Yesterday was definitely NOT one of those oh, wow, being a vagabond is so cool days. For those of you who think my life is charmed, like being in an endless soft-focus instagram story of nomading around the country surrounded by good vibes and rainbow-hued unicorns, here’s the reality some days.
9:30AM – I’m packing up the site and setting up the rig for towing. One of the items on the setup list is to plug in the monitor for the rearview camera and the wireless brake controller, then check that both of them are working when the truck starts up and I turn the headlights on. Usually, this is dead easy, no dram involved. But not yesterday. The rearview monitor stared back at me, blank screen, no buttons lit up, no nothing. It was a dead thing. I took it off the mount and held it, thinking that maybe pressing the buttons differently might change the outcome. I know, I know, magical thinking. But when you’re a vagabond who isn’t gifted in matters electrical, it’s worth a shot. And, no, it didn’t help.
Closer inspection reveald that the black wire had pulled out of the back plug thingie (very technical terminology is important when dealing with things electrical). I thought, aha, this is why I have that shiny new wire stripper in my tool bag. I can just strip a bit more and then shove the copper into that teensy-weensy hole and we’ll be right as rain. One problem: my wire stripper didn’t handle that thin of a wire. Damn. I tried shaving the wire down with a pair of small scissors (thanks, Swiss Army knife) but that didn’t really work.
10AM – I have a noon apointment two hours away so I had to give up on fixing the monitor, or attempting a MacGyver solution. I put the tools back in the toolbag and put the dead monitor and stupid power cable in the truck, mentally telling it sternly, “I’ll deal with you later.” I’d just be really cautious about changing lanes and stick to the far right lane as much as possible. I can see around my rig, just not right behind the trailer if someone is really close.
Checked my hitching up was correct (I have an eight-point checklist) and then headed to the dump station to empty out my grey and black tanks.
10:15AM – I pulled into one of the two empty dump positions and started setting up the hoses. When I unscrewed the cap at the end of my valve, some rather ucky brown water dripped out. Never had seen THAT before. Seriously. No idea why the black tank valve picked today to be a tad leaky. But it did.
After I dumped the tanks, I decided to be a good camper and rinse the ucky stuff down the sewer hole. The faucet next to the dump hole was one of those cranky hard handles that means the water flow is all or nothing at all. When I got it to “all” it turns out the cheap-ass hose they provide wasn’t that good. It did a great job of rinsing my pants from the knees down and my shoes and socks, though. Finally got the area rinsed down, then had to go inside, strip my lower half of the soaking wet clothes (getting water all over the floor in the process), and then unlock the cupboard from travel mode to get to dry pants and socks. Two minor irritants and I hadn’t even left the campground!
10:30 AM – I slowly rundled down the long, narrow road from campground to civilization, practicing looking in my mirrors to check what was behind me, glaring more than once at the dead rearview monitor in the passenger seat. By the time I got to the first freeway, I felt more confident about my ability to see 360 degrees around my rig. I did stay in the right lane as much as possible, so that I had one less lane to worry about.
I haven’t spent much time this trip on interstate highways and so I had forgotten how many freaking 18-wheelers are out there on a weekday. They came in waves, especially after the weight stations. I stuck to my 55 mph speed, figuring they can pass me anytime they want. And so they did.
12:00 PM – After 90 tiring minutes of freeway driving, I took the turn to Mocksville, where I had an appointment to pick up some night shades for my two porthole windows. The GPS had me on track till I missed the last turn, so I did a left into an empty lot, which turned out to be for school buses. Lucky for me that Mocksville seems to not be running in-person classes and so there were zero buses in the lot. A u-turn in the lot and then two quick rights and I was at the Magne Shade place. Where there were already five big rigs taking up most of the parking area. My little trailer and I pulled behind one of them but I could already see getting out of there was going to be, uh, interesting.
The technician did a quick quality check that the covers fit my portholes and ran my credit card over to the office so I only had to deal with one person instead of a whole crew, which was very thoughtful in this pandemic situation.
