Sep 23, 2010
|Holy cow! I hardly recognized yesterday it was so different from the one I had planned.
Let me start out by saying that we almost never stay at a Wal-Mart. We like our creature comforts, especially the air conditioning during warm weather. Since the weather is cooler now (we’ve had our heat of for a couple weeks), we planned a night at Wal-Mart for this trip south. Yesterday was the day for that Wal-Mart stay.
So this is how the plan went. We were going to stay in the campground in Brattlesboro until check-out. We didn’t want to arrive at Wal-Mart (some may say Uncle Wally’s) too soon. We had a leisurely trip planned with a late afternoon arrival at which time we would prepare our dinner meal from the deli selections--perhaps rotisserie chicken accompanied by a couple of nice salads. That didn’t sound so bad for an evening without electricity.
Everything started out great. The morning was wonderful--no rushing around trying to get hitched up and on the road early. I read, surfed the internet, and did a little cleaning. We managed to get hitched up about eleven then had an early lunch before pulling out of our site just before the stroke of noon.
Traffic on I-84 was not too bad. We were zipping along with no worries. Traffic intensity picked up as soon as we got close to Hartford, Connecticut. It wasn’t rush hour or anything--just heavy traffic. And these are typical New England drivers dashing here and there and cutting you off at the pass. I had a steady grip on my seat when a young man in a car pulled along side us and rolled down his window and commenced with the hand signals. “Well, great”. I didn’t actually say, “well, great”. This was the most traffic we’d been in in 2 months, and now we’re barreling down the highway at 65 mph trying to interpret hand signals. We finally figured out that we had a flat tire on the trailer. “Well, Great!” I didn’t say, “well, great” that time, either.
We immediately moved over two lanes and then pulled onto the shoulder as soon as we found a place wide enough and long enough to fit the behemoth into. By a miracle, there was a very wide shoulder plus a graveled area large enough for us to get into. We had about 6 feet between us and the first lane of traffic (traffic that is still barreling down the highway at 65 mph). Gene got out and found, sure enough, a very flat tire. By some miracle, it did not blow out, so we didn’t have any damage to the trailer.
Back in the truck, Gene called for roadside service through our USAA insurance. The nice lady on the other end of the line verified that the flat was on our 5th wheel, got our location, and then called for service. In about 10 minutes we got an automated call back to let us know that a service truck would be at our location “within an hour”. The hour came and went. Gene was getting antsy, but about that time the phone rang again. This time it was the service tech. He wanted to know were we were. Again, we gave specific direction--between exits 38 and 37 westbound on I-84. “I’ll make another pass,” he says. What? It’s not like we’re invisible out here. Surely, he could see a 40 foot 5th wheel parked on the shoulder. So we continued to wait. Finally, after about 20 more minutes, he pulls up behind us. He looks like he’s about 12 years old and is driving a very small AAA van that is choked full of batteries, cables, and belts.
He crawls under the trailer and after several attempts finally figures out how to release our spare tire. After many long minutes, he announces he doesn’t have a jack which will hold the trailer weight. A 4,000 lb hydraulic ain’t gonna lift this baby. We say our fond farewells and Gene gets back on the phone with USAA again. This time, he goes to great lengths to explain the difference in a 5th wheel and a travel trailer and mentions 14,500 lbs gross vehicle weight about four times during the conversation. She seemed to understand a little better.
Within 10 minutes we got an automated call that service would arrive at our location “within an hour”. About 10 minutes later we get a call from the service tech wanting to verify that we had a spare. About 20 minutes later he calls back wanting to know if the spare is on a rim or not. I have my doubts that he’ll be at our location within an hour. However, to my surprise, he pulls up with one minute to spare. By the way, he pulled up in one of those big trucks (his was red and very shiny) with the a zillion flashing orange lights like you see pulled over with broken down tracker trailers. My confidence was restored.
It only took him about 30 minutes to change the tire and have us on our way. Of course, that was at the end of the previous 3 hours. We would have been out of there in an hour and a half if they hadn’t sent junior in the AAA mini auto store. Oh well, during that entire time no one slammed into the side of us as we sat there on the shoulder of I-84. It’s amazing how much sway we got from the big rigs as they passed.
I’ve got to get dinner ready. I’ll continue this saga later this evening. This is not the end of the story.