I solemnly swear that the story I am about to share with you is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You need that reassurance in advance, because otherwise it might be hard to believe.
This year is our 30th anniversary, and we were planning on celebrating it by taking the camper to Charleston for a few days over Memorial Day weekend. Mark was getting ready to bring the camper from storage for us to clean it up for the trip a couple of weekends in advance of that date but as he started to crank it up, the levelers went crazy (automatic levelers on a Class A motor home do exactly what it sounds like they do – the make sure the coach is level when the motor home is stationary). They fully extended and refused to do anything else. With some difficulty, we figured out how to manually retract the levelers (hint: you really don’t want to try it without a power drill to crank with!) and disable them. We reluctantly cancelled the Charleston trip, put the camper in the shop and waited. And waited. And waited.
When we put the camper in the shop, we explained to the service people that we had a trip planned over the Fourth of July weekend to the beach, so we really needed the camper back before then. It wasn’t fixed by the Fourth, but the beach is relatively flat so we decided we would be okay to take it back out of the shop for just that trip and then return it afterwards – and to be fair, we didn’t notice the lack of levelers the entire trip.
Now press pause. Here’s the thing – we never travel on the Fourth of July weekend. I hate it; it is too crowded wherever you try to go, too busy and too hectic, but for whatever reason in a fit of insanity Mark and I decided we would go to Gulf Shores over the Fourth of July weekend. We also arranged for my Mom to come with the two of us and Kayla in our camper, and to meet one of my sisters, her husband and her daughter down there – they have a travel trailer. We thought it would be fine. And it would have been. Except – press “resume” now –
My sister’s crew was going to leave the Friday before the Fourth of July from North Alabama and arrive at the beach that day. We were going to leave that Saturday since the beach is much closer to us than it is to them. So Saturday morning, Mark and I, Kayla and my Mom were safely tucked into our motor home and headed south towards the beach in heavy, but tolerable, traffic when we got a text from my sister about 10 a.m. They had gotten a late start the night before, ended up spending some time sleeping at a rest area and were about 30 minutes from the beach when their truck died. They had called a wrecker and were waiting for it.
We got the next text about 15 minutes later. The wrecker had arrived; its operator had gotten the truck to start by hitting the alternator with a hammer, but he was going to follow them into town to the nearest (open) mechanic’s shop to be sure they got there safely. The next word we got, maybe 10 minutes later, was that the first place they had gone to did not have a mechanic on duty, so they were going to try a different place. About 10 minutes after that, my sister let us know that the tow truck following them had just been hit by someone who was DUI and had drug paraphernalia in her vehicle. Once that was sorted out with the police, my sister’s family and the tow truck continued their trek over to an auto parts store which we will call, for convenience sake and purely incidentally resembling the name of an existing chain, O’Raley’s Auto Parts Store. O’Raley’s did have mechanics on duty, but they weren’t highly motivated to work on the truck – until it died again in front of the bays they use to fix vehicles, at which point O’Raley’s decided to help. Which was great, except that O’Raley’s didn’t have the exact alternator that they needed in stock, which meant that the O’Raley’s people ended up trying three different places before they could find the part they needed.
About 1:00 that afternoon when we were 45 minutes from the beach, we got a text from my sister that the truck was fixed and they were headed on to the campground. At which point we all heaved a huge sigh of relief and began to relax. Until about 10 minutes later.
Kayla started shouting “Stop! Stop! Stop!” She had been watching the rear view camera. Apparently, the front end of the Hyundai Veloster that we towed behind us had decided to detach itself from the rest of the vehicle, something none of us had seen before. We pulled over. Fortunately, the break happened on a local road while traffic was going slow, so the towing safeguards held stuff together enough that no-one around us got hurt.
We called the police, who came out to prepare what is called an “incident” report. They couldn’t do an accident report because there was no other car involved.
While the police were working with us, a couple of cars in the left hand lane decided to collide into each other. We think maybe they were watching us instead of each other. So the policeman stuck with working on the Saturday before the Fourth of July was much busier than he might have been otherwise.
After about 45 minutes, the policeman was done with us, the tow truck driver called by AAA had arrived and taken the Veloster off with him, and we resumed our drive. Now short one car, we decided to rent one for the weekend. However, it was 2:00 p.m. on the Saturday before the Fourth of July in small town Alabama, and no one was open except for one Avis Rent-A-Car place in Daphne, 30 minutes away from us in normal traffic – and the beach traffic on this weekend was anything but! Plus they closed at three. My brother-in-law grabbed Mark as soon as we got into the campground, and the two of them dashed off in his truck to get the car, arriving at the Avis place at 3:00 on the dot, where the kind young man at the counter took pity on them and helped.
Meanwhile, back at the campground, Mom, Kayla, my sister and her daughter decided to go to the pool. I stayed behind at the camper to try to regain some semblance of equanimity, slightly perturbed by the events of the day. While doing so, I decided to put the chicken for supper that night out to thaw. I deduced that it would thaw more quickly outdoors, so carried it out there to put it on the picnic table, but then decided it would be safer from bugs if I put it inside the grill to thaw. Pulling the grill open, I saw some spots that needed to be cleaned, so turned back to go in the camper to get what I needed – and discovered I had locked myself out of the camper. I sat outside at the picnic table for a while but July in Alabama is not the time to stay outdoors without any water, so ended up going to the pool, where my sister took pity on me and brought me back to her trailer while we waited for Mark and my brother-in-law to return.
Once they got back with the car and the camper was unlocked, everyone took a deep breath and started to finally relax. We enjoyed dinner together, and even went to bed a little early. After all, it had been a stressful day getting down there, but we were finally there, set up and able to rest. Until 2:30 a.m. that morning.
I woke up or Mark woke me up because the electricity in our camper was dead. Normally, this is not a big deal – a breaker just trips somewhere and needs to be reset. Not this weekend, though. Whatever was wrong with our electrical system was systemic and not going to be fixed by something as easy as a flipped circuit breaker. By 3:30 a.m., Kayla and Mom had woken up too. We conceded defeat and agreed that we were going to have to head back home the next day. My sister and her family were disappointed, but understood. However, we still needed to return the rental car so Mark and I decided that he and Mom would ride in the motor home to the nearest Avis drop-off spot, while Kayla and I took the rental car, swung through the nearest McDonald’s to get breakfast and then met them there, dropping the car off and the key in the night box.
Because the Avis return lot was not a great place for a motor home to enter or turn around in, Mark and Mom waited for us in the next parking lot over. Kayla and I had to walk around a small ditch to reach them, which wasn’t a big deal. When we reached the parking lot, we had to walk beside an old, battered motor home that looked like it hadn’t been moved for at least a decade. Suddenly, Kayla shrieked, and so I shrieked in sympathy. The cause of the distress? A black cat, probably as startled by us as we were by it, had scuttled out from under the decrepit motor home in front of us.
I’ll spare you the rest of this summer’s journey, which included another trip to the motor home repair shop, an engine mount bracket breaking on our 2012 Ford Escape and additional camper repairs that we did ourselves until we finally got the motor home back to tip-top condition about two weeks ago.
All’s well that ends well – a trite statement but a true one. Now that the dust has finally settled, Mark has a new car, Kayla will inherit the repaired 2012 Ford Escape once she passes her driver’s exam and we hope to use the camper soon, but I really hope our streak of repairs is over with for now.
And it should go without saying but for clarity’s sake I emphasize the following – I will NOT be traveling on the Fourth of July weekend again any time soon.
Have a great day everyone!