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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Green Lakes State Park NY - day 2

A busy weekend at Green Lakes State Park. Families from Syracuse and Ithica getting back to nature in a safe and comfortable way. There is a constant tang of barbeque lighter fluid in the air, pickups parked in every campsite, tattoos and beer bellies on parade at every turn. More tattoos than I have ever seen in one place actually and on bodies of every age and size. A tanned, legless man in a wheelchair had what looked like a fascinating life story inked across his back, with dates and places and faces needled into his skin. Several young men had tattoos on their bellies and I wondered what they would look like once time, beer, fast food and gravity had pulled them out of shape. Five minutes later, in another part of the campsite I had my answer... er, not great.

But enough of that. We were determined to get on our bikes today and explore and so we did. For a while at least. The moderate trail we struck out on turned out to be pretty steep and rather too steep for a seven year old still getting to grips with a new bike. He was resolutely enthusiastic about it, but the idea of going deeper into the wilds with Tom spending more time pushing his bike than riding it did not appeal. So eventually we turned our wheels downhill and headed for the lake beach instead.

Just sometimes the state park system really knows how to suck the life out of a place. There was a hint of this when we set out this morning and some kids were picking and eating blackberries. A Ranger in a car drew up and told them to stop, before driving on. They looked embarrassed and went back to their campsite. Brilliantly handled I thought and with luck they will be deterred from eating fruit in the wild for life. But it was to get even better.

Green Lakes is named for the two beautiful glacial lakes at its heart. On the tip of one is a suspiciously sandy beach with areas roped off for swimming, and no less than seven lifeguard stations perhaps thirty feet apart. The rules are comprehensive. This is the only place you are allowed to swim and they are rigorous about whatever else you do. Every so often a loudspeaker system kicks into life and a young voice intructs those gathered to check where their children are. "They must be kept within ten feet of their parents at all times". Obeying the ten foot rule I took Tom over to a diving area and after the lifeguard had interrogated Tom as to his swimming ability we jumped in and climbed out to do it again. The lifeguard told me that if we wanted to keep jumping in and out we must go to the other side of the beach as THIS side was for people who wanted to jump in and then swim. I looked into our stretch of water where there were no other people at all. I looked back at the lifeguard who said "they could be swimming under the water". Right. So off to the other side to do some jumping in. Then I made the mistake of sitting on a railing to wath T perform. Another lifeguard raised a bullhorn "SIR you cannot sit on the railing". OK, another man further along made the mistake of putting his toddler on his shoulders "SIR you must remove that child...'. Then the speaker came on again; children must be tethered at the ankle to a large stake, frisbee throwers would be shot etc etc. Honestly. Its a LAKE. People will want to mess around in it, and on the whole they will probably survive.

Tom threw himself into all beach activities with his usual gusto all the same and had a grand old day while we lazed about and read and splashed along with him, guards permitting. At one point a thick gray cloud billowed up at the end of the lake bringing a curtain of water in our direction, we felt the first few spots and rushed over to the concession stand for some fast-lunch. The rain had vanished and the sky had completely cleared by the time we got there. I think the lifeguards scared it off.

Tomorrow we head into the Adirondacks and I am looking forward to it. It feels a bit like camping in the suburbs so far. Pleasant and fun and all that but we could be in someone's back garden. I'm looking forward to getting into the wilds a bit and exploring with fewer rules...  

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Green Lakes State Park, NY mile 494

Its cool and dark outside and the silence is broken only by the echoes of children up too late, and parents calling them in. Our own child was asleep about five minutes after curling up in his bunk and is clutching his pillow like a life raft.

Its been an Eeyorish sort of day; damp and grey and underwhelming. We had porridge in the RV this morning - which set the tone, and set off for Seneca Falls on the tip of Seneca Lake. There are several things about Seneca Falls that put it on the map: it was the location of the first Women's Rights convention and it was the home of Emilia Bloomer, the inventor of the famous women's undergarment. Thanks to her, legions of women were able to leap about with abandon, unhindered by the traditional knickers made from whalebone and oak. The other thing about Seneca Falls is that it was the inspiration for the town in what classic movie...? Answer on a postcard please. 

We both had visions of Seneca Falls being a little slice of sunlit paradise, perched prettily on the point of the lake with chi-chi coffee shops and antiquarian bookstores. But as we arrived in the drizzle, it was clear that Seneca Falls' glory days were behind it. There were lots of bric-a-brac places and grubby storefronts, including one called "Women-Made", which I hilariously suggested would be selling things like shelving that wasn't quite level. How we laughed. Well one of us laughed, another of us gave me a hard stare. The third carried on skipping. 

