With both our ‘big’ kids in the care of our ex’s Birdy and I decided to break our cabin fever. LilPill has been protesting even our 1.5-hour trips for shopping, so we thought this might be a good opportunity to stretch her travelling stamina. We managed to stop & stretch only 3 times on our 7.5 hour trip to Bend where her family is.
First was a quick breakfast at a McDonald’s PlayPlace. Next, a rest area provided much amusement, as LilPill tried to catch seagulls. (They didn’t appear to want her hugs…)
Lastly, we stopped at the PS Ogden Scenic Viewpoint. Perched on the side of the 300-ft cliff of the Crooked River, we enjoyed walking the old bridge and taking in the view. LilPill was more occupied chasing all the ground squirrels. Like the seagulls, they were more annoyed than afraid.
I delivered the girls to Birdy’s family around 4:30 PM, taking time to unload and say hello, but working quick, as I still had hours of driving left to do. I swung by the Bend Bi-mart to grab a spare tire for my trailer and dinner at Burger King before hitting the road. It started to pour, then slush, as I saw the snow line stoop low on the hills. I wasn’t excited about road conditions.
I arrived at our property, to find the road a muddy, rutted mess. I dealt with the road as I had before, with momentum & 4-wheel drive. It was about dusk when I got to the camper, so I used my headlamp to install propane tank and battery. With lights and heat, I could finally relax. I settled in & read my e-Edition of Popular Mechanics before bed.
The morning dawned frosty cold, with a white chocolate macadamia Cliff Bar for breakfast. By 8AM I had one tire mounted, and the other replaced on the trailer. By 10 I had the jacks mounted, and camper loaded on the truck without incident.
With increased activity in the area, I decided to retrieve a few items while I had the trailer. With a repaired axle, I only loaded a few items. Camp stove, fridge, barrel, and tools. Feeling optimistic, I take pictures as I leave camp & check on a neighbor’s stuff.
My strategy for the ruts, was to us low-gear 4-wheel drive to crawl slowly beside them. The slimy road was too slick, and got sucked into them anyway. I continued on down the hill, thinking gravity was on my side, until my trailer got high-centered, stopping me dead in my tracks.
I quickly found that I couldn’t get any traction, and my “come-along” was way too short to reach any sort of anchor. I employed my 30-ft tow strap, but found I could bend steel on the trailer, without budging my rig in reverse. Next, I scavenged some juniper bows with my hatchet, feeding the branches under the tires. Rearward tension and some rocking got the tires onto the branches, eventually freeing my rig from the ruts.
On my second attempt, I successfully sped past the deep ruts before getting sucked in. Momentum carried me the rest of the way, but a large drop sent my barrel rolling off the side. That wasn’t all. By the time I came to a stop, I found that one of my rear jacks had released its leg, caught on the ground, and ripped itself half-way out of the camper! With a heavy sigh, I marched up the hill to retrieve my water barrel.
I returned and noticed the axel repair had failed! The trailer tire was leaning in, and the right-hand light was smashed. This trailer wasn’t going home after all. I loaded what I could inside the camper, and slowly parked the trailer. As I was leaving, I thought I bottomed out my suspension going over a bump. I thought this unusual, and slowed even further. It turns out that was actually my OTHER rear jack, ripping itself out too! In 3 years, those jacks had never let their feet loose, and now they both had, ripping and ruining their mount locations. I took my lumps, tied them up, and hit the road.
My brother had told me to have fun for him, and it was mid-day, so I stopped for lunch at the best Mexican joint on Highway 97, El Ranchito in Dorris, California. The wind was brisk, and slowly trying to remove my camper out of my truck. I had forgotten my turnbuckles at home, which typically hold the camper in place. Pulling over, I improvise, crossing ratchet straps across the front, and along the sides. While a bit ‘bouncy’ this held for the remainder of my journey.
I met up with Birdy around 5pm, exhausted. Her family gave me a warm welcome, and we enjoyed dinner and each other’s company. I had wanted to meet up with a friend in the area, but this trip just didn’t have time to spare.
I slept hard that night, and we lingered an extra hour to enjoy breakfast and more time with family. LilPill slept well on the way home, so we pushed through. I picked up a Cinnabon dessert in Biggs, and we enjoyed each other’s company. Our next stop was for some shopping in Pendleton, where we stretch our legs while getting some needed supplies.
We swung by Papa Murphy’s in LaGrande for some pizzas, but had to pull over a while later, as LilPill had reached her limit. We stopped an a nice lake we had seen people fish at, which presented a nice walk. Though we walked the whole perimeter, LilPill wasn’t ready to go back in the truck. She mellowed out, though, and we picked up the kids for an easy pizza dinner.
All in all, it was a great trip. Obviously not because of the repeated mishaps, but for the experience. Getting out of town, seeing family, taking a road trip, that overcame all the adversity and left me feeling good. As Memorial Day weekend approaches, I hope you can all enjoy some extra time with the ones you love.