Canada 2, 5th June 2006

Well, I haven't got to Canada yet. It might be an appropriate time to remind you, if you are still reading these emails, that it is easy to get off my list. You just write and tell me. I'll not hold it against you, just as I don't hold it against Arno Seiger my long time friend from Germany who is the only person ever to have actually asked to be removed from my mailing list, eventually I'll forgive him. In the fullness of time.

Here's a photo I took from in front of the Sacre Coeur before I left Paris. I don't feel I've been to Paris unless I've seen this view and visited the Place du Tetre nearby. Guess I'm not on my own in thinking that........

But back in the US. After the bank holiday Monday when everything was closed I called to see Tim, paid his bill for the RV repairs, and found a place to make the vehicle test. I drove around area where Little Cat had disappeared about a year ago. The more I think about it, the more I think he ran away. With me, he was spoiled, he had company all the time. In his new home he was on his own during the day. Evenings he was fixed to Oren's lap. I think he was making up for being alone all day. I think he got bored with exploring and went to look for more long time company. Anyway, I didn't find him, and although I spoke to several people, and went another day to look, I still didn't find him. I didn't expect to, it was more of a pilgrimage. Like I say on my website, wherever he is, maybe in a cat heaven, I know he'll be having fun.

Tuesday I managed to get hold of Micki at her Mum's and visited in the afternoon. Wednesday Micki came in to work although obviously not 100% recovered from her illness as shown by frequent and urgent trips to the loo.

Thursday I gave Micki a big hug goodbye and headed off to the RV repair shop in Longview, so that they could fix the non working refrigerator and the water pump. The fridge they said was easy, they just cleaned out the chimney, but the water pump was harder. They needed to replace the pump, but to get to the pump they would need to dismantle all my kitchen unit and electric supply and estimated 8 hours, at $88 per hour plus tax. The attaching screws were behind the unit and impossible to get to. I can't easily work out numbers that big so I asked Micki if I could come back to park again outside her shop. I don't care she said. I don't think she's caring too much about anything just now, it's all too much. Before I left I bought a new pump from the RV shop since obviously one was going to be needed.

Friday I started to dismantle the kitchen unit, all the electrics, and the cooker. Then I stopped and thunk for a few minutes. I realised it was not necessary to remove the old water pump, just extend the old pipe a bit and I could mount a new pump in front. It cost me all of $2.20 for a connector and a bit of pipe from Lowe's and the new pump was now mounted in front of the old. It is well within my calculating abilities to work out that $2.20 is a lot less than 8 x $88 plus tax. it didn't take me 8 hours to fix it either.

Micki arrived, and settled down to work, writing cheques. Nice to see that, for the moment at least, she is no longer just sitting in the workshop, staring into space, doing nothing, just wiped out. That asshole of an FAA inspector in Dallas has a lot to answer for. (Please excuse my language but I really cannot think of any word less offensive that is appropriate for him and his actions)

While thinking that way, the actions of a repair shop, SuperiAire in Albuquerque, have not been what one would normally think of as ethical either. Their repairman contacted Micki to query a repair, and after getting her information, and saying that it is sufficient, and he would fix it he was presumably overridden by the repairshop owner Matt who then made an official complaint to FAA. Not a very nice thing to do at all. It was this complaint that started the serious problem. SuperiAire came to my notice a little while back for charging over $1000 for an annual. Don't ever go to SuperiAire of Albuquerque. They charge more than anyone else, and try to maintain their position by wiping out those people who are better and cheaper than they are.

However, there have been some improvements for Micki. A mutual friend has been digging into things with FAA.and has come up with an inspector who was shocked at what he was told about Micki's situation. After all these problems Micki has really given up on the idea of running a repair shop again, much of the stock and tools have been sold, for next to nothing, for several months she has been paying rent and overheads with no income coming in, and the family savings have been wiped out. She can't afford to start again. She hasn't the heart anyway. But there have been two problems worrying Micki. The inspector in Dallas was apparently threatening that he would ground all the balloons that Micki had ever worked on, these were her clients and her friends, she had engaged a lawyer to fight this possibility. She was also concerned that two baskets had been repaired before the fatal visit, she couldn't sign these out because her authority had been removed, nor seemingly could anyone else sign them out since they hadn't done the work.

Micki is going to phone the inspector, I hope he can resolve these problems. Much better solved by FAA than by use of a lawyer. Problems which should never, ever, have been allowed to happen. Nobody I have heard from has anything but the highest praise for Micki's work. The inspector in Dallas has wiped out one of the best repairers in existence. Not only her repair shop but a good chunk of her life. FAA are not supposed to destroy good people and good repair shops.

Anyway, after fixing my water pump I said goodbye again. At least now I could see a touch of light at the end of the tunnel. I drove away in the direction of Canada, but looking for the pretty roads. I finished up for the night in a rest area just north of Pittsburg Texas. Living in the rest area was a small cat. I guess he had been chucked out of a car by someone at some time, there were no houses for miles and miles in any direction. He was lovely, a tabby, he lived high up in a tree and sat quietly on the ground at the other end of the picnic table when I ate. He was hungry and happy with the meat that I sent his way. I decided to adopt him. Little Cat 3.

He could climb even higher.

During the night I realised it would not be very sensible to take him. He was around 6 months older than Little Cat was when I found him. Like my French cat, he was used to being wild, and would be wanting to escape all the time. He would probably escape from my van in a worse place than his rest area. My air conditioning doesn't work and I need to keep the windows open all the time. Here he had food, from raiding the bins, and had company from time to time. Maybe someone would take him in and give him a home. If you would like a lovely little cat, as friendly as anything, but timid, get to that rest area just north of Pittsburg Texas. His home is the central table out of the three there.

I went back to Pitsburgh in the morning to visit the museum. They had an airship the book said.

The rest of the museum was just about worth looking at. Since there were no other visitors I was subject to the full guided tour. Aged Americans keep themselves active by doing voluntary work all over the place, at local museums and such. I don't really know what aged Europeans do. Sit at home and chat to friends? I guess I'm approaching that stage.

The airship wasn't an airship. It was an aircraft. A vertical take off craft, which hopped into the air briefly a year before the Wright brothers. It drifted 117 feet, over a fence, before the pilot, worried about vibrations from the engine, cut the engine and landed. The museum has a reconstruction, the original blew off a railway truck on the way to a fund raising event.

I stopped at the rest area for lunch. Little cat was still there. I realised his main problem here was water, there was no local source, and he wouldn't find that in the bins. I left him a bowl full, but that won't last for ever.

Next day I bought a new car radio, so that I could play my mp3's, then stayed at Denison Walmart. Then I couldn't get the old radio out, the audio specialist I was sent to was shut Mondays, so a local garage fiddled, and got it out. Then I found the plug was different. I found another audio specialist in Sherman. They fixed that and installed the new radio no problem. Better, chatting to the boss afterwards about my travels, he was surprised to find my age. He'd have put me at 55 he said. So if you are Sherman and need some radio or alarm stuff fixed, go to Nelson's car audio. They not only fix you up fast and efficiently, they are nice about your age too.

Of course, I have spent the last few days looking for the pretty roads. Well, they have been so-so. But nothing really worth a photograph. I'll get on to it. Promise.

Best regards

David Barker
Sulphur, Oklahoma

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