Sitting idle at home base for two months leaves little to blog about, I felt the urge to write, so I decided to tell the origin story. This is the tale of my travels to purchase and return home with Tortuga, including the embarrassing bit.
Fall of 2018
Kendra and I completed five years of planning and selected the RV we wanted to try living in. A 24j Winnebago View at a small RV sales spot on the north side of Columbus. It was small, nimble to drive, and big enough that I could work at the dining table.
As part of our due diligence, we checked online for the same make and model. We found the exact same RV being sold by a private owner for ten thousand less. That felt like a significant price variance to us. We went back to the shop, showed them the price, and asked them to reduce the price to half the difference. We thought that was completely reasonable, but they disagreed.
Our future RV was being sold in Arkansas, eight hundred miles away. The expense to fly there, rent a car, overnight in an Air BNB, and drive it home was less than two thousand. And so the adventure began.
If you have read past entries, you likely know Kendra did the planning for the trip. She suggested I get an Air BNB right in Tulsa, the closest airport to the RV, but it was going to be fifteen whole minutes in the wrong direction so she found me a tiny house thirty minutes toward the destination instead. If you ever find yourself in a situation where my wife is helping you plan a trip, and she advises you to do something you think is wrong, you are probably wrong. Almost definitely wrong.
Flying to Oklahoma
Due to the paperwork necessary for the transaction, we arranged for me to arrive on Friday. So, Thursday after a workday — which likely didn’t get my full attention — my wife shuttles me to the Columbus airport. Two planes and several hours later I arrive in Tulsa with a kink in my neck and a case of yawns. Why did I think it was a good idea to drive further tonight?
The rental car company was having issues, and the first two cars they attempted to put me in had something wrong. Thirty minutes later they finally put me into a van instead of a compact car. It would cost me a little more in gas, but it was also going to be more comfortable to drive so I happily hopped in and headed out.
Ten minutes later I had the roads all to myself, not another car insight. Well… almost to myself. I’d been driving on country roads for about fifteen minutes when I noticed a weird twinkling reflection in my headlights. It wasn’t stationary and it was definitely in the middle of the road, so I slowed down.
When I got close enough for the headlights to show me the scene, I see it is three raccoons arguing over, or playing with, a beer can that has been crushed completely flat. The two without the can high-tailed it off the road, but the one with the can hanging out of his mouth turned directly toward me, raised his little paws like it was a stickup, and — at least in my memory — his eyes got very big. When I came to a complete stop he finally recovered from the shock and joined his buddies, with his beer. Party animals I guess.
Late at night with no other cars on the road, you would think that one adventure in thirty minutes of driving would be it. Nay nay. Soon after the raccoon incident I turned left and had to come to a complete halt as five deer were fast asleep on the road. Not on the edge of the road, not off to one side, completely covering the road edge to edge. My arrival did not startle them. In fact, I had to give a tiny honk to get them to move, and they managed to look put out as they slowly shifted to the shoulder and laid back down.
After a very long thirty-minute drive I arrived at the tiny home, well after midnight, and took my bag inside. It was perfectly clean, but the outside temperature was 89F — which may explain why so few people were around. A tiny window air conditioner was off upon arrival, didn’t blow much air when I turned it on and was on the ground floor while the bed was in the loft on the opposite side of the cabin. As a cherry on top, the ladder into the loft faced the wall and came up through a hole on the left so I needed to rotate 180 degrees and crawl onto the floor. As a teenager, I would likely have enjoyed the challenge, but as an aging programmer at the end of a very long day, I felt like a beached whale trying to make it offshore. I didn’t break anything, and no video of the event exists, so I’ll call it a win.
The temperature in the loft felt like it was in the triple digits, so I flipped on the fan to blow air across me and let my head hit the pillow. At just that moment a helicopter flew in and hovered above the cabin. Looking out the window I didn’t see any spotlights. Why would a helicopter be hovering in the middle of nowhere without a light at this time of night? It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize it was the vibrations of the fan causing the sound. Unamused I moved the fan hoping to reduce the volume with no success. I really should have taken the place in town my wife recommended.
