As my mother used to say, it’s OK to make plans just don’t plan the results”. We’d gotten everything packed up and secured for the trip from Natchez to Spanish Fort near Mobile, Alabama. The last thing to do before heading out was to pull in the slides. We have 3 slides: one for the bed, one for a small desk and the main slide with the table, dining chairs and sofa. We can operate the slides from either 30/50 amp service or off of the battery. Since it is a big drain on the battery we usually keep plugged in until the slides are retracted. We also have a remote that can do this from the outside. The slides come in according to a set pattern and go out the same way so you can’t just move a single slide by itself. Opal was already in the truck sitting on her raised platform so she can look out the window. She knows the routine and knew we were getting ready to leave.
Bedroom slide in. Desk slide in. Main slide …… WHOA! What’s happening? The main slide stopped about halfway and the bottom started lifting. Back up and try again. Same thing. Try again. Same thing. And again. Isn’t that the definition of insanity when you do the same thing over knowing the outcome? Steve goes out and looks around. We try again. Now this is where Steve and I have a definite Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus thing going. I’m all for calling for help when something needs fixing if I don’t know how to do it. We have 3 roadside assistance plans: Good Sam, Coachnet and later we find one through the warranty on the trailer with Assurance. We’re paying for them, why not use them. Steve is of the opinion that you don’t call until you’ve completely exhausted every possibility of fixing it yourself. So in and out of the trailer, under and out at least a half dozen times with no improvement. Now the slide is not only raising up but moving in more on one side than the other. We finally call Coachnet. We talk to a technician. I’m holding the phone while Steve climbs under then relaying what the tech says and what Steve says in return. Steve has to cut into the undercarriage barrier to see what type of mechanism we have for the slide, electric or hydraulic. Finally almost an hour later it is decided we need a roadside mechanic. Meanwhile, Opal won’t get out of the truck even when I put her lease on. So I leave her in there. I know we’re getting ready to leave. There’s no way I’m getting out and have them take off without me! The mechanic is 90 minutes away. We don’t want to unpack anything so we sit at the picnic table. Steve crawls under the RV some more and finally sees what’s wrong. A bolt from one of the shock absorbers has become lodged against the slide and won’t let it move correctly. This causes one side to move and not the other. The mechanic comes. Over an hour of trying. The only way to get the slide closed so we can travel is to cut the bolt. With the slide out of alignment some moulding had to be removed to allow the slide to clear the cabinets. Steve had to stand with a piece of cardboard against the cabinet while I pushed the slide retract button. That’s how close it was. Normally there is about 2 inches of clearance. We’ll be alright for travel but must go to a Dutchmen dealer so it can be repaired under warranty. Everyone thinks it’s a manufacturer’s defect.
We get out the MiFi internet and look up Dutchmen dealers to find who is the closest. We’re in luck. There are two in the Mobile area. We’ve used Camping World before with our old trailer so we call them. This is Saturday about 3pm. Yes, they can get us in on Monday. Steve asks about a mobile mechanic coming to the campground. No, they don’t have one but they do have electric and water hookups in their lot and we are welcome to use them. By now it’s past our checkout time and we decide to spend one more night in Natchez. When Steve goes to pay we find out that all this time we could have gotten the senior discount rate! It’s available to non-residents as well as residents. Oh well, live and learn. One more thing to do, we must cancel our reservation in Alabama for tonight. No answer at the park but we leave a message. So we unpack as little as possible. