Dog barrier, ur doin it rong

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We hit the road out of Grand Canyon around 4 PM local time, but our progress was hampered by a new trick Chewie was inventing. He was absolutely desperate to join us in the passenger area, rather than riding in the cargo area like a dog. He pushed and bent and warped the barrier, squeezing his whole body through impossibly small gaps. I had to dismantle the barrier to pull him out of the situation above. Every time we got him untangled and got back on the road, his head would appear through/over/under the barrier like some kind of inexorable force of nature. We must have stopped six or seven times before I finally put a leash on him and secured it to the side of the vehicle.

We pushed on into the night through Utah again and into Nevada. There was a decent-sounding state campground in a park called Valley of Fire that was 18 miles off the interstate. So at the appropriate exit, we turned off and drove into the dark and the sand.

We got glimpses of mountains on the horizon and sand and shrubs and jackrabbits darting about, but we couldn’t see much. The temperature through the entire ride hovered around 100 degrees, even though it was well after dark.

After what seemed like an impossibly long time for just 18 miles we arrived at the campground. It is the nicest campground we’ve used yet, with nice pull-through sites and hookups and clean bathrooms with real flush toilets. With relief, we parked the trailer and began shifting into the trailer. I hiked over to the ranger station to pay our fee. It was longer than I expected, and I suddenly realized I was alone in the hot darkness with the scorpions, rattle snakes, jackrabbits, serial killers, and whatnot. I couldn’t wait to get back to the trailer which I expected would already be cooling down from the air conditioning.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found it just as hot and stuffy as the outdoors. Brent had plugged it in, and something went BZZZT! and there was no electricity.

I begin to feel like my life has turned into an episode of Stargate: Universe. We are a million miles from home, and every episode involves fixing something that has broken or never worked in our vehicle. We took turns scrutinizing the owner’s manual and repair manual to figure out where the circuit breaker was.

“What do you think the ancients meant by ‘rear roadside wardrobe?'” I asked. We could not decode the mysterious writings of the 1973 era.

We finally found the circuit breaker, flipped it, and with immense relief collapsed into our beds. I don’t know what time it was, because we had traveled back and forth between mountain and pacific and I was terminally confused. It was bed time. That was enough.

In the morning, as I had thought, we woke to the breathtaking vistas of the Valley of Fire. The Valley is named for huge fiery red rock formations. As we got ready to go, we each spent some time exploring the area around the campsite. We were thrilled to discover a prickly pear cactus. I puzzled over some small holes in the sand, and hoped aloud that they were not scorpion holes. (Later, I saw a chipmunk and was relieved.)

I have been trying to be aware of dangerous wildlife like rattlesnakes and scorpions. As I walked back from the bathroom, I noted some large red ants. Ants, ants…there was something I was supposed to remember about ants. Something important….no, it’s gone. Oh, well.

Later, Brent mentioned that there were killer bees flying around the water hookup area and the bathrooms. I am not usually worried about bees, so I had ignored them. I also ignored the huge, yellow sign posted right on the mirrors in every bathroom saying that there are killer bees in the park, that they will be hanging around the water, and to let the rangers know if you find a hive. So I was belatedly alarmed when I finally read the sign and realized those weren’t ordinary bees. Every time I used the drinking fountain, a killer bee would fly out of it and dive bomb my face. We were not, however, killed by the killer bees.

And right. It’s fire ants! Remember not to get bitten by fire ants! It’s unpleasant.

I’m glad we stayed in the Valley of Fire overnight, but it’s no place to hang out during the day. We packed up and left, enjoying the glory of the scenery. We headed west once more, taking a detour for a driving tour of the Las Vegas strip, and were welcomed to California by produce inspectors who confiscated our corn and cherries and inspected the undercarriage of our trailer for gypsy moth eggs. We are all looking forward to getting out of the desert. Very pretty, but not habitable for humans.

