Beauty Happens

The tow rope & chain that gave us hope.
Near the end of September, our family decided to make one last camping trip before the frost set in. We were headed on a drive that would take us at least two hours from home. We both had Friday off from work, so we left Thursday evening, about an hour after my mom and dad, who were planning to choose the campsite.

When we arrived at the turnoff from the highway, we were met almost immediately by Mom on her ATV. I figured she was ready to lead us to camp, but instead, she informed us that their motorhome had shut down in the middle of the road and it wouldn't start again. They were stuck.

This was the first of many opportunities that night that one, or all of us could have started yelling, kicking, cursing or crying out of despair and frustration. I'm not saying we weren't tempted (and maybe we gave in a little) but given the obstacles we faced, it would've been easy to throw up our hands. Here's how the night progressed:
  • My husband and I were pulling our RV trailer, so we had to hurriedly find a level camping spot that would also work for my parents' camper to be towed in (and maybe out!).
  • As the light was fading we found my parents a few miles up the road. Dad had already scouted a possible turn-around site, so we got ready to tow. At this point, everyone thought it would be easy.
  • We've got the tow rope and chain hooked up, but it is dark and we're working with flashlights now. We see and hear lightning and thunder in the distance.
  • My husband eases the truck forward in low gear. We feel the rope tighten, we hear metal parts groaning, and the camper barely lurches forward. Dad yells out the window to STOP! 
Apparently, when the camper died while in gear, it decided to engage the emergency parking brake. You can guess that towing a vehicle with the brake on is not advised or even likely to be successful. And we continue...
The view from our campsite the next day.
  • It has started to sprinkle light rain, and the thunder is getting closer to the lightning flashes. Dad digs out the owner's manual and his box of wrenches, and my husband helps "interpret" the findings.
  • Twenty minutes later, it is pitch black and pouring rain! The lightning is nearly on top of us. The men are still at work (mostly inside, though) at deciphering the problem and developing a solution.
  • Another twenty minutes goes by and they've got a plan. There's a way to manually disengage the brake, but the mechanism is behind the front tire. I'm sure you can imagine the universal picture for Warning! Danger! that is printed in the manual alongside these instructions. It's not usually the best idea to be crawling around the tires when a brake is released.
  • It's raining again and Dad's under the camper squeezing and scooting, as best as any man over 60 can, in order to cut the camper loose. When he finally gets it, the tires barely move (thank God!) and we're ready to tow again.
Since we're in the mountains, most of the road is uphill, and we're counting on the elevation and the law of gravity to help us turn around. A few miles from where we began towing, the road splits in a Y. The plan was to tow up the path on the right at just such an angle that when we let the rope go slack, the camper would roll backwards toward the wide spot of the fork. Then it should've been short work to get the pickup back in front to tow the camper back to camp. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans...
  • When we arrive at the determined place, we let the rope go slack. We back up a bit to make sure the pickup isn't going to be jerked around, and then... nothing. The camper doesn't move an inch. We wonder aloud, "Is the parking brake back on?" Nope. "Is there a big rock behind one of the tires?" Nope. "Is there a little rock stopping us?" Nope. We had found one of the only level spots on the hill!
  • It has stopped raining, but the wind is blowing cold night air against our cheeks. We decide to push the camper from the front a bit, but no luck. Up until now, the camper has been hitched to the trailer for hauling the ATVs. We decide to unload the largest (and last) ATV and attempt to pull the camper backwards, thinking it just needs a little nudge to get gravity to take over. Again, no luck (it actually killed the motor of the ATV instead).
  • The final attempt was what actually worked, but it involved the most effort in transferring vehicles and trailers and ATVs. You remember those little square tile puzzles where you had to move about five different tiles in order to get the one tile you needed into the right place? That was us.
  • Dad was steering the camper. Mom was driving her ATV and she hitched up to the trailer. My husband was driving the tow truck (pickup) and he first towed the camper from its back bumper to turn around, and then attached again to the front to tow it to camp. I was behind the wheel of the larger ATV (incidentally, the first time I'd driven it) and we were ready to go. As we made our way into the brisk night air, I kept humming the chorus of the song Convoy by CW McCall. This made it seem more like an adventure than a chore, so I smiled and hummed the whole way.
The electrical tape that fixed the camper.
From the time we arrived on the scene until we were tucked in our beds that night, four hours had passed. Being the least mechanically-inclined and having the least to offer physically, I found myself sitting, waiting, and observing a lot that night. I kept refocusing my growing fears and frustrations into hope and encouragement by looking for beauty. I found it in the clouds that would glow with each lightning bolt. It was in the strength of the tow rope which could have easily broke with the first pull. It was in the refreshing rain that cleared the air for a bright blue sky the rest of the weekend. And it was in the tools and the know-how (especially the electrical tape) that allowed us to find and fix the short in the wires that had caused the engine to die in the first place. When retelling the story to our friends who came up the next day, we were able to laugh about it and the other guy said something most of us have heard before, "Sh*t happens."

No, I thought to myself, Beauty happens. And it did.


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