Sunday, May 1, 2011

East of the Mississippi...and Dragging My Rear End

Mardi Gras beads!

Sunday, May 1st, 2011, Robert, Louisiana

I wasn't going to write another blog until I had a picture of me holding a string of fish that I'd caught. However, the past few days have been rather eventful in a slow, meandering-across-Louisiana-at-Guppy-speed-with-things-falling-apart kind of way, and I wanted to catch you all up on my doings, so you'll have to wait until my next post to see those fish. (Typical fisherperson...I'm already bragging about the ones I haven't caught yet!)

I left the beach at Galveston on Tuesday morning, intending to travel a little road that runs along the sea wall to the east of Galveston, making it possible to completely avoid the Houston area. However, as they taught me in I-School, "The map is not the territory." Apparently the sea wall has been unnavigable since Hurricane Ike in 2008, but my 2011 road atlas still shows it as passable. When I came to the barricade, I enjoyed watching people fishing in the surf for a while and then took the freeway up toward Houston, circling around the outer edge of the city and continuing east on I-10.

I crossed the border into Louisiana that day and spent the night at L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles. Just as I got off the freeway, the deadly dash lights came on. My vehicle is too old to have an engine indicator light that has codes revealing where the problem is. I just have lights that say "charge" and "brake," and when they come on, it's trouble. I got settled at the Casino's RV park and did some online research. An online Toyota RV forum narrowed the problem down to the house battery, the 3-wire battery isolator, and/or the alternator. There wasn't much I could do about things that night, so I had a good dinner and took a nice swim in the lazy river pool at the Casino's hotel.

The next day I headed to the nearest Super Wally and had them replace my house battery, which had not been charging up for some time. For the uninitiated (like I was until buying this money-sucking RV), motorhomes have two batteries...the usual car battery needed to start the engine, plus a marine deep cycle battery to provide a little bit of power to the lights in the house portion of the motorhome. This means when I'm boondocking, i.e. not hooked up to power, I still have some lights, on a limited basis. I can't run any intense power-suckers like the TV or microwave, but I hardly use these things even when I am hooked up.

Replacing the house battery did not make the dash lights go off, so I inquired at the Walmart tire and lube department as to where I could find a full-service mechanic. They referred me to a guy just down the street who fit me in immediately and gave me a new alternator for a very reasonable price. This solved the dash light problems. After the work was done, I returned to the Walmart to spend the night in the parking lot. It was a particularly good location on several counts. First, the people at that Walmart were incredibly kind to "Miss Sue," as they called me, and, second, there was a Starbucks in the same shopping center that had fabulous wifi, so I caught up on some episodes of "Desperate Housewives" on

The next morning, I returned to Starbucks specifically to inquire of the local folks where I could hear some good Louisiana music on a Friday night. The guys at the next table told me about Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette this weekend, just an hour or so east of Lake Charles. So I got back on the freeway and headed out, stopping at a few Goodwill stores along the way to buy some vintage couture silk neckties. When I got to Lafayette, I located the Walmart where I planned to stay that night and headed downtown for the festival.

The festival was great! I found a nice shady park bench where I could wait for the evening performances to begin, and coincidentally probably the only other Oregonians in the park also sat down there. I heard Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience and I loved every minute of it. When the music started, I couldn't stay on the park bench another second; I went up to the area right in front of the stage and danced and sang and hooted and hollered and had a great time. Pure joy!

There were other bands playing late into the night, but I wanted to get back to Walmart to spend the night before it got really dark, and thank goodness I did, because I noticed as I drove away from downtown Lafayette that my headlights were not working. There has been an accumulation of nonworking electrical elements in the front of my rig lately...recently the radio and horn also failed. So it's definitely time to find another mechanic and get some more work done.

Yesterday morning I woke up and had planned to go back to the festival, but it was raining and even after a few hours, there did not seem to be any let up. So I decided my next priority would be to go catch some fish, and I found this RV resort with a lake and boat rental in Robert, Louisiana, another 90 miles or so east of Lafayette. As luck would have it, the campground was also hosting a Swamp Pop festival yesterday, and I arrived in time to hear some more good local music.

The drive to Robert was pretty uneventful until just before it was time to exit the freeway. That's when I heard something dragging from my vehicle, so I stopped to investigate. My bumper fell off! Not completely--the left side is still welded on, but the right side no longer has anything to hang onto. Fortunately I happened to have a 1/4-mile reel of galvanized electric fence wire with me, so I got out and wired that sucker to my bent-up old ladder. This is a very temporary fix. Now I need to find not only a mechanic to repair my electrical problems, but also a welder.

So I limped into the RV park to find that the other campers were drunk and obnoxious. But it's Sunday and they will all go home today. I'm staying a second night to get in some fishing and to figure out my plans for getting some repairs done tomorrow.

Sonja has had some issues these past few days, too. I don't know what happened to her on the day I got to Lafayette (Friday), but she was definitely freaked out by something that occurred that day--maybe some shifting cargo that fell on her? When I opened up the door to get in the back of the motorhome that evening, Sonja shot past me, escaping into the Walmart parking lot, and I had to drag her out from under my rig by her tail in order to get her back in the house.

Sonja has ridden in the cabover since Day 1 of this journey, but now she will not go anywhere near it. When I put her up on my bed, she stares into the corner with her hackles up, like there's some menace there that is visible only to psycho cats.

Since Sonja clearly wasn't going to ride in the cabover anymore, I had to come up with an alternative comfortable place for her to ride. I devised a sort of cat house under the dinette where I put her food and bed, and I used a cargo net to keep things in place and make it seem cozy to my cat who would rather be inside a box than anywhere else. She seems quite comfortable with this arrangement.

So that's my status as of Sunday morning on May Day, 2011. Broken down a bit, but nothing that keeps me from moving forward. Wow, a metaphor for aging, perhaps? Heading out to buy me some bait now...


  1. I think our bodies are like cars, too. You were lucky to hear some good'll get those fish soon.

  2. Hmmm, I've heard to always carry duct tape and baling twice but the galvanized electric fence wire is a new one. LOL!

  3. Hey Sue,

    Let me know if you get to Atlanta. Love to take you to lunch sometime....


  4. Donna, it was just plain dumb luck that I'd happened across this wire at a garage sale once, and I've always found uses for it--hanging plants on porches and such--so I brought it along.

    And Kenny, you betcha! I'm headed to Atlanta mid-May.

  5. I would never have thought to carry fence wire with me.... it's a good thing you did. However, I do have plastic ties, rope, electrical tape, and duct tape.

    Hope you get everything fixed, especially the electrical system.

    I travel with 2 cats that only relax at night. During the day they will either go into their crate up in the bunk area or hide under the chair down below. When everything settles down at night, they come out and play and roam around and seem very content.

    Hope Sonja recovers from whatever spooked her.

  6. I would say this fence wire has been the most useful thing I've brought along besides duct tape and tools. And I am looking for heavier-duty duct tape...I saw some that's specifically made for outdoor use and I've also seen ads for a Gorilla brand tape. Ooomph!

  7. Wire is a smart move! We have duct tape, I will mention wire (to the man in charge-he loves adding to his tool space under the table bench. I'm glad you were able to enjoy the coast (I think the elec shutting down the public toilets is terrible), and are well on your way!! I hope you catch a lot of fish! Be Safe:)

  8. Good Grief! I can't believe how patient and resourceful you are. I hope things smooth out for you soon. And your kitty. She looks so cute in her new area.

  9. LOL Katie--you should read about the troubles I had in San Francisco at the beginning of my trip! A dragging bumper ain't nothin'!