Rialta Adventure, Take Two!

A year ago, my 10-year-old son and I set out on an adventure that ultimately was not the adventure we’d planned on having.  This taught us a few things, not the least of which was how to make lemonade from lemons.  It taught us that “plan B” is just as valid as (and often better than!) “plan A”.  And it taught us that plans have a way of – well – getting in the way of the moment.  So – we rearranged last winter’s plan and enjoyed it very much, and then we came home to family and friends, and embarked on a new year.

In July we found another Rialta – an older one this time, but in far better shape on the interior.  The exterior is – well – showing its age, let’s say – but then again, so am I.  Perfect!  The price was impressively low, necessary for our consideration, as we’d spent a fair portion of our adventure money on the previous winter’s plan B.  It did have a few issues, but none that have dissuaded us — yet.

One minor issue was the fact that the engine wouldn’t start.  This was only an issue for about a month while Evan and I researched and consulted with other owners of aging Rialtas and, with the help of good people who love to help others, (big gratitude here!), we proceeded to work our way through the fancy Volkswagen electrical system, and we finally identified and pretty much resolved the issue. By “pretty much” I mean mostly.  As in – it usually starts, and if it doesn’t, we know what to do to correct that minor glitch.  So that’s not gonna stop us.  And if it does, we know how to hot-wire the engine if we must.  🙂

The Rialta did have a few aging issues, as we all do.  Created in 1995, a few of its amenities were no longer youthful or charming.  We set about a little bit of a re-birthing here and there, but there really was nothing that a little paint and some new flooring couldn’t handle. Evan chose the paint color, and he chose the areas that would be painted. The mind of a ten-year-old is creative and fun, so – why not?

I think he did a great job.

Here are the colors before the painting:

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And here are Evan’s color changes:

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We also set about removing old, well-worn carpeting.

Here I have a hard-working little helper removing the old stuff!

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THAT was a job and a half:

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Here we have finished the cleaning up of the old flooring and we have cut and laid the luan subfloor:

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And VOILA!  We have a new floor that is now not only fresh and clean but also capable of being swept of little-boy crumbs!

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Before we did the floor, we found that the refrigerator wasn’t working.  That little problem demanded a lot of research and more help from a friend willing to text suggestions.  Unfortunately,  I had to remove it from its nest to work on it.  That was hard, but nowhere near as difficult as returning it to its nest!

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That behemoth of a refrigerator wasn’t working properly mostly due to the aging of one tiny portion of its inner workings.

See those slits rusted over from 20 years of moisture?  That’s a burner tube, and those slits need to be wider so that the thermocouple (the metal rod next to it) can do its job.  Or something like that.  Or maybe nothing at all like that.  But for some reason those slits needed to be wider.

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So now they’re wider.

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And then the little burner box around it needs to be sealed with some special high-heat silicone stuff, and the exhaust pipes re-wrapped.

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This probably would have taken a few hours if I’d known what I was doing – which I did not.  But after about a week of working on it, we put it back in with help, tried the refrigerator again, and lo and behold – it worked!

There have been a few other things we have had to work hard on over the past several months, most of which we’ve been able to resolve. We do have the original generator, a Generac NP-30g, which is 20 years old and only has 27 hours on the clock so in essence is sort of brand new, but we haven’t been able to convince it to work.  That, however, has not been for lack of trying.  Here’s Evan trying:

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Since repairing the generator isn’t worth our limited funds, we’ve decided to forego that repair.

I did pay professionals to repair the important stuff.  We do have all new tires and brakes, for example.  But we have learned so much in this process. Perhaps the greatest lesson has been the importance of persistence.

Here we’ll show you around our little “house on wheels”.

Evan wants you to see our “telescoping” bathroom – it slides out from the wall to make a little room, complete with shower, and then slides back in when not in use.  The sink and table fold up:

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Here’s the so-called “dinette” area that magically turns into Evan’s bed:

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And the front bed which is created from the rear captain’s seats:

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A little area in the front where we can play card games and such:

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The kitchen, which REAL RV’ers tend to call the “galley”:

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And a view from the back to the front:

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We are pretty much packed now, (Evan’s fishing gear included!) with the exception of food and Evan’s stuffed animal friends whom I expect to be hanging out all over the RV throughout the trip.  That will make it our home.

All we need to do now is roll on down the road.