Grand Canyon After All

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On Saturday evening, I got caught out in a dust storm. On Sunday evening, I got caught in a hail storm. Such is the live of an Airstream-travelin, mastiff-herding, telecommutin on the road rambling writer. We set out from the Salt Lake area late Sunday morning, with the intention of driving an easy 4 hours or so down to the Zion National Park area and camping there. We arrived in the area around 4 PM local time, and there were signs saying “Grand Canyon 130 miles.”

“Oh!” I said. “I forgot about the North Rim!” We had planned to see the South Rim because that was supposed to be more pet friendly. But 130 miles was not far at all for a one-day diversion to the North Rim. We set out on Highway 89 for the North Rim and traveled through some impressive and stark desert in Northern Arizona.

After an arduous climb (for our vehicle), we reached the North Rim park and visitor area at about 7 PM. We were all eager to get our first good look at the canyon, which we’d glimpsed through the trees on the way in. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle, though, fat raindrops started to fall.

Undeterred, we grabbed the dogs and headed for the observation area near the lodge. It began to rain more, but still not a soaker. We finally made our way to an area where we could get a view of the canyon. Rain fell through the slanting sunlight like threads of sliver. I tried to get a photo of it. I don’t know if it worked. (It’s on the other camera and I haven’t dumped the card, yet.)

It was absolutely breathtaking. We’ve all seen pictures and video of the grand canyon, but until you’re looking at it in real life, you can’t appreciate the enormity and grandeur of it.

Hail started to fall. At first it was cute and funny, because it was preferentially hitting Glen on the head. Then, as we tried to make it back to our car and trailer, which was a long distance across two parking lots, the hail got bigger and bigger. The conversation was sort of like this.

“What kind of trees do you think these–OW–are?”

“They look like ponderosa–OW!–pine.”

When we finally got to shelter, the hail and rain stopped.
We tossed the dogs in the trailer and grabbed a bite at the deli. We couldn’t camp right at the North Rim because it was full, but we did find a great, easy, pull-through RV spot at a campground 18 miles from the gates. We all felt a bit lightheaded setting up camp at 9000 feet, and it got cold. It was 58 degrees when we turned in for the night. It felt wonderful after the 100 degree temps in Northern Arizona.

The next morning we broke camp early and headed into the main park area again. The reason was that it was the only place where I could catch any cell signal, and I needed that for my day of work. The signal was weak, and I had to modify my routine. Instead of searching and instantly getting the results I wanted, I had to open a bunch of tabs, start web navigations on each one, and then wait for something to come through. It was a somewhat painful way to work.

The troops went on a hike and went shopping at the gift shop. We had lunch in the canyon view restaurant, where I had a delicious “Navajo” taco made with fry bread.

After I filed my copy for the day, Glen and I went on a mule ride on the canyon rim. I thought the only rides available were half or whole day rides, and I didn’t want to do that for any number of reasons, not least of which is that I have experience riding horses and know that unless you are riding on a regular basis, a half or whole day ride will destroy your ass. I don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves. But I was delighted that they had a one-hour option.

We got on our mules and had a very scenic tour of the woods with some nice canyon views. I took the video camera and got some footage of the ride, plus my mule trying to steal snacks. I keep forgetting that when you go on a trail ride on rental horses, you should always say that you’re a total newbie and have never ridden before so they’ll give you the *good* one. Instead, I was roped into dealing with a problem mule’s bad habits. Nothing terrible. He just wanted to eat grass, rub me against trees, and needed frequent prodding to keep up with the others. His name was Woodrow.

The dogs did pretty good. They had several nice walks that day. Courage absolutely insisted on getting in the car and staying there the whole day. I don’t know if he felt sick from the altitude or what. We like to joke that Courage thinks he’s traveling through space, so we’re calling it “space madness.” He had about an eight hour nap in the back of the Suburban.

Chewie, of course, had to be in the trailer with me while I worked. Such loyalty! Well, you’ll see anon where that got him.

A Change in Plans

We had a big meeting last night, and decided to simplify the trip significantly. We had planned to head over to Sequoia National Forest this week, then a quick stop in LA, then San Diego, and home via Grand Canyon and Denver. But it’s taking a lot longer to cover ground than we expected, and it was becoming clear we weren’t going to be able to do all of those things without spending a lot of time driving really hard. Moreover, Sequoia is very remote with no electrical hookups and I would not have been able to work-camp in that area.

