Stop. Before you will be allowed to read another word, an important message from your hostess: if you have read one of my books, most especially Leaving Annalise, would you please do me the humongous favor and honor of posting an HONEST review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? You can’t imagine how much it helps. Thank you. End of message.
*** So last we left our intrepid heroine Pamela–that’s me, of course–she was enjoying her own bed in Houston for two nights after missing a wedding and while trying to keep her husband and his possessions tethered. We’ll catch up with her as she disembarks from Houston. ***
Eric dropped Marie and I at the airport in plenty of time for our plane to Jax. Unfortunately, we didn’t figure in the time we would consume once I discovered I had left my phone behind, like a glass slipper in Eric’s carriage. Woopsie. Anyway, he brought it back, we got to smooch again, and the rest of our flight was uneventful. We even did great when we got there. Our bags were fast. We found the Bookmobile in the parking lot (well, it’s hard to miss), and the generator started right up. We rescued a popular and sweet-smelling Petey from the pet hotel, and got on the road.
The first rain drops started falling as we pulled out of the pet hotel parking lot.
By the time Marie got on the highway, it was a deluge. It was raining as hard as it had in the Carolinas. It was raining vehicles right off the road. It was raining sheets of water that windshield wipers could barely part.
A high-pitched voice whispered in my ear. Welcome back to the book tour from hell, Pamela.
But no, I thought. It’s gone so well. Rain is nothing. Rain is a blessing, a source of life.
Rain is your curse. Rain will keep your underclothes damp all week. Soggy bottom. Soggy bottom. Soggy bottom.
I gritted my teeth and banished the evil sound. I was just imaging things. Or maybe Eric’s jumbie was following me now. Hey, maybe it was the jumbie that had left Petey in South Carolina? Eric’sphone on the plane? Even my phone in his car? I tried to work it all in my mind. But God my head hurt. I popped Sumatriptan for the migraine, and, lost in these thoughts, I drifted off.
When I woke up, we were in Georgia. Rural Georgia. Very, very rural Georgia. And it was damn hot.
I sat up. My migraine still raged. I noticed there was a sound missing, though. The air conditioner. I went to check. Still turned on, but futilely. So what was the problem? Ah, the generator wasn’t running. I tried to start it. It growled at me, petulant as a child ordered to clean his room before going out to play. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. What could be wrong?
“Marie, how much gas do we have?” I asked.
Oh no. “We can’t let it ever get below half or the generator won’t run. Can we stop?”
“Oh, sorry. Good thing we’re in a town.” She pulled into a gas station and got out to fuel up.
Sticking my head out her open door, I said, “Don’t forget to go to the bathroom inside. The flush arm on our toilet is broken. It works, just barely, if you push down gently then pull it all the way up with your toe. Best we don’t test it too much.”
“Oh wow. OK.”
I took Petey walking, and fretted. Our generator had just gone off while the air conditioner was on, due to a low gas issue. Time for a consult. I called Eric.
Eric likes to fix things. “You’re really going to have to prime it when you get back in there. It may be hard to start. And you guys are going to have to be more careful about making sure the A/C is off when the generator turns off and on, and you can’t let it run low on gas when it’s engaged.”
And so that’s what I did, but to no avail. It growled some more. I tried a few more times, then gave up. A problem to address later.
Onward through pouring rain we drove. We reached Auburn. I took more Sumatriptan. We had dinner with a lovely friend of Maire’s. Marie managed to back us out of an impossibly tight spot where someone had blocked us in. It was late, but we didn’t need to rise early the next day. We headed to our campground.
Only it wasn’t there.
Sometimes we have a problem with Google maps. We iPhone mapped to verify. Same directions. Our cell reception was too poor for internet, so we texted Eric for help. He couldn’t find any special instructions on their website. But he did see an aerial photo. It had railroad tracks running beside the camp ground. There were no tracks near where we were. Eric panned back and gave us directions from the Auburn campus to the actual site. It was roughly one mile away, down another road altogether.
By the time we found the campground, we were completely done in. I was drooling from the horse-tranquilizer effect of my second migraine pill. I did notice that the RV park was a little empty. We found our spot, without a map, after several false starts. All the slots were “back in,” and Marie did, missing the electrical assembly by a hair. She was rattled, and I was useless, so we hustled through a half-assed camp setup and got in bed.
The next morning we woke up to the sound of raindrops pattering on the roof. It was the kind of morning where Petey demands to go out, then, when he sticks his head out, changes his mind and backs in on speedy feet. Oh well. I didn’t mind getting wet. I took off for the shower. And that’s when I saw that we were the only occupied RV in the entire resort. It struck a chord somewhere. Oh yes, Marie had told me this at the ariport yesterday. We were staying at a park for Auburn football tailgaters, none of whom would be here until next month.
The bathrooms were in a clubhouse decked out in orange and blue. I hustled into the women’s bathroom. I put out all my gear, then opened the shower curtain.
One of the main reasons we stay at nicer RV parks is the bathrooms. This one was certainly lovely, just nonfunctional. Well, I was the only person in the park besides Marie. I went into the men’s room, pulled the trash can in front of the door, and used theirs, very very quickly.
I heard a sound over the water. A roar. I grabbed a towel and wrapped up in it. I stepped out of the shower and peered out the back window.