Driving to Arkansas
Surprisingly, I awoke feeling pretty good. The temperature had broken through the night, the humidity was down, and I was going to pick up our adventure mobile. It was all country roads leading to Arkansas, and super quiet. I watched carefully for coffee and enjoyed the sunrise.
Turns out I was on a country toll road. That was a new experience. I see there is a gas station at the next turn-off. I pulled off to find there is a fifty-cent toll, cash only. I had a dollar bill with me, but this was quarters only. Oklahoma was beginning to feel like a foreign country. Who carries quarters around? I never paid that toll.
The gas station continued with the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land as I pulled into the Kum & Go. Not a porn shop, just fuel stop with a convenience store and a messed-up name.
I am still riding the excitement of the event when I pull up and find her sitting in the driveway. I snapped the above selfie before ringing the bell and sent it to Kendra. It took several hours to do a full walk-through of the RV and shuttle to the attorney to sign all the paperwork. By the time we were done with it all and I was pointing the nose homeward I was tired.
I was also pretty disappointed. The previous owners had never actually used it like an RV. They would go from home to a site with full hookups and use city water, then return home. They had never used the fresh water tank, so it needed a full cleanse before it could be used. That also meant the bathroom was not useable so my vision of a leisurely two-day journey to the house while enjoying having a home on wheels was a no-go. The temperature was back in the nineties, the humidity was awful, and I needed a fill-up. I was tired and getting grumpy.
The Embarrassing Bit
I pulled into a Walmart with diesel and filled up the tank. As I went to pull out I took too tight of a left turn and managed to scrape the driver’s side along the big yellow and blue pole. No structural damage, but my very expensive purchase was damaged in the first hour of ownership.
By this point, I am physically and emotionally a wreck. I cussed a lot, then took the below photo and called home. Kendra and I decided we will deal with insurance and repairs in Ohio. Thankfully, we were very careful to coordinate the pickup with State Farm and they didn’t hassle us at all about expensive repairs immediately after purchase. Probably the main reason we are still with State Farm.
I pointed the nose northward, set the AC as high as it would go, and pushed for St Louis. I was targeting a rest area on the far side of St Louis, and by the time I arrived at the edge of the city, it was dark. Today I would know I should probably take the outer belt instead of going through the city center, but this was my first time driving an RV so I let Google maps guide me right through the middle.
There was heavy construction, and heavy traffic, the vehicle was making loud scary noises, and one section had lanes that were the exact same width as the RV. It was less than a mile, but it felt like an eternity as I chanted “please don’t hit me” in my head like a mantra. I could see the lines passing under the edge of the house instead of the outside. The noise, traffic, and stress had me tremendously freaked out.
As I am exiting the super narrow section, the seam in the pavement gave me a particularly hard bump and the air stopped blowing. I could hear the fan, but nothing was coming out of the vents.
By the time I get to the rest area, I am ready to explode. It was in the ’80s out, the thermostat said it was 88, the side was damaged, the air was broken, I was sweating, and I wanted to beat on something. Instead, I fired up the generator, turned on the house air, and went into the rest area bathroom to brush my teeth.
It was much cooler when I returned. I got the bed set up, turned off the air and generator, and passed out. I was awoken through the night by trucks coming and going, the temperature getting hot enough that I needed the generator and air again, and my mood kept getting darker. What in the hell were we thinking that we could live in an RV? We were out of our fucking minds and had made a huge mistake. We should have just moved to Portland.
Final Leg of the Journey
I gave up trying to sleep at 6am, fired up the air again, and snagged a Starbucks double shot from the now-cold refrigerator as I searched the internet for information on the failed air. A working refrigerator and strong caffeine lifted my spirits significantly.
As I opened my second can, I fired up the engine and found that the air was working. Likely ice built up somewhere in the system and melted overnight. I pulled out behind a trucker who turned out to be perfect to follow. They slowed down just before rough sections and sped back up when roads were better. As I polished off the four-pack of double shots — and listened to music — I let the miles flow behind me having a much more relaxing day. I was sad when the call of nature required me to pull off and lose my guide.
I stopped for lunch and found that Torta fits neatly into a single parking spot if you can back up over the curb. From there the trip home was smoother sailing, but overall I would give the trip one star tops. Thankfully we have ironed out the kinks and usually have superior trips to this awful pick up.
May peace find you