We were halfway to a campsite in northern California about to enter the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains. Our water tanks were empty-ish in preparation for mountain climbing and our batteries were big dead weights barely capable of lighting one light. Our only company for miles and miles and miles was trees.
Our bed slide was out, the runner was broken and the slide wouldn’t go back in.
As the California sun shone down on our tin box house we grew hotter and hotter trying to affect a makeshift repair. Our hearts were hammering and we were gasping and shaking with exhaustion.
It had occurred to me that we could be stranded for days with no electricity or water while help was summoned and parts ordered from Hoboken or Timbuktu though that thought was not articulated.
Nor did Jimmy share his bleak thoughts with me. We’d pulled the slide out possibly for the last time ever.
With the slide pulled out we couldn’t tow the trailer. If we pushed it back in the runner would break causing more damage.
We took the only option open to us.
We let bloody-mindedness take over.
The decision was reached by mutual unspoken assent.
We tried again and again and again. We just needed to unscrew one screw from the ceiling and put a washer on it.
Again. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.
“Take a break,” I begged Jimmy. He was bright red in the face. I was probably the same but we each think we are invincible and don’t easily accept our limitations.
We tried again. Pull runner, engage screwdriver, grunt.
And again. And again.
“It moved!” Was I hallucinating? “Try it again!” I said excitedly, holding the screwdriver in place ready for Jimmy to put some muscle into it. The screw head moved a miniscule amount.
Each monumental effort, with both of us poised awkwardly and straining produced only about and eighth of a turn before the screwdriver would jump out and skitter across the runner. The screw head was acquiring a nice polished sheen and losing its sharp cross threads.
Seeing me shaking with exhaustion, heat and anxiety Jimmy called the next break and I sat quietly with my head and arms flopping down at rest.
“I took the screw out of the other runner last week. Do you want to know how long it is?” Without raising my head I let my eyes swivel round to his hand where he held his thumb and forefinger four inches apart. Needing eight colossal attempts from both of us to turn the screw one revolution, I wasn’t sure we’d survive the repair.
We let despair replace any stabs at conversation or conjecture and stared vacantly until the panting slowed, then resumed battle.
As long as the screw moved a tiny amount we were motivated to keep trying. The sight of a whole inch of screw poking from the ceiling turned the tide of the war and we got a second wind. The next inch was easier and I twiddled the screw out the last two inches with my fingers.
It only remained to put the washer on and screw the runner back to the ceiling. Flush with triumph, Jimmy decided to take the next screw out and put a washer on it as well. So pumped up with success was he that he put three washers on it.
It was a good idea, in theory, until we tried to push the slide in but the extra washers blocked the slide. It wouldn’t go in.
A cartoon of my expression is appropriate at this point:
It was a minor blip as it happened and easily remedied. Victory was ours.
Our reward for perseverance was Sequoia National Park and among other BIG trees the General Sherman Tree – the largest tree in the world – not the tallest or the widest but the largest in volume.
The top of the General Sherman Tree:
And here’s General Sherman’s bottom:
See the little people above for perspective.
If you’re worried about us we had the runner replaced. And after a few more bruises I gave the hula hoop to Goodwill and took up yoga.
Originally posted in WWN101 in 2012 this salacious tale seems worth repeating at this stage of our . . . . . our what? Confusion? Clarity? Travels? Decision to settle? Whatever.
After returning from the doctor’s office himself said to me, “The nurse told the doctor, ‘They’ve been right down to Key West and back. I wish I could do that,’ so I said to her you should change places with my wife.”
He sees this as proof enough that we should continue to travel, not settle down.
Of course she’d like to take a road trip to Key West. She’s working full time in wet Washington State.
I’ll bet he didn’t qualify the dream with the drawbacks. Would you give up your home, family and friends and emigrate to another country to satisfy your travel lust? Would you give up free health care? Could you survive in a tin box with your other half for years without coming to blows or calling a divorce lawyer? Would you mind looking like a ragamuffin because your best clothes (probably moldy now) are in storage?
I appreciate the fact that I’ve seen 47 of the 50 states, something most Americans will never do. Of course I feel privileged to have seen most of the top National Parks.
And I hope himself has read this far before he’s blown a gasket and called me an ungrateful cow.
Just to confirm how right he is and how wrong I am – always worth a victory lap in his book – we had a memorable moment with Courtney in the course of our travels. As we approached a gaily decked out espresso hut the NASCAR bunting made me smile at the thought of our day at the Daytona 500.
Better still, after hearing, “I’ll be with you guys in a second,” a dark-haired leggy lovely appeared, dressed – I use that term loosely – in skimpy – that’s being generous – stop-light-yellow shorts and a NASCAR-emblazoned yellow top that had more fabric in the sleeves than the whole of the rest of the outfit.
As my mouth dropped open, she smiled brightly. “What can I get you guys?” I dared not look at Jimmy’s expression. Rather than place our order, what came out of my mouth was, “I like your outfit.”
“Oh, thanks. We were losing business to the bikini baristas so we thought we needed to make a change, but to something tasteful.” I really daren’t look at Jimmy then. Her navel piercing and cleavage were particularly eye catching. I managed some sort of coffee order for myself, Jimmy stuttered out his tea order and whaddayaknow! the tea bags were on the bottom shelf. Did I mention that her shorts were very brief?
“I like you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” I gave the concise Baltimore/England answer. “Awesome! Are you guys traveling?” I explained we’d been all around the country. “Awesome! Do you have family here?” I informed her that my brother lived up the road. “Awesome!” And a brother in Tennessee. “Cool!” And children and grandchildren in England. And a brother-in-law in Wales. “That is so cool!” And a daughter in Sydney. “That is an awesome excuse to travel.”
Score several points to Jimmy. Although I have to tell you he wasn’t counting points right at that moment.
“What’s with the NASCAR theme?” I asked.
“There’s a racetrack down the road. We thought it would bring in some business.” Jimmy remained mute despite the motor racing reference, usually a favorite topic.
“Have you ever been to a NASCAR race?” I enquired, as the only one of her two customers capable of conversation.
“No. I’m from a little town called Elma. I’ve never traveled.”
“We went to the Daytona 500 in February.”
“AWESOME!” Well, I just had to agree with her. Had he been capable of the power of speech Jimmy would have agreed with anybody about anything right then.
Can you hear the roar of the crowd?
Out of the pit lane!
You can stop looking for a picture of Courtney now. Sorry guys, there isn’t one.
More excitingly, Courtney had a cousin, equally skimpily dressed. We encountered her after our trailer wheel caught fire:
Signs like this are common in the Southwest but shocking to an East Coast suburbanite! And rattlesnakes tend not to inhabit the places where the signs are. You stumble on them unexpectedly. Thank goodness for the warning rattle.
Derek, the laptop, is still in rehab. Posts will be a bit hit and miss for a week or so. He has the equivalent of a little head cold, nothing serious, just a little run down.