We ate in a down-home deli with a sandwich selection only slightly shorter than the bible. A well meaning team of teens was handling the orders and the young woman who took mine suddenly decided to go and work the till halfway through. Everyone else in the line got their food and went round me while our half-made sarnies sat on the side. Eventually I asked if someone else could perhaps finish making them, and when they were finished I got to the till where my original sandwich maestro was now working. I could see her suddenly remember me "Oh. Hi!" she said brightly and gave me a smile in recognition that we had once colluded in an order way back when. The food was good and worth the wait, but the rain was now falling heavily outside and we decided to press on. 

US 20 took us through farming country; a quilt of green fields spread over gentle hills. One farmbuilding we passed had clearly once been a railway station. The track was now gone but the line it took was still clear, stretching off through the fields. 
Many of the farms were Amish and behind one farmhouse, just off the road we saw a long line of parked buggies, with several Amish families sitting at long wooden benches having lunch. In fact most of our route seems to have been Amish country. On our first day in Pennsylvania - and even at the Ferry Landing Campsite, we saw several Amish men in their broad black hats, and women in long blue dresses with thick leather boots. Theirs is such an interesting language to listen to, a rolling German that sounds more like Dutch somehow. 

Skaneateles was more like the kind of Finger Lake town we had imagined, and indeed we made a bee line for the "Creekside Book store and Coffee Shop". There we bought, er books and coffee, and the lady asked us what brought us to "Skinny-Atlas". So that's how you say it. We walked back to look at Skinny Atlas lake which was unbelievably clear and glacially blue. It would have been gorgeous on a brighter day.

And so to Green Lakes State Park where we were obliged to book two nights, even though we only really needed one. We made up for it by eating at the park's clubhouse on top of a hill. The sweeping view down to the lake was a great backdrop and it was a fun evening eating outside as the evening began to draw on.

So, 500 miles down (almost), perhaps 3000 to go. And the movie you are struggling to remember was "Its a Wonderful Life" by the way.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Keuka Lake, NY. Mile 387

The day began bright and clear and we had breakfast outside again - wonderful. Tom noticed that standards have been slipping at Camp Harvey though. He studied me for a moment over his cereal and said "do you have a shaver Dad?".
"Yes Tom".
"Then use it".

We left Watkins Glen at the crack of eleven o'clock and made for Hammondsport on the southern tip of Keuka Lake. I suppose the word that best describes this area is "bucolic' although it always sounds like a condition to me. "How is he doctor?" "Well he's a bit bucolic but he'll be fine". And so forth. Anyway this is a region of hedgerows and yellow daisies on the verge; rolling countryside nestled with stout dutch barns and clapboard farmhouses. Its really very pretty and as we rolled along from one view to the next it reminded us both of England. Except that the roads are wider.

Hammondsport is one of the few towns where the main street actually ends at the lake and they have made a little park there with a small beach and a place to swim. It was a peaceful spot. The summer crowds aren't here yet and the schools aren't quite out (its graduation today in fact). The village is little more than a green central square with low buildings around it; wooden houses, a quilt shop in a restored opera house and some cafes. It caters for tourists of course but it feels like it hasn't completely sold out. Its still a real place, with a flag on every stoop and village notices in shop windows. I was delighted to find that one of the shops on main street was an old NAPA auto parts place. It felt more like a proper old mechanics shop than a modern parts centre. I had discovered that Harvey's radiator expansion tank lacked a return hose, so I got six inches of 3/8th fuel line for a pleasing 79 cents (it works just fine thanks for asking).

The road running up the western side of Keuka Lake was described in our Frommers as one of the most scenic in the area and jolly nice it was too, though Philippa deduced that the reviewer in that section may have been unduly influenced by his visit to a local winery followed by a fine meal in one of Hammondsport's better restaurants. He talks about staggering up to bed afterwards and keeps coming to back to recommend the place. It was a pretty drive though. The road hugged the coastline and through the trees we could see flashes of blue lake fifty feet away. There were dozens of tiny cottages each with a wooden jetty all the way up the lakeside, Most had people on the them fishing or eating or sunbathing. Little slices of life flashing by.

I haven't worked out how to judge the fuel gauge yet, The needle dawdles across the dial for the first half tank and the next time you look it is down to fumes. I pulled in for fuel at a Crown Gas Station and the mechanic came out to ask about Harvey, wiping his hands on a greasy cloth. "When I saw the first one of these many years ago, I couldn't believe how ugly it was" he said enthusiastically. Er great, yes, thanks. I think he was just being friendly.