Today would have been my mother’s 95th birthday.  Evan and I spent the day bringing special birthday treats to those of her close friends and relatives who were available to visit, whether in a nursing home, assisted living facility or in their homes.  All agreed that she would have been our greatest champion for this adventure, cheering us on and – most likely – wanting to come right along with us.

So – we will pack up her spirit of adventure, her love of life, her passion for joy, and her deep and abiding respect for the bond between mother and child, and we will set off on the day after Easter – the time of the new covenant.

We would be grateful if you will remember us in your good thoughts and prayers.

If you see this, wave:

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“Far Away” Is Not so Far Away at All

Hi, everyone! It’s me and Mom with some EXCITING NEWS!

If you remember from my previous post, I had a project that I was working on, and it was a big one. Recently all the hard work paid off, and I am excited to show you the result.

There is a little school in Tungod, Inabanga, Philippines that was badly damaged by an earthquake followed by a tsunami, and it used to be flooded every day at high tide, which is usually when the kids go to school.

Here is a picture of the flooded school:

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Money was needed to buy gravel to fill the school yard so that the high tide will not be able to flood it anymore.

Thanks to my family and neighbors and friends who saved bottles for me or sent donations to HAND Philippines for my project, I was able to raise a LOT of money to buy gravel. I gave it to Sarah and Henk to bring to the Tungod Primary School in Tungod, Inabanga.

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And this week, THIS HAPPENED!

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This makes me so happy, I don’t even have enough words to explain it.

Thank you soooooooooo much to everyone who helped me with this project. This is OUR project together! I hope it makes you happy too. I will show more pictures when the school gets all fixed up.

Maybe we can do some more good things together in the future.

Remember that any place, no matter how far away in miles, can be very close in our hearts.

love_hearts_pair-wideLove, Evan

 

Touching Hearts Far Away

This is Evan, and I have a project that I am working on right now, and I am hoping a lot of people might help me with my project.

Me and my mom have friends Henk and Sarah.

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Henk is a doctor and Sarah is a nurse.

They just got back from the Philippines where they were on a medical mission. They helped a lot of sick people there.

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They do it a lot of times, and I am proud of them because they are very smart about medical things and they care about people a lot, and those are important things to combine for helping people.

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Sarah and Henk have a lot of projects going on to help the people of the Philippines and I wanted a project that I could do myself.

In the Philippines they saw lots of things that made them sad.

One thing was a school for children that got flooded when the earthquake happened in 2014 and then a typhoon came. When that happened, the whole village of Tungod, Inabanga sank down about one meter.

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Now every day at high tide the Tungod Primary School and the schoolyard flood with about two feet of water.

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The water carries diseases that can make the children very, very sick. They can’t go to school in a school that floods every day.

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Sarah and Henk found out that to fix the school they need to have gravel brought in to fill the part that sank, and it will cost around $1500 in American money. But the children live in a poor fishing village where the people fish to feed their families. Many of them don’t even have shoes to wear, but they still like to go to school and they all need to learn just like we do.

My project is to raise enough money to buy the gravel to fix the school and the land around it. Their school starts in June so I am trying to hurry.

I am getting bottles from all of my neighbors and friends to redeem for 5 cents each and I am having lemonade stands on my front lawn. My neighbors are really, really nice and they stop and usually give me more than 25 cents for a cup of lemonade that me and my mom make.

I did dog-sitting to earn money and I gave it to Henk and Sarah.

I am also going to sell some toys and games that I have, to earn money to help to fix the school, and I am going to rake leaves and pick up sticks.

Even the smallest donations can help. My Grampy used to say that if everyone gave just a little bit, together we could all help a lot.

This project means a lot to me because those children are just like me and my friends, and they need some help from us because we have a lot more than they have.

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I know they are far, far away, but I think it would be nice to help them because it shows how close we can be in our hearts when we care about people everywhere.

Thank you so much to all of my friends and now here is my mom to tell you something:

Sarah and Henk Jordaan are part of an organization called HAND-Philippines. The organization does have 501(c)3 status, and all donations are tax deductible. If anyone wishes to contribute, checks can be made payable to HAND-Philippines and mailed to the following address:

HAND-Philippines
P.O. Box 4
Augusta, ME 04332

Or to donate using PayPal: hand.philippines@gmail.com

Thank you very much!

