A Most Spectacular “Trip”

Mary Kay Kraft
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Bentley, our 2018 LTV Unity MB, a handsome and spacious Leisure Lounge Plus, was ready. After multiple short jaunts to Carolina LTVers rallies, we were ready to take Bentley on an extended ROAD TRIP! Hooking up with our (albeit misinformed Airstream-owning) friends, we left home, packed to the gills, to visit friends spread far and wide: a 5,000 mile, 9-state loop over 7 weeks.

We left Labor Day weekend, with our first prolonged stop in Nashville, staying at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. The city seemed closed for the weekend (no performances at The Bluebird Cafe, the performance bar featured in the TV series Nashville), but our curiosity compelled us to visit their beloved life-size replica of the Greek Parthenon. We were impressed that co-located with the Parthenon was an amazing tribute to Tennessee women and larger-than-life suffragettes.

Westward we continued, straight on Interstate 40, growing warmer and warmer with each mile. We had 3M film installed over the windows in Bentley’s massive cab area, and never felt the distinctive burn of sun on our arms as we were driving. The cab and cabin areas remained comfortable with only the cab air conditioning!

Our next overnight stop was just plain weird. Just off the interstate, we seemed to be headed into an abandoned shopping center. A sharp right turn placed us at the camp check-in. Full service hook-ups, but if we wanted, $5.00 could upgrade our location to one with trees. We opted for the trees, as the sun was still high in the sky. Bentley was taller than the trees! Shucks, WE were taller than the trees.

Parked near us were odd looking RVs. There were at least four such rigs – all plain white, no decals. They had four or five separate doors evenly spaced along the side but no windows. We never saw anyone to ask what they were, but the next day we met them at every stop, along with a carnival ride or two – real carnies! What a treat! But sadly, we did not get a chance to see them perform.

Traveling gives one plenty of opportunity to observe how others live – rig-hopping from a distance! For example, at several camp sites we were instructed to deposit our trash in front of our campsite. An observation we made that was a little unusual is that vegans must eat their food packaging! Our waste was considerably larger when compared with vegan waste!

As we travelled west, we imagined life in a wagon train, crossing the mountains on the Santa Fe Trail. We bartered with skilled Native American artisans under the old Santa Fe portico, and we toured Loretto Chapel, where we shuddered to think what it was like for nuns to descend the infamous spiral staircase that has no central stabilizing support and was built with no nails. Talk about faith!

Photo of Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument was astounding! We followed a single narrow path winding its way up and up through massive rock formations, windswept and eroded beyond comprehension – we almost made it to the top! (I admit, I chickened out as I began to wonder how we would be evacuated if one of us got hurt in the rock scramble the last ½ mile.) We shall return!

Taos Pueblo was remarkable, unassuming, and uncommercial. The resilience, ingenuity, and fortitude of the Native American people is breathtaking. Bandelier National Monument deepened that appreciation as we examined the small living shelters and scrambled up tall, tall ladder systems that made access to those small shelters possible as well as protected.

Passing over the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, we stumbled across the ‘60s version of the green movement: the Taos Earthships. These are homes dug deep into the earth, with walls of beer bottle bottoms glistening beside indoor gardens and natural water retention systems.

Photo of Taos Earthship Biotecture by Leon Bublitz on Unsplash.

Then we were off to Albuquerque, the historic Route 66 bridge, and the Route 66 Casino. It has been a while since I was last in a casino in the early ’70s and electronic slots are not what slots used to be. I don’t think I lost money but I can’t really tell: no coins, no clink-clink-clatter as they amassed in the tray, no mechanical arm slamming back as the tumblers whirl, no plastic cup filled to the brim.

The Spectacular “Trip”

And that is when our trip crashed to a stop at 5:15pm that Friday evening. We stopped at a camping store on our way to the Albuquerque tram ride. As we left, the clerk said, “Have a good trip” and with that Jan did – literally. She tripped right off the curb in a spectacular face plant – a real Olympic-sized 10.0. No chance for anyone to grab her, no chance for her to try to catch herself. SPLAT. The t-shirt Jan was wearing at the time of her trip said, “I prefer my kale with a silent “K”. The store clerk thought she may have had a little too much kale!

Thanks to the trip, we now had the opportunity to experience, “Traveling While Under Medical Care: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. We went to the closest urgent care just to get the scrapes and scratches cleaned up – which is all that “seemed” to be needed. Urgent care took 45 minutes to get around to seeing us, then said they COULD take x-rays, but if her foot was broken they would not be able to set it and the ER, who COULD fix it, would not accept the urgent care x-rays. They didn’t even clean the open, bleeding scrapes and cuts!