Once full I realised the tank still had twenty gallons in it when it was indicating a quarter tank left, so next
time I won't be so concerned about its hysteria.

Keuka State Park is right on the lake. The campgrounds are neat and grassy and the guy next door immediately wanted to talk about Harv as we were getting set. Bikes off and down to the lake, freewheeling all the way and not thinking too much about the uphill ride back. It was hot and quiet.

PT and T bobbed about in the lake while I dozed. It was all very, er, bucolic.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Gorgeous Gorge

Tom decreed scrambled eggs, baked beans and no toast this morning. So, like the obedient serf that I am, I cooked it all up and we ate on the bench outside in the sunshine. This is a really lovely campsite; leafy and light and peaceful. There is plenty of space and electricity to plug into as well. I'm not sure Thoreau would approve...

So, down the hill to the Gorge which is what Watkins (he of the Glen) clearly wanted to put on the map. It was a commercial tourist attraction for many years before the state took it over and put stone walls along the trails that the Iroquois had established centuries before. Grey cliffs towered a couple of hundred feet overhead, their moss-covered walls dripping and glistening. Tom was convinced that he'd seen half of the nineteen waterfalls within the first hundred feet or so. There are little stone bridges and heart shaped pools and at one stage the path takes you behind a curtain of water falling to the river below.

We dipped our feet in the river and had cheese and pickle sandwiches in the best English tradition. The path had its steep bits, but for the most part it was a nice, easy stroll of about three miles and the grey clouds which threatened to rain on our parade never quite did.

OK that's nature done for the day. Next stop, the Olympic size pool and funky playground! I sorted the new bikes so Tom could actually reach the brakes and PT could change the gears and I joined them at the pool later. Tom was into diving from the diving board in a big way. I say diving, but it looked more like he was trying to escape from something very fierce at the other end of the board and he simply ran off it as fast as he could. We soaked up the sun and wiled away the rest of the afternoon very happily.

I marvelled at just how enormous some of the children are here - and not in a good way. There is a new bikini which some of the girls were wearing which has a big flap of material hanging down over the tummy, purely it seems, to conceal the vast rolls of fat which lie beneath. On a ten year old it is a troubling sight...

Harvey had an easy day, taking us down to the Gorge walk and back, though I have just noticed that the trip meter on the speedo seems to be stuck at 299. Hmm... I have also fitted the Guske door shade which works pretty well even if there was no way it could actually be installed as the instructions seemed to suggest.  I regarded them as an interesting theory, before putting them aside and bodging something that actually worked.

PT (who is in full-on RV-frau mode) made us a delicious three course meal with a caprese salad, salmon and cherry pie. It was blended together into a fine soup to save time. We all had a last ride around the campsite, and so to bed.

Mile 350: Watkins Glen, NY

Thunder is rolling around outside and rain is spattering on the roof. The camp chairs are outside getting wet, but they can stay there and dry off over night. Its actually been a fine, hot day but its been building to this I suppose. Tom is asleep in his bunk and Philippa and I are cosy on the sofas in the back. We all feel well fed up and agreably drunk after crab cakes and some of the most delicious squeaky-fresh sweetcorn I have ever had. We ate outside in the last of the evening sunshine at the edge of the huge campsite we have in Watkins Glen State Park. This feels more like the camping we prefer. We are surrounded by tall mature trees and I watched a woodpecker tapping away at a branch over my head.

The day started in Pennsylvania of course and a really lovely little place - the Sheshequin Campground. It was wide and grassy and well looked after by Greg and his wife who bought it three years ago and ran it as a sideline; "we both have other jobs". They had really thought hard about making it nice and Greg remembered that we were on a big road trip. He met me at the door of the office yesterday with a big grin: "how was day two?" he asked. It makes such a difference to the experience to have that kind of atmosphere. Quite a contrast to the rather stern lady at the Ferryboat Campground who met us with a smile and then got all tight-lipped and difficult, as if we were schoolkids spending rather too long hanging around the candy racks.

We had a lazy morning. Tom and PT getting used to their bikes while I pottered in the sunshine. Then we found one of the nearby swimming holes and plunged into the glassy river. It was a little on the cool side even for Tom, but a great spot with orange Tiger Lillies nodding over the water and big swallowtail butterflies. Tom wanted to learn how to skip stones so we spent a lot of time doing that before it turned into a contest about how big a splash you could make.

