You know how some trips are just perfect from start to finish? When as a proud RV owner, you load up your RV, sit the dogs by the front window, and pull out while family and friends wave goodbye? Well our trip was not like that!
We hit the road in early March, trying to outrun yet another Minnesota snowstorm, and headed to Wisconsin, where we attended to some business. Out of the three days we were there, we had a day and a half of rain before things began to resemble what we had left in Minnesota with a chill wind blowing.
On our first night in Wisconsin, our coach batteries died and we lost our heat. Being from Minnesota, with the temperature at 12 degrees, this was merely a minor nuisance and caused us to throw a light blanket on the bed that night.
On day three, our business was concluded and we made ready to head south, trying to stay ahead of the storm that we had left behind. Much to our surprise, our jacks would not retract. After much contemplation and a certain amount of cussing, mainly from my husband, I called Emergency Roadside Assistance, where the pleasant woman on the other end of the line assured me that mobile mechanics would be out to help us with our problem. When the mechanics arrived, they helpfully pointed out that our jacks had become encased in sheets of ice. Then, the mechanics got out crowbars and chipped them free.
We hit the road, happily driving off into the sunset with our frozen pipes, as the batteries had died again the previous night, leaving us with no running water.
And that, we thought, was that.
Until driving through Springfield, Illinois, when the RV suddenly started shaking and shimmying violently, throwing things out of cupboards and drawers. “Earthquake,” I screamed as my husband fought to maintain control of the steering, and I waited for aftershocks. A trip to a mechanic found a blown belt on a tire and a bent rim. After repairs and two new tires, the only aftershocks we experienced were to our wallet.
And on we drove, like moths to a bug zapper!
Missouri was nice except when we started smelling that celery aroma of antifreeze and I looked out my passenger window to see clouds of steam rolling out from underneath, making us look like a steam engine that had derailed. This time it only took me a few seconds to find the roadside assistance number. The mobile mechanic was charming as he repaired the blown hose and gave us helpful information on local eateries and potential routes.
We eventually worked our way out to California and spent a few weeks enjoying the perfect weather and sunshine before we got the flat. At this point, I had roadside assistance on speed dial and we lucked out with only a valve stem and extension replacement.
On the day we decided to head back home we went to retract our slideout and found, much to our dismay, that we could not. Not to worry, the manual says you are supposed to be able to use the winch that is provided and crank it in by hand. After setting everything up according to the instructions, my husband proceeded to winch with all his strength. He succeeded…. in popping off the floor trim. The slideout, however, did not move an inch.
At this point in time, I was wondering what travel gods we had displeased and went outside and walked widdershins around the RV whilst throwing salt over my left shoulder and seriously contemplated making a small sacrifice. There was a left over piece of roast in the refrigerator.
After several more attempts using a floor jack, WD-40, and the efforts of several strong men pushing against the slideout, it was obvious that the slide was making a last ditch stand.
Did I mention I am now on a first name basis with all the representatives from roadside assistance?
I felt sorry for this mobile mechanic having to drive an hour and a half to get to us, but it was nice to be able to hit the road again with the slide neatly tucked back into place and, after all, it was a nice day for a drive!
Albuquerque found us smelling that old familiar odor again and upon checking, we found that another hose needed tightening. At least this time we did not lose all of our antifreeze and, although my finger was poised upon the roadside assistance number, my husband was able to handle that one solo.
Kansas found us cruising merrily along I-35 north doing a smart 70 miles an hour when we blew a tire. Shredded it in fact. By the time my husband had maneuvered us along the shoulder, I was already connected with roadside assistance, and the conversation went something like this:
“Roadside assistance, how may I…. Oh, hello Mrs. Snider, I recognized your phone number.”
“Having a little trouble again, are we?”
“And how far did you make it today?”
“And are we shopping for tires, hoses or something new today?”
“By the way, how are the dogs?”
“And did you remember to crank in the TV antenna when you left this morning?”
“All righty then, that’s great. We’ll be sending someone out to help you with that tire problem. You have a good day Mrs. Snider, and we’ll be talking to you soon.”
It was then that I realized I had been talking to roadside assistance more than my family back home and that they knew us on an individual name basis.
As we waited for our tire man to arrive while the sun set over the plains of Kansas, I ran to my closet and pulled out my ruby slippers, grabbed my dogs and stood in the middle of the RV chanting, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!”
And exactly one month to the day from when we left that early March morning, we were back home, and the brown, crunchy grass interlaced with the little leftover clumps of snow never looked so good. We had only one minor hiccup and that was with the jack again. When the tire shredded with such force, it knocked the springs off the nearest jack along with the metal shoe on the base of the jack. We were within 20 minutes of home when the “jacks descending” alarm went off. After pulling into a shopping center parking lot, hubby was able to take some pieces of wood and, using them as leverage, pound the partially descended jack back up into place, which then shut off the screeching alarm and we were on our way for the final time!
As I look forward to relaxing on my own sofa again and not even minding the mounds of unpacking I have yet to do, I have come to realize three important things about life and traveling:
• Expect the unexpected. If you do this, then the shock and awe won’t catch you napping.
• Murphy’s Law really does exist.
• Our trip could be summed up in a MasterCard commercial. Number of miles traveled: about 6,000. Cost of our annual RV club membership: $112. Number of breakdowns: six. Having roadside assistance: priceless.
LeAnn Snider and her husband, Perry, live on a few acres among the pines and wildlife in Clear Lake, Minnesota. They sell antique pocket watches online and are musicians and songwriters.