So after some discussion, we decided to save the Grand Canyon for another trip. We’re going to head straight to San Diego, work our way north, Camp in Sequoia next week when I have time off from work, and then go home via Denver where my sister lives. I feel very relieved. Sometimes it’s most stressful when you need to make a sacrifice, but you can’t let go or make a hard choice. Then there’s a relief when you finally do.

This morning, when we took the dogs for a walk, there were two more campers parked in the hotel parking lot, so it looks like we weren’t the only ones that had trouble finding good camping in the area. That’s always been our plan B, and in fact it is nice to be able to take a break from camping and enjoy hot running water and such. I must say that this Holiday Inn Express is extremely pet friend, and even though it costs $15/night extra for each pet, I don’t begrudge them the fee. In the two nights we’ve been here, the dogs have tracked mud all over the rooms and beds, bled on the floors and sheets, puked on the floor, and scared the daylights out of a maid. (She opened the laundry room door just as we walked by with the dogs, and got confronted by two happy-wagging mastiffs. She recoiled in terror and slammed the door. I left a large tip for her.)

Dust!

Hey, peoples! I am significantly cheered by the appearance of a dust storm. We were out leveling the trailer up (and lifting it off the asphalt where the jack made a divot–oops) when this thing blew up like out of freaking Lawrence of Arabia. It’s like an extra wild thunderstorm with no lightning. There’s little bits of water in it, but mostly dust that gets in your eyes and your mouth. (Tasty!)  You may be jealous, now.

Yup, It’s a Lake

Why didn’t someone TELL me? Seriously? It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to see the Great Salt Lake. I’m not sure when that started. Possibly some time in middle or high school when some well-intentioned teacher mentioned that a person would float much higher in an extremely saline body of water like the Great Salt Lake or the Dead Sea. Being a swimming freak AND a science freak, that idea must have taken hold in some hidden portion of the brain and grown tentacles.

So how was I to know that the Great Salt Lake is not, in fact, a sort of mermaid-inhabited paradise where you can everyone does fancy syncrhonized swimming moves. The GSL is, in fact, a rather scary place. You drive across miles and miles of salt flats covered with crusty white salt alternating with patches of razor sharp grass, AND it’s hotter than hell down there. After getting ourselves lost on the type of gravel road that gets smaller and smaller until you can’t turn around (Thanks, Sprint Telenav!) and meeting the farmer on whose property we were tresspassing, we ended up at a place called Saltair. It’s a sort of event venue building thing on the edge of the salt lake. There’s a gift shop, and you can walk across the “beach” and go swimming in the lake.

We took the walk out across the “beach.” It’s actually a broad, flat pan covered with a crust of salt. Glen figured out how to disrupt the surface of it perfectly so that it shattered into sharp shards that flew into my bare legs. He’s talented that way. The ground is dotted with carcasses of stinky dead birds. As you get closer and closer to the water, a rank smell gets stronger and stronger until it’s overwhelming. There went my “swim in the salt lake and see if I float like a cork” experiment. Ha! People WERE swimming in it to my utter bewilderment.

So, we saw it. Sadly, there is not decent camping anywhere in the area that we could find. The “RV parks” we identified were nothing more than parking lots, and we weren’t willing to camp that way, so we’re back in a hotel for the second night in a row. I don’t think the people of Salt Lake, as a whole, are very camping-keen, either in their recreational habits, or in their government’s funding of the park service. It’s fine, but it’s a good thing to know if you’re traveling to Salt Lake and you don’t want to camp three feet from your neighbor.

As interesting as we’ve found the area, we suspect Salt Lake City wants us dead. Our difficulty with the door handle has continued and worsened today, and we had an incident where the trailer jack flipped off the block, which scared the crap out of me. I feel discombobulated because I like the trailer and I’m not able to sleep in it for the second night in a row (it’s my happy place), and I’ve entertained thoughts of turning back. I suspect that is just exhaustion and low blood sugar talking, but we really do need to reevaluate our trip in light of some of these difficulties we’re experiencing (no water, broken door handle, distances longer than expected) and consider possibly cutting out some stops or turning back before we find ourselves in the middle of the desert with a flat tire and no cell phone service.

