Category: Camino Del Monte

Monte’s Bug Out Buggy to the Rescue

They say, “A man’s home is his castle.” And, in my mind, Serendipity Farmhouse is my castle. It is where I find my solitude. It is a safe haven for my family. It is our fortress. Having said that, I have never, ever requested that my castle have a moat. Last night, however, despite my strident objections, Florence blessed Serendipity Farmhouse with a quite impressive moat. A moat that effectively cut SFH off from the rest of the world with a terrifying mass of surging water.

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The water begins pooling up

It started with a series of intense downpours. A narrow band of storms moved north-north easterly up the Blue Ridge. When they passed Charlottesville, the grew in strength. By the time they reached SFH, they dumped rain in a concentrated deluge into our local watershed.

Water began to cascade down from the nearby golf course and road into our driveway and yard. Meanwhile, the North Fork of the Thornton River was rapidly reaching full capacity. The rush of water was nearing the edge of the banks. Prudence dictated that we take the two cars to higher ground. El Camino Del Monte (Monte’s Bug Out Buggy) remained in the driveway, ready if needed.

I had watched the situation on radar and saw that more rain was coming. My natural concern was now becoming an urgent worry. Sweet, adorable wife, on the other hand, was more concerned about what might be happening to our son and two daughters. Tornadoes were predicted in my Son’s area and both daughters had homes prone to flooding. Wife was intent on praying for them and was putting off the idea that we might need prayers ourselves.

The downpours continued to visit us, one after another, and each one brought new intensity and greater amounts of water. Beautiful wife and I needed to talk. And so we did. We encountered difficulty in deciding whether we should evacuate or remain ensconced in SFH.

Two events helped us make a rapid decision. First, wonderful spouse saw water lapping at the side of the house opposite from the river. She began to see that there was a chance for us being cut off from an escape route. The second thing was the true deciding factor, the tie-breaker. Mr. Monte entered the room wearing a pair of swimming goggles and a snorkel.

Wife immediately said she would gather some extra food and supplies. Mr. Monte, a bit indignantly, entered into his carrier. We turned off lights, secured the house, and made our way into Mr. Monte’s Bug Out Buggy. In just a few minutes, the driveway had become covered by two to six inches of water. It was filling from both the high ground runoff and from the river overflowing its banks. We had little time to spare.

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Our driveway as it appeared moments before we pulled out

All passengers were in place. The engine was started. It was getting dark and the rain was obscuring the view. Lights were turned on. Wipers were activated. I put the RV into drive. Slowly and carefully I began the journey out the flooding lane. Water splashed to both sides. Mr. Monte hunkered down in his carrier and released a worried mew. Wife was praying.

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The threatening railroad tie early the next morning

As a swipe of the wipers cleared the windshield for a brief moment, I saw it. It was just ahead of us on the right side of the drive. It was large, long, and dark. I had to veer sharply to the left. As we passed by the object, the next swipe of the wipers allowed me to see the large railroad tie that the water had pushed into our driveway.

Minutes later, we had made it to the high ground. The Bug Out Buggy was parked next to our two cars. We began to settle in. Mr. Monte emerged from his carrier and had some food. He reckoned rightly that we were out of harms way. Wife and I prayed a Rosary in thanksgiving and asked that our home might remain safe. There were a few more details that had to be handled, then we turned in for the night.

Mr. Monte, now a veteran RV cat, stood watch at the window while we slept. Assured in his mind that all was well, he jumped into the upper bunk and kept vigil while we slept.

Promptly at 3:55 AM, Mr. Monte called reveille. Get up Fuzz Face! Get up Blondie! First feed me, then let’s get back to Serendipity Farmhouse and assess the damage. We did precisely as he requested.

Though the water came to all sides of the house, it never rose high enough to do damage. But the force of the flowing water was evident. One large stone, perhaps weighing twenty pounds was rolled over 30 feet from it place in the garden. The grass around the house was flattened and matted, but all the damage was superficial.

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We had prayed – our prayers were answered.

We had prepared – but we learned some new lessons.

We had preserved our loved ones – each other.

