Tell the Tale of Norma

The Tale of Norma

In May 2015 we decided to buy a classic RV.  She was a 1968 Newell Coach, purchased from Earl, the 82 year old former owner.  Her name was Norma.  She was a showgirl.  We gave Norma a lot of TLC and had big plans for the ol’ girl.  I wouldn’t even be able to guess how many hours (more like months) I spent working on her, getting her ready to drive around the US and Mexico this winter.

1968 Newell Side  Iola on Carrie with Newell

Iola 1

Mother Nature’s little brother Hormones had other plans.  We’re now pregnant with another baby!  After months of deliberating how to blend our original plan of hopping all around the continent in Norma with the new reality that we’re going to have another baby, we made the tough decision to sell her after only having spent the night in her once.  But there’s a happy ending…

Norma’s new owner Castagna drove over eight hours to come pick her up.  She has even bigger plans for Norma than we did.  Norma is Castagna’s new home, art studio, and place of business!  She’s an artist (a very talented one), who’s going to travel around the country visiting classic car shows and painting commissioned work for proud antique car owners.

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Today we passed through Guthrie, Oklahoma, where Norma is currently stationed.  Carrie exclaimed on the way into town, “Oh my god, there’s Norma!!!”


We met up with Castagna, who was nice enough to show us around the very cool town of Guthrie.  Did you know it was Oklahoma’s capital city before being moved to Oklahoma City?  I didn’t.

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Castagna took us to a local cafe before we left town.  iola is obsessed with chocolate.

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Castagna directed us to a great campground between Guthrie and Oklahoma City where we spent the night by Arcadia Lake.  Actually, before that she offered to let us stay in Norma again.  As kind as that was, it wouldn’t be right.  Norma has a great future ahead of her, and we slept well in our tent knowing that.  Plans change and life keeps rollin’.



Push Our Shower Limits

Ark City’s Cherokee Strip Campground gave me my first shot at a coin-operated shower.  Three minutes for one dollar, payable in quarters.  Extra quarters give you extra time, but how much extra time isn’t specified.  My math tells me 45 seconds per quarter, but I didn’t get to test it since my extra quarter I thought I brought was really a nickle.  Nor did I time it anyway, or even count, so my shower was really a two minute rush to make sure I got all the soap off and then one minute of standing there wondering when the three minutes would expire.

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We packed up quickly and headed for 10 o’clock story time at the Ark City Public Library.  We stayed after for Halloween craft projects (Carrie and iola made a bat) and lingered for a couple hours playing, reading, and using their free WiFi.


We’re trying to eat reasonably healthy food on our trip.  Ark City was our Sin City.  Leftover Casey’s pizza from the night before and my inability to simply keep driving by Long John Silver’s meant we had a picnic lunch of heart attack with a side of day-old diabetes.

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We headed south into Oklahoma.



Introduce Human iola to City iola

Our choice to not use major highways meant we found iola, Kansas, on our way south.  We’ll likely never be able to find tourist key chains with “iola” on them, so we had to take advantage.  That meant we took roughly one million pictures.  Here’s a small percentage of them.

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Carrie and iola can’t get enough of libraries.  iola is in a possessive stage where everything around her is “iola’s!!”  At the Iola Public Library, I finally couldn’t disagree with her.

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We chose to potty train her very young.  This is usually very nice but sometimes interesting.


Our back roads weaved us through a series of small towns that looked like they’d seen better days.  We set up camp in Arkansas City, Kansas, or as the locals would say, Ark City.  Once again, we had the entire tent camping area to ourselves while the RV portion was jam packed.  Many “campers” appeared to be full-time residents based on the amount of possessions surrounding their abodes.



Understand Campground Pro’s and Con’s

iola is two years old, and she now has a fancy backpack and new books.

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We stopped to see KC, briefly.

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We spent the night in Bonner Springs, Kansas.  Don’t misspell that one.  Campgrounds seem to have lots of room for tents while the RV’s are crammed in together like sardines.  We have plenty of privacy.  We also have to use the campground’s version of a restroom, which can go either way.  This bathroom made me want to barf.  Gross enough I didn’t even want to stay long enough to take pictures, so you’ve been spared.

The air mattress has been replaced and we’re sleeping like babies, especially the baby.

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Cross the Firecracker Line

So, we’re driving to Guadalajara, Mexico, in a 1998 Toyota Camry with 238,000 miles on it, and growing.  His name is Carl and he has aged well with the help of some screws.


Why are we driving to Mexico?  We’ll discuss that later.  For now, let’s enjoy the journey.

We’re determined to avoid interstate and four-lane highways if at all possible.  We’re not in a hurry.  I drive 55 mph even when we do get stuck on a road with a 70 mph speed limit.  Yep, I’m that annoying guy now.

Missouri allows fireworks, Iowa does not.  Missouri doesn’t waste any space to exploit this.

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The amount of cool things one can see on old highways compared to when traveling on interstates is drastic.  Yes, that’s a herd of camels, grazing as if they were cows.

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We spent the night at a campground south of Maysville, Missouri.  Our air mattress deflated and it was cold.  We will figure this camping thing out by the time we get to Mexico.  The tag on the tent remains from a night we spent on the island of Culebra, east of Puerto Rico, in 2005.



See the Family then Head toward Mexico

We attended the Garland family reunion.  My grandma iola, daughter iola’s namesake, was born Helen Iola Garland.  She lived her entire life in Tingley, Iowa, population: not many.  The family potluck food never fails to satisfy, and guarantees car windows will need rolled down later.

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I’ve spent hours and hours playing with cousins here throughout my childhood.  It’s a lot less lively now.

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Grandma Iola lived in this house almost her entire life.  I’ve lived in approximately 20 houses in one-third the amount of time she lived.  Pondering which lifestyle is better is interesting, but a determination proves to be impossible.


We said our goodbyes and headed south toward Mexico.


We stopped in Mt. Ayr, Iowa, where my other grandparents are buried.  Guess where I got my name from.