Twenty three days into our new nomadic lifestyle, things are not yet running smoothly. For a while, it seemed that something would break literally every time we moved our rig.
For instance, our High Pointe microwave died on the trip down to Texas. It was covered by our extended warranty, but with a $100 deductible for a $140 microwave, we decided it was not worth the hassle to do the claim.
Our next stop after leaving Texas was Arkansas’ Petit Jean State Park. On the drive up to Arkansas, the light for the “stabilitrack” (whatever that was) came on the dash, and we could not put the truck in 4 wheel drive mode. Not a major problem by any means as we were not going places at the moment where we would need it.
Petit Jean is rumored to be the prettiest state park in Arkansas and has a beautiful legend associated with it.
The first night in Petit Jean, we got in late and set up camp in the dark as we fought off armies of flying bugs to set up our camp.
The next morning, we woke up and decided to move our campsite as we were on a pretty significant slope. Also, we needed a campsite with a tent pad because my brother, Ben, his girlfriend Jennifer, and their 5 kids between them were coming to join us that night.
When we tried to start the pickup, it was dead. So, I went to the visitor center to see if anyone could give us a jump. Luckily, a gentleman from the maintenance crew was able to help us!
We have a 2013 GMC Denali 2500 truck. We could not see a date on the battery, but it looked like it most likely was a factory battery so it was due to go out. We took the pickup out for a brisk drive after we moved our trailer, and it started again after we turned it off.
But we were running on borrowed time with the battery as we began to smell a rotten egg smell while we were driving. I did not know this, but that is a sign that your battery is going out when you smell that. Hans made a trip into town and got another battery for our truck and that problem was solved easily.
My brother and his girlfriend and the nephews and nieces arrived and the good times rolled!
We were able to tick Arkansas off our RV map.
A couple of days into our stay at Petit Jean, rain finally broke the oppressive heat wave. We had not turned on the TV since we left Texas. When we decided to entertain the kids with a movie inside the trailer, we realized the TV was kaput. It had worked just fine in Texas! How disappointing!
Instead, we played cards and told ghost stories about Albert, the ghost who haunted the front bedroom of our former Denver home, and LCHD, the haunted plane I was on in the 1990’s.
The ghost stories may have been too convincing. The kids had been interested in sleeping in their own tent, but instead chose to sleep in the camper with us. We utilized the sofa, the table and the floor for them, and even though it was a snug fit, everyone was OK with it.
It looks like a big mess but really there are children under all those blankets. (Hans likes it super cold to sleep so the rest of us need lots of blankets!)
After a few days with the kids, we loaded up for the drive to Tulsa to take them back home to their dad. Ben, my brother and their dad, is super handy. He installed an electric hookup with water so that we could comfortably stay in Jennifer’s back yard in Oklahoma.
We were making great time and things seemed to be going smoothly. We accidentally got on a toll road. This was he first indicator that our luck was changing. I really hate toll roads. Somehow the filter in my gps app turned off the “avoid toll roads” feature. We didn’t have enough coins in the truck so we had to borrow money from the kids who apparently are loaded.
Our second indicator that our luck was coming to an end was when the brakes briefly locked up as we were approaching a toll booth. That was SCARY. The children even broke eye contact with their video games when we jolted.
A Walmart parking lot was conveniently located at the end of the exit ramp so we pulled off the road. (We spend more time than I care to admit in Walmart parking lots because they are EVERYWHERE and their lots are HUGE.)
This is what we saw:
Like a dead snake lying in the Walmart parking lot, there was our cord that connected the trailer lights to our truck. It had dragged on the ground until the insulation surrounding the wires in the cord had been burned through and caused our brakes to engage.
It was official. We were broken down in Broken Arrow, OK, in the parking lot of a Walmart. I felt like this was definitely the lowest point of my RV-ing experience so far.
I called my brother because we were not sure that we could safely drive the trailer at this point. I knew he would know what to do. He said we were only twenty minutes from his house. He said to leave the cord disconnected and use hand signals to signal turns and use caution as we would no longer have turn signals or brake lights on our trailer.
