Tag Archives: anxiety

Stolen!

Seal, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
This is not how I felt at the end of this journey.

Oh dear readers, are you sick and tired of hearing how we get it so badly wrong every time we travel or are you smugly pleased that it’s not you, that you’re not in this script?

‘It’s not here.’

‘It must be. Have we looked down here?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is it that one?’

‘No.’

‘Is it that one?’

‘No!’

’Did you check the number plate?’

‘YES!’

‘Maybe it’s in the workshop.’

‘Of course it’s not!’

‘Where is it then?’

‘It’s been stolen! Bl***y h***! It didn’t have any security fitted. The insurance won’t be valid.’

‘Surely the site has security and insurance,’ but I was talking to thin air as himself had gone looking for a third time in the same place hoping our new caravan/travel trailer/RV would magically appear.

I beetled off in the opposite direction to the storage facility office. Himself overtook me and burst through the doors.

I was reminded of the time our VW Golf disappeared overnight from its parking place in the little hill town of Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. The police had picked it up and plunked in down in a car park a 10 minute walk away. We were told the town council wanted to plant a palm tree where it had stood or were they playing a joke on los Inglés?

Meanwhile . . . . ‘I can’t find it!’ himself blurted out to a startled-looking receptionist who didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about.

A competent-looking woman with a clipboard stepped out of the office and stated calmly, ‘I’ll just see if it’s where I think it should be.’

Should?

She vanished out a side door and we stood dumbly uncertain for a moment then raced after her back to where we’d been looking. And there it was – all twenty-six feet of it. We must have walked and driven past it six times.

‘It wasn’t there five minutes ago,’ I said blithely to her. As her worry lines creased into a smile I realized that she’d been concerned too.

And that was just the start of the day.

We couldn’t get the hitch to engage or the jockey wheel to disengage. I would explain what that means but you’d glaze over and go find something interesting to read. Suffice it to say that a five minute job took an hour.

The journey was OK-ish but I was increasingly hating sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle. In our big American left-hand drive truck on roads originally for a right-hand drive horse and cart my driver was in the hedge and I was sat in the middle of the road. Every time the central cat’s eyes dunk, dunk, dunked under the truck wheels when the road narrowed I knew the caravan was encroaching at least a foot into the oncoming traffic – not funny on a blind bend. I got dizzy from holding my breath and my back is permanently kinked from leaning to the left to avoid imminent impact.

Chevy Silverado in its natural habitat.
Chevy Silverado in its natural habitat – wide road and on the right.

We made it to within five miles of our campsite and got lost. Himself stopped to read a sign that stated “Vehicles over 45 feet prohibited.” We are 45 feet, four inches. How do you turn a 45 foot four inch rig around on a single track road? You don’t. You swear loudly and repeatedly and carry on.

Looking for somewhere to just pull off the road and hyperventilate a bit we found ourselves parked outside a country post office – ideal for asking directions you’d think. They were lengthy, complicated and wrong and included a single-track humpback bridge with an S-bend. I closed my eyes and hoped not to hear a screeeech on the flint stone walls as we snaked through it.

There was, of course, no signal on our phones or the SatNav.

I’m not sure how we eventually found our way but we were leading a long parade when we turned off the road to the campsite six hours after leaving home for a 70 mile journey that became 95 miles – some of that excess in reverse.

Arriving tetchy, prickly, jittery, hungry, thirsty, weary and crabby we could have given the Seven Dwarves a run for their money. Attempting to set up on site we couldn’t get anything to work – electricity, gas, water, leveling, heating, fridge, cooker.

Chevy, caravan, Norfolk
A room with a view, but at what price to our psyches?

We blamed the dealer, the caravan, the campsite, the locals, the whole of the county of Norfolk and their roads and naturally each other for our woes but all the issues were simply down to our diminished mental capacities. I’m sure you could think of another word for it.

Though now washed, rested, warm, fed and as calm as I’ll ever be I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.