Time to pack up, unplug, check switches, hatches, step and Tom and head north on US15. The road curves through steep hills dense with trees. Harvey just rumbled along on cruise control at a steady 65. I still scan all the dashboard gauges obsessively, looking for something not right but so far, so far, things seem to be ticking along fine.    

We pulled off the road and found a church car park in Liberty for lunch. It was a nice break under some leafy shade before we got back onto 15 and headed for New York State.

The first glimpse of a Finger Lake was as we crested a hill; a narrow blue stripe cutting through the trees with the triangle of a white sailboat just a speck in the distance. A gold domed church gleamed in the sunshine and it looked like the cover of a tourist brochure. The park is lovely and we all rode our bikes around the almost empty campground which is threaded through the trees on a hilltop.

The park has nineteen waterfalls and we will walk through a gorge tomorrow. Tom has been promised some pool time (he hustles for a tenner a game) and PT has found what looks like a rather good place for lunch, so one way or another tomorrow promises to be rather nice. Just as today was actually...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

To Trout Run PA, mile 257.

Ours was a room with a view this morning. The sun was glinting on the water and filtering through the trees. Tom was up with the lark, but it was all Philippa and I could do to drag ourselves out of bed. For the first time in months I woke up without a list in my head, and I felt drunk with sleep. We had breakfast outside in the cool morning air and it felt good to be the three of us with no pressures. We did however have to catch the 11.20 ferry to Millersburg, which left about forty feet from where we were parked.

There has been a ferry crossing the Susquahanna here since 1825. Its very, very slow clearly because it is only a mile across but I guess it will get there eventually. Poor quality jokes aside, the ferry is rather a nice old thing with a paddle wheel at the back and room for three cars. It takes about twenty minutes to cross to Millersburg, which also has a railway line running through it so was clearly quite the  crossroads once upon a time. Now though it has an air of faded Victorian prosperity about it. Handsome houses with broad porches and rocking chairs, but peeling paint and the odd cracked window. Properties were being foreclosed on Main Street and  a local couple looked doubtful when we asked if there was anywhere that we could get a cup of coffee. "Maria's might be open I guess....". Maria's was open (though I was drawn to Millersburger for the humour factor). It started to rain so we ducked in and ordered an early lunch. Huge salads for me and her, and spaghetti with a fat meatball for him. Delicious food in faded surroundings. When the rain eased I nipped into Millersburg Hardware across the street for some brackets and rivets and other such things for fitting the valances for the blinds. The old boy who ran the place was a Far Side Cartoon with high waisted shorts, a tall baseball cap and silky grey-blond hair. He was friendly and helpful and found everything I needed, but the ferry back was about to appear so we headed back to the dock, only to see it chugging back to the other side without us. Ah well.

We sat and waited under the trees with crickets beginning to sing around us. We opened the big white door at the ferry l anding so the ferry captain could see through his binoculars that we needed a ride and twenty minutes later he was heading back to us.

It was a grand little trip and nice to see Pennsylvania's oldest transport company hanging in there. But it was an echo of what it had once been; a paddle wheel ferry crossing from nowhere, to once-was.

Big white storks watched us pass, and the shell-strewn bottom of the river was just a couple of feet below. An older lady on the outward journey said she and her friends used to swim across years ago and hang out on the beach at a picnic place (long before the campsite existed). The ferry would come and pick them up for a nickel.

We were overdue for leaving our camping space and a couple of fishermen had already started moving in, joking about where they would send the bill for our late departure.

Soon we were back on the road. A shorter trip today, with a stop for groceries and gas. Filling up, I was stopped by no less than four people to talk about Harvey. The first was a biker who said he had always admired the GMCs and then thanked me sincerely for Britain's role in Afghanistan. The chap in the bay next to him then wanted to know about it and a middle aged lady appeared beside me as I was checking the oil to ask whether GMC had just started making them! Her husband came over - they had an RV themselves - and he was very excited about seeing it. "I just read an article about them and never thought I would actually see one on the road." Harv the celebrity.

The drive up to Trout Run was easy and smooth. The road curled up along the riverside and then through forested hills to where we are now; a broad meadow with a very friendly campsite owner and just the occasional passing truck on the main road to break the silence. There are swimming holes nearby apparently so maybe we will try one tomorrow. Tom is very excited about the whole thing and very affectionate. I asked him about his day and he said "sometimes you can have things which are so bad you want to cry, or so good you want to burst, but today was just an ordinary nice day".