12:30PM – And then it was time to play the “how the heck am I going to get out of here?” game. I needed to drive straight back and then make the trailer back right into an employee parking lot but I was wicked nervous without my rearview camera. I backed up just enough that I could make a tight forward circle and get out of there. Which is what I did, although the backing was so tight that I remembered hearing one of the propane tanks sound like it got banged. Didn’t really think about it at the time because I was so anxious to get out of there without scraping the big shiny bumpers of three big rigs lined up in a row. Any one of them easily cost 4x as much as my truck and trailer.
1 PM – I stopped at the gas station on the way out of town to fill up and get a Diet Coke (a rare treat for me these days). As I was walking back to my rig, I noticed something hanging loose below the tongue. Remember that propane tank sound? Apparently the trailer was so close to the back of the Ridgeline that the truck’s bumper kind of pushed the tank a bit. No damage to the Ridgeline or the tank, though. The weak point, as it turned out was the was the tank tray, which is attached to the trailer with a combination of velcro strips and straps. It was one of those straps I saw hanging down. When I looked at the tray, it was clearly not in the right position and it was just as clearly not really attached to any velcro any more. Awesomesauce.
Let’s just say that a gas station, even if you are in the far end of the row, is not the best place to try and do a slightly weird fix-it thing. Lots of curious stares and more than one “can I help you with that?” offers. After about 10 minutes of futzing with it, I gave up, put both tanks and the tray into the truck bed (so thankful for the truck bed!) and took off.
1:15 PM – About a half mile away, I spotted a Walmart (I figured they had to have one somewhere on this road because it wasn’t on the only other road in and out of Mocksville), so I turned in and found a nice shady spot far away from the store. It took me about five minutes to restrap the tank tray, load the tanks on, and make sure the whole thing would stay until I got more velcro strips tomorrow. Yeah, I was at a Walmart and I could have bought the velcro stuff there and done it perfect the first time, instead of redoing it the next day. But, and this is a big but, it was hot, I was hungry and the day hadn’t gone well so far. I’ve learned a few things in 4.5 years of vagabond life and one of them is that sometimes a “good enough” fix is OK and the perfect fix can be done later, when I’m rested, have the right parts and tools, and can take my time. Like at a campground, not in a Walmart parking lot.
1:30 PM – Pulled back out onto the road. 55 more miles to the two-night stop near Wilkesboro, NC. An uneventful drive for the first 10 miles and then my trailer tire monitor started beeping. It was flashing 71 psi; it had started the morning with 64 pounds. The other tire was happy at 68 psi. I found a spot to safely pull over and loosened the tire monitor on the valve just enough to get the PSI down to 70. That seemed to do the trick and the TPMS was silent the rest of the drive. But it’s never given me a high PSI warning before in much hotter temperatures, so that was weird.
2:30PM – About 15 miles out from my destination, I was rolling along doing 53-55 mph in a 65 zone. All of a sudden, flashing blue lights showed up in my mirror. I’d barely noticed the police car sitting on the center median a few minutes back. Now it was all lit up and going somewhere. And I was the only thing near it. I slowed and hit my right turn signal to indicate I was looking for a place to pull over. And then when I looked back a minute later, the police car was gone. Not pulled over or anything. Vanished. I turned off my blinker and got back up to speed. No idea what that was all about.
3PM – Drove through Wilkesboro, carefully noting the location of the Walmart for tomorrow’s velcro run, and then followed my GPS to the campground. The check-in guy wasn’t wearing a mask either) and the directions he gave me to get to my site were sparse. So I missed the turn and then stopped at a sign that said “Sites 12-20” and “Sites 21-32.” Which didn’t help me at all because I was looking for Site 6. I took what I thought was the 12-20 turn, figuring I could just loop around and try again. That turn wasn’t actually into the loop, it was actually a very long approach to a campsite. With no room to turn around. So I got to back up about 100 feet, including a downhill turn, before I could make a wide swing and try the other direction.
Then I blew by site 6 before I even figured out what loop I was in, so I got to make another loop around the campground before finally sliding into Site 6. Very happy that I had reserved a pull-through site (which, for non-campers, means zero backing up). It was, serendipitously, level side to side, so all I had to do was chock the wheels, unhitch, and lower the tongue to get front/back leveling done.
3:30PM – I unlocked the trailer door, stepped inside, took off my shoes, laid down on the bed and took a nap. Six hours, 175 miles, 2 porthole covers, and one worn out me.
You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.