The Road Ahead

 

For our latest trip in Discovery, I wrote a fairly general post about encountering difficulties along the way. I’d meant to give my typical Captain’s Log entry (or First Officer…there’s likely some debate and a brewing mutiny) but as it turned out, I didn’t have time.

This was our first real test. Embarking from the Dallas / Fort Worth area, we traveled to the distant galaxy known as Minnesota where our Universal Translator struggled with the colloquialisms, don’t ‘cha know? Where we searched for pre-historic shaggy, bovine creatures and battled thriving swarms of blood-sucking beasts. And one of the most mysterious encounters of all: seasons.

When we left Texas, it was 100 degrees. Hot enough to bake cookies on the dash. 951 miles due north, and through the featureless voids of Kan-sas, we found ourselves in a frigid 78 degree valley.

We’d driven so far not only to put Discovery through her paces, but to take our son to his college orientation. The trip went well…for the most part.

For the first time, we hitched up Maaike’s car and gave the tow dolly a true test. Overall it survived with flying colors. Her car? Not so much.

The clearance is low on her Mazda 3. Low enough that it just barely clears the ramps when it settles onto the trailer’s deck. After 1800 miles, the constant jostling and scraping had caused a minor problem.

On Maaike’s first day back at work after our trip, I got a call. Her commute had been accompanied by a wonderful grinding sound. I met her in the parking lot, crawled underneath, and found several bolts which attach the protective skid plate missing.

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I did my best to shimmy under and remove the rest of the fasteners. Skid plate in her trunk, we had the dealer re-attach it a few days later. No lasting damage to report; the lightweight protective shield had essentially done its job.

Discovery didn’t roll away unscathed either. From an uneven campsite or maybe just the jarring of a long road trip, the big slide, the full side slideout which stretches from the living area to the bedroom, had gotten off track. When we were ready to go, it retracted with a loud thunk.

This one piece essentially makes up the entire wall on one side. It must weigh thousands of pounds. If it fails while boon docking in a state park in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, there isn’t much to be done.

Fortunately, when it retracted, it seemed to find the right path once more. The weatherproofing seal around the outside got chewed up near the top and there are some fresh scratches where the slideout rubbed against the frame, but we don’t think it will be a recurring problem. To make sure, we’ll pay close attention each time we deploy the slide. While the auto jacks are supposed to make the whole coach level, we’ll double check from now on with a level of our own.

But for all our adventures, we’re not the ones taking on the biggest challenge.

At freshman orientation while my son registered for classes I spoke to another parent named, Tim. He was from the area, or at least the Minnesota area, and he marveled at how far we’d come.

Their two daughters were of college age, one already at a different school, and their youngest taking the biggest leap to attend Gustavus Adolphus, a full ninety miles away from home.

My son had chosen to cross ten times that distance.

Sure, maybe this says a lot about our parenting. Maybe he just really needs his space. But as Tim said, his voice full of genuine wonder, “he’s a brave soul.”

Bryce hasn’t known anything but Texas. Sure, he’s gone on vacation with us to tropical locations and into the fledgling elevations of the Rockies. With his school he traveled to Italy and Belize. So he isn’t completely new to travel.

But he’s never lived away from home. He doesn’t even own a winter coat. I mean a real winter for a place with actual snow not thin coatings of ice mistaken for a winter apocalypse. No sub-zero gloves, boots…he does oddly own several ushankas as part of his obsession with Eastern European and Russian history (thus his choice of schools), but otherwise, he’ll need an entirely new wardrobe. Not just that, he’ll need engine block warmers, snow chains, and emergency kits for his car so if he breaks down on a frigid winter day he can survive until the tow truck arrives.

He’ll need to be fully outfitted like some Arctic explorer. His Sir Ernest Shackleton moment. I know, I’m making more of this than it is, but then again, I’m not. He’s seizing life by the snowballs and I couldn’t be prouder.

Of all of us, he has the most exciting journey ahead and that was one reason why I found it hard to write about our first real expedition. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t seem to matter. My time is fading in the long slide into the twilight years. His? His has just begun. He’s the one most living up to Discovery’s promise. I can’t wait to see what he does.

 

 

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