Having lived through this relatively minor emergency, we can only think about the folks in North Carolina and other places who had to suffer through so much more. Tonight, our prayers are with them. May God protect and preserve them.

Also it is necessary to say to Mr. Monte – thank you for letting us use your Bug Out Buggy.

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The Bug Out Buggy deployed for evacuation




El Camino Del Monte – Shakedown Cruise #2

Good day to all of my adoring fans throughout the world!

After a threat of terrible bloodshed and carnage, Old Fuzz Face relinquished the keyboard and allowed me my rightly due, that is, I shall be the one to relate the sequence of events that took place on the second Shakedown Cruise of the good RV El Camino Del Monte (ECDM).

As reported in SFH Journal: 2018-09-12 & 13 yesterday, I and my sometimes intrepid crew have returned to the safe harbor of Serendipity Farmhouse. Old Fuzz Face, Blondie, and I, Mr. Monte the Magnificent, once again, have braved the open road, steep hill climbs, perilous descents at excessive speed from high ridges, and the exhausting life of a luxury RV campground.

(Please note carefully: A “luxury RV campground” only refers to luxury for humans. The fact that canines (slobbering, yapping, flea-infested dogs) are allowed in an RV campground, seriously detracts from the “luxury” that any exalted feline might enjoy.)

I must commend Blondie for having the forethought to understand how stressful the pet-remedy-200ml-spray-750x750barking, yapping, and generally distasteful sound of dogs might be to my royal sensitivities. She had sprayed ECDM with a preparation called “pet remedy”, a “natural de-stress and calming” spray.

Now, you must understand that, although the spray may have helped me some, there is more to this story. A close reading of the “pet remedy” box shows that this product works with all mammals. Let’s face it, Fuzz Face and Blondie are, in fact, mammals. It is my contention that one reason why this shakedown cruise went so well was because my two humans were even more influenced by this spray than was I.

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Blondie just made my lunch and I express my satisfaction

This was a far, far better cruise than the first. It was highlighted by many successful undertakings. One might say that my two big cats (i.e. trainable humans) have almost gotten their act together. And, although not all things went perfectly, for example the large knot on Fuzz Face’s forehead and the severely scraped and bruised area on Blondie’s right shin, we return with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Join us over the next week or two as I, with feeble and faltering technical assistance from Fuzz Face, recount our shakedown cruise experiences.

(For a look at what happened on Shakedown Cruise #1, look here, here, here, here & here.)

El Camino Del Monte: My Side of the Story

Mr. Monte here. I’ve politely told old Fuzz Face to back off from the computer tonight so that I can tell you my side of the story. What story? Well, of course, what really happened on the shakedown cruise of El Camino Del Monte. It’s not at all like Fuzz Face would have you believe. Even his grandchildren will tell you that he wouldn’t recognize the truth even if he stumbled over it – he tends to embellish – if you know what I mean.

As you can see from the featured picture, this RV thing that Fuzz Face and Blondie call El Camino Del Monte was actually payment in tribute to me. It was supposed to be my summer palace. When it arrived at Serendipity Farmhouse, I performed all the required regal ceremonies. I sniffed. I rubbed up against things. I prowled into deep, dark corners and spaces. I even climbed to the highest places and left my scent for all to know – this RV thing was and still is mine.

I noted several deficiencies to old Fuzz Face. My primary concern was that the air conditioning wouldn’t work with anything less than a 30 Amp circuit. He promised me in his usual slavish manner that this would be corrected immediately. To date, no 30 Amp service and no air conditioning.

Despite all the needless problems caused by Fuzz Face and Blondie, I was prepared to spend a quiet and peaceful season in my summer palace. I was prepared, but Fuzz Face and Blondie had something else in mind – a blasted, infernal, ridiculous, and exceedingly dangerous shakedown cruise.

There it was, late morning on the 5th of August. The old guy coerced me to get into my carrier and said we were heading out to the RV. Why should I refuse? I knew that my servants had food, water, and a clean cat pan waiting in the RV. I also knew that the bed had been made and would provide the perfect place for a nap.

All was well with the world, my subjects were seeing to my needs and desires.

