Come Hell or High Water

6-24-2012

I’m a truckin’ rock star!

We have a camper.  A 30 foot pull behind travel trailer with a slide out. A 30 foot pull behind with a slide out that weighs 10,000 pounds. When we drive down the road, that 30 foot camper is attached to a full size extended van with a V-10. Collectively, with the length of the van and the camper and the hitch system in between, it is about the same length as the trailer part of a semi.

I am scared to pull the camper. We have driven hundreds and hundreds of miles with that van and camper and we’ve never had an accident. We’ve never gone in the ditch, we’ve never hit a deer or been hit by another car.  I have been the passenger during 95% of the miles driven. My rule is that I shouldn’t own something that I cannot drive but if Mark wants to drive, that’s just fine with me.

I am scared to drive the camper. My fear is irrational.

But, I am a big girl and I want to camp on the dog show site. I WILL drive the van and camper to Cambridge. I am pretty sure I will survive it. It’s only 2 and a quarter hours, about 120 miles from home.

It’s Wednesday and Duluth made the national news because of 9 inches of rain, washouts of many streets, the mall being underwater, a seal escaping from the zoo by swimming downstream to be captured on a main street, popped manhole covers and sinkholes big enough to swallow cars. It has been declared a disaster area.

NO TRAVEL IS RECOMMENDED. STAY HOME. Businesses and colleges are closed (in the summer?– when has that ever happened?)

I am leaving today for the dog show. What’s that phrase? Come hell or high water? That’s me – when a dog show is at stake, what’s a little water when I’m already scared to drive. Can’t make it much worse, can it? A person can only manufacture so much adrenaline in their system.

Mark drove around the area scoping out roads to get me from our house to I-35 – about 30 miles. After I hit I-35, I should be home free – after all, the interstate is never closed. I left the house and within 15 miles, I hit a main road closed that Mark had been on just 45 minutes before. The route away from the closed road was also closed in a mile due to a washed out culvert, which meant I had to pull into the biggest driveway I could find and turn around.

Hummm. Turn around – those are two words I really don’t like when driving the scary camper. Oh, well, with something this big, people are sure to see me and stop before they hit me when it takes 10 minutes of going back and forth, blocking the entire road.

Onwards to another road. Great! This will connect below the highway that’s closed that I normally take and I’ll get to I-35. Those people up ahead are driving through flowing water with a visible current to it, connecting to water on both sides of the road.

Hummm. Well, it only looks about 5 inches and they are going through it, so it can’t be that bad. Keep repeating dogshow, dogshow, dogshow. I go for it, water splashing five feet in the air onto the windshield of van.

Seven additional water over the road crossings later, I get to a reaaally deep one. Hummm.  Pickup trucks are going through it slowly, but just fine – I have a lot of clearance on the van and the camper, I’ll just do the same.  I proceed through the water and two thirds of the way across, I feel the van begin to lose traction. Heart in throat, I can only be thankful for the power of momentum. We made it to the other side. Inertia is a wonderful thing.

All right! On to I-35. I get onto the highway and within two miles they are pulling everyone off because it’s closed up ahead. Seriously? A major interstate being closed due to a little rain? Never heard of it. For gosh sakes, it’s MINNESOTA – you close roads because of SNOW – never for RAIN!

Getting to I-35 was going to solve all my problems. Hummm. OK, what goes north/south in this area – there are no detour signs, so it’s anyone’s best guess. Hwy 210 goes west to Hwy 65 (a mere 40 miles). So, off I go west, still pulling the 10,000 pound scary camper. Six more water crossings with current later, I get to McGregor. Hwy 65 goes south to Cambridge. NOT TODAY – road closed with no detour signs there, either.

Hummmm. Well, there’s Hwy 169, another 23 miles west to Aitkin where the Mississippi may have already flooded everything. It’s open. Yippee! South to Princeton, back east to Cambridge and 200 miles and 4 3/4 hours (remember, it’s a 2 ¼ hour drive) I arrive at the show site.

I pull into my allotted spot, stop the van and without any maneuvering at all, the camper is level!

I’M AT THE DOG SHOW!!!

There began four days of showing and socializing. Watching new owners expertly show their puppies, managing their misbehavior and applauding the occasional flashes of brilliance. Celebrating some wonderful wins on puppies. Cooking breakfast for 17 on Saturday.  See, you have to camp on site to cook breakfast and have a party. It made all the effort to get there worthwhile and during the four days there I don’t even think of pulling the scary camper home.

It’s Sunday, the shows are over, everything is packed up and I’m going to successfully drive the scary camper home again. I am a big girl, I can do this – if I can make it through all the closed roads and detours on the way to the shows, going home should be a piece of cake.

I am driving carefully, eyes ahead, and both hands on the wheel when a red pickup truck pulls alongside at 60 miles an hour and the man on the passenger side is waving his arms and telling me I have a flat tire. I pull over and get out and look.

Hummm. It’s one of the pair on the passenger side of the 10,000 pound scary camper. The tire had so much fun disintegrating that there are black marks on the side of the camper where it thrashed and flailed as it came apart. One would think such a thing would be noticeable in the rear view mirror. I guess maybe you’d have to be looking to see the flailing bits of tire and smoke. There were just shreds clinging to the rim. Wonder how many miles I drove with it flat?

I call my wonderful husband and with the help of Bluetooth technology and his calm voice in my ear, I am going to change that damn tire. He’s willing to come rescue me, but I am still 90 miles from home and it would take an hour and half for him to reach me and I have dogs in the van in the heat. No, I am a big girl and I need to just suck it up and do it.

Thankfully, he knows my physical limitations and put power tools in the camper to take care of unscrewing the nuts that hold the tire.  First crank up the scissors jacks built onto the camper to steady it, and then put a real jack under the wheels. Never having used a regular jack myself, I am listening to the ABC’s of jack placement in my ear. OK, pump up the real jack under the frame, then go to each scissors jack and move them up to steady the camper as it get higher. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I am beginning to dislike the word jack. Is the second tire of the pair off the ground yet? No. Drat. Not high enough and the first jack is maxed out. Get out another jack and four boards to make it taller and place that jack a bit forward on the frame. Jack it up, steady the other jacks and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Now I am truly convinced I dislike the word jack. Mostly, because I don’t know jack about this process.

Ok, the second wheel of the pair is able to spin in the air so I know I have it high enough and I get the flat tire off the camper. Now, it’s time to put the spare on. The damn thing weighs 50-60 pounds and I am not strong enough to lift and manipulate it to get it on the bolts. I can get it onto the frame, but can’t wiggle it to get the bolts to line up.

Hummm. Well, monkeys can be trained to use tools and with my opposable thumbs, I’m pretty sure I should be able to figure something out. I just can’t quit now. The handle thingie from the jack can be pushed through the holes in the wheel frame and maybe, just maybe, I can use leverage to finagle that dratted heavy tire onto the bolts. Success!

I pack up my stuff, throw the dead tire into the camper and drive on. I’m not more than two miles down the road and someone else is flagging me down, waving at the back of the camper. I pull over again and walk around for a check. I’ve left the back hatch propped open where I accessed tools, most likely dripping bolts and whatnot down the highway. OK, close that and proceed.

I finally pull into my driveway and after my vast experience driving this weekend; I am going to nonchalantly back the camper into its usual spot. After several attempts and deciding the massive rain must have moved the 80 year old maple and birch trees closer to the driveway during the weekend, I finally give up.

Shubie, will you back this thing up? I already earned my truckin’ license and I know when to quit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *