When It All Goes Wrong
It seems these days that nearly everyone doing the RV or van life thing have their own blog and social media accounts talking about all the wonderful things they do and places they go. If you haven’t yet, checkout the glamorous photos on Instagram under the #vanlife. We all try to put our best face forward; tell the funny, heartwarming, or awe-inspiring adventures that we go on.
Oh, we do try to tell you about the amazing things we find, but we’re willing to let you see into our miserable, horrible misadventures as well.
That’s what this is about. Let’s begin on New Year’s eve.
We had no desire to participate in any group gatherings, or indoor events, and we had places to be. A new small RV park had opened up and we, set to arrive in Washington, were to be their first guests. That was until late in the afternoon when we had the crazy notion to fill up the gas tank and our propane tank. How silly of us to prepare.
Fuel on board and we tried to start to motor to drive the final 40 miles. Turn the key and…
…The dragging sound of a dying starter and/or battery.
As the day was late, the weather rainy and just barely above snow temperatures, this was looking like it was going to be a super fun time for everyone. Fortunately, we thought, we’re at a truck stop, we can get this fixed and on the road.
Why, oh why, do we always have to be so wrong?
So, a security guard came by to ask what was up, and to inform us that “every parking space” was reserved for some New Year’s Eve concert. Yes, you read that right. A truck stop and travel center. A concert. No parking. At a truck stop.
With little choice, Mr. Write’s travels to and fro’ the part store began. This is where we tell you, something you may or may not know (depending on how close you’ve paid attention to our social media and previous blogs) that he has Rheumatoid Arthritis and she has chronic back pain. Mechanical work takes a bit longer than it does for others. Which leads us to the shift change for security guards. The second one was a bit less, well, let’s say after a lifetime of stealing lunch money from kids 2 years his junior, he thought he’d take his expert level douchebag skills and turn it into a rewarding career as Lord of the Truck Stop.
While trying to replace a couple different parts as we struggled to correct the problem, the Lord of the Truck Stop came by twice to threaten to have us towed, drove by while shining his little spotlight at us, and basically tried to flex his Lordly influence. Yawn (and an appropriately exaggerated eye roll).
Long after dark, we finally got moving. Yay! We motored out of the parking lot, bid farewell to The Lord of Truck Stop and rolled onto the on I-5 ramp. As we merged onto the freeway the engine chugged and nearly died.
Well, that was weird.
Then ¼ mile down the highway it did it again. This time it did die. We rolled to the shoulder, restarted and sat for a minute. Seems okay, we drove on.
Chug chug, and dead.
We were a little over a mile down the road and stuck between an off-ramp and an on-ramp. On Interstate 5, in north Portland. It was late, the temperatures had dropped down to below freezing again, and we had no idea how we were going to get out of this mess. With no idea where we could even be towed to, we decided to wait it out until sun up and see about towing, or repairing, or whatever we needed to do.
The wee (wheeeee) hours of the morning came and we were tired, cold, and hungry. We unhooked the car and took the dogs to get warm and get some food. Then we found someone more annoying than the Lord of the Truck Stop.
The sun was up as we rolled back up to our home on wheels. The door was open and swinging in the light frozen breeze of the New Year. The window was smashed out. Suddenly the world felt warmer under our collars. We took a quick look to see that no one was still inside, and then we discovered that our sanctuary of solitude had been ransacked.
And then some guy walked up onto the freeway, and headed straight for our open, smashed door. Was it a scavenging run? Did the previous thieves get everything? Or was this the previous thief coming back to get more? Either way he was greeted, at a relatively safe distance by a baseball bat wielding lunatic known as Mr. Write on the Road.
This constituted our second call to 911. On the first call we were told no one would be sent out because it was not actively being broken into and to call the non-emergency line. So, with the arrival of potential thief number 2, we thought we might get a response. We were told we would. No one ever showed. As we are writing this, we are still waiting for ANY response from the Portland Police Bureau.
Once we reached normal business hours we started trying to find mobile mechanics, tow companies, or repair shops that were open and wanted to do business. Apparently, in the Portland area, stating that you are open on January 1st is like a prank. It was 8 hours later that we were able to get towed off the freeway, and to a shopping center parking lot were we found a much more kind and benevolent Parking Lord (maybe it was because they were less insecure since they reigned over a larger kingdom?). It was near dark, raining, and 38 degrees. We just sat there through the night diagnosing what could be wrong.
After replacing a fuel pump and the battery that would no longer take a charge, we had the motor cranking, but not starting. Frustration rained down harder than the sky water as we also began to discover just what all had been stolen from us (a tally that now easily breaks $1000 in stuff).
We were able to find a mobile mechanic who wanted to work and he came out, as the sun went down and didn’t give up until he was able to find what went wrong. One more part was needed, and we could install it ourselves easily. He double checked that we understood how before cutting his fee by 30% for us. Randy, you’re a good dude and we thank you!
In the morning, when the part stores opened, we got what we needed and finally, $800 dollars in repairs and 2 ½ days later, we got Matilda running and rolling again.
Happy New Year.
During this misadventure we acquired an extra $1000 in debt, plus lost over $1000 in belongings. We’re still deciding which and how the stolen items will be replaced, but we did get the window fixed. Right now, the hardest part is knowing our sacred sanctuary has been violated. Someone who was not invited rooted through our belongings, our most personal items, and stole things, some of which carried priceless memories. But at least, we still have the ability to make more. We are safe, we are warm, and we’ll be back on the Write Road soon enough.
A Journey into her personal Facebook, while she live posted all about their New Year Party.