Vrroomm! The RV began to make noise and there was a sickening vibration from the floor, through my carrier, and into my very bones. Vrroomm, Vrroom! We were off with a lurch, with a shudder, with no warning, no soothing words, nothing except intense, excruciatingly unpleasant noise and motion.

My palace, my Summer hideaway, began to jerk up and down and sway nauseatingly from side to side. And, we weren’t even out of the driveway yet. Then, we rolled and bounced onto the highway. I heard old Fuzz Face say to Blondie, “Hey, let’s take the long way and drive over Chester Gap into Front Royal.” Traitor to the cat she claimed to adore, she said, “That’s a great idea!”

Friends, I can’t tell you, nor could I ever express completely how much stress was caused to my system over the next hour of driving. Old Fuzz Face was auditioning for a movie to be called “The Cabbie from Hell”. Weaving to and fro, nearly going airborne over small hills just to hear if I would complain. A true sadist was at the wheel and Blondie egged him on.

We pulled into the RV camp, and Fuzz Face shouted with glee that he had backed into a spot successfully. In truth, he almost ran over Blondie who was trying to give him directions. He was a madman, I tell you, a madman. Then came the final lurch as he stopped abruptly, but everything else in the RV kept moving.

Now, Blondie has told people that I hid under the passenger seat for six hours. She almost implies that I am not a catly cat. Let me just explain. Self preservation and survival of the fittest is rule number one in my kingdom. Who knows what other horrors Fuzz Face had planned for me.

So, I finally ventured out to see what damage had been done to my summer palace. It 0805181539a (2)was then, when I crawled up into the driver’s seat that I saw the alien creatures in the mirror, roaming about us. Not only had Fuzz Face taken me far from Serendipity Farmhouse, I could tell by the looks of these creatures that he had taken all of us to a different planet. They ate grass, if you can imagine that. They had boxy bodies and ugly, bony backs, and were colored with ridiculous black and white patches.

0805181442b (2)Being smarter than Blondie and Fuzz Face, I headed to another hiding place.

And so it went for the first day and late into the second day. I would have stayed in my secure spot, but a cat has to eat. I ventured forth, but there was no longer trust in my heart for Blondie and Fuzz Face. I refused to purr for them. In fact, at one point, to cause them some of the stress that I had been feeling, I even played ‘possum.

Blondie nearly flipped out and began to cry. Fuzz Face, for once in his life, had a worried look on his grizzly face. I lay motionless and limp and let the whites of my eyes show in a sickening way. They freaked! So, rather than cause them all the indignity that I had been made to feel, I finally demonstrated that I was still with them.

I let them rest some during the second night. Blondie wanted to go home. She was worried about me. Fuzz Face, however, was not swayed by Blondie’s words nor did he seem to give a darn about my well being. He simply said, “We’re staying.”

Okay, I had my fun. I gave them back the distress they had given to me. It was time to return to my regal, catly behavior. At precisely 4:02 AM on the third day, I pounced on old Fuzz Face, just as I would do on any day. I nipped him on his forearm, almost drawing blood, and said, “Get up! Feed me! Make some coffee and say your morning prayers.

Being a good servant, He got up, fed me, made some coffee, and said his morning prayers.

No matter what they might try to tell you, that’s really the way it happened. I’m hoping they’ve learned a lesson. And to you, Fuzz Face, see what happens to your arm if you ever try to get me into that carrier again.



El Camino Del Monte – One Messy Job


I speak English. I have a relatively large vocabulary. I am well aware that words mean something. I also know that, when we don’t agree on the meaning of words, there will be problems. – So it was on our third and final day of the shakedown cruise.