Monday, 21 June 2010

On the Road. Bethesda MD to Liverpool, PA: 166 miles

We woke to a bright, hot day with Harvey parked in the driveway looking ready for the off. We were too, though I discovered that the final delivery in the blinds saga  was due at our old house today, so we decided to wait until the UPS man had done his rounds before heading North. That meant more time in the pool in the sunshine and more time to phone home and do our last bits of packing up. It was a gentle start to the trip. The Guske windshield blinds came around two thirty so I went back down and retrieved them from Joe the painter who had already covered the downstairs in a rather fetching shade of cream. It looked very crisp, but somehow, not like our house any more. Goodbye street, and back up to Bethesda for another round of farewells and thank yous and plans to meet again. Margo and Greg, you looked after us royally - it was a terrific weekend.

Finally after all the planning and wondering and hard work, the three of us were sitting in our old motorhome with the big engine rumbling into life. Philippa and I confessed later that we were both nervous. A year ago we hadn't even heard of these big old buses, but now we were pulling onto the Beltway in ours. Tom slipped into his old travelling groove and made movies with lego characters behind us.

Rush hour starts early in these parts and the road was packed. Actually, all our RV holidays have started like this; fighting traffic on a big road somewhere, wondering about what lies ahead. It was hot - 93 as we left Bethesda and I was very glad the dash air conditioning now works. I had tried testing it in Michigan but the outside air was so frigid it was impossible to tell if it was on...
Soon we were rolling north on I95, with the trees getting more dense around us and a hint of blue-green hills in the misty distance. We crossed into Pennsylvania and the green landscape was scattered with red-timbered farmhouses and white picket fences. The landscape brought back memories of travelling around PA in Greyhound buses when I was at Penn State.

We completed our first hundred miles in York, the home of my old roommate John, with his AMC Gremlin and unshakeable self confidence. We dipped into the workaday outskirts of Harrisburg which I remember only as a bus station. All was going well until the point where we had to turn off the main road and go to the campsite. The trusty sat knave didn't have the street that we needed so I guessed roughly where our destination might be. I was only wrong by a factor of about ten miles... Another twenty minutes and we were pulling into the campground and making supper.

Our space backs onto the river and there were fireflies twinkling across the grass as we pulled down the shades for the evening. Tom was happy and excited and exhausted, and PT and I are cosy in our little den at the back, listening to the wind in the trees. We are on our way.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Goodbye to all this...

We are on the home straight now. Having moved out of our house on Thursday, Harvey is now our only residence. We've been staying with friends and inevitably that has meant me filling their drive with tools and bits of motorhome as I worked feverishly to tie up all the loose ends. Our great pals Maya and Darrel put us up for a couple of nights and threw themselves into the RV project with impressive gusto. Darrel has most of the Home Depot tool department in his basement and even a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner! Fab!

He cleaned the carpets and upholstery and then tackled several other projects. Maya, for whom great design is just a basic necessity in life, immediately knew that the ghastly faux ironwear in the form of Harvey's various towel rails Had To Go. Not only that, but she had the perfect modern nickel replacements and installed them on the spot. Set against the dark grain of the interior woodwork, our 1978 motorhome now looks like something from a high-end Danish furniture catalogue. Maya, you are a marvel and you have transformed the interior. Thank you. You have also transformed this blog thanks to the new images on the masthead.  So the RV stuff was great fun (er, for me anyway) but better was the time with all of us together, kids and grownups. It was a lovely easy few days and the three of us found it painfully hard to leave. Not being able to hang out all together so easily is one of the very worst things about leaving DC. We shall miss you all hugely.

We are now in Bethesda with Greg and Margo who we only really met a year and a half ago, but who have also become an indispensible part of our time here. Sometimes I wonder how we have got so lucky to find such terrific people to hang out with. They too have humoured my incessant tinkering with Harvey parked out front. I have again been Sorting. I've improved the house battery connection, re-connected all the interior lights (a legacy of the blind-fitting - don't ask) and put the 
last two cupboard doors on.

I think we are good to go tomorrow. There is still a list of things I want to do but nothing I really have to do, so we will be off. The plan is to go north through Pensylvania, then up into New York State; the Finger Lakes and Adirondaks. North again to Montreal to get new US visas, then up the St Lawrence and out to the Gaspe Peninsula. We'll turn south to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then Maine and down to Cambridge MA and our next, stationary, address.

