Trials and Tribulations

December 17, 2018

Ah, “the best laid plans…”

We thought we had a GOOD PLAN for the return to Maryland for the holidays. Our first general plan was to store the rig somewhere in New Orleans and fly from there to one of the airports in the DC area. We would fly in a week or more before Christmas and back out several days after New Year’s to avoid the main holiday rush. Then we checked airlines a full six weeks in advance. HOLY COW! Those people are crazy! Did you know seats are now 15″ wide and restrooms are two feet wide? They also added rows to each plane. This sounds like a plan if you think, great, more passengers=more income per flight=hopefully lower fares. Not so much. What it added is a whole new class of travel. Previously you could choose from First Class (big bucks), business class with extra legroom (still a lot), or economy which is where we always flew. Well those added rows (squished into the existing space) now make up a sub-economy or what I call the “screw you” level of flying. These are not super cheap seats. They probably go for the rate you used to pay for economy. All the classes just kicked up a bit in price. So, besides needing to be folded up like origami for the flight, what does this “bargain” fare get you? A whole lot of pain: no assigned seats, last to board so you sit where no one else wanted to (and makes you a prime candidate to be bumped since most airlines overbook flights), no guarantee of carry-on luggage, and so on. You can pay an extra $50 per person to add these items in increments. They also fly you through their main hubs so we would be going to Maryland from Louisiana via New York or Atlanta… with a good layover. All in all, it would have taken us at least ten hours door to door. So we calculated the cost of our undoubtedly uncomfortable flight and the rental car in Maryland and we decided to drive.

BUT, the airline issue is not the trial and tribulation for this post. This was just an eye opener for us that made us abandon our GOOD PLAN.

I came up with a NEW PLAN: Drive to Chattanooga area and store the rig. That would put us within 10 hours drive time of Maryland (plus stops) which we thought we could split into two days and get a hotel if we became tired. We would enjoy the drive and play it by ear. We would now be in the possible freeze zone but we can winterize quickly and since we’ll have the car with us, we can take the bottles of body wash, oil, hand soap, can goods, etc. that are likely to freeze and burst. We can also carry gifts of Boudin sausage, hot sauce and other items we couldn’t take on the plane so we excitedly planned to carry a “Taste of Louisiana” with us. But wait, now that stuff will be in the car so we can’t overnight in a hotel up north or everything will freeze and we do not want to drag it all into a room and back out again.

OK, modify the PLAN to leave really early, push the drive and make it one day… we can do this. We may not be functional the next day, but we can make the trip in one day. Yeah, we got this. Retired geezers RULE!

We found a campground that would store the rig for a month for $40. We checked the gated storage area. It was just a grassy field with low wet spots but half a dozen rigs were sitting in there and seemed OK. We figured if we stay to high ground we’ll be fine. Storage issue solved. Then we talked winterizing. Once we winterize, we don’t use our toilet or sinks. The water lines are drained and filled with RV antifreeze. Hmmm. This means we would be wandering to the campground restrooms (a decent walk) in the cold. I would probably need a trip just before bed, at least once during the night, and again in the morning. We’ve done this tent camping and in much less pleasant conditions BUT – I didn’t want to. We have our own bathroom. I LOVE my bathroom. I don’t want to use the campground bathroom. (John knows this and wisely rolled with it).

So, NEW PLAN – we would get up extra early and winterize quickly in the morning and still be on the road by 6. Then we found out the campground staff wasn’t available to let us into that storage area until 8 am, so, no early start. No problem, we can still handle this. We’ll be 100% ready and at their door at 8. Didn’t quite hit the mark but we were close enough. We were on our way! One of the camp owners’ sons led John to the storage lot in his golf cart and I followed in the Subaru. I rolled into the lot in time to see the campground guy motion for John to pull forward. I’m in the car, 100 feet away, yelling NOOOOO and reaching for the horn. Too late. Waaaay too late. John pulled forward as instructed and I watched the rig sink. Rooster tails of mud flew from behind as she sank… and sank. Then silence. She was in up to the rim on the left rear tires. Mud splattered along the sides with chunks hanging on the mirror and any protruding parts. It was not pretty. Any attempt to move her resulted in more mud and more sinking. The plan for quick departure went sailing away with the mud.

