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The Gearboat Chronicles

Operation Minnie Winnie

Well, I retired. For now. Bought a motorhome. Operation Minnie Winnie is a go. 29-feet of sweet vehicular mobile comfort. Queen bed. Kitchen. Little tiny toilet. The works.

Friends Al and Jennifer were trading in their Winnebago and I was outraged at the low price the dealership was offering them. I saw it as an injustice. So I offered them the same unjust amount, which they kindly said OK to.

But I had to get to Yuma, Arizona. Quickly. So I threw my sleeping pad for the river in the back of my truck. Tossed in some clothes, a toothbrush and my dog and set out.

Then I drove for 20 hours, listening to radio shows discuss the dismal economic climate. An economy that some might say is not ideal for investing in a luxury item that gets 7 miles to the gallon. That would have given me pause if I’d had time to pause, but I had to scoot to Yuma.

Got there and Al showed me the basics. The he directed my attention to the gigantic owner’s manual, which is so large I suspect it has a lot to do with this rig only getting 7 mpg.

I didn’t anticipate certain costs for this expedition, like hiring a research assistant to climb around in that owner’s manual. Or how involved it would be to hook up a tow bar so I can pull my truck behind the mother ship.

The tow bar took two days of canvassing Yuma for proper bolts, tools and advice. There’s no shortage of RV places in Yuma, and they answer most questions with a variation of this phrase: “That’ll be two or three hundred dollars.” Variations include, “three or four hundred,” sometimes, “four or five hundred.”

This is not a poor man’s sport, this RVing. And it’s not as carefree as it might seem. Driving a 29-foot box with your truck behind puts you right around the 50-foot mark. Add traffic, tight corners and at some point my knuckles just can’t get any whiter.

I’m somewhere outside of Phoenix right now, surrounded by cactus. My route seems to change based on available big, wide turns. The old song, “Give Me Forty Acres and I’ll Turn This Thing Around,” often runs through my head. Instead of backtracking, I just keep on moving until I come across a salt flat or abandoned airstrip where I can make a corner.

So if you’re in the market for a 29-foot Winnebago Minnie Winnie with a complete owner’s manual, we should talk.

My timing is a little off, by thirty years or so, to be buying a motorhome and retiring. But really, it’s been quite nice and I could get used to this. It’s snowing back home in Wallowa County, I’m told. And while I do have a cactus spine stuck in my left index finger after bushwhacking around in the desert yesterday, I really can’t complain about being down south.

I might just go take another peek at the Grand Canyon. As you know if you’ve floated Hells Canyon with Winding Waters, Hells has the upper hand on being the deepest gorge in the lower-48. That’s not a boast, just fact.

The Grand Canyon is staggering, no doubt. But I still might lean over the edge and whisper, “Hey, Grand Canyon, I got a message for you from Hells Canyon: ‘If you need help reaching something on a shelf, just ask…Shorty.’”