Staff column: The trip from hell comes out well
Anyone who has ever gone camping has had them.
A trip from hell where almost everthing seems to go wrong.
Months in the planning, and weeks in execution, it seems, only makes for more complicated problems and situations.
Since March my wife and I had planned a week long camping trip in the Uinta mountains. We had reserved the campsite so all our kids, grand kids and many friends could come to the event. And with that we started to spend money.
But all the money in the world does not guarantee anything about any about any trip. You know the saying about the best laid plans? Well it's true.
We had spent weeks assembling, buying and putting together everything we needed for a protracted stay in the wilderness. What I knew before, and should have remembered, is the more complicated the technology, the more that can go wrong. True, a fifth wheel is much more comfortable to stay in than the sleeper I used to have on the back of my pick up. But had I had only a tent I might have been better off, on this trip.
It began on a hot Thursday afternoon in the middle of July as we crept up the summit of Indian Canyon behind some large overload semi that was going about three miles per hour. My truck (25 years old, but in good shape) didn't have enough gumption to pass on any of the open areas but it also didn't like the slow speed that put no air through the radiator. Overheating was a complete possibility, so I pulled over and waited for the large load to get to the other side. A half hour later we started out again.
Just after cresting the summit there was that heavy haul semi going downhill at the same three miles per hour. Had I realized he was there, I would have put it in four low without turning the hubs, but instead now I was caught in a traffic line behind him, in regular drive with no place to pull over to get the tranny in the lower gears. My problem of going uphill had become one of going downhill. It was either find a place to pass or hit him from behind because there was no way my brakes were going to hold going all the way down that steep hill even in low. I found a spot to pass and went by him. That would have been okay, except suddenly I realized for some reason my trailer brake module had failed. The only thing between me going off the end of a cliff at the bottom of the hill and the 14,000 pound fifth wheel behind me was my truck brakes which luckily I had checked and worked on the day before the trip. Almost at the bottom of the hill the front brakes on the truck were crying and smoking like Edward R.Murrow used to on his news show. I reached a point where I could pull off the road and it took the whole length of the turnoff and the jamming on of the emergency brake to keep us from rolling down a hill.
And I hadn't even gotten 30 miles from home yet.
But things got better. The brakes cooled, I worked on the brake module a little and got it working (a wire had come loose) and we headed for Vernal where I had a meeting the next day before we headed into the Uintas.
But that was just the beginning of the troubles we encountered. Here's a list (in chronological order over the next eight days).
<*We put up the fifth wheel awning for the first time since we had bought it since things seemed so still and calm one morning. As I drove the final stake down into the ground, a wicked wind came up and tore the awning away from the unit. We only got it rolled up and any of it saved by the Herculean efforts of a bunch of our friends that were camped with us.
*Two of our ATVs broke down. One quit running entirely and we couldn't even get it started. The other had a shifter linkage break, and we put in a temporary repair that took about two hours to accomplish.
*I had just purchased a new generator to charge the batteries in the fifth wheel. The generator's internal breakers kept popping despite all efforts to lessen the load on the unit. When I had cell service (which was only when we drove out of the area to get extra water) I called the company and their technicians were all busy. When one did call me back, he left a message in which he read right out of the owners manual's troubleshooting steps. I had already done all those things. We never resolved the problem.
*I found that it required more than gravity pressure to put extra water in the fifth wheel water tanks. After the 53.5 gallon water tank is empty it takes either a city water hookup or an electric pump to get water in the tanks. We had made the original water in tank last four days; we spent the next four with gallon jugs on counters and pouring water heated up on the Camp Chef over our heads for showers.
*There were also various other small disasters and mishaps. One of the dogs got sick on the way home and we had to roll the windows down in the truck for about 40 miles so we could breath. Despite buying all new lighting and connectors for various trailers our two vehicles pulled, I never could get the all the lights working right at the same time. Two people along for the trip were using c-pap machines and we had inverters to run them from separate batteries. These batteries, while built for that purpose, never lived up to expectations. One brand new plastic water can was melted by the exhuaust of the generator and an empty gas can blew out of the back of a truck while we were headed home.
*Finally, and worst of all, I was letting my son use our old camp trailer to house his family.Two weeks ago I had towed it to Wyoming so he could put his stuff in it and come with us. On his way home from the trip, one of the wheel bearings disintegrated, causing the wheel to come off. This bent one of the axels, and then the wheel dislodged flying up through the back of the floor of the trailer and out the rear window, taking part of the rear portion of the trailer with it. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but the the old trailer is basically now done for. It would cost more to repair all the damage than it would to buy another trailer like it.
Between all this we did get in some riding, hiking and fishing. We enjoyed the cool night air and the unique weather the Uintas produce on summer afternoons. The grand kids had fun, but personally I wouldn't call what we went through fun; it was more like an adventure.
So that was my families summer vacation. How was yours?