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Monday, 4/9/01 - Getting into the Groove me

After over a week back on the road, I am finally feeling the rhythm of the road, getting into that groove of driving and camping, leaving behind that old way of thinking that fouls up the heart and mind, shedding my city skin and returning to the present moment.

Had my usual road breakfast - green tea and oatmeal - and stood outside as the sun rose above the horizon, breathing in the thick, salty air. It was already 72 degrees and only 8:00 in the morning.

I could have driven to Charlotte that morning, a day early, at my leisure. But instead, I decided to continue into the Outer Banks, destination: Cape Hatteras KOA, right by the beach. dunes

With an ocean breeze blowing through the RV and the strong sun penetrating the windshield, I drove south, dunes rising and falling to my left, beach-houses and strip malls to my right.

The KOA campground crawled right up to the dunes leading to the beach, with a wooden walkway climbing over them to the other side. Our site was a few steps from the dunes and I could feel the presence of the ocean even though I couldn't yet see it.

I brought my laptop and some magazines outside and set up my office at the campsite's picnic table, a weathered wooden structure, bleached by sun and sea air. Already, I was pleased with my decision to go to the ocean instead of inland.

The rest of the day was part lazy, part productive, as I read, wrote, napped, then sat for a while on the beach with the Berts. We had an early dinner, after all that sun, and slept soundly to the whisper of the ocean in the distance. ocean

Tuesday, 4/10/01 - Leaving the Beach

By 7:30 am it was already warm, sky hazy, sun radiating diffused light. I took one last walk on the beach, taking photographs of the water and sand, and remembering again how much I love the ocean.

I've been thinking of moving someplace new, and Austin Texas has been on the top of my list. At moments like this walk, near ocean, I realize that there is a powerful inner pull happening, something I also felt in Key West. A pull toward water, vast and endless.

Reluctantly, I hit the road again, stopping to get gas before leaving Cape Hatteras, and leaving my gas cap behind which I realized three hours later. By that time, I was in driving hell.

The Bucking Begins

For some reason, the RV began to buck at higher speeds of 55 miles per hour or more. It felt like I was riding a bucking bull at a cowboy bar, the entire RV rocking back and forth, back and forth. At first, I thought it was the wind, those powerful ocean breezes, that was tossing my RV to and fro. But as I continued to drive inland, on rural roads because I was hours from I-85 South, the nearest major interstate heading to Charlotte, the bucking increased.

Maintaining 50 miles per hour in the first few hours was difficult, but luckily, the rural roads had slower speeds posted and if a line of too many cars built up behind me, I was able to pull over and let them pass. By the time I neared Raleigh, NC, I was sweating, exhausted and very concerned.

It was when I stopped for gas and a phonebook to call Dodge dealers that I noticed the missing gas cap, and obsessively, I called the gas station in Cape Hatteras and asked them to FEDEX it to my mom. They grudgingly agreed. I just thought it must be hard to find a gas cap for a 1977 Dodge.

Next, I set out to find a Dodge dealer that could accomodate my 23 foot RV. Five dealers later, each one referred me to the other and no one could handle a vehicle this size. So I called Metrolina Dodge in Charlotte, where I had gone the last time I was in town and had to cancel my booksigning because of the flu and high fever.

"I don't know if I'll make it there, but if I do, can you take a look at my RV?" I asked in desperation. Dan Cannon, the supervisor, assured me they could and wished me luck.

I was taking 64 West, got onto 40 West and then took a wrong turn and was in lush, green, hilly farmland. The RV was now down to a zippy 45 miles per hour and even that would case bucking if I tried to go uphill. I was in hill country. The RV was taking hills at 25 miles per hour. Needless to say, people behind me weren't thrilled.

After being directed to a road that would take me back to my original path and only put another hour on my already 8 hour drive, I chugged away at the last stretch of rural road before I-85. As I saw signs for the Interstate, I wondered how in the world I'd be able to drive on it, since the posted minimum speed is 40 mph and I was barely able to maintain that.

The Home Stretch

I drove I-85 South and then I-77 South with my hazard lights on, and at this point, I was delirious, talking to myself, the Berts and the RV, all at once. "Come on, baby, you can do it. Get up that hill, just one more hour, I promise. You can do it!"

As I crossed the state line into South Carolina, I knew I was minutes from the Ft. Mill KOA. I was whooping and hollering and shouting final words of encouragement to a pathetically slow Apache, sputtering off the highway at 35 mph and not a inch faster.

The yellow, glowing KOA sign was my sign for paradise as I pulled in after 12 and a half hours driving what should have been a 6 hour drive at most. I was soaked with sweat, stinking a mile away, hair a tangled, matted mess, wild-eyed and breathing hard. The desk clerk was nothing but polite as he rushed me into my site.

I let the water run hot and long in my RV shower that night, as I held back tears of relief. I had made it, we were there. But what was wrong with the RV?

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