Dry, Oh My!

Davis Monthan Air Force Base Fam Camp is a highly desired winter home. With three and five month extended stay options, snowbirds can drive west for 70/40 average temps and pay less than a month’s mortgage in an average DC home. Operating on a first come, first served basis, no reservations can mean long wait times for one of 197 full hook up sites. We arrived on Sunday and are number 35 on the waitlist. Even a mass migration makes it unlikely our number will Bingo, so we sit in overflow with nothing but a bathhouse 500 feet away.

Dry camping means no water, sewer or electric. While Betty gets tires and a rear sway bar, we were confident we could gut it out for a few nights, maybe even the whole 10 days before our flight home. Holding a full tank of water, we could wash dishes and brush our teeth. With propane we could keep the coach warm and cook. With a generator, we could charge batteries. With the battery we could have lights. And with a bathhouse we could stay clean. With the bikes we could spend our days rediscovering Tucson. We would read books and play scrabble since internet was not an option. Easy peasy.

Upon arrival, we couldn’t get the water to come out of the faucets. The pump was not pumping. Scratch washing dishes and brushing our teeth. That’s okay, we had chili in the freezer. Thaw, reheat in a pot, serve on paper plates, clean pot with Clorox wipes. It was easy to thaw cause it was already partially thawed. The fridge was gone again. Eric tried the magnet on the switch trick to reset and it appeared we were cooling again. But 18 hours later, the ice box was a hot box. Time for an Arlington redux. Grill all the fish, fry the bacon, hard boil the eggs, ice down what could be saved.

In the midst of all this, nighttime temps were hovering at 35 degrees. With no electric to plug in the heater, we were deep under blanket cover. Our fifth wheel neighbor stayed warm and TV satisfied by running his outdoor generator until 10pm, then in 2 hour intervals all night until 6am when it went on full-time.  If you have ever had that neighbor who seemed to always use the high-powered leaf blower or run the lawn mower that was missing the muffler while you were enjoying an outdoor BBQ, it’s like that.

Today’s plan was Carl’s RV at the open. Sway bar, fridge, water pump, step. Did we mention that the electric entrance step won’t stay down? Dennis, Penny and Manager Betty welcomed us and our growing fixit list. Carlos the sway bar installer was perplexed by the number of boxes that arrived. We were a little perplexed that he was perplexed, but he was excited to get into them, like a kid at Christmas.

Despite the challenges, we left happy as ever, and planted ourselves in the local McCafe, on their free wifi, enjoying coffee and CNN on the big screen. The desert was warming up and the Como’s were fully charged.  If Carl’s had a good day, so would we.  On the bright side, Betty flew through emissions testing with very low cholesterol numbers. Mc D’s WeWork booth is good time to chat with the worker bees at Maryland MVA about reciprocity in emissions testing. Fortunately they could hear me over the incessant beeping of the deep fryer and said to fax the pass results and we are good to go!

When the thrift stores opened at 10, we took off thrifting. Striking out at Goodwill, the Assistance League practiced kindness on us. It was well stocked with decent prices. Sheri had been looking for an accoutrement for her Como and found it here. Her beloved saguaro!

The Comos got a lot of attention and questions outside the store. While Eric chatted with a retired professor about life on electric bikes, Sheri chatted with his wife about thrifting and what stores to hit next. Then Manager Betty called and said Dennis wants to talk to us. Come back. 10 miles later, we got the news.

Dennis broke the news, good and bad.  The bad news was that Hellwig had sent the wrong bracket for the rear sway bar.  The correct one was on FEDEX for Wednesday delivery.  The good news was Dennis had an extension cord that he would run out to the street.  Dennis had assumed that if he rolled a half-fixed Betty out of the shop bay and onto the street that we were the kind of couple that would camp on the side street, outside the barbed wire fence of Carl’s RV, locked up and closed for the night.  Dennis was right.  Now we have a room with a view  – a view of colorful tractor parts and other industrial neighbors’ goods.

Trying to make us feel better, Dennis explained that he needed to plug the coach in and see if the fridge would cool down on AC.  He then proceeded to tell us that he knew that it would, and that he had already ordered a new propane burner unit so that it would also cool on propane (dry camping).  We played along and said that we would stay in Betty for the night and look after the actually not needed fridge test. Thank goodness we were available.

The retracting steps that even retract when you don’t want them to continues to be puzzling even to Dennis, but the water pump is fixed and unless this turns into a repeat of the BMW headlight repair, the sway bar should finish up tomorrow.  Dry Camping turned out to be a good idea because it allowed us to test and repair in a place with our favorite RV mechanic nearby.  Funny how the universe works things out.

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