Off to find an ER in a strange city with no knowledge of where to go and who was good. A local said avoid the med school, as only baby docs would be staffing the ER on a Friday evening. Waze was enlisted to get us to a different ER, but on our way there, just off the exit, we saw a sign to an ER. Help was at hand! Turning into the lot, we found the signs had directed us to the “Heart ER”.

Certain we were in the wrong place, we checked if they could handle the possible list of injuries: “Oh, yes!” we were assured, and while the ER cardiologist saw us immediately, we waited about four hours while the “real” ER hospital, one block away from this one, sent the requisitioned supplies which the Heart ER did not stock – like glue for the gash over Jan’s eye, and a post-op bootie.

X-rays results came in: Broken foot – Yes; Broken arm – Maybe; Head injury – Laceration; Brain bleed – No. Prognosis: No more kale. Still, Jan left with dirty wounds and nothing more than a glorified soft-soled shower bootie which was too short.

Amazingly enough, we were able to get an appointment with an eye specialist on Tuesday and an ortho foot specialist on Wednesday. While there, the staff managed to convince an ortho arm specialist to assess the injuries as well. Jan’s arm was broken, but it was a “good” break, and immobilizing it was the last thing she should do; just don’t use it. Her foot was put in a cast to her knee (UNC Blue because they had no Duke Blue), and she was told to stay off the foot completely – the soft bootie was the exact wrong thing to be in – and elevate that leg (Leisure Loungers saved the day!). The broken arm precluded crutches, so a knee scooter was a reasonable substitute, except it needed to be ordered. All three doctors required follow-up within 5-7 days, when we would be 200 miles “down the road”. We were absolutely amazed how responsive specialists were to our need to be seen; some aspects of our health care system are amazing. And shipping durable medical equipment to RV camping sites went perfectly! The spacious aisle afforded by Bentley’s slide made it possible to assemble and test drive (sort of) the knee scooter.

And thank heaven for the spacious bath and shower, which made it possible to live quite comfortably in Bentley without exiting the vehicle for much of anything. With a driving tour of Flag Staff, Tuba City, and the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, made possible by the Unity’s nimble handling and spacious view, we kept plugging along.

In Sedona we had a disappointing awakening. Sedona was not RV friendly, not even to a shorty like Bentley. We tried to stop for breakfast, but could find no parking to accommodate the rig. In fact, one place we turned in had a U-shaped lot so narrow I had to back out of the lot the way I came in (thank heaven for the back-up camera!). Even K-turns were super tough (not that I took any wrong turns). While the rock formations in Sedona are awesome, nearly all the viewing locations advised their parking was adequate only for automobiles. (We could, however, rent a behemoth off-road jeep or buggy and tear up the hills with wild abandon.) But Sedona did have cute birdhouses!

Our next camp site in Phoenix would have been more than an hour’s drive to the nearest specialists, and the remainder of our trip was planned for mostly state parks and gravelly ground. We finally threw in the towel, abandoned our co-travelers, and replotted a return trip home. We had made all our camping reservations before we ever left home, which was a little stressful while planning and, except near Carlsbad Caverns, not actually necessary, as most of the campgrounds had plenty of space. (Undoubtedly this was because we were 2-3 weeks ahead of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!) For our accelerated return, we never considered “walk-up” reservations, but made them on a daily basis, as we drove – easy-peasy. “Most Serene” campsite winners were Huck Finn on the Mississippi and Spring Hill in Crossville, Tennessee.

The campground host at Huck Finn Campground.
Spring Hill Campground.

The Leisure Loungers, the super-sized shower, and the spacious interior design of our LTV were essential for us to even consider continuing our adventure. In addition to the 3M film on the cab windows, we made several modifications to Bentley that contributed to the enjoyment of our trip, even when disabled. We replaced the Equalizer Stabilizers with the Equalizer Auto-Leveling System – this made setting up camp a real breeze! We added a swing-away StowAway2 compartment, which installs off the trailer hitch, adding about 16 cubic feet of storage capacity and eventually serving as the knee roller’s home, without requiring disassembly. Even more invaluable was the community of LTV enthusiasts on the LTV Facebook Group, who so freely gave us advice and instructions for every question we had!

Our lessons learned from all this:

1. Never ingest too much kale.

2. It is possible to receive essential medical treatment on the road, just maybe not where you’d expect.

3. Always leave a medical provider’s office with a complete set of records and notes on a memory device of some sort! Getting them later is not that easy.

4. Large, pneumatic tires on knee rollers, rollators, etc. are very important to comfortably traverse gravel strewn campgrounds!

Since arriving back home, Jan has recovered and Bentley has high hopes he will ride again soon!

Mary Kay Kraft

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