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Goodbye to Gertie

September 21, 2006—I said goodbye to Gertie this morning. She now belongs to my old friend Erik, who has promised to take good care of her.

I didn't feel much sorrow, to my surprise. I keep wondering when it's going to hit me that she is gone forever... wondering when I'll burst into tears.

I guess I should back up and tell the story of the past few weeks. As you'll remember from "Choosing a new rig," I had decided in late July that it was time for a newer, larger motorhome, and I'd been lucky enough to find a three-year-old Lazy Daze for sale that was exactly what I wanted. I paid $62,000 for it, sight unseen...well, except for photos. If you're not an RVer, that may sound a little crazy. But we Lazy Dazers tend to trust each other. I knew exactly what I was getting—I've been in plenty 26.5' midbath models over the years, since it's LD's most popular floorplan. And I knew who I was getting it from: I'd had correspondence with the owner, Mike Schafir, when he was choosing this rig three years ago, and had met him in person at the Golden Caravan a month before. I knew that he took good care of it.

So I mailed off my check and made arrangements to have Horizon Transport deliver the rig from Mike's home in California to a commercial RV park near Albuquerque, where I'd meet up with Erik and hand over Gertie's keys. Delivery wasn't cheap—about $1,400 for a 1,200-mile haul—but the alternative would have been a fast-paced 2,700-mile odyssey from Wyoming to San Francisco to Albuquerque that would have cost me nearly as much, and would have left me exhausted. Horizon was a pleasure to deal with, and I recommend them highly if you ever need an RV moved.

Gertie and Skylark

So there I was, with my two rigs side by side: 21-year-old Gertie and 3-year-old Skylark. Except of course that it wasn't really Skylark yet...it wouldn't merit that description until I had moved in and altered it to suit my needs. (If you're curious, there's a page on the Skylarking site that documents what the rig looked like "as delivered.")

That first afternoon I wandered through my new home in a sort of ecstatic haze, marveling at how bright and spacious it felt. Mike and his wife had cleaned everything until it shone—the rig was as beautiful as when it came from the factory. It was a blank canvas upon which I could paint my own design.

Moving in was more work and took longer than I had ever imagined. It seemed as if there was no end to the stuff in Gertie! No wonder she'd been seriously overweight. Part of the problem was that while I knew the new rig had enough storage space to hold everything (127 cu. ft., compared with 133 for Gertie), it was differently distributed, so it wasn't at all obvious where to put everything. As the day of Erik's arrival approached, I had to simply pile things up in the back and defer putting them away until later. The result was a hideous mess...but I had no other choice.

Cluttered rear

I finished cleaning out the last of Gertie's exterior storage bins the night before Erik's flight arrived in Albuquerque. I had already cleaned up the interior, repainted the shower stall and done everything I could to make this 21-year-old rig look new and pretty. I drove to the airport and picked up Erik, and we embarked on an all-day shopping spree at essential stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Linens & Things, Home Depot, Radio Shack and of course Wal-Mart before returning to the campground. Gertie felt light on her feet—relieved of all my stuff, she was peppier than I had seen her in years.

Back at the campground, Erik and I spent the next week working on our new rigs—putting things away, getting familiar with the new appliances...and helping each other with projects. Erik made more shopping trips into Albuquerque to buy tools and hardware; I concentrated on stowing my gear.

I also helped Erik remove the "Gertie" logos. Gertie was so well known that Erik would have had people greeting him at campgrounds with "Hi, you must be Andy!", as often happened to me. So he's renamed the rig "Second Wind" (after a sailboat he once owned), and Gertie no longer exists as Gertie. I'd have done the same if I were in his shoes.

Removing Gertie logo

After a week of this, we were ready to head for greener pastures. Truth is, we'd have left sooner, only the jumble of stuff in back of my rig would have been crashing all over the place as I drove down the road. But once I got the mess under control, we headed for Fenton Lake State Park, which was only a couple of hours' drive away.

Or so said Mabel, my GPS navigator. But her map database, while good, isn't perfect. She took us onto a Forest Service road that supposedly led to the park...and it would have, only after nine miles of washboard road, just three miles short of Fenton Lake, we came to this sign:

Road closed

So much for that route. It was late in the afternoon, and we weren't in the mood to turn around and drive back over all that washboard road. As we took stock of our surroundings, we realized that there was a convenient pull-off nearby, and the scenery was beautiful...so we decided to spend the night right where we were.

Lost      Photo: Svend Erik Holme

Erik had Gertie's 589 watts of solar panels and I had Skylark's 4,000 watt generator; our gas, propane and water tanks were full...why not boondock? So we enjoyed the lovely mountain panorama, and I set up my satellite internet dish and emailed pictures to my friends. We slept soundly under an incredibly starry sky, and the next day we retraced our path, got back onto a paved road, and headed for Fenton Lake State Park.

But you don't show up at a popular park at 3:00 p.m. on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon and expect to find two adjacent spaces. In fact, Fenton Lake was full, so we headed south toward Albuquerque, figuring that if worse came to worst we could spend another night at the commercial campground we'd left the previous morning.

What we found instead was this: Vista Linda National Recreation Area—a grandiose name for a little gem of a campground about 50 miles north of Albuquerque.

Vista Linda

Vista Linda's thirteen campsites not only weren't full—even on a Saturday afternoon!—we were able to find two adjacent campsites near the stream that runs through the campground. Mine was a double-width site with two cement picnic tables—perfect to use as workbenches.

We spent a week at Vista Linda. We ripped out my street-side couch and the TV cabinet above it, and with Erik's help I built a desk on that side of the room. (I'll spare you the details, but you can read about them on the "Skylark enhancements" site.) Erik worked on all kinds of enhancement projects on his rig. He's much handier with tools than I am, so he was able to make improvements that I had never thought of tackling. I was very pleased to see Gertie in such good hands!

Erik and Second Wind

But finally the time came when Erik had to head back toward New Jersey, and I needed to go meet RV techs Mike and Lisa Sylvester for some major electrical upgrades to my new rig.

Time to say goodbye to Gertie. This little motorhome has been my cozy home for almost a year and a half now. It has taken me to wonderful places. But more than that, it has introduced me to wonderful people.

Maybe that's why I don't feel so bad about Gertie leaving. Of course I know she's in good hands with Erik, and I hope she'll make as much of a difference in his life as she has in mine. But the important thing is the people she's brought me into contact with...Lazy Daze owners and others across the US who've become fast friends of mine, thanks to Gertie, the internet and this website. I don't have Gertie any longer, but I still have all my friends, and that's what matters most.

Goodbye, Gertie!
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