Monday, August 8, 2005

We are at the Wal-Mart in Salem, OR (map). We are in Salem because my in-laws are en-route from Monterey, CA to Abbotsford, BC in their motorhome, and they are scheduled to stop here today and spend the night in the Phoenix RV park here in town. We knew we would be close by, so we agreed to meet them and spend tonight at the same park.

As I have written here many times, commercial RV parks are not really our style, so, arriving a full day early, we headed straight for the Salem Elks lodge just a couple blocks from here. What we found there was: a commercial RV park. Well, OK, it was for Elks only, but, otherwise, it resembled a low-end commercial park, with a dozen or so closely-spaced sites, most of them full. While the nightly rate of $12 is unbeatable for that sort of park (with hookups), it was not the experience we were looking for.

We continued on down the road and landed here. We needed to load up on groceries anyway, so we went in to do our shopping, and stopped by customer service to ask if we could park overnight. We were absolutely floored by the response, a first for any Wal-Mart so far: We were asked if we were Sam's Club members (we're not). When I pointed out that we weren't at a Sam's Club, the clerk then asked if we were members of some kind of travel club -- she couldn't remember the name, but is sounded like Sam's something. We immediately mentioned we were members of the Good Sams club, and she said that must be it, so it would be OK for us to park. We can only imagine what sort of convoluted story she had heard about the allowability of overnight RV parking that culminated in this particularly twisted conversation, but we had our affirmative answer and quickly departed the service desk without delving into the issue any further. This particular Wal-Mart, interestingly, has a handful of parking spaces clearly marked "RV Parking."

Mike Wilson finished up our touch-up and repairs early yesterday morning -- Odyssey looks brand-new again. Since Salem is only an hour or so from Eugene, that gave us most of yesterday to run some errands. We made a stop at Home Depot for some miscellaneous hardware bits that I need for various projects around the coach, and we stopped at a Verizon Wireless store.

This latter stop was due to the fact that I have been thinking about upgrading my ancient phone to a newer model with a built-in PDA, in the name of simplifying my life even further (I currently carry a separate gadget, a Sony Clie, for the PDA). I was appalled to learn that, in order to upgrade, I would have to give up my treasured (and no longer offered) National Single Rate plan. The NSR plan includes nationwide roaming at no additional charge -- basically, if there is a compatible cell tower of any sort within range, the phone works. The plan I would have to accept, America's Choice, has no off-network roaming whatsoever, not even for an extra charge, which would mean the phone would indicate "No Service" if it was out of range of a Verizon tower, or one they have a preferred roaming agreement with. Given that we spend a lot of time outside of Verizon's own network footprint, this is an unacceptable trade-off.

Suffice it to say that I was pretty ticked at Verizon for failing to inform me that I would be required to change plans before I got to the store. Up to that point, everyone I spoke to, including the sales clerk at the store, had told me I could keep my current plan. Harumph. I am now researching my other options.

In a few minutes, we will head over to the Phoenix RV Park. Tomorrow morning, we blast off for our "home base" of Richland, WA, and points east.

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