“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” —Captain Kirk
We had no idea what lay in store before embarking on our first mission chosen for the newly acquired ship.
“Strange new worlds?” Well, I wasn’t sure about the others, but I had been there before.
“New civilizations?” Nope, didn’t expect to be passing through any uncharted regions on this voyage.
“To boldly go where no man has gone before?” Not likely. We were all pretty sure Indianapolis had been explored and settled long ago.
The mission: blaze a trail to Indianapolis, Indiana for the 71st running of the Memorial Day classic, Indy 500 auto race May 24, 1987. Then return successfully to Center, Texas, without the loss a single soul, all while traveling in an early 70s vintage Winnebago that by reasonable rationale should have been scrapped at least 100,000 miles ago.
“Logic is the beginning of wisdom; not the end.” — Spock
While testing retirement waters the last few months, a recently retired friend was working hard to convince me how much fun I would have doing fun retirement things—like camping. I explained to her that I didn’t think I was cut out for retirement. “I don’t own an RV and I have a miserable record of failure at gardening attempts.”
She none-the-less assured me that camping in a motor home was “lots of fun,” but admitted without hesitation, “I’ve never driven ours.”
The thought of my one-and-only time driving an RV made me smile. We counted it a success when we made it back alive.
“I have been, and ever shall be, your friend. Live long, and prosper.” — Spock
Oscar Elliott and I met at South Ward Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in 1959. He was in the sixth grade and I was in the fifth. In the 56 years since, Oscar and I have survived numerous adventures, living to tell about the ones that we dare.
Gary Hart and I became friends when he moved to Center, Texas, in the mid 1980s to open the community’s first McDonald’s restaurant. It was only a few years prior that Wal-Mart had opened its doors in Center. New galaxies were already being discovered in the East Texas community.
The three of us set out in Gary’s old Winnebago, newly acquired in the course of his classic car deals, something for which he was well known. Gary accumulated projects—neat old vehicles that needed anything from as little as lots of major work all the way up to complete restoration.
However, the Winnebago was different. It resembled the rest of the rusty resemblances of rolling stock in his repository with one exception. It ran. Under its own power. Or at least he assured Oscar and me that it did.
“Don’t let all the corrosion, dents and duct tape fool you,” Gary smiled.
“Ahh, Mr. Scott, I understand you’re having difficulty with the warp drive. How much time do you require for repair?” — Spock
The wrecking yard refugee that was to be our trusty transportation to Indy sat quietly rusting in the parking lot next to Gary’s fast food franchise at 9 a.m. on the designated departure date. “Gary sometimes runs a little late,” I warned Oscar.
After finishing lunch about noon, we rumbled out of Center rolling north with plans to drive without stopping. The schedule was four-hour shifts at herding the old heavyweight with a refrigerator full of food and a heart full of hopes that the noisy little fridge functioned.
“Checked everything out, we presume,” I asked Gary about an hour into the voyage.
“Absolutely,’ Gary again assured us. “She’s in tip-top shape.” That was about ten minutes before the alternator belt gave up the ghost with a nasty noise. Lucky for us, it expired within sight of a garage.
One repair down and somewhere in northern Missouri at about 2:00 a.m. on a stretch of highway that had expansion joints the size of speed bumps, Oscar was struggling with his sleep shift in the rear bedroom, Gary was piloting and I was riding shotgun. Sleeping was no easy endeavor with the smell of musty drapes flapping in the window and rotting plywood the only thing preventing us from plummeting to the pavement. Any sleep Oscar may have managed ended abruptly when a tire on the inside rear dual exploded, sending the elderly RV to rocking and its passengers to praying.
“So much for the Enterprise.” — Beverly Crusher
“We barely knew her.” — Picard
Once again, lady luck lingered with us when we determined the glow ahead to be an all-night truck stop. However, it was at that very moment, dead tired, several hours behind schedule and sitting on the side of a dark highway, that we lulled to laugh and lauded the worn out Winnebago with the logo, “Star Ship Enterprise.”
“Ru’afo, we’re getting too old for this.” — Admiral Dougherty
The trip going to Indy evidently eradicated the eccentricities from of the ailing Winnie. The races were great, the trip home uneventful and the experience endearing. However, I still harbor no hallucinations of having an RV as part of my retirement plan—should this test turn out to be a real retirement.
“I think that is the weirdest and most surreal adventure we ever went on. I can barely remember anything that happened.” — Oscar Elliott
— Leon Aldridge