For any readers who don't have an RV but are thinking of acquiring one, you're probably looking at that prospect with great expectation and excitement, and you may not have given much thought to any difficulties that may come your way. That was how I thought back then, so count my voice as one of experience. While this life will be wonderful, it is undeniable that there will be days when nothing goes right. This was to be one of those days.
We pulled out of Shipshewana at the crack of dawn (for us)--about ten a.m.--congratulating ourselves on our early departure. I was a little nervous about Mae, our new toad, not having towed a CR-X before and having a couple more hoops to jump through than the HHR in order to tow her correctly. Like the pilot I am, I prepared a checklist to make sure that I had followed the manufacturer's instructions, especially since there are some frightful warnings in the owner's manual about ruining the car's transmission if one doesn't follow the steps exactly. Furthermore, I couldn't imagine how the drive train of an all-wheel-drive car could be designed so as to be towable anyway.
As I put Phannie in gear and released the parking brake with a whoosh from the air brakes, I looked intently at the visage of the little car in Phannie's rear video monitor to see that all was well. I'm not sure what I was expecting to see, but I've found that if I expect the worst, then anything better than that is a win! Thankfully, the CR-V remained intact as I nudged the accelerator and felt a slight reassuring bump as the towbars reached their full extension and locked. At that point, being one with Phannie, Mae followed obediently and perfectly as we picked up speed through the Amish farmland. I guess my expectation was that the car would simply fall apart in a pile at the first tug on its bumper and, when everything seemed to go well, I smiled and gave a nod to Dan's Service Center in Elkhart where the tow package was installed. They must know what they're doing, I thought.
We hadn't gone ten miles until I heard a beep from the tire pressure monitor and saw the red warning light flashing. It showed that the pressure in Mae's right rear tire had gone below the 27 psi low threshold limit. I watched it a few more miles and noticed that it had dropped to 25, so at least I knew it wasn't a fast leak. I remembered a travel plaza located about 15 miles ahead on Interstate 80, so I decided to go for it. In about five more miles, the pressure had dropped to 24, and by the time I reached the turnoff, it had dropped to 23. Getting out and taking a look at the tire, I saw that it had begun to develop a belly, so I knew it had to be changed. Back in Phannie's cockpit, I gave a quick call to CoachNet, who informed me they couldn't help me because I had only signed up for the basic plan when I renewed a few months ago, so the tow car wouldn't be covered. The young girl on the phone said that she noticed that I had had their premium plan for many years and wondered why I had not continued that with the last renewal. I told her that it had been an oversight and offered to pay the extra on the spot. She said I would have to get my account upgraded with customer service on a business day. This didn't make me particularly happy, and I may have have had some impure thoughts at this point. It would have been nice if someone at CoachNet would have told me about this when I renewed over the phone; I suppose I had forgotten that they have a premium plan for covering coach and car, but if they had mentioned that when I renewed, I would have caught my error and purchased the plan I usually get. They need to make an allowance for elderly clients.
At this point, I had two choices: 1) Call around myself and try to find a mobile roadside service provider or 2) change the tire myself and drive into Elkhart to have it repaired or replaced. Since time was rushing by, and we had a very long leg to travel, I elected to change the tire.
Now tire changing is not something to which I am accustomed; in fact, I haven't changed a tire on anything in about 50 years or so. Being mostly in management positions throughout my career, I usually had 'people' to do things I didn't want to do. But there I was, poring over the CR-V's owner's manual, trying to find out some basic information--like where to find the spare tire. This education took about 30 minutes as I opened the car's compartments in a sort of scavenger hunt to find the spare tire, jack and lug wrench and trying to glean from the manual's diagrams where to place the jack underneath the frame. (I never did figure that out; it just wasn't clear in the manual; fortunately, the location I chose was apparently okay.)
After much groaning, creaking of joints, huffing and puffing and (horrors) perspiration, I finally got the lugnuts loose and changed the tire, after which we drove to Discount Tire in Mishawaka, not too far from where we were. They had the Bridgestone tires in stock, but that they couldn't get to it for an hour and a half. I bought a new tire, not wanting to trust the old one any longer.
So, the delays keep piling up and, by then, I was worried about our reservation that night in Iowa City. I didn't see how it would be possible to make it before dark, but I was willing to try.
It was not to be. The traffic on I-80 was bottled up in Chicago, and we spent an hour there to go 2.5 miles. I had to call and tell the destination park what had happened, and they were very nice about it.
As the sun was setting, I decided it was time to stop driving, so we picked a park near the Interstate short of our destination. Unknown to me, it was located at the end of the dustiest dirt road I have ever seen. By the time we reached the park, Phannie's rear cap was covered with dust, and Mae was so dusty that I couldn't remember what color she was. When we got to our site--the last one available in the park--we found that it was not satellite-friendly. But this was fine, as we were really too tired to watch TV; we just went to bed. The lot was also grossly unlevel--so much so that Phannie's levelers didn't have enough travel to correct it, so we spent the night thinking we were on a ski slope.
I decided to take Phannie and Mae to get them both washed in the morning, as they were dirty enough to be embarrassing. The next truck wash on Interstate 80 was in Altoona, so we headed there, enduring the smirks and glances from one driver after another as they passed us, probably thinking that we had been off-roading or something. So, I spent about 50 dollars, with tip included, at the truck wash for the mistake of picking the wrong RV park, which wouldn't have happened at all had the day gone the way we had planned it.
Now I don't know if you counted all the things that went wrong on this departure day, but there were many, many of them. Fortunately, days like this are rare indeed, but they do happen. It's how well we handle the problems and our reaction to them that makes something positive of the experience. Oh yes, and Xanax would help, if you have any.
One more thing: This is the second time we have caught a leaking tire before damage was done to Mae, thanks to our monitoring system. If you don't have one of these, you might want to give that some more thought.
The next leg takes us to Sioux Falls, South Dakota on our way to Rapid City. Stick around and see what we do next. We're not even sure ourselves.
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.
I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. --Alexander Sattler