Here Comes the Sun

The question before us is quite simple: Can we cross America aboard our 37-foot motorhome and keep our living expenses below $250 a month. By living expenses, I should explain, I mean our campground costs. Seems pretty tight, I know. But Jo and I think we can do this. Anyway, we plan to give it a go.

How can we accomplish such a feat? We installed four large solar panels on the roof of our rig. They have the capability to generate 960 watts of electricity – and that should provide us with enough power to maintain the quality of our lives for multiple days between running the engine on the coach. In addition, we do have a pretty heft diesel generator which we will try not to use. Its purpose is to provide enough energy to allow us to operate out air conditioner in the event this get a little too warm.

The solar installation was accomplished over a period of three days at Tarpon Springs, FL. We moved into the side yard at Hotwire Enterprises. The owner of Hotwire is John Gamble, a long-time sailor who has swallowed the anchor (as we sailors call it) and set up shop to sell the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) wind generator to sailors and an occasional motor-boater.

We set out on a journey to the west from our current base at Honeymoon Island State Park on the west coast of Florida, on March 18. Current plans are to journey west to Choudrant, LA, where we’ll stop for a couple of days to have our ac/heat pump serviced, along with replacing the seals on both our slides aboard the motorhome. Then we’ll wander westward across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We’ll linger for around 10 days in Arizona, attending a rally for owners of Alfa Motorhomes. Then we’ll roll farther west to California, turning right and heading for Nevada, Arizona again, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. We’ll roll eastward, eventually coming to Ohio, then Michigan and cross over to Canada. Eventually we’ll end up in Vermont before sliding south through Massachusetts to Connecticut.

We hope you’ll sign up to come along vicariously on our journey as we drive approximately 8,000 miles in the coming six months.

Welcome to America…today

The landing. Young Cubans jump ashore to freedom.The landing. Young Cubans jump ashore to freedom.

The time was 7:36 a.m. I’d just met Tony, the new Park Manager, on his first day at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, FL. I came around the bathhouse at the concession stand and the sun had just cracked above the horizon. Wonderful new day.

And, because I was happy, I was playing my music on my iPhone. Neil Diamond was singing. And I was singing along:

“Everywhere around the world
They’re coming to America.
They’re coming to America.

Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to America
Every time that flag’s unfurled
They’re coming to America.

Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to America
Got a dream they’ve come to share
They’re coming to America

Today. Today. Today. Today. Today.

And there they were. Fifteen young Cubans had just leaped from their homemade boat into the surf off our swimming beach, under the coconut palms. They were almost delirious with excitement.

They hugged each other and screamed “Libre. Libre” to me as I got on my walkie-talkie to call the administration. “I have 15 Cubans who just landed on our beach. I’m heading toward them,” I told Jayne, the assistant park manager.

I walked over to the Cubans and shook their hands, smiling and saying, “Welcome to America.” They were cold and wet for the morning temperature was only 63. But they all looked healthy. And they were VERY happy. I so wished I had either of my old buddies, Jose Azel or Celia McTague Pomerantz with me to help me communicate. Jose was born in Cuba and Celia has a Puerto Rican heart of gold.

The park staff arrived by then and we all stood around, handing out our supply of shop towels. Those are the beach towels we store after visitors leave them on the beach at the end of their day.

One of the Cubans opened his wallet and began handing me 10, 20 and 50 peso bills. He pointed to the pictures on the different denominations and said, “Jose Marti” and “Maximo Gomez” and “Antonio Maceo” and “Fidel Castro” on the 20 peso bill. I passed the money back but he pushed it on me again. Then they began to tear the bills into little pieces, indicating they were worthless.

The Key West Police soon were on the scene and they were exceedingly kind to the young people. They asked in Spanish if they were hurt, hungry or sick. But no one was. I learned later, however, three of the girls were taken to hospital because they had diesel fuel spilled on their bodies.

One young girl, maybe 18 or 19, carried a wooden bowl. I asked to look inside and she removed the lid. Inside were dry beans and beads. A Key West policeman told me it was probably Santeria, the Haitian-Cuban-West African animist religion.

The police suggested they move over to the bathhouse so they’d be out of the wind so this is where I left them.

I spent the rest of my shift explaining the latest landing to our park visitors. The boat was better built than last week’s version, which was basically Styrofoam with a couple of areas of sheet metal. It also had a diesel engine inside, along with jugs of fuel and water. We found hypodermic needles and bags of saline solution in addition to Dramamine and some other anti-nausea pills aboard the boat. All the visitors were in awe that these young people risked all to make the 90-mile voyage to our version of freedom.

All in all, this was a very good day to be at the park.