Sunset, Cley Church, Norfolk
A sunset to make it all worthwhile.

Toll Booth Terror

I thought it couldn’t get any worse than yesterday.

Our first toll of the day was €4.10. Take a ticket; drive until a toll booth appears; pay for the kilometers traveled.

Of the dozen or so booths, some had a red X over them and some were for the prepaid Telepass. Others only take a carte – never a good option as you can’t be sure what your credit card will be charged and receipts are unpredictable. That leaves cash only, denoted by a picture of coins and notes – 12 lanes of traffic – quick make a choice!

“Look for an arm,” I pleaded with himself, meaning I wouldn’t have to deal with the automated toll horror. I pushed a €5 note towards a human and received my change.

I felt pleased with myself, but we’d only been on the road 15 minutes.

Several miles later we drove to a barrier to pick up the next ticket. Except the barrier was up and there was no ticket. I pressed a red button. Still no ticket. I pressed the assistance button but was secretly pleased no one answered. No parlo italiano was all I could say. What good would that do?

Traffic was piling up behind us so himself pulled off the road the other side of the barrier and stopped.

“We have to have a ticket,” I said unhelpfully.

Himself stared stoically ahead.

“If we don’t have a ticket we’ll be charged the maximum amount.” My hand twitched towards the door handle. The next booth over was dispensing tickets and I contemplated sprinting across two lanes of traffic and assaulting that machine.

Trucks flew out from a blind bend and barreled through the booth we’d just come through. I thought better of offering up my life for a toll ticket. “One of us has to go and get a ticket,” I said, meaning not me. Both lanes had a solid stream of traffic.

Himself was looking over his shoulder by now. His hand moved towards the gear stick. He put the car into reverse and began backing up.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“Stop yelling at me!”

“I’M NOT YELLING AT YOU!” I yelled at him.

I dared look behind only once to see that the lane was clear before himself began a tenuous reverse chicane maneuver around some superfluous barriers on the wrong side of the lane.

He rounded the first barrier and snugged up between the two for a moment’s shelter from the fear of the trucks appearing and ramming us. He began to reverse around the second barrier and I remember thinking, pathetically, I hope he doesn’t take my wing mirror off by driving too close to the barrier. I mean, really, a) I know he’s a better driver than that, and b) with our lives at risk, who cares?

Miraculously, he reversed far enough to go through the booth spitting out tickets and I grabbed one and slunk down in my seat.

I’m not an alcoholic. I’m really not. I don’t drink in the mornings. I rarely have a glass of wine at lunchtime. I don’t even have a drink every evening. But I’m having one tonight!

'Aloha' from Lake Geneva
‘Aloha’ from Lake Geneva. We made it through the Alps!

Road Terror

Numana Italy

My toes are cramping from curling them, my teeth are aching from clamping them and my stomach is in knots. I’ve given up with faux braking and am assuming the fetal position.

There is no need to seek out a theme park for a thrill ride. Any Italian road will do, whether on foot or in a car.

Boldly striped pedestrian crossings meant to give one the right of way appear to be optional for the motorist.

Once across the busy north/south road along the promenade in the seaside town it was tempting to let one’s guard down only to be taken out by a cyclist on the cycle path.

The promenade was no sanctuary for the unwary as cyclists sought their thrills weaving in and out of pedestrians or taking a high speed direct line to watch unsuspecting pedestrians leap left and right like a bowling ball down the middle of the pins for a strike.

We fared no better in my (new!) car. Himself braked for a cyclist who cut in front of him then he swerved as she proceeded in front of him completely oblivious while talking on her phone. When he swerved left to avoid her, a car came out from a side road on the left and having avoided that a whole family stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing in front of us.

Numana Italy

I assumed the autostrade – being wider with no pedestrians and limited access – would be less nerve-wracking.

We watched a car full of young lads tailgate a motorcycle to within a meter of him. The motorcycle was boxed in with nowhere to go. As we were all doing 80 mph, we willed the motorcyclist to hold his nerve and not fall off.