Love, Evan

Spreading the Easter Hope

Hi – this is Evan, and in today’s blog post I would like to talk about my friend, Mrs. R.  She is 94 years old!

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Every day I go over to her house and I get her mail, play with her, read to her, and help her with anything she needs.

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Mrs. R. has taught me how to spread hope to people her age. And she gives me hope in many ways.

One of the ways that she gives me hope is that every time she has a struggle, she always comes back and gets strong again.

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I learned from Mrs. R. that even though she’s 94, people her age can exercise every morning. She does over 200 leg exercises and 200 arm exercises every morning! And when I come over, we usually play pass and she gets more exercise. She even sits down on the floor and gets back up really well!

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Mrs. R. is the best exerciser who is 94 that I have ever known of in my life. She is a good example of someone who gives hope to all of us.

Mrs. R. and I have lots of fun when I go over. She says it’s one of the most enjoyable times of her day, and it is one of the best times of my day, too. She is like a grandmother to me.

Here is a picture to prove it!

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Mrs. R. cannot see very well, so it is surprising that she can play cards with me! She brings hope to other people who have a hard time seeing.

Mrs. R. and I like to play cards a lot. Even though she cannot see very well, she beats me a lot at cards!

This time I let her win – let’s see if you can see how I did it:

These are just a few ways that me and Mrs. R. like to connect. We are like two peas in a pod. Even though there are 84 years between us we are still the best of friends!

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I thought telling you all about my friend Mrs. R. would be a great way to spread the Easter hope!

Happy Easter to everyone – and keep spreading the hope!

Love, Evan (and Mrs. R. too!)

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To be or not to be ———- the hope.

On Monday afternoon after a long journey home from our “Plan B Adventure” (otherwise known as lemonade from lemons), Evan and I were walking toward the front of the airplane to disembark when we spotted an elderly gentleman sitting in his seat, wearing a World War II cap on his head. My 10-year-old son looked at me and gasped, asking me if I saw him. “I need to meet him”, he said. “I need to thank him for his service!”

We exited the plane and we waited. We waited, and we waited, and we waited some more. Anyone familiar with ten year old boys knows that waiting is not something little boys do easily. But Evan’s eyes were intently focused on the door. He held his little “Thank you for your service” card tightly in his hand…and he waited silently.

We were asked several times by airline employees if we had left something on the plane or were waiting for someone else to deplane. “I am waiting for the World War II soldier”, my son would respond.

Finally, the gentleman’s daughter exited the plane, and an airline employee wheeled her father, the Veteran, out of the plane. Evan asked the daughter if he could talk to her father and give him a card. She was obviously very moved, and said yes – telling him to speak loudly because her father is 96 years old and has difficulty hearing.

Evan extended his hand to the gentleman, saying loudly and proudly, “Thank you for your service, Sir.”…and he placed his card in the man’s hand. The Veteran looked at Evan, and then looked down at the card, never letting go of his hand. He brought the card closer and read it. With tears in his eyes, he said “Thank you, young man. I was there at the very beginning.” Evan said, “Thank you for every minute you were there.”

I walked over to the gentleman and extended my hand and thanked him for his service as well. I told him that my father was a World War II Veteran. He said to me, “He was? I was there for five years, and…..” He was interrupted. In mid-sentence, as a 96-year-old Veteran of World War II began to speak about his experience, he was interrupted. Not by a 10-year-old boy, mind you…but by an airline employee who was in a hurry. “Alright, alright…let’s go. Let’s get moving here…enough of this. Let’s go.”

And just like that he cut off the experience – both for the 96-year-old Veteran and for his 10-year-old admirer.

To be or not to be the hope — is a choice.

There are moments in life that are so precious. In noticing them – in allowing them to happen – or in cultivating them – in being a catalyst for a hopeful moment – we can leave a light flickering in a heart forever.

Or not.

Given the chance, it is far more worthwhile to be the hope – than it is to be in a hurry.

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We have found the hope…and it is you

As many of our (three) readers know by now, our “maiden voyage” – the initial leg of our long-planned travel adventure – spun quickly out of control on the day Evan and I flew to Florida to pick up the little RV we had been working to secure since September. As it happened, the RV was not at all in the condition promised, and worse, there were clear safety issues, and I had to make a fast and difficult decision to walk away and instead find my son a lesson in the construction of “Plan B”.

