Friday, July 8, 2011

An aborted vacation and a late start

July 7, 2011—When Jim learned that the last space shuttle launch was scheduled for July 8, we decided it was a good excuse to take a real trip in “Baby.” Jim had witnessed two launches “up close and personal,” Apollo 8 and Apollo-Soyuz; he said you could feel that ground shake as the rockets took off. I’d only seen launches at a great distance—about 100 miles as the crow flies—in Palm Beach Gardens and in Jacksonville. So, we made plans to go down to the Space Coast to watch the shuttle take off. Although we weren’t planning to go to Cape Kennedy (which promised to be wall-to-wall with space aficionados), we wanted to be very near. We found an RV campground about 15 miles from the launch site and made reservations.

We asked ourselves, “Why not make this a real vacation?” We’d been promising ourselves a trip to the Florida Keys. This was an ideal time. Our vacation began to take form: a couple days near Cape Kennedy, a nice visit with Jim’s son and his family in West Palm, a trip down to the Keys for snorkeling and “touristing,” and a leisurely trip back up the west coast of Florida, perhaps visiting some historic spots and National Monuments. We intended to be gone about two weeks.

That was before I had a dental emergency. One of my many crowns came off.

I spent a frustrating day placing call after call to the dentist office where I had had the procedure done several years ago. The answering machine instructed me that “we are unable to take your call because we are with a patient” and advised me to leave a message. I left several; no one called me back. The next morning, I was at the dental office before it opened—only it never opened. Judging from the UPS notice left on the door from the day before, I guessed the office had closed for vacation. Too bad they didn’t change their answering machine message. (Suggestion: Do not go to Great Expressions dental clinic in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.)

I finally found a dentist, who charged me $190 for an x-ray and recementing the crown. But she had bad news for me: The crown had leaked and I now had a tooth requiring a root canal and news crown. The cost? About $2000. Ouch!

American dentists are expensive. Not so the dentists south of the border. A small town in Mexico near Yuma, Ariz., boasts more than 1,000 dentists. After receiving referrals from two friends, we had decided to make the trip to get long-postponed dental work done for each of us. That trip was going to occur in the fall. Because of my dental emergency, however, we decided to cut our Florida vacation short (only four days), return home, and head out to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

Although the vacation would be short, we still looked forward to it. Early this morning, we drove down to the RV lot to retrieve Baby. Jim attached all the cables and we tested the brake lights and turn signals. Then Jim slowly pulled out of the lot. As I watched the car being towed, I almost panicked! The right front wheel wasn’t turning! When Jim stopped to let me in, I told him. He pulled forward again, but this time the wheel turned. “Hmmm,” I said, “Maybe I was mistaken.”

I wasn’t.

About five miles later, as Jim turned a corner, a motorcyclist motioned to us, indicating something was wrong. A minute later, a woman pulled up next to our bus and yelled to Jim that we had lost a wheel cover. We pulled off the road to look for the cover, wondering how it could come off.

We never did find the cover, which came off the right front wheel, but when Jim walked around the car, he saw that the left front wheel cover was about to come off! The seatings had melted. A few minutes later he discovered the cause: The breaks were locked. I had not been seeing things when I thought the wheel wasn’t turning!

My husband-who-can-fix-anything managed to find the cause of the locked-up breaks, and within 15 minutes we were on our way home.

Our troubles weren’t over.

Jim had to adjust the break cable (which had pulled the breaks into a locked position). To fix the problem, he had to unhitch the tow bar. That’s when he discovered that the hydraulics on one of the bars were not working. Three calls to the manufacturer, a disassembly of the tow hydraulics, and a refitting of a part later, Jim solved the problem.

We had intended to be on the road by 11 a.m. We finally left Jacksonville about 3 p.m.

If all this weren’t enough, there is one more thing: It is raining. The launch will probably be postponed.

Oh, well. We’re on vacation. And even though our plans won’t pan out, we’re having a good time. I hope you are, too.

Until next time,

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