Today is Memorial Day, and my family and I are headed back from a weekend at the beach. Growing up, Mark worked for his family’s moving company; 80% of their income came in the summer when the military bases in Montgomery moved people so it wasn’t until the 90’s that he had his first Memorial Day off. Since then, we try to go somewhere every Memorial Day weekend. This weekend we are at Gulf Shores, one of our favorite beaches. It has been a pleasant trip, but one trip we took to Gulf Shores was not.
You won't want to believe me, but I solemnly swear this story is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
One Fourth of July weekend, Mark and I arranged for my mom to come with the two of us and Kayla in our camper, and to meet one of my sisters, her husband, and her daughter at an RV resort in Gulf Shores. They had a camper too.
The Fourth of July was on Monday. My sister’s crew was supposed to leave the Friday before from North Alabama and arrive that day. We left Saturday since the beach is much closer to us than it is to them. Saturday morning, Mark and I, Kayla, and my mom were safely tucked into our motor home and headed south towards the beach in heavy, but tolerable, traffic when we got a text from my sister about 10 a.m. Instead of being at Gulf Shores, they were about 30 minutes from the beach and their truck had died. They had called a wrecker and were waiting for it.
The next text came about 15 minutes later. The wrecker had arrived; its operator had gotten the truck to start by hitting the alternator with a hammer, but he was following them into town to the nearest (open) mechanic’s shop to be sure they got there safely. 10 minutes later, we heard that the first place they were towed to did not have a mechanic on duty, so they were headed to a different place. About 10 minutes after that, the tow truck following them was hit by someone who was DUI and with drug paraphernalia in her vehicle. Once that was sorted out with the police, my sister’s family and the tow truck continued their trek over to an auto parts store which we will call, for convenience sake and purely incidentally resembling the name of an existing chain, O’Raley’s Auto Parts Store. O’Raley’s had mechanics on duty, but they weren’t highly motivated to work on the truck – until it died again in front of the bays they use to fix vehicles, at which point O’Raley’s helped. Which was great, except that O’Raley’s didn’t have the exact alternator they needed in stock, which meant that the O’Raley’s people tried three parts stores before they found the correct alternator.
About 1:00 that afternoon, when we were 45 minutes from the beach, we got a text from my sister that the truck was fixed and they were headed on to the campground. At which point we all heaved a huge sigh of relief and relaxed. Until 10 minutes later.
Kayla shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” She had been watching our rear view camera. The front end of the Hyundai Veloster that we towed behind us had detached itself from the rest of the vehicle. Fortunately, the break happened on a local road while traffic was going slow, so the towing safeguards held stuff together enough that no-one around us got hurt and we reached the side of the road.
While the police were working on the required incident report for us, a couple of cars in the left hand lane collided into each other. We think maybe they were watching us instead of each other. The policeman stuck working on the Saturday before the Fourth of July was much busier than he might have been otherwise.
After about 45 minutes, the policeman was done with us, the tow truck driver called by AAA had arrived and taken the Veloster off with him, and we resumed our drive.
Now short one car, we decided to rent one for the weekend. However, it was 2:00 p.m. on the Saturday before the Fourth of July in small town Alabama, and no one was open except for one Avis Rent-A-Car place in Daphne, 30 minutes away from us in normal traffic – and the beach traffic on this weekend was anything but! Plus, they closed at three. My brother-in-law grabbed Mark when we got into the campground, and the two dashed off in his truck to get the car, arriving at the Avis place at 3:00 exactly, where the kind young man at the counter took pity on them and helped.
Meanwhile, back at the campground, Mom, Kayla, my sister, and her daughter went to the pool. I stayed behind at the camper to regain some semblance of equanimity and decided to put the chicken for supper that night out to thaw. Deciding it would thaw more quickly outdoors, I carried it outside to put on the picnic table. I started to go back inside the air conditioned camper - and discovered I had locked myself out. I sat outside at the picnic table for a while but July in Alabama is not the time to stay outdoors with no water, so I went to the pool, where my sister took pity on me and brought me back to her trailer while we waited for Mark and my brother-in-law to return.
Once they got back with the car and the camper was unlocked, everyone took a deep breath and started to finally relax. We enjoyed dinner together, and even went to bed a little early. It had been a stressful day, but we were finally there, set up and able to rest. Until 2:30 a.m. that morning.
The electricity in our camper was kaput. Normally, this is not a big deal – a breaker just trips somewhere and needs to be reset. Not this weekend, though. Whatever was wrong with our electrical system was systemic and not going to be fixed by something as easy as a flipped circuit breaker. By 3:30 a.m., Kayla and Mom had woken up too. We conceded defeat and headed home the next day.
So no matter what obstacles we encounter camping on regular holiday weekends, we always have something to compare it with and know nothing is as bad as it could be. And that disastrous trip has been the fodder for many a family story and laughter for years afterwards.
What trips have you taken that did not go according to plan? Have you had a good Memorial Day weekend?