Telling travel stories is about recounting the highest highs and the lowest lows. Whether it’s rejoicing as the summit of the mountain is reached, or laughing along at the follies of a ride on a midnight chicken bus, readers are voyeuristically invested in the epic moments. (Although, let’s be real, we find the chicken bus story just a little bit more deliciously enjoyable.) As I recount our stories, it is the highs and lows that we retell the most, but sometimes I feel sorry for the stories that didn’t quite make the cut simply because everything worked out in the end. They had the potential to be the next chicken bus story, but instead, everything balanced out to the mundane. Every story gets its day, I say. I want to celebrate those stories-the stories charged with emotion as the balance of good fortune seemed to be heading towards tragedy, but leveled out. These are the stories of the things that could have gone very badly, but didn’t.
Act Two: Bad, Bad Bearings
The lesson to learn from the outset of this story is that you never, never start a day by saying that you need to get an early start. That is like an open invitation to the travel gods to start messing with your life. So, being rookies, we started out the morning very early with the intention to get to the next city about four hours away before lunch. We only had a limited amount of time to explore and we wanted to take advantage of every minute.
Hooking up and setting out was seamless, and we were, wait for it, ahead of schedule. Just when we hit the highway and got up to speed, a terrifying clunking noise beckoned from the back of the camper. The Mister sped up and slowed down and turned this way and that way to further diagnose the problem. So erratic was the maneuvering, if we had been seen by any policeman, I am confident that we would have been pulled over for driving while intoxicated. Our DWI-like driving concluded that the ominous noise could only be heard when we were driving over 45 MPH and it stopped whenever we took a corner. We had been eyeing the bearing on our camper tires for potential wear for a few days, and the clunking along was the tell-tale sign that their number was up.
Good fortune, of which we seemed to have none, found us near an RV repair shop who agreed that we could do our repair if we purchased any needed parts from them. That was the beginning of the slop slinging grease fest that was the removal and repacking of the each of the bearings. To say that we were covered in grease is the greatest understatement. We were swimming in enough grease to make the world go round. With each push and pull of the bearing, giant globs of lube would projectile launch towards our faces and we would hope against hope that we would be fast enough to look away and save our eyesight. Grease was flinging just as freely as the obscenities, while a crowd was gathering to watch the Clampetts meet I Love Lucy production.
With all four tires re-attached, and six roles of paper towels and hours expended, we hit the road again only to be haunted by the clunking as soon as we picked up speed. Exhausted, exasperated, and defeated, we made a U-turn to head back to the grease stained parking lot. With the wide U-turn, we caught a glimpse of the back panel to see that a hatch was freely flapping in the breeze. With that knowledge, we sped up to 45 and stared in exhausted, exasperated rage as the clunking was revealed as a simple unlocked hatch. Just mention the word “hatch” today and my husband will actually begin to twitch.