Norman, Oklahoma

Cleveland County Fairgrounds

November 13, 2020

Although we would be shacking up at my parents’ house during our two-week stay in Norman, we still needed somewhere to park the trailer while we were in town (their HOA doesn’t permit RV street parking). Unfortunately, Norman turned out to be a bit of an “RV park desert” and our only real option was the Cleveland County Fairgrounds which was cheap ($25 a night) but had the downside of operating on a first-come-first-served basis. My dad claimed that the park was normally pretty vacant anytime that he drove through, so we weren’t too worried about getting a spot – at first. That was until Norman was hit by a massive ice storm, downing thousands of trees/power lines around the area and attracting hundreds of migrant workers coming to fix the damage and clean up the debris. Naturally, these workers needed somewhere to stay, and since campgrounds in Norman are hard to come by, they flocked to the County Fairgrounds. Spirits were low as we rolled into the campground, thinking that we weren’t going to get a spot. That was until we miraculously discovered an empty site way off in the corner of the park – thank goodness! Even better, because it was off in the corner, it was perfect to do some much-needed remodeling and repairs while we were in town (more in a few paragraphs).

We kicked off our trip to Norman with a bang! In a stroke of good luck, we learned that my alma mater, Norman North High School, was squaring off against their crosstown rivals, Norman High, in football for the first round of the playoffs, so we had my parents secure the four of us some tickets.

The game did not disappoint! It was a high-scoring, high-octane affair and once the dust settled, my Timberwolves ended up on top, 42-34. It had been years since any of us had been to a high school game and I think that we all enjoyed the spectacle and all the nostalgia it rustled up.

As I mentioned above, we were staying at my parents’ house while in Norman. What I didn’t mention was that this was their brand new house which was finished only a month before we visited. Although the old house will always have a special place in my heart, this new house was just so much nicer. Everything worked perfectly and even though the new house was quite a bit smaller than the old one, it didn’t really feel like it thanks to the efficient floorplan and high ceilings.

This also meant that Charlotte was moving out of the trailer and into “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” (working title). At this point, Charlotte had moved so many times that it has become routine. However, this time she was moving into a new space that was already occupied by another cat – Jasper, my parents’ harmless two-year-old Siamese. From the outset, it was clear that Jasper was more intimidated by Charlotte than she was of him. In fact, she hardly seemed to even notice him at times and acted as if she owned the place. This trend continued until Charlotte’s behavior towards Jasper could even be described as bullying (Grandma caught her using Jasper’s potty box)!

Eventually, the cats’ relationship reached an uneasy equilibrium and they kept to their respective spheres of influence in the house (for the most part). But it was clear that our girl was the true alpha of the house. Here she is, already getting comfortable on the second or third night there. (If you can’t tell, she’s asleep with her head hanging off the couch!)

Once everyone was eventually settled in, it was time to get to work. As I mentioned in the San Angelo blog, our trailer was kind of falling apart and required some much-needed repairs. First on the list was our fender, which was damaged during the tire blowout a few weeks prior. It turned out to be a fairly easy fix. Other than the plastic wheel-well fender which needed to be purchased through Grand Design, everything else could be found at Home Depot. I think it turned out well! Here are some before and after pics.

Next on the docket was the tongue jack which randomly stopped working a few weeks prior. At first, we figured that it must be the switch that was malfunctioning since the light on the jack was still working (meaning it was still drawing power). However, after ordering a new switch and installing it only to have the same issue, we had to go back to the drawing board. Eventually we zeroed in on the problem. After removing the housing on the jack’s electric motor, we realized that one of the motor’s brushes was failing to retract. We adjusted the retraction springs, and voila, it started working again!

The final repair was the valve handle on one of the gray tanks. While in San Angelo, I went to go dump the gray tank, and to my surprise, the entire valve handle came right off! As I suspected, this would turn out to be our most difficult repair, requiring several days of work and a few new parts. Thankfully, the repair did not require a completely new valve, and instead, we were able to get everything working again with just a new valve stem/handle.

But this was all just a warmup for our big project – removing the factory-built dinette and installing a new desk from scratch. This mod had been on our minds forever, but we lacked the tools/know-how, and we were never in one place long enough to manage a project like this. But now the time had come. After thoroughly measuring our space and quite a bit of brainstorming, we were ready to put our idea into action. First things first, we had to remove the dinette.

This was a relatively straightforward process, and we were able to salvage most of the parts in case we wanted to reinstall the dinette when it eventually came time to sell the trailer (stored the parts in my parents’ fancy new attic). Next, we had to get the wood that would eventually become our desk and get it prepped. After balancing our desire for a high-quality work surface that also was relatively lightweight, we settled on a 3’ x 6’ piece of higher end sanded plywood. With the wood secured, it was time to get it sanded and stained.

Now came the hard part – installation. It felt like the trailer was never going to be put back together, but slowly, we started to make progress and get things where they needed to be. Thank goodness my parents were able to help us tackle this project. Without my mom’s wood prep expertise and my dad’s knowledge on everything else, we wouldn’t have been able to pull this off.

As you can see, we were still a bit undecided when it came to the chair situation. Fortunately, my dad had a few extra chairs lying around his office and he let us take them for the time being until we could figure out the chairs we wanted. If you want to see the chairs that we eventually settled on, check out the upcoming blog highlighting our stay in Flagstaff, Arizona.

We have been so happy with this renovation. Now that it has been a few months (as of this writing), the desk has held up incredibly well and has really improved the utility of that space. Previously, between keyboards, mouse pads, and bulky monitor stands, Sam’s work stuff completely monopolized the table. Now, she still had all those things, but they were much more streamlined – the monitors are on built-in, low-profile stands and the mousepad/keyboard are on a tray allowing it to be stowed under the desk when not in use.

Although our stay in Norman was the longest single stop along our journey up to this point, it still felt like it was over in a flash. Thankfully we still had one final item on our Norman checklist – Thanksgiving.

Our assigned dish for Thanksgiving was the pumpkin pie. Because Sam’s desert choices are somewhat limited given the gluten allergy, we have become quite good at a few select desert recipes – one of which is pumpkin pie. Fortunately, the pie turned out great and we received several complements, including people saying that they couldn’t differentiate our pie from a traditional pumpkin pie with a gluten crust.

In fact, everything turned out great! Just look at that spread!

At this point, we had been out on the road for several months, so we really had a great time simply catching up and seeing all our loved ones. We are truly, truly blessed. Love you, peeps!