The style of driving here is to stay as close as possible to the motor in front whether traveling at 15 mph or 80 mph. A 15 mph rear-ender would be annoying. At 80 mph it would be deadly.

The tailgaters on the autostrade – predominately BMWs, Mercedes and Audis – given an open road are easily motoring at 120 mph.

I’m going to close my eyes now and pretend I’m not in the car.

*****

Okay. Awake now. We survived. Toll to be paid. Himself pulled up to an automated toll booth. Great. Cash only. Oh wonderful.

I inserted the ticket I’d taken at the start of the day (remember we are in a right-hand drive car in a country of left-hand drive cars so tackling tolls is my job – lucky me). The digital readout was €28.50. A ten and a twenty. That should be easy.

I tried to insert the ten. It wouldn’t go in. I turned it over. Nope. I turned it around. Nope. And over. Success!

The machine sucked in the bill, spat it out again and it blew away! I couldn’t open the door as himself had thoughtfully pulled up to the toll gubbins as close as he could so I could reach. He pulled forward at an angle so I could squeeze out of the door in my bare feet (no time to find flip-flops). In my panic I hit my head, knocking off my sunglasses (****!) then chased the bill down the road.

Back in the car:

“Back up!”

“I can’t!”

“You have to! I can’t reach!”

“There’s a car behind me!”

“The barrier’s still down!”

“I know!”

He did back up. Now what?

We certainly didn’t have €28.50 in coins. I tried the ten again. The machine sucked it up and I slapped my hand over the slot. It didn’t reappear. I tried the twenty and slapped the machine again with more than necessary vigor. It disappeared too and change tinkled out.

I think the toll machine is related to our SatNav – another long tale of woe to follow.

The same three cars were still at the toll booth in the next lane as our barrier went up and we drew away.

So it’s not just me.

Or is it?

Where’s my sofa? I want to go home.

Numana Italy

The photos in this post, taken in Numana, Italy, are completely irrelevant to the subject matter here and are purely to keep me in a calm frame of mind as I read and proofread the post.

A Pox on California Roads . . . and Hula Hoops

Oh no, I hear you say. What’s wrong with these people?

As disasters go, it wasn’t our most terrifying ordeal, but still:

“That doesn’t look right.”

“What?”

“The runner. Look. It’s cracked.”

After a lunch time stop at a rest area, Jimmy made one of his routine equipment checks. Our rear slide/bed-in-a-drawer rolls into the body of our trailer when we’re bouncing along much like a drawer hung on wheels with two metal runners screwed to the ceiling.

The weight of the bed had ripped the runner off the ceiling. It was bent and cracked but the screw was still firmly in the ceiling, achieving nothing, a bit like us standing there staring at it with our hands on our hips.

If the runner broke the bed would drop onto the dinette and sofa rendering all three unusable. Our already bijou living space would be reduced to a galley kitchen big enough for one and a quarter people, a closet bathroom and one bed, with all our vital paperwork, including passports, and half our pantry supplies trapped under the immovable slide.

To make matters worse the vital screw was in at an angle and the rigid runner was bent just enough so the screw head was not visible.

In other words, instead of the runner, we were screwed.

With limited headroom and the screw playing peek-a-boo under the runner Jimmy stood on the dinette seat and bent over backwards while my arms threaded through his to pull on the runner.  We looked like a vertical game of Twister. I had visions of his foot going through the flimsy fiberboard under the cushion and breaking his ankle on the toaster in the drawer underneath.

The idea was to put a washer on the screw and screw the runner back to the ceiling, thus taking the strain off the crack. Easy. Except . . .

“I can’t see it!”

Eventually I am kneeling on the kitchen counter with my head forced over by the ceiling and my neck at snapping point. I can pull the runner across, see the damn screw, engage the screwdriver in the screw head, it’s in! and hand over to  Jimmy to grunt and twist the screwdriver with all his might.

