On our Panama Canal cruise last year, we met a young, red-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned missionary gal in Guatemala who’s from Pennsylvania. She turned out to be the translator on our taxi ride throughout the port town of San Jose. Long story short, she took us by the mission she’s involved in there, and we’ve been supporting her and her fiance’s ministry ever since.
Knowing Savannah hailed from Pennsylvania and that we wanted to spend time there, we asked if she knew anyone who might be willing to host us for a week. Her grandparents were kind enough to volunteer, so we’ve been moochdocking at their place this week. It’s been a truly wonderful experience.
They’ve done a lot of traveling, appreciate history, and know the area very well. So, with their guidance and suggestions, we visited Gettysburg and overlooked the expansive battlefield, where history came to life. We rode an Amtrak train from Lancaster to Philadelphia and explored Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Reading Terminal Market, Love Park, and the Rocky statue.
We drove to Amish country in Lancaster for dinner one evening before heading to Sight & Sound Theatres for the phenomenal presentation of “Queen Esther.” The mind-blowing sets had me mouthing “Wow” throughout the show. The costumes and acting were just as spectacular.
If you’re ever in Lancaster, or Branson, Missouri, and have time to attend a show at Sight & Sound Theatres, we highly recommend it. The cost is well worth it.
Because we attended the 7 p.m. show of “Queen Esther,” we didn’t return to our trailer until about 10:30 that night … only to hear a steady, high-pitched noise. When you live in a fifth wheel, any unusual noise is not a good sign.
Before we set out on our epic adventure from Arizona, Bob had hooked up our rig to be able to “plug into itself.” That means through the use of an inverter, we can use our batteries to power our outlets in the rig. Our lights run directly off the batteries, but the TVs and power outlets don’t.
When we’re actually plugged into shore power, that charges our batteries. But, with Tagalong plugged into itself, it creates a loop with the batteries powering the inverter, and then the converter/charger, in turn, tries to charge the batteries. When doing this, the inverter screams a little, which is a bad thing. Turning off the circuit breaker for the charger/controller stops that feedback loop so that the trailer can successfully power the outlets.
We weren’t plugged into shore power at our moochdocking site, so we relied on our solar panels to charge our batteries. Cloudy weather prevented the solar panels from giving us a full charge, so Bob ran the generator for a number of hours to make up for the difference.
Shortly before we left for dinner and the show, he turned off the generator to let it cool. Then he stored it, plugged the trailer into itself, and we hit the road. But, we forgot to turn off the circuit breaker to stop the aforementioned feedback loop — thus, the high-pitched noise.
We immediately turned off the circuit breaker upon entry to the trailer, which stopped the unpleasant noise. But then, Bob turned off the inverter, and we lost all power — and feared we fried our two $1,000 Lithium iron batteries. Because of the late hour and our location in a quiet neighborhood, we couldn’t really run the generator to get the power we needed for the night (our fridge had turned off too).
Had this happened to us while boondocking in the woods, we likely would have run the generator out of necessity. Since that wasn’t the case here, and we were parked in the yard of a home, we decided to plug into the house to try to get some charge on our drained batteries.
Picture us prowling around this sleepy neighborhood with flashlights trying to get this all set up. We looked like robbers.
We successfully plugged into the house with the hope that we’d get enough of a charge that we wouldn’t have to stay plugged in all night. That didn’t happen. So, Bob left a note on our hosts’ vehicle notifying them of what had happened and explaining that we’d unplug in the morning. Our hosts had no problem with the situation. Their kindness and graciousness was much appreciated.
The next day, we breathed a sigh of relief when we learned the batteries were fine. A sunny sky helped us get the full battery charge we needed. I finished my work week, and Bob caught up on some things. Then we ventured into a town an hour away to meet with two friends I hadn’t seen in 32 years.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that Bob and I met in California as part of the Continental Singers & Orchestra back in the ‘80s. In 1988, the year after we met, I went on another tour, this time with the Continental Orchestra & Singers, and I made these two friends then. They both live in Pennsylvania now, and we got reacquainted a few months ago thanks to a Zoom reunion.
Getting together in person with all of our spouses was icing on the cake. We had a wonderful time of fun and fellowship over a Mexican meal in a town equidistant from the three of us. As I shared that night, events like this are the highlights of Bob’s and my new lifestyle. We’ve been able to see and visit many people we hadn’t seen in numerous years, and it truly is a blessing.
Having lived in Mesa, Arizona, for 24 years, we forgot what it’s like to experience the four seasons. The Valley of the Sun, as the Phoenix area is known, really only has two seasons: hot and mild. Leaves don’t fall off trees until December and January. Although frost warnings occur on occasion, high temperatures typically only dip down into the 50s or 60s. And spring is the month of February.
Being in Massachusetts for the past six weeks, however, has been a good reminder of what true seasons are like. We’ve gone from warm, shorts-and-tank-top weather to slightly cooler temperatures. Crisp mornings greet us most days. Other days humidity lingers in the air. Trees are starting to change color. The days are growing shorter.
