The new year did not start well. I woke up January 1 with symptoms like those of a urinary tract infection I had 30 years ago. As we did not yet have a primary care physician in Texas, I went to a clinic, where they told me I did not have a UTI, but there was glucose in my urine and my blood sugar was high, indicating diabetes. I felt so awful as we were leaving the clinic that we went back in and they measured my blood pressure again, which was very low (only 96/72), after which I briefly passed out, for the first time in my life. They called an ambulance, another new experience for me, and took me to the nearest emergency room. The ambulance and ER staff did a great job and about 5 hours later the ER released me after intravenous antibiotics to start treating what they confirmed was a UTI after all.
My symptoms were better after a few days but I’ve had a lot of intestinal problems from the antibiotics, and based on PSA measurements, the infection is persisting, so I am currently on a second round with a different antibiotic. I’m having blood work done now to check on the blood sugar situation, and will have more just before we leave town to be sure the PSA has gone back to normal. Bleah. Eileen has not escaped medical gremlins, either, having had pain in one knee for about a week, though it may be getting better.
On the brighter side, we finally received our truck on January 14, 59 days after it was finished being manufactured and ready for shipment. The normal shipping time is about 10 days, so it apparently sat in some lot in the Kentucky factory for about 7 weeks before Ford could be troubled to put it on a train. There never was any explanation for this delay. We ordered the truck on June 30, so it took 6½ months in total, compared to about 2 months under ordinary circumstances.
We left early the next morning in heavy rain to drive to Washington State for installation of the flatbed and camper. The 1800 mile drive took 3 days and we had bad weather the last half-day as well. Portland and adjacent Vancouver, Washington were still recovering from storms that had left a foot of accumulated snow. The flatbed was installed on the chassis cab by Pro-Tech Industries in Vancouver on January 18, a full-day job. They ultimately decided to extend the truck frame rails to better support the end of the flatbed.
The next morning it was just an hour drive in rain at a few degrees above freezing to reach Alaskan Campers in Winlock, Washington. The installation took a full day as expected and involved many on their crew, with Bryan (corporate President) and Rick doing much of the work, just as they had on our first Alaskan camper in 2002. The new camper was simply beautiful, with fine craftsmanship, and the design changes, such as extra windows, worked well. It was a very exciting day seeing the camper for the first time and watching it be installed!
After the major suspension and leveling problems we had with our ¾-ton Ford pickup in 2010, I have spent the last two years wondering whether this experience would be repeated with the new 1-ton chassis cab. I hoped that the ca. 1000-pound higher gross vehicular weight rating and 4-inch longer wheelbase would be sufficient. So the most suspenseful moment of the day was when they set the camper on the truck. The flatbed was originally 43 inches off the ground at the back and 41 inches at the front (an intentional suspension bias by Ford), and after the 2300-pound camper was put in place, the numbers were 40 and 39.5 inches, respectively – a very modest deflection, leaving the flatbed essentially perfectly level! The overload springs did not engage, so all indications are that the factory suspension will work well without after-market enhancements, which the majority of truck campers seem to require.
We camped in Washington that night and all went well. We started home the next day again in cold rain, driving later than we would have liked to get through the mountains before they were closed by ice. To add to the difficulties, I felt quite sick again for a few days after finishing the first course of antibiotics, so Eileen had to take on extra driving. It took 3½ days to get home, making it back just in time for a medical appointment. In total we covered 3900 miles against a tight schedule, and we hope this is the last such trip for us for a long time.
In the week since returning, we’ve spent nearly all our time preparing the camper for the road. The two largest efforts have been: (1) augmenting all the storage areas with foam pads, brackets, spacers, etc., so that their contents will not shift nor do any damage when driving on rough roads; and (2) constructing a center console for the truck that holds a library of books, binoculars, the camera, electronics, and the cooler. Our biggest problem is what to do with the spare tire, which we understood would fit under the flatbed, but when the drawings were made in December, it was found that it would stick out too far. We’ve contracted a welder to make a spare tire mount that will attach at the back of the camper, and that should be done this week, and hopefully will work well.
It will probably take about one more week to finish the camper modifications and pack it properly, and a few days to clear the apartment. So, barring medical hold-ups, we’re hoping to be on the road by February 12, about 2½ months later than initially planned. We will probably just bum around Texas for a month before starting the prairies exploration in the eastern part of the state.