Saturday, June 19, 2010

Digger Squirrels and Jack-Knives;

by; Lori Gebbie

I remember going camping as a kid with my family. My father used to drive, my mother in the passenger seat. My brother and sisters would sit in the back seat, and I would sit on the seat in between my parents. My father used to take some pretty scary roads, winding mountain roads. Everyone else would be able to sleep through it, but I was there, white-knuckling it and sweating it out with Dad. I vowed never to go on such a scary adventure ever again, and for about 30 years, had been able to avoid it…

We finally set out, Friday at noon. We hooked up, everything looked great. We started to drive, yep, everything still on track. We got on the freeway, ok… at about 55 mph, we started to sway. Badly. It was enough to send me into tears of panic, but Robert was driving, and although he’d never experienced hauling a travel trailer, he was able to pull us out of the sway pretty evenly. Then a semi went by us, and we started swaying again. I was afraid the rubber would be pulled off of the tires, but we were able to slow down enough to pull out of it, and pull out in a rest stop to regroup ourselves. We were in Hood River , Oregon.

While we were at the rest stop, of course we took out our camera and took a short walk. It was a beautiful rest stop, up against some real pretty forest area. As I came around a building, I ran into a squirrel, eating a peanut. Robert got some great shots of the cute little guy, and then we saw the lady with the peanuts. Her name was Shelly, and she and Kay were feeding them. The little guys were so tame, they would come up to us and stand on their hind legs, begging for treats. Then she pointed us to her daughter, Talia. She was sitting on the ground, her legs spread out, with peanuts lining her legs. The squirrels were crawling all over her, munching on the peanuts, and she was giggling the entire time. It was real great to see her taking such delight in them, and even more beautiful to see Kay and Shelly light up when they felt her laughter. “She’s having the time of her life! She just loves animals” says Kay, as the squirrels engulfed Talia’s lap.

After the squirrels, we went back to the van to get ready to leave again. We ended up speaking with a real nice couple, who, like us, had taken to the road full time. She offered some real good advice on stops and stuff, and he helped Robert with the van and trailer setup. We set back out, and stopped in The Dalles, Oregon, to check on tire pressure and fluids. After adjustments were made, we set back out to a more comfortable and relaxing ride. The sway problem had been equalized, one of the trailer tires was low, and our new air shocks were at passenger levels, not tow levels.

So, feeling confident, but very road tired from the stress and the unusually sunny day that we were blessed to drive in on our voyage out, we pulled off when we saw a sign for a campground. We were in Echo, Oregon. The campground is called Henrietta. However, there was no real signage. Apparently everyone in Echo knows where it’s at! So we continued on the road we assumed would lead to the campground, and found ourselves on a tight canyon road. A 24’ Chevy van pulling a 27’ travel trailer. Canyon roads. This was a scary point, as I’d been through something similar in just a car. But, holy moly, there was no place to turn around. Finally, at the bottom of a curve, there was a small pull out, so Robert tried to turn us around, because ahead of us was a hairpin I wasn’t especially interested in trying to take! Well, let’s just say, we didn’t quite make it, and in trying to back up (behind us was a ravine and in front of us a grassy steep hill) we managed to jack-knife the trailer. And the road was at an angle, and the front jack was dragging on the ground. We were blocking one full lane and a bit of another when it jacked. We both looked at it in panic. Severe panic. Mind numbing panic. What do we do now?? I prayed. Hard. “If this is the path we are supposed to be on, please send help to us so that we can continue on our journey. Please send us a trucker who has dealt with a jack-knife, and is knowledgeable and can help us out.” I looked at Robert, he was doing the same thing, both of us wide eyed in panic. And then, a couple pulled up to us. The man took one look at us, and, barely holding back a smile, asked us if we needed help. Well, here was the ex-truck driver I prayed for!! They pulled out and with a reassuring calmness, and great sense of humor, he helped us figure out how to get out of the mess we were in. But we needed just a little bit more help. We couldn’t get the tire up far enough to get some wood under it for traction. Then another car pulled up and asked if we could use another jack. What?? We felt truly blessed as ten minutes later we were back on the road, being escorted back to the campground in Echo.

So, tonight, we sit in Echo, at Henrietta Campground, and I feel truly blessed to be here. My mother’s name is Henrietta, so I feel extra protected staying here tonight. It’s beautiful, quiet, and out of the way. Just what we needed to untangle our nerves. It’s taken us four hours to calm down enough to understand that we are safe, our home is intact, and we are cared for.

Tomorrow is a different journey.

PET REPORT: Buster decided to jump out of the van when we stopped for gas, near a highway. Panic set in, but he hunkered down by the back tire and waited for us to get him again. I’m a bit scratched up from the ordeal, but he’s safe and that’s what counts most. It was a bit hot, and the kitties were happy that we were able to turn on the air conditioning to cool them down when we finally stopped here. Fortunately, while it heated up a bit outside, keeping the back vent open seems to keep the trailer pretty even temperature, between 75 and 85. The parrots are tropical, they can hang in up to about 100 or so before they start to get cranky. Princess is a Green-Wing Macaw, and Tye is a Miniature Noble Macaw


shadetree said...

Sounds fun!!! road trips are the best at testing your metal. takes awhile but you'll get the hang of it.lesson1:(no u-turns):)

christine said...

Wow! You are a good writer. I was feeling the fear right along with you. I love the pictures of the squirrels, they are amazing! I am glad you are safe! Where are you heading next?