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If you recall, we had a bit of a problem with our water hookup. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?.) You may also recall that I have had a sad history with water outside of its natural places. So, it may not come as a surprise that I might have some problems when it comes to getting rid of all that water that went into the RV for cooking, showers, washing dishes and, yes, flushing toilets.
If you have the time read the information posted in RV Gray Water and Black Water FAQs. The article clearly says, “Gray water is all of the wastewater that drains from your shower and kitchen and bathroom sinks.” The word sewage usually means “waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers.”
With these word meanings fairly fixed inside my little gray cells, I read the sign that you see in the featured picture. I think you could say that I was not too far afield in thinking that “Wastewater Holding Tank” meant “Gray Water” and “Sewage Holding Tank” was the “Black Water”. Thus, the Gray Water valve should be on the left and the Black Water valve should be on the right.
Knowing the difference between Gray and Black water is very, very important in RVing. Why? Well, to save yourself a messy and distasteful cleanup job, the recommended procedure is to dump Black Water First and then dump Gray Water. In this way the cleaner Gray Water will help to clear the sewer tube of the residual excrement. So, armed with knowledge gleaned from the sign (Gray – left, Black – right). I opened the valve on the right.
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Instantly, there was a rush of water. A great volume of water flowed out through the sewer tube. It flowed quickly. Neither supportive and wonderful wife nor I had anticipated that much water would come out. We must have really been flushing a lot. Either that or Mr. Monte had found the flushing lever and sat on it for a while.
Next, to wash out the sludge in the sewer tube, I pulled the valve on the left expecting an even greater torrent of water.
Beautiful, adorable, perceptive wife immediately pointed out to me that the flow was slow, thick, and yucky looking. “Honey, was that the right valve?” I answered with the full assurance of my great wealth of knowledge, “Of course it is, dear, look at the sign. There’s no way I could have got this wrong!”
Dear and gentle readers, I will now make you privy to two RV privy secrets. First, reluctantly I must tell you I was wrong, very wrong, 100% wrong. Please don’t share that with my trusting Spouse. She would lose all confidence in me if she were to find out. Second, seasoned RVers will tell you this simple fact. The Black Water valve is color coded BLACK and the Gray Water valve is color coded GRAY. A close look at the picture above and you can see what I so clearly missed.
Lesson Learned: Words mean something, and you better be sure you know what they mean.
Lesson Learned: Knowing the difference between the Black Water and Gray Water valves is very important. Tomorrow morning, I will have to perform a messy and distasteful cleanup job.

El Camino Del Monte – Cooking with Gas

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El Camino Del Monte with electric, water, and sewer hookups in place
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Propane Stove Test

By 2:50 PM on the first day of the El Camino Del Monte shakedown cruise, electricity, water, and sewer were all hooked up and functioning normally. Earlier, at the dealership, we had tested out the propane heater and knew that worked. Now it was time to open the propane tank valve and test out the stove. As expected, the stove worked perfectly.

Although there were several more items to test, we felt that it was now time to start preparations for our first meal aboard our home away from home. We had cleared the water lines and knew that water would be needed, not only for cooking, but also for washing dishes. So, we turned on the hot water heater of very recent unhappy experience. (See El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?) Our RV has both propane and electric hot water heaters, we opted for the electric, knowing that the propane heater was still quite soaked.

CurryOur menu called for an old family standby – S&B Golden Curry with beef on Japanese-style sticky rice. Although the meal is based on a store-bought mix, over the years, we have adapted the meal with our own selection of spices and sides (e.g. cayenne, curry powder, corn chips, dill pickles, and cheddar cheese). Don’t expect to find this combination anywhere in India or Japan. The only place you will find it is at our house or in the homes of our clan.

Now the two master chefs of the soon to be famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had moved to their new mobile facility. The show was now on the road and cooking with gas.

0805181639 (2)Beautiful Spouse did most of the meal prep with the stew beef, onion, and spices. I tackled the technical task of testing out another new piece of technology. Our regular rice cooker is too bulky for use in the RV. So, we purchased a miAroma mini digital rice cooker to save space.

I followed the simple directions closely – add rice, add water, push a button. Minutes Mini Rice Cookerlater we had just enough sticky rice for two adult sized servings of curry rice. The product worked as described. What we didn’t know until we opened the box and pulled out the directions was that the rice cooker could also be used to prepare several other dishes including: cake, soup, pasta, omelettes and more – perfect for RV living.

Now remember, nothing goes perfectly on a shakedown cruise, especially for yours truly. Despite our best planning and preparation, we forgot a key ingredient for our curry. This oversight almost brought tears to my eyes.

Lesson Learned: Never, ever, not now, not ever forget the fresh garlic!


El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?

