“What would my love want for her birthday?” I asked, hoping the answer was something we could afford. A trip to Germany was out of the question. We just received our refund from EuroWings for our canceled flight back in June. Besides, the German government won’t let us in right now anyway as Americans have too high an infection rate. Thank COVID-19 for a memorable 2020 and our government for our horrible reaction to the world-wide pandemic.
Ilse didn’t hesitate. “Let’s take the trailer and go camping! Someplace in Florida we haven't been before, and go for at least a week!”
Our only sojourn since Hurricane Florence way back in September of 2018 had been a meager three-day trip in April of 2019 to the nearby, semi-desolate Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, for which I have a fond affection and Ilse a strong revulsion. Just as we began planning 2020, along came COVID. RVing and camping became just as much a distant dream as international air travel. The trailer fell from grace, ignored except to be moved once as falling tree branches threatened her as she sat immobile, socially abandoned under a tall pine tree. We simply could not get enthused about hauling the trailer and setting up in a campground. Besides, daily life was getting in the way.
Even starting our search for reservations three months early, five consecutive days was as good as we could get. The only spot open over her birthday was in Silver Springs State Park near Ocala. We’ve never been there, but the park has always been high on our list of parks to be visited. Of the three sites open at Silver Springs State Park Campground, one campsite was reserved and removed from the list while we were discussing alternatives. We grabbed the better looking of the two remaining sites and began planning our first outing in over eighteen months. It was high time to dust the cobwebs off our ten-year old travel trailer. With only 29,000 miles on it, it was once again tugging at our wanderlust.
Unfortunately, our imaginations had been tempered considerably after being caught in northern Georgia during Hurricane Florence. We learned quickly an RV is not what you need against any winds even close to hurricane force in strength. Sitting in a campground bath-house designated as a storm shelter is no assurance of safety. We returned home from that trip filled with not only apprehension but also an aversion to being caught helpless once again.
Our twenty-one foot KZ trailer received only minimal maintenance attention and only the short side trip to Kissimmee while it sat in our adjacent lot, waiting to be hauled off to the remote corners of our imaginations while Ilse and I contemplated what we really wanted to do.
But it was time. Let’s crank this up and make a decision: Keep the trailer or sell it?
The decision wasn’t going to be easy. We lost our faithful travel companion, seventeen year-old Golden Retriever, Taz, in June. Taz traveled with us since 2005, and in every RV trip but one. This would be our first extended trip without a pet. I began getting the Toyota Sequoia tow truck ready, and with four days to spare, began cleaning and preparing the trailer.
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Let’s start with the tongue jack. That’s the trailer jack in the front of the trailer that raises and lowers the front of the trailer so you can back your tow truck hitch under the hitch. Everyone who uses an electric jack knows they work intermittently. And therein starts my tale.
After eighteen months of inactivity, my trailer jack was dead. I’ll forego the hours trouble shooting and fuse cleaning and explain I simply bought a new, better trailer jack. After installing the new jack, I found the new jack did not have enough clearance to open the lift-gate once the trailer was hooked to the hitch. I remounted the jack, turning it so I could get my hands inside the Sequoia. I found out an hour after bolting it in place the huge, white plastic propane tank cover no longer fit over the propane tanks because the new jack was in the way. Undeterred, I loosened the jack, slid the propane tank cover into place and remounted the jack. I went inside the trailer to bleed the air out of the propane lines and test both the refrigerator and the gas stove. Everything worked fine. I stepped outside the trailer just as Ilse came from the house.
Blang! I looked at Ilse. “Did something just fall off the trailer?”
“No,” she said. “It sounded like an explosion under the tank cover, and I smell smoke!”
“Hmmn, that’s propane gas.” I answered as I raised the small access panel on top of the white, plastic propane tank cover and realized I was staring at a blown-out LP gas hose. I quickly shut off the tank valve. Shall I skip ahead here or are you masochistic enough to read this? Elmore Leonard says to always skip the parts nobody reads, but I’m going to put this in here come hell or high water. Yes, I’m an idiom freak. I suffered this nonsense and if you are an RV owner, you are probably just as addicted to this nonsense as I am.
Skip ahead several odd time elements. Not days, maybe lifetimes, maybe only hours, or perhaps just an illusion even though my T-shirt is wet with sweat.
We are currently sitting in the quiet, well-spaced campground in Silver Springs State Park. It is raining. We don’t care. We are sitting under the old, weather-worn awning in our lounge chairs watching the drizzle while the humidity is, believe it or not, lower than we’ve seen since the last Ice Age. We are comfortable. Go figure.
Out of boredom, I start counting my recent receipts. Since we started this journey less than twenty-four hours ago, I have: A: - Replaced a broken plastic screen door latch which broke at home as we were loading; B: - Replaced the long, black fabric awning strap that pulled apart in my hand as I opened the awning for the first time in eighteen months; C: - Temporarily remounted the plastic door over the exhaust vent cover back into place after it fell on the ground, I latched it back in place, and D: - Figured out how to bypass the ruptured gas line.
As we ate our first breakfast the next morning in our quiet campground, basically all of yesterday’s problems either solved or harmlessly deferred, we watched in amazement as water slowly ran out from under the bathroom door, meandering aimlessly across our newly scrubbed kitchen floor.
For those who have never had a spongy floor, there is no terror in an RV’ers heart as a wet floor. It is the coup d’grace for any RV. If unchecked, a wet floor creates a terminal condition. This is the voice of experience. For those who wonder what I’m talking about, the link is at:
It took more than a few minutes to isolate the source of water, but after I realized it was coming from the water supply connection at the top of the toilet, which of course is totally inaccessible to mortal humans, I decided then and there to sell the trailer. If I had the title with me I would have sold the trailer to the nearest salvage yard. But, reality bops you upside the head sometimes before your reactions overcome your intelligence and we decided to simply take the easiest course of action and enjoy our remaining four days in the campground. We: E; - Wrapped a towel around the leaking water supply line to the back of the toilet flush valve in the bathroom and turned off the water pump so there would be minimal pressure on the water supply. Of course we had to spend most of the first day driving between RV repair shops to find the correct parts for the ten year old toilet.
Shall we paddle the pristine Silver River tomorrow, or drive to the dump station, empty my black water-tank and pull off my toilet to replace the defective water valve without driving us and our neighbors to buy gas masks?
No problems with priorities here. We decided to shut off the water pump until we need it, and simply absorb the controllable leak until we get home. We ended up at Camping World down by the Villages and bought the replacement valve so I can fix it at my convenience, and two little brass adapters to fit the new size propane pigtails I bought from Amazon to fix the original gas leak problem. We are using the remaining one good gas connector tube – after a soap bubble test for leaks – and decided we can find outdoor restaurants if we need to.
I missed camping. I missed the predicaments that every other camper faced two years ago but you don’t know about because you have used up your data on your cellphone plan an hour ago. Really, I missed camping. Really… Well, OK, not so much… But, yeah, well, maybe...
The vacation starts now…