A platoon of raincoat-garbed grounds crewmen had surrounded the building. There were trucks, riding lawnmowers, and gas powered trimmers of all varieties. At 7 am. And I was naked in the men’s room. I rinsed my hair while still wearing my towel and skeedaddled back to the Bookmobile.
I tried in vain to start the generator on my return, this time sitting on my tush in the wet Alabama grass with the cover off the actual unit. I peered into its guts.
“Honey, the cover is off the air filter,” I said to Eric on the phone. “Didn’t you change it last week?”
“Crap. I did. I’m sorry.”
I kept trying the generator as we talked. No improvement.
“I’m going to wear out the starter,” I said.
“Yeah. Better stop. You can get a wingnut at Home Depot and put the cover back on. But we need a new air filter, too. Maybe changing it will solve the problem. If not, take it in to any store where they work on 5-stroke engines, and they can try to start it for you with some fluid or by adjusting the floater switch.”
It was as if he spoke in Japanese, but I get the essential points. I needed to do stuff. The only problem was where and when. I Googled a list of RV repair places in Birmingham–our next stop–the next day. By then, it was noon. We had agreed to meet my two darling cousins in town for lunch. I unhooked us and Marie got in the driver’s seat. She turned the key.
“Uh, Pamela,” she said. “I think the battery’s dead.”
How could that be? We’d been plugged in overnight, so we weren’t draining our battery. Marie got out of the driver’s seat, and I hopped in it. I reached my left hand out and pushed in the lights. We’d left them on. Damn. The Bookmobile’s lights were old-fashioned and required manual deactivation each time you used them.
Speeddial to Eric, who knew what to do. “See the red emergency switch to the left of the steering wheel? That allows you to use the generator’s battery to start the RV. Then the RV’s battery it will recharge.”
It worked. But then we noticed something else odd. The rear view camera screen was blank. The generator was a really bad problem, but the rear view camera was at least a pretty bad one. I fiddled with it while Marie drove, but no luck. The rain slowed and then stopped.
We showed up late for a fast lunch, then I sped off to Home Depot; Marie stayed on campus to visit an old friend. Petey pranced in to the HD beside me on his bright blue leash like he owned the place. I tried screws until I found the right size for the cover to the air filter, then selected a wingnut that worked with that size screw. We hustled back out. I put the cover back on tightly, prayed to the god of generators, and tried again.
“No dice, Petey.” I scratched his butt just the way he liked. I crawled back into the cab. I could salvage this trip by getting gas. We went to the nearest station. I got out, bringing my keys to remove the gas cap. Only there was no gas cap.
“Petey, my boy, I’m beginning to think the Bookmobile is cursed.”
Petey wagged his entire body, but didn’t answer.
I filled our tank, then pulled into a parking lot. I turned to the dog again. “I can at least fix this damn backing camera.” He stared at me. “But first, I have to potty.” He followed me into the bathroom, as is his habit. Afterwards, I pushed the flush arm down gently, but no water came out. I held it there for a few more seconds. Nothing. I pulled the arm up with my toe like Eric had taught me. I tried it again. Nothing. I tried the sink. Nothing.
“Shit,” I said to Petey.
I think he nodded in agreement.
I called Eric.
Just as he answered, the water came gushing on in the bathroom sink. Not wanting to stress him out further, I said, “Just calling to say hi. No biggie.” We chatted for a few seconds and hung up. Maybe there had just been air in the water line.
I returned to the rear view camera issue and pressed a few buttons on the flat panel of the camera display/audio system. Lots of choices appeared. None made sense. Petey snored from the seat behind me. I looked up the operating manual online, and, ten minutes later I learned that the least obvious possible solution sequence was in fact the right one. And our camera display came to life.
“Hallelujah!” I shouted, waking Petey up. I had fixed the camera, and I had found the right wingnut. I totally had this. Riding an air of new confidence, I went back to Auburn and retrieved Marie. It was now time for our book event at Hastings. She drove, and I called Birmingham RV places. Camping World agreed to see us at 8 am. That was a good thing. Another good thing. Maybe we were on a roll now.
“Hey, Petey, I fixed the camera and bought the right wingnut,” I reminded him, as I got ready for the signing. Plink, plink, plink sounded on the roof. “And I don’t care if it’s raining again, either.” I brushed on some cream eyeshadow and swiped blush on my cheeks. War paint.
The event was a great success. We had Cruzans, of course, Chris and Linda. We had my cousins. A representative from a book club came. We had lovely random new customers. And we had Marie’s friend “Queen” Esther. We didn’t sell out, but we came close enough that it was a home run from my perspective.
Bring it, book tour. Bring it, Bookmobile.
Enjoy a few pictures, below, including Eric’s favorite energy drink and new gifties on my wrist and ears from my cousins.
Here’s a new radio interview for your listening pleasure, from KENW-FM Public Radio:
Cool, huh? And now for the biggie: I FINISHED LOSER! LIKE, I’VE UPLOADED IT FOR PRINTING. D-O-N-E DONE, PEOPLE. Now I have to work on its web pages, then format and upload ebooks. So I still have a few days of intense concentration and effort. But the book is done, and, do I dare say this?? It is good. Yes, it is good.
So, when next I post, I’ll give you the scoop on Birmingham. Does the Bookmobile torture end there? Stay tuned and find out