Well, not a very positive update, but I feel obligated to be honest, here. That’s one thing that makes a blog like this interesting. If it was all sunshine and roses, it would get dull.

Alive and Well in Utah

The night before last seems so far away. Well, it is. Literally! In the planning stages of this trip, I did a lot of google mapping, and also spent a lot of time studying a paper road atlas with mileages and estimated driving times on it. I figured that from Battle Creek, MI to the greater Salt Lake City area would be three days of hard driving, or four days of more leisurely driving. I regret to say it is, instead, four days of driving like f—ing hell. We camped at Cabela’s in Western Nebraska (an experience I heartily recomment, it was very nice), and hit the road as early as we could in the morning. We drove all the way through Wyoming and into the Provo area in 11 hours. The map estimate had been 9, but they lie. And when I say “we,” I mean Brent. I’ve done some driving shifts, but I am not nearly as comfortable and familiar with the trailer as he is, and this drive included a lot of steep grades and twisty roads. So he drove the whole way. In retrospect, there are huge stretches I could have handled comfortably, but the whole way I imagined that the next turn would bring us to a narrow road filled with hair-raising switchbacks with our tires just inches from a thousand-foot cliff. Never happened.

I will say, the scenery the whole way was absolutely stunning. From the stark vistas of Wyoming with its herds of pronghorn antelope, to the dramatic jagged peaks of Utah, it was a feast for the eyes.

Our plan for the evening was to drop the trailer (and dogs) and set up camp at a state park, and then head over to the home of writer friends for a back yard barbecue. Well, Bobby Burns told us all we need to know about plans (gang aft agley). We were two hours late and arrived in some distress because the door handle to our trailer broke off and we were completely locked out of it. The Taylers loaned us tools and a back yard parking spot for our beasts while Brent spent an hour or more breaking into the trailer. (Poor Brent!)

The Taylers, who I met at Penguicon, were as delightful as ever. They fed and comforted us after our long trip. I had been impressed already with their work on Schlock Mercenary and with Sandra’s blog, but the visit also gave me a chance to appreciate the fine work they are doing bringing up four new human beings into the world. The children were delightful, and my favorite part was when their 56 pound daughter took 170 pound Chewie for a walk.

After the barbecue, we left to find the campground. I had called ahead, and knew they had vacancies. We would be pulling in late, but we’ve set up camp late at night many a time. With a tent even. In the pouring rain. Parking the trailer and plugging it in would be easy.

Except when we got to the campground, there were heavy gates barring the entrance. We stood just kind of staring at them for a while. There was a car sitting on the other side of the gates, facing us, with its headlights on. The driver was obviously as confused as we were and wanting to leave. Does the Utah State park system have a curfew, or what? It’s lucky we didn’t set up camp earlier, as previously planned, because our dogs would have been locked inside the park alone, and we’d have been trapped outside.

No, problem, though, because we’d passed an RV park on the way to the State Park. We could just whip in there and crash for the night. We got to the park, though, and although they allow people to camp at night, there is no way to get the entry code for the rest rooms after hours. At Cabela’s the entry code had been posted with the night registration information. I had explained to Glen the concept of “the honor system” when he asked why they would allow people access at night like that. I guess there are places where they don’t do the honor system.

As we pulled out, we also noticed that the spots were ridiculously close together. It was exactly like camping in a tightly packed parking lot. We had dodged a bullet!

Disgustedly, I called up another search on the navigation system. “There’s a KOA less than a mile away. Let’s go there,” I said.

When we got to the KOA, everything looked in order. However, reading the fine print in the rules, we saw that some “aggressive” dog breeds were banned, including, specifically, mastiffs. You know, the dangerous dog that a 56 pound child had taken for a walk in her neighborhood? With rueful headshake, we pulled out of the KOA. That place also had nightmarishly tight “camp sites.” This was not going well.

