debby called me and we went for a walk in the afternoon. Carol was keeping an eye on my dad. Ron and Jerry were repairing some split rail fence for Debby.  Ron was not able to get to the store for those parts.

In the late afternoon we all got out for a brief hike around the trail and I got to visit with my father again. I told Ron I was still occasionally smelling gas. He said he'd get a piece of tube in the morning and temporarily fix it. Since it would be rubber (toxic) I suggested he wrap it in duct tape. When we were home he'd take the tires clear off and fix it right. 

Saturday, January 23rd

This is the big party day. Lots of people would be coming. There would be lots of last minute preparations, but Ron did get that piece in place, though the circuit breaker set up wouldn't allow for an upgrade. The air was immediately better.  It was pouring rain and nasty cold, so no one wanted to go out and walk. Rosie and I stayed in, huddled in front of our heater. I played wii games, mostly Batman. I'd had so many exposures my LES was shut tight and I wasn't getting much in.  People started arriving after noon. Mostly they waved as they went by. Justin and Joey came over to the RV, and Joey and I pressed noses against the glass.  My sister Kathy came over and we spoke through the window for several minutes. My son Ryan visited with me for some time before he went in. About 2:30 I got a call that Joey was ready to come out and visit Grandma. I'd brought Joey's jammies and told my daughter I'd watch him and put him down for a nap if he needed one or my dad needed a break from our very rambunctious little boy. I asked for a couple of minutes to put stuff away. Justin brought Joey out and whisked off his smelly clothes. I took Joey and gave him a quick bath, then put him in his new jammies. I'd built a nest between the dinette seats using Ron's sleeping bag and 
pillow. Joey had different ideas. He pinged around inside the RV like a superball. I told him not to do a couple of things, like go in the front seat and climb on the counters, and he minded. He's growing up! Jumping on the sofa was so much fun, it was a little harder to get him to stop that. I had to warn him he'd get a spank if he didn't stop. I didn't mind him jumping from seat to seat, though. I can hardly object to him doing it, when Rosie does it. She weighs more. He was having so much fun he was giggling nonstop. It was pretty cute. He saw a pencil and asked if he could color. He "colored" for several minutes. He stopped and show me his work every few minutes. I dutifully admired it. Then he went back to ricocheting around the RV, giggling up a storm and playing kitty and puppy. I asked the puppy if he wanted some snacks? He had some cheese and yogurt, along with a cup of water.  He sat nicely and ate it for most of the time. When he started throwing cheese at Rosie, I told him that it was time for a nap. He resisted the nap. Jumping out of the nest. Asking to color. I had to insist and even give one spank, to get him to mind. He climbed into his nest, but he wasn't happy with me. I told him that if he laid down quietly, and closed his eyes I 'd sing. When his eyes were closed I started "Hush a bye" but he didn't want that song. He wanted the "pider" song. I started "The Eensy, Weensy Spider." It was aparently the right one. He settled right down, with his eyes closed. Then he opened them. I stopped singing. He giggled. He closed them. I started up where I'd left off. He giggled. His eyes popped open; I stopped singing. He giggled some more. He closed them, I sang. Then he'd try to peek out from nearly closed eyes and fool me. I'd see his eyes glitter, I'd stop. He was giggling again non-stop. This game went on for several minutes. I switched songs to "Sugar," improvising the words to Booger, when Joey's nose started running. I was thinking he was never going to sleep with all this silliness when mid giggle he drew a deep breath and fell instantly asleep!  He slept for a good 2 hours. I called the house when he woke up, so that he wouldn't miss the dinner. Justin, Alex, Joey and Toby were staying in a hotel for the night. When they left that evening both Kathy and Joey came around to my door to talk to me. Joey had his little back pack and marched up the steps to come in. I asked him if he was coming to take another nap in Grandma's RV. He said, "Yes!" Well apparently napping at Grandma's was fun!? Ron arrived at that time to take him to the car. After everyone had left for the evening Ron, Rosie and I went out to walk the trail. We were standing under a big cedar tree, not far off the road when I got hit with diesel fumes rolling down the hill. I didn't hear the vehicle, because of the hill, so I hadn't taken evasive action. We moved away but it was too much. I went in, showered and went to bed. I'd even put the heater in the bathroom, because a hot shower followed by stepping wet into a cold room is not pleasant. 

Sunday, January 24th

The hypothermia hit in the middle of the night. It was the worst I'd ever had. I shook so hard my bones knocked together and my teeth rattled. Every one of my muscles was clenched so hard, they were giving me horrible pain.  I forced myself to get up in the night and move the heater into the bedroom. Its usually way too hot if I do that.  Relief was slow in coming. Finally, around 7:30 a.m. I managed to get warm enough to ease up on the shivering and fall asleep. Ron woke me up at 9:00. He was worried, since there was no movement. I did not want to get up. I still wasn't warm. He asked what I wanted. I wanted to go home, where I could crawl into a hot shower and not be frozen when I got out. I was terribly dehydrated and drank 3 large cups of water while waiting for my coffee. I was very slow getting going that morning. Ron told me to get the RV ready to leave and he'd get his stuff packed up and do the outside stuff. Normally it takes me less than 15 minutes. It took me 2 hrs. I was still so horribly cold, and every muscle hurt, like a runner's after they've "hit the wall."  I gave Ron the drawing that I was giving to my dad for his birthday present. I wasn't up to taking another walk. Ron showered in the house, put on his cleanest clothes, then came out to shower in the RV and put on RV clothes. 

Everyone else came outside to say goodbye. My father was mentally back to the concerned father and came around and opened the door to check on me. Even though the fragrance on his clothes was hurting me more, I didn't say anything. He would have been hurt and not understood. He was worried. Ron had told them only that I had had all the fun I could stand and was ready to go home. My father was in his right mind enough that morning to realize that meant I wasn't doing well. He asked how I was, and I told him I felt really crappy, but would go home and take cared of it. Then everyone else arrived at the front, cab windows. So my dad shut the door and joined them. I went and sat in the front passenger seat to say my goodbyes. 

On the trip home I kept smelling fumes from outside, so I figured the tire had caused some damage that penetrated the wheel well. I told Ron we were going to have to find and seal it. Once we got out of the Portland area the cloud cover broke and it was much warmer. That helped since we couldn't run the heat very much due to heavy traffic. We were finally able to run it for more than a few minutes at a time after we left The Dalles. Ron had to take care of it as I kept falling asleep. 

When we arrived home I set out the minimum of the stuff I needed brought in. I headed straight for the shower and Ron brought in everything I'd set out and the contents of the refrigerator and freezer. I was so cold that that first shower felt only lukewarm. I took several more trying to get my core temperature back up. I drank several cups of hot herbal tea and cocoa. When I finally got it to a tolerable level, about 6:30 p.m., I went to bed. 

Post Script: it never did have that stinky exhaust again. Ron reasoned that perhaps since it had not been working for so long that it had gotton clogged up, and it had to blow out the accummulated crap. Kind of like the gunk that lines your chimney.

It took me 2 weeks to completely decontaminate the RV. I had to wash everything. And Bellinger "Dropped the ball" again. His manager applied without notifying at the end of the week that I was home. 

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