The Real Cost of a Vintage RV

We’ve been in Gulfport, Florida for about two weeks waiting on the all-clear to pick up our 1974 Winnebago Brave, Coachese, in St. Louis. We still haven’t figured out what to do next, but we’re having a good time in the sunshine state and we’ll definitely post the highlights soon. This morning, as I was sitting in my parents’ house at age 41, I decided to do a little digging into the financial aspect of this trip. Not a very encouraging thing to do but who are we to shy away from reality, right? So here go some figures to ponder which will hopefully make you feel better about any possibly shady decisions you’ve ever made in your life:

 

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Disclaimer: I’m not a mathemagician and these might not be the world’s most well-researched numbers, but they are for sure in the ballpark. Sadly.

Enjoy your day.

 

Thwarted. Again.

So, after almost two weeks in corporate housing on the outskirts of Indianapolis we got word from the mechanic that it was going to be at least a couple of more weeks until Coachese, our ill-fated Winnebago,would be ready. Who here is shocked? Anyone? It is apparently very tough to find a gearbox for a 1974 Dodge chassis. Now we know. Devastating blow. Also, sadly familiar. Welcome to the Groundhog Day of road trips.

Obviously, the chances of salvaging this trip are getting pretty slim. Obviously, we couldn’t live in corporate housing forever. So we packed up the rental Chevy Cruze and headed down to Gulfport, Florida, home of my parents. This seemed like a good choice for a variety of reasons, including:

a) it’s not Indianapolis…or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter.

b) we like Florida

c) we can fly home direct from Florida (huge bonus for the dogs)

d) there’s the possibility that if we don’t totally throw in the towel, my parents could dog sit while we go take care of some things in St. John, since we’ve been gone longer than anticipated already

e) who doesn’t love family time?

So, that’s where we are. Soaking up sunshine in Gulfport. Considering our options.

Some of you may be wondering, why the f@ck don’t you just go back to your island paradise? Excellent question, my friends. I guess the reason is we’re still kind of irrationally attached to the idea of spending at least a little time in Coachese since we’ve invested so much in him.  Also, we kind of have a plan to be in DC in October to see a show (and meet our new nephew-dog, Bernie). It’s a real pain to fly the dogs, so going back and forth is not ideal. Probably we’ll figure something out soon. Probably. Stay tuned.

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Coachese as a taco truck.

***On an encouraging note, when we stopped for stellar tacos in Nashville on our drive down to Florida, we picked up this shirt at Mas Tacos. Who knew they were Winnebago enthusiasts as well as taco all-stars? Come on. This has to be a sign.***

 

Things to do in St. Louis when you’re totally stranded.

It’s been about ten days since Coachese, our seemingly doomed Winnebago, crapped out on us in St. Louis. At that point, he had literally millions of mechanic’s hours, buckets of sweat and tears, and actual American Dollars in him. On the other hand, we had several days worth of fond memories of camping in him. So when the good people at this latest shop gave us the bad news and asked us to think seriously about what we wanted to do about him, we did. For like 5 minutes. Then we told them not to give up. This might be like calling in the transplant team for your 99 year old grandma, but there it is. No question, he will ride again.

In the meantime, we loaded some of our stuff into big, blue Ikea bags, rented a car and headed off to yet another airbnb, because money is clearly no object for ballers like us. To be honest, we were all pretty much over this whole experience. We were feeling defeated. We suspect Frances doesn’t even remember St. John. We were burnt on the midwest. We debated going home for a week while Coachese was in surgery, but ultimately, that didn’t really make sense. Plus, I had serious doubts we’d actually come back.

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Airbnb. Here we go again.

To pull ourselves out of our depression, we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into our area of greatest expertise: recreation. We decided to treat St. Louis like we were actually here on purpose. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last ten days:

 

The Arch. It seems kind of dumb and it’s hard to accurately describe, but if you find yourself with a day in St. Louis you definitely have to go. See the movie in the visitor center before you go up. Really. It’s a piece of late sixties gold, like an episode of Quincy, but it also puts the whole thing in context. Possibly the whole city. Plus, you go up in these crazy little Buck Rogers elevator cars. It’s surreal.

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Get ready for the movie.

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Your ride to the top-it goes sideways too!

The World Chess Hall of Fame. Not even kidding. It was in the first neighborhood we stayed in (Central West End), so we just walked over. We don’t play chess, but the museum is totally worth a stop if you have some time to kill. They had an exhibition of paintings inspired by the chess games of Marcel Duchamp. I still have no idea how to play chess but it’s always cool to see a bunch of people so into one thing.

St. Louis Art Museum. Good times. And free! They have a huge Max Beckmann collection, it turns out. Now we’re big fans. Beckmann, who knew?

Cahokia Mounds State Park. Do you guys know about the Mound cultures of the midwest? I’m not going to explain it all here but it’s basically like our version of the Aztecs. That neither of us ever learned about in school. Definitely look it up. There are sites throughout the midwest, but this one was especially cool because you can actually go up on the mounds and really see how it was all laid out 1,000 years ago. Also the visitor center is kind of incredible. Not that much science in there (think 4th grade field trip) but their life-size diorama game is top notch. World Class.

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Life-size, my friends.

 

We stumbled on an outdoor movie at White Flag Projects. They were showing A Film To Be Determined by Cindy Sherman. They basically have a series over the summer where a different artist will pick a movie and they screen it outside for free with free refreshments. Stellar. The catch is they don’t tell you what the movie is, just the artist who picked it. Then attendees are sworn to secrecy about what the movie was.We love Cindy Sherman and we absolutely loved the movie. If you ever find yourself here, maybe check them out to see what’s going on.