At this point, we decided to grab a hotel room. You will not be surprised to hear that every room in the Provo area was booked due to move-in weekend at the local University. Argh! We hit the highway going north, and after a bit more calling around, we found a Holiday Inn Express that welcomes pets and had a huge first floor room available, where we all gratefully crashed.

Today’s mission is to REST, RELAX, and visit the Great Salt Lake. As delegates from the Great Lakes State, we’re taking this claim personally, and plan to investigate it thoroughly. My stupid brain has me awake at 6 AM Mountain time. I’m quite jealous of the peacefully sleeping humans and dogs right now.

Gremlin Day

Nebraska is a beautiful state, covered with thousands of square miles of rolling hills and millions of acres of corn. However, it also takes a long time to drive through. So long, that it starts to seem kind of passive aggressive on Nebraska’s part. What is its problem with people traveling through it, and why can’t it just come out with it, instead of offering yet more and more and more beautiful scenery? Get over it Nebraska! We’re not here to see YOU! Ahem.

We slept well last night at a campground outside of Lincoln. There were no trains, but once again we had no water hookup. For three of us, it’s no big deal, but I feel it’s a hardship for my mother-in-law, who is 70 and doesn’t need to be walking long distances in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Thus, my husband is spending most of his non-driving time lying under the trailer with his tool bag and swearing a lot. It looks like mud daubers have plugged up the works somewhat. Perhaps one more session of swearing will do it.

Our first technical problem of the day was no cell phone coverage. In order to make my morning meeting, we had to hustle and get back to the interstate. An interesting side effect was that meant we never had to buy a Nebraska state parks pass. See, the ranger station closes at 4:30 and opens at 8. If you arrive after hours, you can take a camp site and drop a payment envelope in a box, but you can’t buy a park sticker. Unfortunately, we left at 7:30 AM. We would have loved to buy a Nebraska state park pass to benefit the beautiful state of Nebraska, but, alas, no one was there to sell us one. Too bad! (How’s that for passive aggressive, eh, Nebraska? Eh?)

We hit the highway and clocked some miles before we stopped at a small town to fuel up and get some supplies at Walmart. Here, I began to have connectivity problems. At the same time, I found that our electrical connection had pulled out, and the connector dragged on the pavement until it was ruined.

I was appalled. I had been given to believe that the connection was an unusual configuration because the trailer is so old and I figured we would never be able to find a replacement in such a small town. The nearest RV service center was 42 miles away, and we couldn’t drive there safely with no trailer lights and brakes. Woe!

My husband returned from the nearby McDonald’s with our breakfasts, looked at the issue, and said, “Oh, no biggie.” It turned out all we had to do was drive across the street and buy another connector at Walmart for $8, then install it using simple tools. Okay, then!

While he was delayed fixing the trailer, I was struggling with my computer. I had forgotten to charge it overnight, and my power inverter wasn’t working. (I plan to smash it with a hammer when I get a chance.) Walmart supplied a new power adapter, but then I found my computer had crashed badly and needed to run its repair utility and all the while my hotspot connection was lagging badly, even though it was showing good signal. Argh!

By the time we got underway, I was frazzled. My day’s work was hampered by waxing and waning signal, the reason for which I did not discover for hours and hours. Meanwhile, we had a boredom problem. See, we wanted to listen to an audiobook, but hadn’t obtained any before we left.

Yesterday, I picked up a John Grisham title at Cracker Barrel. They rent audiobooks, and you can return them to any location. Perfect. This one, whose title escapes me, was a pirate tale set in the 17th century! Perfect for a mixed audience of two adults, a senior citizen, and a child.

Or so I thought. When we tried to listen to the book, there was little of pirates and much talk of nubile female servants from the viewpoint of a lecherous Jamaican governor. Huh? As we listened, I grew more and more worried because it seemed we were leading up to a graphic rape scene. Ugh!

Fortunately (?), the cd literally overheated our cd player, and it cut out. The last phrase I heard was, “He put his hand on her quim.” I have no idea what a quim is, but I’m quite sure that whatever came after that was not PG-rated. Phew!

