As an early teen, when Saturday morning rolled around, I had but one goal—to sleep well into double digits. It was a lazy, albeit lofty goal, which was never really met, for I had fallen in love with a boy who had the great fortune to belong to a family who was going places. They were never content to stay still and by the time Saturday rolled around, they were itching for adventure. I was lucky enough to be invited along on these adventures, but the one catch was that they started early—and there was no advanced planning.
Every Saturday morning, my mom would dutifully stand over my teenaged stupor and suggest that I might preemptively get up and begin getting ready. Getting ready for a teenage girl is a lengthy process, of course. But, I would refuse, insisting that this Saturday would be different from all other Saturdays.
And then the phone would ring.
The voice on the other line—my beloved-would ask the inevitable question, “How soon can you be ready.” In a flurry of hairspray and hot rollers, I would speed through the primping process, narrowly completing the necessary tasks before the car would pull up to the curb and we would be off for the day’s excitement.
Those years of rushed Saturday mornings (for of course, I never heeded my mother’s warning just to get out of bed and get ready)proved to be a training ground for a life of setting out on big adventure with not much planning or advanced notice. Throughout the years, we have found that we easily wake up in the morning and find ourselves in quite a different state altogether by the evening.
But, of course, the MOART (Mother of All Road Trips) was to be different. We had been planning this trip for years and the lead up to planning and preparing had been lengthy. I was actually feeling more prepared than ever when, just 24 hours from leaving, the phone rang again. This time it was me, asking my husband, “How soon could we be ready?”
In a turn of events bordering on the improbable, Hurricane Isaac was headed towards landlocked St Louis, and seemed to be insistent upon following us and our giant rolling sail all the way there. The weather, and the winds it promised were of utmost concern as we determined that we needed to get ahead of the storm and be parked before the full forces of it hit.
With a “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude, we began the final push to load the car and camper and unload the refrigerator and trash in the house. All seemed stressful, but possible until….the camper arrived. As the Mister backed the camper into the driveway, the back wheel came in a little wonky. I described what I saw in ultra technical terms, while using the word wonky several more times. With a quick look, the Mister agreed that it was wonky, and also the bearing was loose and needed to be repacked.
What transpired from there was an epic melodrama that pitted the forces of the hurricane barreling towards our route and the peg legged camper limping along with only three good wheels. As the hours ticked by, I watched, somewhat helplessly, as the bearings were repacked and then the tires were checked and then the entire trailer was taken to the shop to see if there was anything else that could be done. The questions loomed and the stress storm at home brewed as ominous as the hurricane that marched in red and purple across the radar. Was the axle bent? Was the bearing damaged? Would we be able to leave at all?
Reinforcements were summoned and they came in like a shining cavalry, bringing food and entertainment for the kids, as well as extra hands for the work and moral support. We continued with dogged determination and sheer will until a giant stop sign in the form of running out of gas five miles from home flew up in front of our face.
We were defeated-utterly exhausted- and it was time to give up. Some mountains are unmovable and some stresses are insurmountable, even for folks as wild-eyed and stubborn as we seem to be. In the manufactured rush, we had forgotten that some mountains aren’t safe to move. An old sailor once said that the surest way to get yourself in trouble was to stick to a schedule. In an effort to avoid a coming safety issue, we had driven ourselves to ignore a present safety issue.
Running out of gas was the straw that broke that camel’s back, but at the same time, it was the catalyst to putting the wheels back on our operation. (Love me some mixed metaphors.) With the extra time, we were able to check the wheels one more time only to discover that wheel on the opposite side of the camper was two full turns loose from the axle, causing the overall wheel wonkiness. Had we not stopped, we likely wouldn’t have gotten far before the back wheel fell off completely.
With hope that sleep would restore our minds and body, we went to bed with the purpose to leave several hours earlier in the morning to stay ahead of the storm. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the last thought on my mind was how we almost made a huge mistake by focusing too narrowly on the goal ahead. Hopefully, that is a lesson that we learned just in time.