The first several days were immensely stressful. There is no sense in rehashing all of that, but it is important to rehash the fact that with the help of some compassionate people at the Maine Department of Motor Vehicles and the City Clerk’s Office in our hometown, I was able to retain most of the money I had invested in (nearly) putting the little RV on the road. Without the kindness of those people, this debacle would have been far more painful.

We have not written a blog post since we arrived in Florida, because – well – we had intended to take this blog in one direction, and since we had to switch directions so suddenly and completely, I was unsure of the subject matter of any post we might consider writing. Add to that the fact that I was spending most of my waking (and sleeping) hours trying to figure out how to give my son a different kind of adventure on the fly, (during spring break week and bike week and spring training weeks in Florida, no less), there really was no time to write.

Today we will be checking out of the last hotel of our “Plan B Adventure”, traveling inland to visit family for a couple of days, and then flying back to the cold, endless winter.

What we want to tell our (three) readers before we go is that we have found the hope, and it is you.

We found the hope in the kindness of a man in New England with whom I connected when we were initially learning about our RV options. We never met him face-to-face, but he was very helpful and before we left on our journey he sent us an amazing gift – a battery backup and charging unit which he wanted us to carry on the road in case of a dead battery. He didn’t want us to be stranded, and he saw to it that we wouldn’t be. Moreover, when our plans went south (quite literally), he offered us his own personal Roadtrek van to travel the country in, so that Evan could still have his adventure as originally planned.

Now there’s some hope.

The kindness of another man residing all the way across the country from us who owns an RV just like the one we were going to be traveling in showed us more hope as he taught me (through hundreds of emails over several months’ time) all the things I would need to know in advance of our journey, and sent us a special unit that identifies any issues that might arise in the vehicle’s engine, issuing them a code so that we would have clear knowledge of any problems that might arise on the road.

And then there was the man in Texas who taught me endless technical lessons about the RV before we ever even laid eyes on it, and offered us a spot to park and stay on a farm he and his wife own, while he would look over and tend to the RV for us before we traveled further.

And the amazingly generous retired engineer who sent us some wonderful items he created to make life in the RV easier.

And the wonderful, hospitable retired schoolteacher who offered us the opportunity to stay at her home for as long as we needed, despite the fact that she has never met us.

And the many (almost) fellow Rialta owners who sent emails of support and encouragement, and filled them with tips and tricks that have made their own travels more enjoyable.

And the friend in Texas who offered to fly us to her home for a Plan B adventure and then fly us back home to Maine.

And the friends and family who sent love and prayers and words of support.

All of them showed us the hope…

“Plan B” turned into a little fishing expedition along Florida’s east coast. My son loves to fish, and my sister-in-law had mentioned an amazing fishing pier that he might enjoy, so we set our sights on that spot initially, and from there we went from pier to pier, with my little fisherman learning how to spin cast, and use live bait for ocean and intracoastal waterway fishing, and learning how to catch many new species of fish all along the coast.

And all along the way, we found more and more hope implanted in our Plan B adventure.

My brother showed us the hope from all the way out in California as he identified some great Florida fishing areas and located hotels for us to stay in along our journey. He saved the trip for us – and filled our days with hope as he did so.

There were many fishermen and women who showed us the hope all along our journey, as they would teach Evan how to cast a very different kind of fishing rod than he has ever used before – and how to bait a new kind of hook, and remove a new kind of fish.

And there were family members who called or sent notes of encouragement – who offered us a place to stay or a few uplifting words as we shifted our direction and allowed Plan B to emerge.

So — we have found the hope — and it is you. It is you who cared enough to hold us up and help us through – to extend a hand or a heart or a kind and encouraging word.

And I have also found hope in the heart of a little boy whose long-planned adventure went disappointingly awry, but who never uttered even a single word of complaint, instead riding with the flow and concluding each day with “This was the greatest day ever, Mom.”

I have no idea where we will go from here, or whether I will find a way or a reason to continue this blog. But what I know for sure is that we will continue to find – and be – the hope we seek.

We have found the hope, and it is us. All of us.

May we all begin each day saying “Show Me the Hope”, and then may we open our eyes and find it — and may we open our hearts and extend it.

Click for a short recap video:

“Thank You”, copyright (c), MoZella (Maureen Anne McDonald)