The failure of the Grisham left us with more boredom issues. Brent had a Terry Pratchett on his iPod, but our transmitter was broken. Once we replaced it (thank you Walmart), we couldn’t get the book to play properly. It kept skipping around. It took quite some time and more than a few heated words before we realized the shuffle was on. (We’ve fallen into that trap before. D’oh!)

So, finally, we have entertainment and power. Alarmingly, though, my cell phone data completely disappeared just west of Kearny, Nebraska. I had filed my article for the day, but I was increasingly frantic that something had gone wrong, and people were trying to get a hold of me. After hours of this, I thought to check my roaming settings. Yup, data roaming was turned off by default. I turned it on and found out something (minor) had indeed gone wrong. Frustrating.

The dogs are doing great. Turns out taking naps punctuated by walks at rest stops suits them quite well. The boy is overdosing on chips and candies, heavily enabled by his grandmother. We are still missing the mystical “grey water tank.” It was on our list to buy before we left, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen.

We’ve now been unable to find one at various stops. The tank collects water from the shower and sink, and we’ll need it if/when Brent gets the water fully functioning. Everything’s closed already for the night, so it looks like it will be another night of dry camping.

Heading West!

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The whole weekend was filled with endless tedious chores and errands to get ourselves and the trailer ready for the trip. I compiled a huge, four-page check list that I had been following religiously throughout the packing process. It seemed like the chores and packing would never end. We had planned to leave for our first stop, Battle Creek, Monday morning. However, before we did that, we were going to install the draperies and a few other odd jobs on the list. However, Sunday afternoon, as we labored in the trailer as it sat, unpowered and unair conditioned in the storage lot, we decided to pack up, haul it to Brent’s mother’s house, and finish the work where we could have electricity.

Packing took all day, and when we finally pulled out of the driveway, we were drenched with sweat and exhausted. We arrived in Battle Creek around 10 PM. The next day I worked the day job while Brent finished up the maintenance. After work, I joined in.

One thing I had been concerned about was introducing the dogs to the trailer. I should not have worried. They both hopped right in and made themselves at home. Chewie is loyal to a fault, so he insisted on being in the trailer the whole time we were working on it.

Courage is a dog’s dog, and the only place he likes better than a back porch is underneath a back porch. He found a shady spot where he could keep an eye on the action.

We were finally ready to leave Tuesday morning. The trailer had plenty of storage space, so we had no problem fitting all of our clothes and camping items and dog supplies. The dogs, by then, definitely knew something was afoot. When the time came, they both leapt into the back of the Suburban. For Chewie, that was quite impressive, as he is normally not a jumper.

We made it to the Mississippi river the first day. I made myself at home in the back seat of the Suburban to work on the road. The back seat has tinted windows, which makes it easier to look at the screen. I sometimes get carsick when I read or do close work in a car, so I took two dramamine. That turned out to be a mistake, as it is difficult for me to do my work while sleeping. We stopped at a rest stop, and I went inside to get something caffeinated to drink. There I found perhaps the only vending machine in the world that was completely filled with non-caffeinated soda. No kidding. It had 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, etc. No Coke, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew.

I soldiered onward. Walking the dogs helped to refresh me, and I finished my day’s work in good time.

Setting up camp for the first time was exciting. The dogs were quite manageable because they had already had several walks that day. We set up our X-pen on the grass. Its like a collapsable cage with no floor or ceiling. We bought two and we link them together to make a good-sized pen for the dogs.

True to form, Courage enjoyed hanging out in the X pen, and Chewie insisted on being inside the trailer with his humans.

The trailer is fully functional except for the water system. It works when hooked up to outside water, but the pump won’t bring water up from the tank. This campground, an Army Corps of Engineers facility right on the Mississippi River, had electric hookup, but not water. So that first night we had to shlep to the pump like common tent campers.

Everyone slept well, including the dogs. Except for the train. See, there were railroad tracks about a hundred yards from our site. Shortly after I fell asleep, a train came through, startling most of us awake. It was as loud as you would expect a train to be, if you were trying to sleep right next to it. It happened three or four times in the night. Although the campground was lovely and clean, I would not stay there again, obviously.