But the screw wouldn’t turn.

He took a big breath and “erghhhhhhh!” The screw still wouldn’t turn.

Another big breath and “ERGHHHHHHHH!!!!” The screwdriver popped out of the still stationary screw head stripping the vital cross head a little. My advice to push up on the screwdriver was rewarded with one of his oh so withering looks.

After half a dozen attempts to turn the screw, Jimmy was gasping, drenched in sweat and shaking with the effort and bloody awkwardness of it all.

“What were you grunting for?” he accused me between gasps of breath.

“You try kneeling on the counter with your back arched and your neck breaking and face smashed on the ceiling while pulling with all your might and see if you don’t grunt!” I snarled back at him.

This graceless exchange seemed not to give offense to either party, simply vented a little frustration.

I had also knelt painfully on a varicose vein which I had suddenly developed the week before while playing with my new hula hoop.

After a few successful twizzles ‘round my waist I thought I was twelve years old again and tried to hoop around my knees. It immediately dropped below my knees, twirled on a perfectly sound piece of leg, upset a vein, which then popped up angrily to complain at my stupidity.

The purple lumpy mass looked ready to explode and scared me half to death. I spent the next two days with my leg raised and a cold gel pack on it to sooth the vein back down. Idiot.

Reduced to a bruise on my leg the vein didn’t appreciate my kneeling on it so I half knelt, half lifted myself on the other leg, arched my back, squashed my face on the ceiling, pulled the runner to line it up with the screw and grunted. Who wouldn’t?

We tried again. And again. Several more times. The screw wouldn’t budge.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Yeah.”

“These rough California roads have caused the problem.”

“I know.”

“You know we can’t push the slide back in now.”

“Yes.”

“The runner will break.”

“I know.”

”And we can’t travel with the slide out.”

“I know.”

“And there isn’t much water in the tank and the batteries are knackered.”

“I KNOW.”

What now?

. . . . to be continued . . . no, not for weeks and weeks like Airport Gestapo, just one more episode. I’m only thinking of you. I don’t want you to get eye strain.

Bed slide on travel trailer
See that thing sticking out the back? No! Not him! That’s Jimmy sweeping acorns off the roof. I mean see the bed slide previous to the cracked runner incident. He pushed it in with ease that time. Happy days!”

I Am NOT Alligator Bait

After some concern about my safety after this post I would like to assure my followers, especially Bulldog, that I am not about to do anything stupid. That alligator was long dead and posing for the kiddies and their parents in the museum at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Wheels on Fire!

“Yer wus a fur!”

“What?” Jimmy bellowed.

“Yer wus a fur!”

“OUR WHEEL’S ON FIRE!!” I shrieked.

We’d just picked up our travel trailer from its 6,000 mile brake and wheel bearing service and were winging our way north on I5 to a campsite when a car with two girls pulled up level with us, shouting and pointing.

Jimmy reacted very quickly, carved up two lanes of rush hour traffic and pulled onto the hard shoulder. A following wind brought the frightening stench of burning rubber to us when we stopped. Thick black smoke was pouring out of the wheel as it sat at a forlorn angle.

It was exactly five o’clock and the garage we’d just left closed at five.

Jimmy hurriedly dialed Walter, the garage owner and we waited a few tense moments until he picked up. We then waited a very apprehensive half an hour for him to drive the 10 miles (checking to see if his liability insurance was current?) to turn up in an ancient battered minivan.

I was not heartened.

Walter suggested he remove the smoking wheel so we could limp back to his garage towing our dual axle trailer on three wheels keeping to the back roads with him following. We’d spend the night on his not picturesque forecourt and then limp a bit further in the morning, presumably to a garage that wouldn’t forget to put the cotter pin on to secure the brake drum.

Jimmy and I exchanged that special look we have perfected, a pinched expression that says Oh sh*t!

“I’m not sure about this,” I muttered.

“Me neither.”  Jimmy looked beyond pained.

