Roughing it in an RV

You may remember my account, several years ago, of a friend we’ll call Jack, who broke himself into many pieces trying to blow leaves off his roof. His several surgeries and arduous rehabilitation resulted in a truly remarkable recovery.

At 60-something, he’s probably in better shape than he was before the fall, and has been cleared to do anything he wants to do so long as it doesn’t involve roofs and ladders.

I can’t find a column I wrote about the collision of Jack’s motor home and a massive oak in his own backyard.

The oak limbs started it by dropping on the motor home one quiet night about two years ago. Our friends were dozing in front of TV when the crash startled them to their feet. It didn’t look too bad to Jack, an ace repairman, but this kind of accident is why you buy insurance. He would certainly do some of the work, the trim and cosmetic stuff, and let the pros do the heavy lifting, of course.

Now Jack and his family love to travel. In any given year it is not unusual to hear about their most recent cruise, or their next one, or family gatherings or camping trips (“camping,” with a washer/dryer?) – in short, these people would win any “Grandparents of the Year” contest anywhere.

Last spring Jack and Martha and a group of friends took an Alaskan cruise and were among a mere handful of people who have seen Mt. McKinley without a cloud covering, according to the guide. That happened only seven times in 2008.

No doubt this was Martha’s charisma at work.

Let Martha Ann pick up the report in the family Christmas newsletter:

During the summer, we took off on a five-week adventure in the RV with [daughter] Gina’s family. You may recall a huge tree limb attacked our camper in 2007. The RV was in the repair shop until three weeks prior to our western departure (21 months). We visited 13 national and/or state parks and monuments, including Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Mount Rushmore. [Gina’s] Lauren and Colin earned nine Junior Ranger Badges at the national parks.

Daily mishaps with the camper created apprehension during the trip, but many, many good memories. It became a game to predict the “problem of each subsequent day.”

Initially the latch on the outside storage doors malfunctioned, which caused the doors to open as we were driving 60 mph down the road. Adjacent drivers would point and make unique facial motions to alert us the doors were open.

A few days into the trip, a small water leak caused the engine to begin overheating. Each time this problem occurred, we had to quickly locate a convenient spot (usually the expressway emergency lane) to pull off the highway and allow the engine to cool sufficiently and add water.

We utilized a “water brigade” with Lauren and Colin inside the camper filling various containers and Gina and yours truly running the containers to Jack. (We didn’t dare allow Lauren and Colin outside the camper on the busy roads where this usually occurred.)

A few days later, the washer/dryer decided to die. Jack and Gina were in the midst of disassembling the washer/dryer to troubleshoot the problem when Colin tells us the faucet in the bathroom sink would not stop running.

The loss of the washer/dryer was a major inconvenience because the six of us had packed a small supply of clothes because of limited closet space in a camper for six people.

However, two incidents were especially scary. The first one occurred when an unexpected storm ripped one side of the awning out of the camper. Hearing the loud noise as the broken awning was banging into the camper because of the high winds, Jack, Gina, and I ran outside and held on to the awning until the thunderstorm calmed which prevented the awning from beating additional holes in the camper.

Since we could not drive the camper with the broken awning, we were fortunate to locate a mobile RV repairman, who came to the Colorado Springs campground and took care of the needed repairs.

Secondly, rough roads caused a 32” TV to fall onto Jack and Gina as Jack was driving. Fortunately Jack maintained control, did not wreck, and no one severely injured. Surprisingly, the TV did not break, but I doubt I will ever forget Gina’s scream when the TV fell.

“Handyman Jack” and the engineers, Gina and [husband], were able to repair many of our problems, but some were above and beyond repair “on the road...” in retrospect, perhaps we were too ambitious to undergo the extensive trip, prior to a thorough check of the camper, but we have no regrets and we did have a fun, educational, and memorable adventure.

P.S. Oh, dear. Late word about Martha Ann and her hapless holidays. She broke her left ankle in a fall involving a kitchen step-stool. Didn’t stop her from riding with the grandchildren who were being redeposited in various parts of the Southeast.

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