It’s Day 414 of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve. And if you believe Fauci, we’ll be masking forever.
Uh-huh. Deb and I are fine.
We’ll be picking up here tomorrow morning and heading south a few hours, crossing another state line. Today will be one of those now-familiar pre-travel days, gathering and tidying and preparing our rig to move again.
Ernie is over 17 years old. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s not equipped with an ton of whiz-bang technology — by today’s standards this coach is almost quaint, most of its functions controlled by simple rocker switches and such.
Sure, we’ve updated a few things. We swapped most of the halogen lighting for LEDs, at least on the house side. We added GPS, a dashcam and a surge suppressor. Gone are the massive CRT-type TVs, replaced by flat-screen “smart” TVs. Stuff like that.
There a couple of functions, however, as common today as they were in 2004, that we haven’t used at all. What they are may surprise you.
One is the in-dash radio — or audio system, really, since it incorporates a CD player and provides inputs for two other sources. The previous owner had tossed the OEM unit in favor of this one, upgrading the ceiling speakers and adding a subwoofer.
The other item I haven’t touched is the cruise control. A pair of switches on the panel beside the driver’s seat offer the convenience of holding the bus at a set speed on the highway, and reportedly the function works very well on these coaches, but so far I haven’t used it.
The reason we haven’t operated either one of these devices is simple: I don’t need the distractions.
I’m still relatively new to piloting a 16-ton bus. Although I gain experience and confidence with every mile, and as cool as it’d be to set the cruise, relax and blast our favorite tunes while we’re rolling down the highway, I’ve determined that I’m not there yet.
From my motorcycling days I remember training guru Keith Code’s analogy that our attention and awareness is akin to a $10 bill. While we’re still learning a new skill, like riding a motorcycle, we spend most of that ten bucks on the fundamentals, the basic mechanics of operating and riding the bike. There’s very little “spare change” for the unexpected, never mind things like sightseeing or profiling for the babe on the sidewalk.
With experience, fundamentals become more natural and take less of our $10 of awareness. We have more to spend on an emergency maneuver, if need be, to notice and predict and react. We can “afford” to devote attention to actually enjoying the ride — and, of course, looking damned good doing it.
The time will come, I’m certain of it, that I’ll choose to set Ernie’s cruise control at 65mph, take my foot off the pedal and give myself a break from the throttle. I’m sure Deb and I will differ someday on music for the road.
But for now, the task of driving this bus deserves as much attention as I can give it — without distractions.
Yesterday was such a good day that I feel compelled to share a few more images captured by our friend, Deb and me at Bass Pro in Springfield, Missouri. The company may be only fifty years old, but the national out-of-doors movement as we know it today stretches back to the turn of the 20th Century.
Hunting and fishing, travel and trekking and camping, these are quintessentially (albeit not exclusively) American pursuits. What Deb and I are doing is part of that, carrying forward the tradition of “getting out there.”
Honestly, any American who’d rather be indoors isn’t worth a damn.
Inseparable from that tradition are the tools we admired in the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro. Wielded by soldiers and presidents, cinema icons and outlaws, the arms on display represent the fulcrum of The American Ideal.
The sight of long arms arrayed in front of the American flag, from the musket of the Revolution to the M16 of southeast Asia, is something I’ll never forget. It brought to mind the words of Charlton Heston, who 21 years ago reminded us that those who “truly understand” America “know that sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel — something that gives the most common man the most uncommon of freedoms.”
“When ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument, that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and Liberty.”
We’re off in search of America. Beyond the open road and the sweeping vistas lies the heritage of a great nation — the People, the principles and the values that make us who we are.
We caught another glimpse of that yesterday.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.
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