We proceeded carefully the 20 or so miles to their home and harbored safely in Jennifer’s huge backyard.
As timing would have it, we ended up spending the 4th of July with Ben and Jennifer and their kids which was a lot of fun.
For the 4th, we went with the family to a Tulsa Drillers baseball game followed by fireworks. The Drillers are the farm team for the Dodgers. I can not think of a more American celebration than a baseball game and fireworks for the 4th.
And of course we fired off fireworks in Jennifer’s back pasture!
Ben helped Hans install a new trailer cord.
They also replaced a fuse that had been blown when the trailer cord dragged.
To repay him for his help, we babysat the kids so that he and Jennifer could have some time alone. Babysitting tip from the Taubs: Babysitting is much easier if you wrap the children in plastic wrap so they cannot move.
Just kidding! I really do not know who started this, but no children were harmed, and they actually asked us to do it again the next day!
By the way, if you didn’t know already, we are child-free. I am sure everyone is relieved to hear this! Haha!
We took the truck to the dealer in Tulsa on July 5th to diagnose the “stabilitrack” problem. The problem was the “coder motor” on the transmission had burned out so we replaced that to the tune of a few hundred dollars. It was a relatively easy fix, all things considered.
We left Ben and Jennifer’s back yard and ventured down the road and resumed our journey towards the upper Midwest where (hopefully) cooler temperatures beckoned.
We went to a nearby dump station at a state park to empty our gray and black tanks. Our luck took another turn!
We had had a lot of help from the kids when we dumped our tanks at Petit Jean. The kids gloved-up and helped Uncle Hans.
Somehow in the hubbub, the black tank valve remained open. This was not good when we dumped after the visit in Tulsa.
I was sitting in the truck with the windows rolled up texting with a friend when I smelled a very, very bad smell. I jumped out to see if everything was ok.
It was not. It looked like our trailer had diarrhea next to the dump station. How gross and embarrassing!!! We washed it off as best we could in the direction of the sewer opening. I squirted some Blue Dawn on the aftermath to try to clean it up better than simply washing it with water. We were both gagging! Ugh!!!!
Moving on, we continued uneventfully on our journey until we reached the Downstream RV Park. It was part of the Downstream Casino, and we could get 2 free nights of water and electric hookups if we joined their Players Club!
We thought our streak of weird mechanical luck had thankfully come to an end, but no sooner than we had set up camp, we got a phone call from our neighbor that our home in Denver had flooded because of a broken sprinkler!
Thanks to our fantastic neighbor, Patrick, for handling everything and for family members, Sonny and Calius, flying out from California to fix the broken sprinkler.
Even with the setbacks we have had, we have felt loved and supported every step of the way, from my brother wiring hookups for us and buying Hans a comprehensive tool kit, friends offering us a mooch-dock, to all the nice gifts and messages of support from family, friends and neighbors, we have never felt alone, and we feel so fortunate to be a part of a loving community of friends and family.
We also had the good fortune to be in Quapaw, OK, for the 146th Annual Powwow of the Quapaw Tribe with other tribes in the area. It was so moving to hear the music and see the dancing and the traditional garb of the indigenous people. I am awed at how these people have managed to salvage their traditions and uphold pride despite the genocide that almost annihilated them. I would like to say that the broken sprinkler was the end of our travails, but it was not.
As I write this from Robertsville State Park in Missouri, a mechanic named Chris is putting the finishing touches on installing a converter box for us. He came to our campsite to assist us today after we parked here two nights ago and discovered our batteries were not charging. The lights were pulling off of our battery, which should not happen, so we were unable to use the lights. Thankfully, the air conditioning still worked.
The RV season is in full swing right now so it would have been 4 weeks to get into an RV service shop in St. Louis. We were glad that we found Chris to come out in the first 2 days. It was also nice because we got to catch up with our dear friend, Ann, in St. Louis.
We went to a great place called Louis’s Wine Dive that I highly recommend if you are passing through. They have a gluten-free option on almost every item on their menu. I especially love their Brussels sprouts!
Wish us luck as we venture northward later on this week. I hope our mechanical problems are over for now!