I hesitated to bother with Yet Another Motorhome Memoir, but as it happens, I’m brokedown in 98 degree heat with no A/C at the moment, so… the timing is right. I’m gonna update, elaborate and otherwise embellish my all too familiar tale of Winnebago woes as I go, so check back periodically, if you’ve additional time to waste.
It all started when I was twelve and got fired from piano lessons. I’m gonna fast forward here a bit, with a blog montage: scenes of self-determination, sibling rivalry, sad pointless pursuits… til we arrive at early retirement and bucket lists. Having failed to land any piano playing gigs closer to Anaheim, I found myself back in Idyllwild, in late March (2014), once again playing at the Mile High Cafe on Sundays. Other than the fact it’s 82 miles from my house, it’s a perfect gig for me. I can play what I want within reason, the expectations are in line with my (admittedly limited) abilities, they have a grand piano, I get paid(!) and, the tips are usually decent, sometimes very decent.
Guy stops in one morning and starts asking me lots of questions. How long have I been doing it. Do I get paid. Do I take requests. How man songs do I know? Is the bench comfortable? I ask him where his line of questioning is leading. “I’m going to be playing here Fridays.”
Hmmm. Not sure How I feel about that. What if he’s way better than me? He could soon be playing Fridays and Sundays. Even if he doesn’t take over my spot, I’ll still have to deal with – “The Friday guy plays Piano Man. How come you don’t play Piano Man.” And other trifling annoyances like that. I have a tendency to very quickly envision “worst case” scenarios and tend to believe they are actually “quite likely to happen” scenarios.
As it happened, there was some scuttlebutt among the wait staff about the Friday guy, and, when I checked the following Sunday, they had not, in fact, hired him. A smarter, more secure man would have left well enough alone at that point, but, well, this is me we’re talking about.
“You know, I could maybe play Friday…”
“You? You gonna drive up here Friday, go home and drive back Sunday?”
“I could give it a try. See how it goes…”
“I would love it if you played Friday!”
So, for two weeks, I drove up Friday AND Sunday. The second week, the owner says, “You know, if you have RV, you park out back and play Friday, Saturday AND Sunday for whole summer.”
I did not have RV. But a three day a week gig for the whole summer would go along way to me crossing “lounge pianist” off my List. By the following weekend, I had RV.
When you’re making $350 in a good weekend, you’re not shopping for a straight-from-the-factory 40 foot diesel pusher. About the cheapest thing you can buy from a dealer is a 10 year old trailer for about $7500. (And then you have to buy a truck capable of towing it.) I found an ’89 Class C advertised for $3900 on Craig’s that looked very suitable in the photo.
Got a hold of the owner’s grandson who met me out at a desolate RV storage lot in Perris. Given that the RV was not connected to water or electricity, the house battery was dead, and there was not enough gas in the fuel tank to run the generator, it was a challenging assessment. Plus, I know next to nothing about RV’s. I asked the guy if everything worked and of course, he said “Yes!” There was one of those Jesus fish glued next to the door, so, the guy was risking eternal damnation if he was shining me on. My problem was, I needed an RV if I wanted the three day gig and there just weren’t many options out there in my $4Kish price range.
“Let’s see if makes it over to the bank. If we get to the Bank of America parking lot and nothing falls off, catches on fire or explodes, we’ll talk.”
Sitting in the captain’s chair is akin to a time machine. Eighties dashboard, crank windows, triangular “vents”, automatic gear shift on the steering wheel. It starts right up and we’re underway. I crank the A/C. It’s about 105 in Perris. I can’t tell if the A/C is working or not, it’s hot in the cabin regardless. Seems to drive okay, brakes work, suspension not too bad considering it’s a quarter century old, radio even works. I’m feeling optimistic.
(To be continued…)