In spite of the train, we all slept well, and set off again in the morning. As I type this, we are an hour or so west of Des Moines. I do believe I’m having fun.

A Hitch in Time Saves Nine

The receiver hitch that came with our trailer was wrong for our tow vehicle. It seemed designed for a car or something much lower. So the trailer was towing with the front too high.

We bought a new receiver (not $500, but kind of expensive nonetheless), and yesterday we set about installing it and hooking it up to the trailer.

Silly me, I assumed that getting the right hitch height would only involve using a tape measure, setting the height of the receiver, and then hooking up. We ended up wrestling with the thing for over an hour in the hot sun. The trailer was parked on a slight slope, and other aspects of how it was set up made it impossible to connect the sway control. We finally dragged it away without the sway control and left it parked on a street in our neighborhood while we rehydrated and regrouped.

We went back and ended up wrestling with it for probably another hour. The problem was that finding the right hitch height was a trial and error process, and each time we reset the height, we (aka my husband) had to remove two huge bolts and then put them back. There was also a lot of pulling forward and backing up.

We finally got the hitch properly set up and hitched up the trailer. There was much rejoicing. We had time to unroll the awning for the first time. That went reasonably well. Then we took it back to the storage yard, hoping to get it parked before 10 PM when the gates close.

The trailer towed MUCH better with the new hitch. Very smooth and nice. The three of us, working together, were also able to get in and out of the storage yard in 15 minutes. The system we worked out was for me to stand dead center in the spot and signal to Glen, who stood where Brent could see him in the mirrors, who then signaled to Brent which way to turn the wheel. Success! We celebrated with Dairy Queen.

Getting closer to lift-off

We spent a day tackling the endless list of things to do to get the trailer ready for our cross-country adventure. I’ve actually felt pretty intimidated by the list, but we knocked out a lot of chores today. We purchased a new battery, and we fired up the propane frig and range to see if they work. We installed a roller shade and a set of curtains, and took some more precise measurements for other curtains.

I have to install new curtain track for the front window bank. The two side windows are curved, so the track needs to curve. I bought an aluminum curtain track from an online store that specializes in vintage trailers, and the item description indicated that the track was bendable up to a 12 inch radius. So imagine my surprise when I received the item and it was completely rigid. I had a very unproductive conversation with someone from the store, who was manhandling the product and telling me how it was no problem in a fairly unhelpful way. But what I got out of it was that I need to bend it myself, with tools. Specialized aluminum tube-bending tools which I do not own. Might have been nice if I knew that before.

Fortunately, we can do it anyway. I shot an email to a friend with the appropriate tools, and he’s going to bend the track for me. One of my tasks today was to cut a template for the curve. I bought some curtains from Ikea that I can cut down to the right height. I will need to get some alternate hardware bits for hanging some of them. In fact, I have a list of miscellaneous hardware bits that I need. So much hardware bits!

We have also installed a new receiver hitch which will resolve the problem of the trailer riding too high.

We still don’t have a place to transport the spare tire. We’re working on that next. Also, although the previous owner told us that the bearings had been packed “recently,” the documents he gave us show that being done in 2002. Not so recent. So we’re mulling over whether to take it in for full axle servicing (with brake inspection), or whether to pack the bearings ourselves and call it good. I expect we’ll take it in for the servicing, but we’re getting money-pending fatigue, so it will probably be a few days before we surrender to this inevitability.

I’ve also begun packing the trailer for a trip. I have a loooong packing list, and I am working through it, taking a load of items over each time we visit.

Some bad news today was that we noticed some water damage on some of the interior wood work. Neither of us remember seeing it before, but it’s small, so it might have been there all along. On the other hand, this might be new damage from the recent torrential rain. It is near the location of one of the attachment points for the awning, so we may have a leak on our hands. Ugh!

When we get to the end of the packing, prep, and repair lists, we’ll drop the cats off at the kennel and head out. It looks like that will probably happen next Sunday or Monday. (The first leg of our trip is only 100 miles, to the in-law’s place.)