California roads had put us in a predicament and would be our complete undoing without an on-the-spot repair to our trailer.
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.