There we stood. The young man hadn’t calculated on the weight difference between his golf cart and a 28 foot motorhome. Well, HE didn’t sink…. So he called his mom on the radio (dad was on an errand). She rolled up in her golf cart to survey the mess. She tried putting a towel under the tires for traction (yes, I know) – no luck. We gathered pine boughs and sticks from their debris pile and pushed them down in front and in back of the tires, no luck. We got out the manual to see how to tow her. No luck – it basically says get a professional and use a flatbed. The flatbed would have to get in front of the rig in the mud. We would have had to pay to winch out the flatbed as well as the rig. I wrapped grocery store bags on my knees and wedged myself under the front of the rig to check for a place to connect chains – no luck. I used my now muddy bags to check where we needed to place our bottle jack figuring we could put boards under the jack so IT didn’t sink, then jack the rig up, load the hole under the tires with boards and sticks, lower the rig and drive off. It sounded like a good plan (don’t they all?)… but no luck. There was less than 6 inches of clearance back there from the axle to the mud. We could get the jack in but not use the handle to crank it up. Plus I would have to lie flat out in the mud with over half of my body under the rig to even GET the jack in place. By this time the dad showed up. His first suggestion was to put the shovel of his front end loader under the front of our rig, lift it and drag it out of the mud. I looked at him like he was crazy and said NO. Once he looked at the front end he realized that would likely tear off our bumper and trim. So he stood there and thought. I had visions of Winnie the Pooh tapping his head and saying “think, think, think”. He walked around the rig and you saw the idea hit him. He would hook his tractor to our tow hitch receiver and pull her out. I pointed out the receiver was rated to 5,000 pounds and the rig was over 14,000 pounds. I figured he’d rip the tow plate off or at least damage things. I had visions of the Subaru sailing off down the road with the whole tow plate and safety chains swinging along with it. He scoffed at my concerns and said the rig would be helping by backing up while he pulled. Seriously? If we could back it up we wouldn’t be stuck in the hole. By now the right front tires had sunk to the rim and the back tires were just sad. Things were not looking good and he didn’t have any ideas that didn’t involve damage to the rig so I came up with (you guessed it)…

A NEW PLAN – dig. And keep on digging. The son came back with a 5 gallon bucket of gravel and a shovel and we took turns digging ramps both in front of and behind the tires; Really deep, really long ramps. Then we shoved gravel down on either side of the tires and I tamped it in with a stick. Time to “rock and roll” – John went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth with me shouting like a rowing coach “forward, STOP, back, STOP, forward, and so on for a loooong time). She moved a tiny bit at a time and we shoved and tamped more gravel under the tires. We weren’t getting far until the mom suggested we push. PUSH. Yes, three of us got behind that 14,000 pound motor home and pushed in time with John’s rocking and rolling. I wish I had video. I’m yelling, John’s rocking and spinning and shooting mud, and three of us are in the back pushing. SOMETHING worked because she eventually broke free and made it to high ground. YAAAAAAYYYY! Then the female owner said, why don’t we store it on the packed gravel lot in front of the office where that other rig is stored?

My brain silently screamed (you may have heard it – ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG). But I simply blinked a few times and held my tongue. John looked at me, I looked at him, then we both looked at her. Blink. Blink. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Finally, “sure, that would be great.”

That is where we wanted to store it in the first place, but nooooo, it needs to go in the secure field (of course it’s secure – nobody can drive out through the mud – “you can check out any time you like but you can never leave”). As we drove the rig back to safe ground, I saw the male owner frowning at the holes we left in the field. I have no idea if he was going to say something to us because we had already processed all the paperwork and paid for the storage so we parked the rig, locked her up and ran for the highway. It was after 11:00 and we had a very long day ahead of us. We gave up that nice PLAN for multiple rest/stretch/exercise stops and a leisurely dinner. We pushed on through and arrived in time to tuck the granddaughter in for a late bedtime. A day or two of rest and we were functional again… and mud free.

Mud free is important because when it came time to hit the road, we went as we were. We had showered the night before and put on clean traveling clothes before the “incident.” We were no longer anywhere near “clean.” We knocked off the big chunks from our shoes and washed our hands but took the rest of the mud with us. I noticed a few glances from people at rest stops but we were so beyond caring. I do feel bad about the little trails of mud crumbs we left when walking through the quickie mart. When we returned to Tennessee to get the rig, they had hosed off most of the mud and she was sitting high and dry and looked absolutely beautiful.

Life goes on and next time… we’ll try once again for the “BEST LAID PLAN.”

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