Walter joined in, “I’ve seen it done loads of times.”

Not with our trailer, buster, I thought but left Jimmy and Walt to iron out the details.

Back in the car, fretting in relative safety, I felt the whole rig shaking as ol’ Walt battered the wheel and chassis. Jimmy appeared at my window. “Walter’s swearing a lot.  I thought I’d get out of the way.”

Apparently after he got the wheel off he was trying to wedge some planks of wood between the chassis and the leaf spring to keep the brake drum from dragging on the road. I daren’t get out and look as we’d several miles to lurch along propped up on scaffolding and didn’t want the image of potential disaster ruining my blinkered thoughts.

Jimmy drove down the hard shoulder ve-e-e-ry slo-o-o-wly, exited the Interstate, crossed over and headed south again on the worst piece of road in Washington State.

We’d been so impressed with the kindness of people in Washington and the courtesy of its drivers so everyone we encountered that day as we bumped along with our hazard lights flashing must have been from out of state. They blared their horns at us, gestured rudely and screeched past as we negotiated potholes trying to keep the low slung underbelly of the trailer off the road.

“This will give you something to write about,” Jimmy quipped in an attempt to distract us both from the anxiety we were feeling.

“I like to write about things that strike me as funny. I’m not finding anything remotely humorous about this.”

“Well, no. I’m nipping my bum a bit.”

Indeed. I was so tense I could have cracked walnuts with several parts of my anatomy. My stomach seemed impaled on my backbone.

As my eyes bored holes in the windshield willing us forward safely, I heard CLANG!! TINKLE! Tinkle, tinkle, clink, clink, clink. I’d imagined we’d broken our back like a freighter in heavy seas and spewed the whole contents of the trailer across the road – plates, glasses, cutlery, saucepans all sounding like they’d been dropped from a great height. But we were still rolling along so I gripped the armrest for its comforting reassurance and waited for the calamity to unfold.

Passing an Overturned RV & Car
No, this isn’t us. It wasn’t this bad! (Photo credit: calaggie)

Jimmy pulled off the road, opened the door and jumped out all in one swift movement. I closed my eyes and pretended I wasn’t there.

The brake drum had fallen off the axle and rolled across the road into the path of oncoming traffic weaving its way into a ditch. The ever incompetent Walter, who hadn’t secured the brake drum for a second time, retrieved it and put it in his jalopy along with the previously stowed reeking wheel.

Ten miles and ten minutes due north on the interstate highway became an agonizing eternity of twisting country roads to return south – and east and west – to the garage.

At the end of the journey, we unwound our adrenaline flooded bodies from the car and took a look at Walt’s handiwork. The front axle of the twin axles on our trailer – minus the bulky brake drum – was a mere inch off the road.

It wasn’t all bad news though. The next morning when we were cast adrift – trailer-less and homeless as new brakes, brake drum, calipers and seals were fitted, not by the witless Walter – we paid Courtney’s cousin, Chrystal (How to Render your Husband Speechless, Again) a visit at the NASCAR decked espresso hut.

Chrystal wore a whole dress, but it barely covered her bum and was unzipped in front to her waist, her exuberant breasts launching themselves into the steamy coffee scented atmosphere.

DSCN3065
Not Chrystal! Too many clothes! DSCN3065 (Photo credit: &y)

Jimmy approached the drive-through window, having prepared to acquit himself in a manner befitting a Grandad. He did quite well with the coffee order though I couldn’t see his face or keep track of his eyes.

She was the one who lost her cool. “I just love you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” and as she chattered and gushed, encouraging Jimmy to keep talking, she unthinkingly put the coffee grounds back into my coffee.

In a fit of giggles, she dumped out the murky mess and started the long process of brewing coffee all over again, much to Jimmy’s delight.

Daytona 500
Florida, not Washington, but keeping with the NASCAR theme!

Sorry fellas. No pictures of Chrystal. Thoughtless of me.

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