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion. No idea what that is? We didn’t either. We moved to a new neighborhood, Cherokee Street, a few days ago and we were out walking the dogs when we saw this sign saying there were tours available at The Chatillon-DeMenil House. When we went over to see what was what, the guy working there said there was a tour starting and he would watch our dogs for us on the porch. What??? Are you kidding??? Our tour guide was fantastic. He was one of those guys who was so into what he was doing that it was absolutely impossible not to be interested. We got the whole history of the city in this one tour. It’s so much cooler than it sounds. Also, the dogs had a blast. $8 well-spent.

The St. Louis World’s Fare in Forest Park. There was a World’s Fair here in 1904 and it was a really big deal. Turns out  we were here for the annual celebration they have on the old fairgrounds which is now a beautiful city park. We’ve both been World’s Fair geeks since reading Devil in a White City, which is a true story about a serial killer operating in and around the 1893 Chicago World Fair. So this was right up our alley. Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of art, some amateur bellydancing, a cook-off and eight million dogs. What more could we want? It was fantastic. The pups had The World’s Greatest Day.

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Wembley was very into the belly-dancing hula-hoopers. Very.

Laumeier Sculpture Park. We drove out to this place because we were looking for a dog-friendly way to spend the day. This totally exceeded our expectations. They have acres of paths with tons of sculptures, including a huge eyeball which everyone enjoyed. They also have bathrooms, water fountains, shady spots. Everything you need for an afternoon with canine art-lovers. Totally free.

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Everyone loves a giant eyeball.

And, finally, The Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour. To be honest, the only reason this was even on our radar was we heard St. Louis sits atop this huge network of caves which is why beer brewing  really took off here. I’m not talking about the 47 million craft breweries you can find in every American city these days. I’m talking about the German immigrants who needed cool temperatures to make the beer they missed from home. In the pre-refrigeration days, caves were key. Kind of fascinating, right? So, we bit the bullet and headed over not quite sure what to expect.

They have a few different tours that range from totally free to really cheap. We’re fairly dorky  and picked the history one, so of course we were the only ones in our group. This happens to us a lot. We basically spent almost two hours with a personal guide walking around the historic Budweiser campus drinking beer and meeting Clydesdales (in their incredible barn which is itself a National Landmark). The brewery has been in continuous operation since the late 1800’s and the heft of that was actually pretty mind-blowing. Oh, and the Beechwood Aging is a real thing. We saw it. Warning: there may be a lot of Budweiser propaganda on this tour. I mean, there must be- it’s now my favorite beer.

So, if you’re ever stranded in St. Louis with two dogs, there’s some stuff to check out. We’ve had a surprisingly solid experience here. It’s a good town, but we’re very ready to get back on the road. We’re hoping to get Coachese back today or tomorrow, but who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait…what’s that smell???

From Mammoth Cave we made the decision to head west to Colorado. And like all great Western adventurers we headed to the gateway of the West-St. Louis. Things were going swimmingly. Cruising down the highway at Coachese’s maximum speed we made almost as good time as a covered wagon. As soon as the Legendary Gateway Arch came into view the camera came out.

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Somewhere out there is the Arch…really.

And that’s when it happened. First there was a terrible squealing noise, then a lot of shaking, then more squealing. Then the sensation the engine was about to fall out of the chassis. We pulled off onto the safest place we could find-a narrow median strip straddling a truck filled highway and an on-ramp. Super fun.

Once stopped we noticed smoke coming out of the engine. A lot. But it dissipated quickly. After a somewhat sketchy and terrifying attempt to check out what was going on we found nothing obviously wrong. Huh. After a few minutes we were able to start up Coachese and limp him off the highway to a nearby KOA.

We were 300 miles into our trip.

It’s important to pay attention to signs. This was not a great one. Still, as we camped at the KOA we weren’t ready to give up on our journey.We got some fairly optimistic advice we might be able to make it to Colorado if we just kept an eye on Coachese’s fluids. In the meantime there was a storm rolling in but we had an electric hook-up and could finally get Wembley comfortable with air conditioning. We had wifi and could stream the Olympics. We had our beautiful, water-tight mobile home to keep us dry when the downpour started. And in the morning, after checking our fluid levels, we were headed for Colorado.

Then the electricity at the campground went out. No problem, it was much cooler with the storm. But that also meant the wifi was down. No Olympics. Our positivity was starting to wear thin. But as the wind howled and the rain beat down at least we were dry.

Until…reaching into an upper cabinet water ran down my arm. In a massive rush to find the leak and move everything in its path we broke one of our favorite bowls. We discovered our ukulele had miraculously caught most of the water-shocking how much it could hold-so the water damage was minimal. But looking at our carefully organized upper shelf contents scattered on the floor was very disheartening. When we finally sat back down it was hard to keep seeing things in a positive light. But I tried.

“At least its only leaking in one-” I started to say.

And on cue drip, drip, drip splattered my arm from another upper shelf.

Signs.

It was a bleak night. But we woke up mostly dry and still dedicated to our Western Dream. We topped off our fluids, started the engine and headed out of the KOA. We lasted maybe 20 miles. This time there was a terrible burning smell and hollow whistling followed by a deeply disturbing wail. We were not going anywhere.

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Coachese Gets A Lift

So here we are, in St. Louis, Gateway to the West. It seems like a lot of the mechanical work we put into Coachese to start this adventure has come undone. This is actually a pretty big deal. Right now Coachese is in the hands of yet another mechanic. Why should anything go differently this time?

A few signs seem to be pointing in the right direction. We found a pet friendly airbnb in St. Louis in a great neighborhood a few blocks from Jeni’s Ice Cream. We have unlimited Olympic TV coverage and wifi. Wembley hasn’t panted in days.

And it looks like we’re going to get a much closer look at that Arch.

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Westward Ho.