May 2014 - The First Trip

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This is the story of our first trip as RV owners. Meet the White Goddess, our brand new Ford F350 pickup and the Gypsy Wagon, a 37 foot Keystone Montana travel trailer. If all goes as planned, the Gypsy Wagon will be our new home as of October and we will be living on the road. I kind of thought something like Behemoth or Leviathan was more suitable to the pickup, that sucker's BIG, but I wisely deferred to Judy's choice and White Goddess it is.

Our first trip was to the GottaGetGon, a delightful folk festival in Ballston Spa near Saratoga Springs. The first problem &endash; no dogs allowed, and we weren't keen to pay twenty five bucks a day to board Sheera, our cockerpoo. So we called up my sister, Kristen Lauster in Schenectady, and asked her to watch the dog for the weekend. Since she has a multitude of cats who have never seen a dog, this was a bit nervy on our part, but she consented and Sheera spent the weekend staring at cats and wondering why they wouldn't play with her like Harry and George do at home.

Having successfully navigated out 37 foot monster around the corners in Schenectady, I was feeling pretty good as we punched Ballston Spa into the GPS and started out. Things went well until we saw the sign for the 10'8" bridge ahead. Since we were pulling a 12'9" trailer this was a problem. Naturally, this warning sign was posted after any road that would allow us to avoid the bridge and there wasn't even a convenient driveway to use to turn the thing around. There was, however, a good size field on the left so, shifting into 4 wheel drive we attempted to turn around. I got about halfway through the turn before getting mired in the mud, 4 wheel drive does no good if there's no traction.

Judy and I got out and stared balefully at the RV, wondering if our first night of camping was going to be in the field when several pickups pulled over. In minutes one of the local firefighters had hooked his 4 wheel drive to mine, another stopped the traffic and a third guy opined that "You should be able to get under that bridge." Some people just can't do math, I guess. We were soon back on the road, leaving only some impressive ruts in the field behind us. By the way, we now own a new GPS made for RV use with bridge heights included in the route planning.

It was a great weekend of music, but we did spend a lot of time exploring our new home. I suppose I was getting a bit cocky about my ability to maneuver the RV, because on the final turn to my sister's house I misjudged the corner and there was a resounding crash. I had clipped a sign with the folding staircase and it no longer folded. Good thing we bought the platinum insurance policy on the trailer.

With Sheera once again curled in the back seat of the Goddess we headed down the Thruway back home. There was a bit of a cross wind but overall the driving was pretty easy. I felt what I thought was an increase in the wind as we went, that is until people started honking and I noticed bits and pieces of something flying off the trailer. As there was no safe place to pull that monster over without being too close to the driving lanes, we limped to the next service area and pulled to a stop where we discovered that we had blown a tire. Not only had we blown a tire, but the steel belts whipped around and tore up the side and bottom of the trailer, causing extensive cosmetic damage.

In preparation for the weekend, I had fallen down the stairs carrying a laundry basket, ending up on the landing amidst broken glass from the window I had smashed and covered in laundry. The damage I did to my right hip and knee had me limping all weekend. At that point there was no way I was going to drop an 18" tire, jack up a 8 ton trailer and replace the mangled ruins of the old rim. Once again we happily recalled the platinum roadside service we had opted for when buying the trailer and out came the cell phone.

Forty minutes later the cell phone was still out, plugged into the car charger as the battery was complaining, while the lady in some call center in god-knows-where tried to locate where we were to call for help. (Could you limp from the back of the parking lot to the Thruway without being run over and read a mile marker so I can find you?) Eventually she found us but, being Memorial Day, she couldn't find anybody who was working and available to rescue us.

Once again Judy and I were preparing to spend the night camping in an unusual spot until help could come when a pickup pulls up next to us and the guy gets out and asks if he could help. He works for Camping World, the place we bought the trailer, ferrying RVs across the country. So while Judy entertained his 3 year old son he changed our tire for us. (Good thing a horse transport pulled in next to us while we were working, it was very entertaining for the 3 year old.) One look at the spare tire told us that it would be chancy at best to make it from Utica to Rochester without blowing another tire, so we left the trailer at the Camping World in Syracuse for repairs.

Despite all the problems it was a good weekend. There is a world filled with people who live the Good Samaritan story and we got to meet several of them. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but we are going to have some very good company as we travel.

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