The changing seasons signal time for us to move on to our next destination. We’ve accomplished what we wanted to in Massachusetts: spent lots of quality time with family and friends. We also visited our old haunts, including Lee’s Hot Dog Stand (where I worked the summer before we wed), Friendly’s (where Bob worked as a teen), Kay’s Dairy Bar (known for its seafood), and Kimball Farm (which has the best ice cream around).
We explored Bob’s childhood homestead and young adult home, as well as the apartment building where we lived early in our marriage. And we roamed the trails behind Narragansett Regional High School that Bob used to run with his cross-country team. It’s been a fruitful and fulfilling time in New England.
It’s also been a reminder of the changing seasons we find ourselves in as a couple with all of the kids grown and living on their own. Of Bob’s new state of retirement. Of my shift from full-time work to contract/freelance work after being laid off my full-time job. Did I mention I love our life?
In addition to these changes, we finally received our South Dakota license plates, which we’ve been trying to get since June. Their addition solidifies yet another transition to our South Dakota residence status.
Along with those, Tagalong got tattoos. We adhered the stickers we’ve been collecting from popular and not-so-common places: Niagara Falls, New York; and Falls Park and Corn Palace, South Dakota. And, we added B-25 stickers for good measure.
As we get ready to move on, we’ll have to rely on our checklists to ensure we don’t forget anything. This is the longest our trailer has been in one place since we started living in it. We’ve truly been blessed to be able to keep it at Bob’s brother Bill’s (yes, that’s Bill Gates) for the past six weeks. It’s been fun spending time with Bill and his wife Kim and experiencing New England again.
But we’re ready to get back on the road and start venturing south. Stay tuned for more adventures.
After our first separation from Gulliver and Tagalong since we started our journey in May, we are elated to be back together. We’re happy to be able to sleep in our own bed with our own pillows again. There truly is no place like home.
Gulliver and Tagalong, who both fared well during our absence, greeted us with open arms — and no unpleasant stench or damage. All is well. And Gulliver roared to life with no problem.
Honoring a B-25 Navigator
We enjoyed our tour with the B-25 “Maid in the Shade” in Montana and ended up filling eight living history passenger flights while in Bozeman. On the way from Bozeman to Missoula, we had the privilege of circling the small town of Anaconda in honor of a 95-year-old WWII vet who resides in a nursing home there.
When John E. “Jack” Oberweiser learned the B-25 was 25 miles from his town flying at 6,500 feet and 211 miles per hour, he announced to the staff at his facility, “They’ll be here in two minutes.”
His daughter rushed to wheel her mother, 93, also a resident of the facility, into Jack’s room so the high school sweethearts, now married 72 years, could be together for the momentous occasion. Tears streamed down the couple’s faces as they sat holding hands while watching the bomber and hearing the roar of its engines exactly two minutes later, just as Jack had predicted.
Like his buddies, Jack joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at the age of 18 as soon as he graduated high school, eager to serve his country. He completed basic training at Santa Ana Air Base in California, where he once walked to the Rose Bowl and passed Bob Hope in the stands.
Lt. Oberweiser served as a B-25 navigator in the China-Burma-India theater with the 491st Bombardment Squadron — known as the “Ringers” for their low loss of aircraft and personnel. The squadron targeted airfields, storage areas, and bridges.
Toward the end of the war, Jack spent time in France and Germany ferrying aircraft back to air bases in Europe. On one mission to Cairo, Jack, an avid sports fan, got to listen to the 1945 World Series game between his favorite Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, actually using the radio signal as a navigation tool.
On another ferrying mission, Jack’s plane made an emergency landing when something went wrong with the landing gear. Heavy rain prevented a fire as the plane slid on its belly.
After the war, Jack and his sweetheart were reunited and raised seven children in Anaconda, where he worked as a football and track coach and taught geometry and bookkeeping.
The whole town celebrated the B-25 flyover in honor of Jack and his service — and, as he stated, “ALL of the local veterans.” It was a true honor for us and the rest of the “Maid in the Shade” crew to participate. After all, that’s what the Commemorative Air Force is all about: educating, honoring, and inspiring.
Inspiring the Next Generation
Not only did we have the privilege of honoring Lt. Oberweiser, but we also got to work closely with a number of Civil Air Patrol cadets in Bozeman, educating them and the public about the history of “Maid in the Shade” and the part B-25s played in the war.
These kids eagerly showed up numerous days to help clean the plane and to ensure crowd safety during our flight operations. They very professionally secured the flight line, standing at attention with their backs to the plane so they could monitor the crowd, resisting the urge to turn around and watch as the bomber’s engines started and as it taxied in after a flight.
Many of the cadets have big ambitions of going into the Air Force and working with aircraft in some capacity or another. We’re thankful for the small part we got to play in inspiring them, and we look forward to what they’re going to do in the future.
This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.