Filed under: Comfort at Camp, Destination Camping & RV Resorts, Humor, Preparation & Readiness, Roads & Routes, RV Campgrounds, RV Repair, Safety on the Road, The RVs We Drive
CAMPFIRE STORIES – “Broken Down on the Key Bridge”
Sitting around a campfire with a group of old friends or new acquaintances inevitably brings out personal stories that speak of the trials, tribulations and adventures we all encounter during our RV travels. Such was the case last week as a group gathered on a cool November night.
That’s when Allan shared the unfortunate but somewhat humorous adventure he, his dog and wife endured as they crossed the Frances Scott Key Bridge in Washington, D.C.:
We are finally underway to meet our fellow Cedar Creek RV Owners Club friends for our End of Year Rally at Willow Tree Resort in South Carolina. Our Terrier, Duffy, and I really needed this getaway. We had planned getaways earlier this fall but had to cancel them for my hernia operation and my son’s spinal surgery. Then, we were forced to delay our departure for this trip when Hurricane Sandy caused a blackout at our home.
The ride from our home in PA to Willow Tree normally takes about 10 hours. I was so looking forward to getting away that I did not even complain about the Friday afternoon traffic we were running into. If Gwen, the cook for Duffy and me, had not delayed our departure by taking too long to load the trailer we would have missed the traffic – but all was OK.
We were approaching the Baltimore area on I-95 and had to take the detour for vehicles carrying propane onto route 695, which goes over the Key Bridge. I actually didn’t mind the detour because it is a scenic ride – especially up and over the bridge. Just before you begin to cross the bridge there is a toll booth. I slowed down for my EZ Pass to work and started to pick up speed to go up the rather steep bridge. That was when I looked into my driver side rear view mirror and saw a cloud of blue smoke coming from my trailer tires. “Wow”, I thought calmly, “that is not normal”. I told Gwen, “We just blew a tire.” I immediately pulled back into the right lane, put on my flashers and stopped. I carefully opened my door as the traffic flew past me barely missing my belly. I cautiously walked back to the camper and looked at the trailer’s tires – I knew immediately that something did not seem right. Even I, an old retired dentist who is not overly mechanically inclined, knew the two trailer tires should not be touching each other. “Wow!” I thought calmly, “that’s sort of like a molar touching an incisor – something is wrong”. I crawled under the trailer, risking the loss of both legs, and saw that the front of my leaf spring had broken in half. I went back into the truck and told Gwen, “I wish we had blown a tire!” So, I called AAA. As I was on the phone with AAA, a nice State Trooper had arrived on the scene and was talking to Gwen through the passenger side window. I explained my situation to AAA and they said someone would be there within 30 minutes. Remember, I am broken down on the bridge, traffic is heavy, and I am blocking one of the traffic lanes.
The police immediately erected orange cones around my disabled vehicle. About twenty minutes later the first of three enormous tow trucks showed up. “Wow”, I thought, “We are getting a lot of attention and will be fixed in no time”. Ha-Ha. I was told that a fifth-wheel camping trailer could not be loaded onto a roll-back flat bed wrecker for several reasons. The most important is that it will not fit under any overpass on a flat bed. That was the first serious problem we encountered trying to get the camper off the bridge.
After a long conference where the men seemed to ignore my suggestions – one of which was to disconnect the trailer and push it off the bridge, and several phone calls, the three tow truck operators, and police decided to remove the wheels from my front axle and chain the axle up in the air. I must say the policeman was very much in favor of my suggestion to push the trailer off the bridge, which he said would alleviate his problems of traffic control on a busy Friday evening but warned me about something called EPA not being happy if I dumped the entire thing into the river under the bridge.
Several police cars blocked anyone from passing me as the three tow trucks acted as my front guard escorting me across the bridge at about 5 miles per hour to the next exit – which was about 4 miles down the road. I forgot to mention that it was about 45 degrees outside with a 50 mile an hour wind whipping across the bridge. I have a feeling a lot of travelers called me disrespectful names as I was creeping along the bridge with my broken RV. I had the windows rolled up so I couldn’t hear the not-so-nice words people were calling out at me. But I did notice some finger gestures. There was no sympathy from my fellow travelers.
We finally made it to the exit and followed the tow trucks onto a dead end street. At that point, everyone was on their cell phones trying to find someone that had a leaf spring that could be used to replace my broken one. After trying at least 20 repair shops that were unable to offer any assistance, we connected with someone eager to help us. They said that they had an opening on November 13th. Not bad, it was Nov 2nd which meant only 11 more days on this dead end street with no hook-ups. We do like dry camping but maybe not for that long.
After contemplating everything from setting a massive trailer fire to abandonment, I called my good friends at Cargo Trailer Sales in my home town of Lansdale, PA – about 130 miles away. Without any hesitation, Matt said he would be there to help. About three hours later, Matt and Roger drove up in a pickup truck with all kinds of jacks, springs, tires and wheels and proceeded to fix my trailer under just about the worst possible conditions. As they were jacking up the side of the trailer with a broken spring, the spring on the opposite side of the trailer snapped in two. A few hours later, after replacing all four leaf springs, we were able to leave this private camp site and head for South Carolina. I was going to hug and kiss Matt and his helper but was concerned about giving him the wrong impression. I didn’t even settle up with him. He said to get on my way, have fun, and he would see me when I got back home.
We made it to Willow Tree (three days behind schedule) and found out that breaking a spring is a rather common occurrence and something we should take lightly. I really love the guys in my club, they have a way of playing down even the most frustrating of events – like the time I closed the black water drain valve while I was still flushing out the tank and decided to take off for a bike ride, leaving Gwen to discover potty water pooling where it shouldn’t be.
After eleven wonderful days of beautiful fall weather with our friends, we are now heading back to PA. So far, so good – I just spend a lot of time checking my rear view mirror.