A career in the U.S. Navy taught me many important lessons. For months at a time, I had to trust my life to complex systems aboard some of the newest and some of the oldest platforms the Navy had to offer. They were only machines, eventually they would fail. We had to ensure that would not happen while deployed. That’s why ships have a shakedown cruise. If a system is going to fail, let it be under safe and controlled conditions.

Our Class C RV, El Camino Del Monte, is no different. We had to put it to the test – a two day shakedown, 20 miles from home, on the other side of the Shenandoah National Park. We’ll save the story of the transit to the camp site for a later time. Let’s begin with our first two system checks after backing into our site and positioning next to the utility hookups.

Electrical System: We had already tested the electrical system with full 30 Amp service at the dealership and had done partial tests at Serendipity Farmhouse with a 20 Amp hookup. We were confident that this system would work. After drawing out enough power cord, I plugged into the 30 Amp service and activated the circuit breaker. Voila! There was light! The refrigerator was turned on. The awning was rolled out. The batteries were charging. Most importantly on that very warm, humid day, the air conditioner was turned on and the electrical system carried the load. Success!

Water System: So far, this shakedown was going too well to be true. And, of course it was too good to be true. Someday, I will write a book about my sad relationship with any system that has water in it. All I need to do is walk into a room and pipes begin leaking, water starts spraying, and clear H2O will ooze up through the floorboards. There is no way I could reasonably expect El Camino Del Monte to be any different. It has a water system and I knew there would be unexpected, unintended, unmitigated water leaks.

Carefully, I sneaked up on the water hose. Quietly and cautiously, I attached the hose and the pressure regulator to the RV. Slowly, I made my way to the water hookup. Gently, I screwed the hose fitting onto the faucet. Deliberately, I turned the handle a quarter turn, followed by another quarter turn. Instantly, the hose stiffened under pressure. Silently, I waited for signs that all was going well. 5 seconds … 10 seconds … 15 seconds … The tightness in my muscles began to relax, confidence began to build inside me … 20 seconds … I was ready to congratulate myself for a great job … 23 seconds

Water! Water coming from the side of the RV! Water was shooting sideways from the RV! Water was dripping down to the ground! Water was swirling around! Quick! Do something! Secure the water! Turn off the water! I did! I wrenched the faucet closed! Water continued to gush from the side vent! Then it began to slow, but it still kept coming.

I rushed to the vent. I opened it. …… There it was water coming from a half inch open drain. It was the hot water heater drain. No one ever put the drain plug back in its place. There was the drain plug. I quickly tried to screw it in. It didn’t want to be screwed in. It began to fight me and laugh at me. Finally, I got it finger tight. No good! Water kept coming. I ran for some pliers and started working around the bare, sharp sheet metal trying to tighten the plug. My knuckles were bleeding. The plug continued to fight me. It only allowed an eighth of a turn at a time. Water kept coming, but I was beginning to win. Bit by bit, I finally slowed the flow to a trickle, then to just a drip. Emergency ended.

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The remaining water system check was not without its problems. There was still pink antifreeze in the lines that had to be flushed out. But within a half hour, the system was clear. Now, we could wash our hands, wash dishes, and even take a shower.

Lesson Learned: Learn about your system and then check to ensure that all drain plugs and other fittings are in place before turning on the darned water!


El Camino Del Monte – Shakedown Cruise

0806181228a (2)About seven hours ago, we three weary travelers pulled back into our driveway at Serendipity Farmhouse after completing a two-day shakedown cruise of the good RV “El Camino Del Monte.” It was a brutal test of a Class-C RV and all it’s associated systems such as plumbing, electrical, and environmental control equipment. More than that, however, it was the first test of character and determination of two greenhorn human RVers, and a high-strung, twenty-pound Maine Coon cat.

Many, many, many lessons were learned by the three crew members of El Camino Del Monte. But, for right now, let’s just say the most important lessons were perseverance and developing reliance on one another in the face of a series of taxing and emotionally draining challenges.

The Bottom Line: Despite a few minor glitches, El Camino Del Monte, passed its shakedown cruise with flying colors. More importantly, the three travelers persevered and overcame all challenges.

Join us over the next week or two as we recount our  shakedown cruise experiences.