So, goodbye and thank you DC. You've been a lovely part of our lives and we will miss you. Now comes The Road.

Of blinds and drain plugs

I have never worked so hard in all my life. We have been packing up stuff to take to Boston, sorting out other stuff to put into storage in DC, and packing other things to take on the two month road trip which is the
subtitle of this blog. Naturally I let Philippa handle all that while I spent many hours getting cosy with Harvey in Woodbridge. Actually, not just hours, but days. In fact "days" doesn't really do it justice either as I have been up to my elbows in GMC innards for weeks now it seems.

A few things I did fairly quickly... I turned the storage access panel around on one of the sofas so we can throw shoes in there when we get in...

I also put some larder shelves in the cupboard which housed thw built-in vacuum hose...

Some things though were, ah, less easy... The first thing I wanted to do when I saw Harve close up back in Feb was throw out the curtains and put in some blinds. The first thing I knew I had to do was replace the oil drain plug, which Jerry R in Michigan said had stripped threads and may not go back in again. So as D day approached I decided to do both.

To say the blinds were difficult to install is like saying that Ghengis Khan enjoyed travel. Naturally I decided against the route that so many GMCers have gone down over the years - ordering the ones that fit from Guske. No, I wanted cordless, honeycomb, insulating blinds instead and when they arrived, they were of course slightly too big. Not the widths, which were perfect, but the depth. They have to fit between the cupboards and the top of the window and they were a quarter of an inch too thick. That meant moving the cupboards out by a quarter of an inch; a three person job which I did with my two helpers, R.Lister, and Mygood Self. There was blood, there was sweat, there were tears but the blinds are now in, and very smart they are too.

The expensive valances from Applied GMC in California took forever to arrive, in fact they came so late that we had moved out of our house by the time I got to open the box. I was even less impressed to see that the fittings they came with actually have no screw-holes in them. Not so much "fittings" then, as "pieces of metal". After shelling out a small fortune for the valances you might have thought they would come ready to actually put up, as opposed to being the basis of yet another DIY project. Its like ordering a Big Mac and being given some bread, lettuce and a cow. Annoyingly, the valances won't fit flush against the wall because the blinds are too deep (or the valances are not deep enough, but that is too irritating to think about). I will have to get ready-made brackets because the ones supplied wouldn't be big enough even if I did drill all the holes. Sigh. I have to say though, I have put a couple in postiion and they do look terrific...

There were times, as I staggered under the weight of a heavy double cupboard and the bolt refused to go in again, that I wished I had gone down the Guske route. But the one I ordered from them for the window in the door doesn't fit either. I am going to have to find a way to modify that one too. Sigh again. Oh, and the Guske front windshield blinds which were shipped on June 7th, still haven't arrived as of June 20th. Perhaps the pigeon found them rather heavy. As we have now moved out of our house I will have to get a neighbour to forward them on to a waystation on our road trip. That should be straightforward to arrange. Yeah, right.

So with that little bundle of frustrations now worked out of my system, I can move on to the replacement of the drain plug. Lister, Self and I knew this was a job for a professional, or at the very least, someone who was brave enough to lift up the GMC's front end and lie underneath it. I went to Leigh Harrison down the road in Woodbridge who showed us our very first GMC way back when we were still wide-eyed GMC innocents. I gave him a short list of things to sort, and assumed that the drain plug would be but a trifle. It turned out to be more than that.

Easy, you might think, to remove the old one, drill a bigger hole or weld on a new nut and put in a new plug. Aha, not so. In fact it requires lifting the engine, removing the transmission and a host of other ancilliaries just to get at the thing. Not so much a trifle as a full-on birthday party for a bunch of lively seven year olds, with cake, whipped cream and a jello-throwing contest. So it took a couple of days and I got Leigh to replace the old oil pan with one of his new ones which drains all the oil rather than leaving some of it behind as the original ones do. He also sorted out the dash air conditioning which now blows really cold, and he also greased and tightened the rear wheel bearings. This has really transformed the handling and knocked out all the rear wheel steering which can make these things a bit of a handful to drive. It now points straight ahead when you want it to. Which is nice when you are manoevering 12000 lbs of vintage motorhome down a narrow lane, while a teenager fiddling with an ipod in Mom's SUV heads down the middle of the road in the other direction.

Actually one very nice thing that emerged from seeing Leigh again was his opinion of old Harvey. He said that of all the hundreds of GMCs he has worked on, ours was in the best mechanical condition and drove better than any of them. He was hugely complimentary which made me feel that its all been worth it.