September 23 - October 10, 2002 - Kansas

When we arrived at the campground in Salina, KS on September 23 we saw other National RV motorhomes:

Bill walked over to see if they were also going to the National RV owners rally (called the Islanders club at the time) and found out they were and suddenly we had people we were going to dinner with and hanging out with.  The next two days went by fast and we all moved to the Convention Center in town for the rally on the 25th.  Here is a shot of the RVs at the rally:

Here are large pictures of people at the rally so they can be recognized by web visitors:

We had a good time.  Part of the rally was a trip to the local zoo:

Here are some other National RV owners enjoying the zoo:

On the 29th we lined up to caravan 65 miles to the FMCA convention in Hutchinson, KS:

One National RV tech came up and asked what changes we had made to our suspension since he could see that our rear end did not sag like all the others.  He wrote down all the changes since he knew customers who would gladly spend $3000 or so to upgrade their gas chassis than spend $40,000 to get a diesel.  The National RV techs also recommended we arrange a service visit to the the factory to get the air conditioning fixed and slides adjusted.

We were ready a long time before we needed to drive so Diane took Mara for a walk.  We were glad Mara was willing to go outside and explore since she wasn't feeling that well.  We had assumed it was the heat since it had stayed warm and we had used the fan and windows to keep a breeze rather than run the generator for the air conditioning.  It turns out this is the last picture of Mara we have:

It was our first caravan and they are a bit stressful due to how fast you sometimes go to catch up, but we made it and setup and Bill climbed on the roof and took pictures:

This shot shows our National RV group:

We had hot weather, it went downhill quickly and rained hard for the entire convention.  It was a muddy mess.  Diane's parents were also at the convention and we got some visiting in.  We visited with the National RV owners we had already met.  We worried about Mara, she was definitely not doing well.  She had always been skinny and had trouble digesting many cat foods, so she stayed with one that she had eaten all her life.  She had thrown up a lot in her life and we had taken her to many vets to figure it out.  Now it was worse and we were a long ways from home.  We knew our friend Anne, who lived in Hutchinson, was very frazzled working a lot of overtime, so we decided to ask her advice on the weekend after the rally.  The rain and schedule were taking a toll on us, so when Diane realized Mara hadn't used her litter box in a couple days she freaked out.  We ended up bringing Mara to the emergency vet clinic after the rally and moving our motorhome to Anne's house.  We were only 15 feet from pavement so a brave jump backwards and we got out of the mud.  Here we are parked at Anne's house:

It turned out Mara had colon cancer so Diane held her while they euthanized her, it was very emotional.  The emergency vets were very caring people, but it was still very difficult.  They told us cats were very stoic.  They also arranged cremation and presented us with her ashes in an Amish or Mennonite made box in the shape of a heart, so Diane made this shrine for our steering wheel table with the flowers we bought:

The stuffed dog was a favorite of Mara's, she had it since it was larger than she was.  It would move around the house on a random basis, but she didn't hurt it and it survived 14 years.  We brought it with us so Mara had some comfort of the familiar.  The flowers lasted for many weeks and Diane set up the shrine until they no longer were presentable. 

Poor Anne, her beloved dog was old and had health problems so it was as hard for her to deal with Mara's death as us.  She could see herself in our shoes, grieving a lost furry child and didn't like the idea.  Anne was also working crazy hours and not feeling appreciated at work.  We tried to cheer her up, but we were not the happiest people either. 

One evening the three of us drove about 50 miles to the west end of Wichita for dinner at a Cajun restaurant.  Diane asked, "how fresh is the fish?".  The answer was, "It is fresh, it has only been out of the freezer a few days."  For someone who lives close to the ocean this is not fresh.

On October 9, we drove away and stayed the night in Garden City, KS.  Anne told us the place was neither a garden nor a city and we understood when we toured it.  On the 10th we left Kansas for Colorado.  We still felt Mara's presence but we missed her terribly.

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