In order to explain the various incidents that have led to our current immobilized, hitched status, I need to first confess that we were warned….
Several of our RV experienced friends strongly recommended that we stay in MI after picking up the new fifth wheel–just to make sure everything works. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But a couple of things got in the way. First of all, it was cold. All the way across country we had enjoyed great weather and the arctic chill coming off Lake Michigan didn’t inspire us to stick around. Besides we added 20 days to our trip and I was in a hurry to get to Maryland to see my family.
I can see I have to interject another explanation about how Mike and I travel. We talk over our plans and I have a pretty clear idea of the route and time involved. In this case, I “knew” we would leave MI and head back home, the route depending on weather. But we would be back about the 13th of March. Mike, however, never limits himself to one set of plans and usually has several scenarios rolling around in his mind. When he suggested that we go see my Dad since we were already so close, that sounded good to me. It was warm in MD and the cherry blossoms were supposed to be spectacular the week we arrived. Besides I was sick of being cold and we figured the fifth wheel was fine. It had been checked at the factory in Indiana and the mechanic in Muskegon showed us how everything worked. We even spent a few hours on the lot loading up the supplies I had brought for 6 days in the fifth wheel. Six Days, not 20+ days.
Flash forward to Ohio on March 8, approximately 5 hours after we drove out of Muskegon. The trip was grueling because MI and Ohio were experiencing the worst winds since 1897. We had some exciting moments like when the semi passed us and then ran off the road. Or the time we were stopped for 20 minutes while ambulances and cop cars raced by. A semi was overturned on the median, knocked off the road by the wind. As soon as we could, we pulled off, planning to wait out the worst of the winds in a service plaza. It was a full service facility and even had an area for RVs that was marked off with bright yellow posts about 4 feet tall. Except that one post, the short one that leaped out and sidled up to the fifth wheel with a terrifying crunch. Mike and I looked at each other, I said it didn’t sound bad; Mike, looking in the side view mirror told me the truth, “It’s bad.” Not only was it bad, it was dangerous because the parts that were sticking out might’ve caught one of the 60 mph gusts and who knows what carnage would have resulted.
At this point MIke got out of the truck to see just how bad the damage was. Fiona and I huddled like cowards in the cab and besides it was really windy. When Mike returned his hair was standing straight up–wind-blown or stunned–I wasn’t sure. And here is a clear example of why I love my husband. It took him about 2 minutes to get over it and start figuring out solutions. Without beating himself up or indulging in a well-deserved freak out, Mike said, “Well, it’s a good thing we insured it this morning.” It was a little ironic that we chose the plan that would reduce our deductible by 25% every year we didn’t have a claim. A nice young guy with a mobile auto repair service came, ripped off the skirting, and bent down the trim. At that point we decided to stay in a nearby motel and wait for the next, less windy day to finish this leg of the trip. We didn’t even unhook.
When we arrived in MD, it was in the seventies and my brother, another Mike, and his wife Peggy came over with wine, snacks and daffodils for us to enjoy outside. After that the temperature dropped, the cherry blossoms froze, and four days later it snowed. It was 16 degrees the night before we left and about 30 when we hitched up and pulled out. It won’t surprise you to learn that RV-ing in the cold was a new experience for us. We had the right clothes and enough blankets but learned what happens when the water hose is left out at night (it freezes). I stocked up with groceries, which turned out to be more important then we could’ve imagined. That night we stayed in a motel in Blacksburg, VA, and the next day we drove to Nashville. We’ve been to Nashville before and we’re looking forward to country music, delicious southern cooking, and strolling down Broadway listening to the music from the honky tanks. So it was disconcerting when we unhitched at Jellystone RV Park and our capture plate fell off. The capture plate is on the kingpin (on the front of the fifth wheel) and is a necessary piece because it slides into the hitch and keeps the truck and fifth wheel traveling together.
Luckily we had a warranty covering everything mechanical and factory installed. Except the plate wasn’t installed at the factory, and the mobile RV repair man “wasn’t sure when he could come out to the park.” So the 3 days in Nashville were focused on making our RV towable and not going to the Grand Ol Opry that was literally across the street from the park. It was also about taking Fiona to a “You Wash Your Own Dog” place as she had rolled in something pungent and (blessedly) unidentifiable. Other than that we waited around and the guy finally came and welded on a new catch plate. Yay! We’re were good to go and go we went–to Little Rock, AK. Where we couldn’t get the trailer unhitched. And haven’t been able to unhitch it since.
Let’s review what this means. Since Little Rock we have not been able to shop or leave the campsite until we pull out the next day. And the RV parks have little in the way of fine or even okay food–previously frozen buffalo wings and previously cardboard pizza being the best options. I know, boo hoo. But actually exploring the areas we stay in and enjoying local cuisine is a big part of our travels. And we have not been able to find grocery stores on our way to the parks. This dilemma became critical in Amarillo. I had been making frozen pot pies, soup, and sandwiches from the groceries I had purchased in Maryland. There had also been a few cereal meals and eggs cooked every way possible. And I won’t mention the non-nutritious quality of truck stop food we ate for lunch daily. Okay, it was fried everything and old coffee.
On the way to the Oasis RV Park in Amarillo, we looked for a grocery store, finally stopping at a convenience store which yielded two bananas, a quart of milk, Ritz crackers, and American cheese slices. I asked where we could find a grocery store and a lady directed us to the Dollar General 4 miles back up the highway. This did not appeal so we made our way to the park where I made a delicious meal of microwaved baked potatoes with almost melted American cheese and canned chili. Our side salad consisted of the charmingly slices bananas sprinkled with dried blueberries. At this point Mike was more than willing to agree to a 3 day stay in Albuquerque with a car rental to allow us to restock and drive to Santa Fe for the day.
Except the wind was so bad that we spent several hours sitting out dust storms and arrived here too late last night to rent a car. The wind howled all night; I lay awake wondering if NM ever had tornadoes. (The park in OKC had a bunker that would hold up to 200 people in case of tornadoes–not that reassuring really.) This morning we got a car (they picked us up) and I battled the wind to do some laundry and walk the little dog. At last we were able to go out for some excellent Mexican food, to the Verizon store to replace Mike’s phone that flew out of his hand, and finally to the grocery store. Sine we won’t be unhitched get until we reach home and professional intervention, I bought enough food to get us through another week although we’re supposed to be home by Thursday. At this point I’m not counting on anything. Except Santa Fe–tomorrow–unless it snows.