May 19, 2011
After spending five days in Nashville, I’m on the road again – currently just east of St. Louis, parked in a Flying J station after filling up on gas. I spent last night in a rest stop near Benton, Illinois, surrounded by trucks with their growling diesels and generators, but none of it kept me awake (I’m so used to that sort of “white noise” by now), and I slept until 7:30 AM.
The RV spent two days in a repair shop (Mid-Tenn Ford) in Nashville while I was visiting Lis and her family in Mt. Juliet, about 25 miles from Nashville. On the way to Atlanta, on day two of the trip, the “service-engine-soon” light came on. I pulled over shortly thereafter and called Mick, who walked me through what I should look at in the engine. Everything seemed O.K. – all the fluids were fine. And the dash-board gauges all registered in the normal range; I didn’t smell anything acrid (burning oil) or metallic, and the engine was running as smoothly as it ever has. So I continued driving it to Lis’ house.
I didn’t plug it in that night, because Lis got in late and it was dark, and I thought the RV would be fine overnight (the batteries usually hold a charge for three or four days). But when I awoke the next morning, the battery was really low, which indicated that the battery was either not holding a charge or wasn’t charging as I as driving. So I plugged in before we left to go to the Montessori school where she teaches. We were there all day, then that evening, the children in her class did a musical entitled “The Best of Broadway” written by one of the music teachers at the school, using Broadway hits from the 20th century. Judson also had a part in the musical, and Lis had helped with the research and writing, so she wanted me to see it, which is why I left Charleston earlier than I had originally intended for this trip. The musical was delightful, if amateurish (to be expected when children ages eight through thirteen are involved), although there was one girl who performed splendidly. She had several singing roles, including the role of Eliza Dolittle singing “All I want is a room somewhere.” Her voice was strong and pleasant, she sang on key, and she even managed a creditable cockney accent. She’s that one in a hundred who might succeed at a career in music or entertainment, although that’s not a life I would want for any of my children.
I left the RV plugged in all week-end, and then Sunday night I drove it to the repair shop and parked, and slept there overnight, in order to have it in as early as possible on Monday morning. I originally intended to leave on Tuesday. When I awoke Monday morning, the battery was again very low. When I talked with the repair shop folks, I also asked them to check the battery, which they did. They couldn’t find the original problem with the dash light on the first day, and they claimed that there was a problem with a solenoid on the battery, which needed a new part. So after waiting a whole day in the shop, they offered me a loan vehicle and I went back to Lis’ house. The problems were “fixed” by mid-day on Tuesday, so I picked up the RV and spent that night with Lis and family, then left the next morning.
As far as the RV goes, the battery problem doesn’t seem to have been fixed (the battery was very low again this morning after a night at the rest-stop), but at least the service-engine-soon light is off. And the whole thing cost $1,500, or about a third of the money I had put aside for this trip. I’ll just have to resort to credit cards, which I had hoped not to do. Perhaps, with the poor economy and that truck dealership not selling many trucks, they're trying to make as much money as possible from naïve, out-of-towners who need repairs and have no other options, nor any recourse in the community.
As I was organizing to leave, two workmen, in the first stages of building a house on a lot across the road, cranked up their chainsaws and began sawing limbs off the trees on the lot, preparatory to chopping them down, I presume. The sound of chainsaws is a particularly tragic sound to me, having heard it so often after Hurricane Hugo. As I looked across the street, the trees were just standing there, stoically awaiting their fate, unable to move, to run, to hide from their imminent destruction. I felt a wave of empathy for those helpless trees, for their years and years and years of slow, patient growth – leaves, stems turning to branches, trunk widening and becoming sturdier with each year. They survived a nearby tornado’s fury only to be felled by a chainsaw-wielding human.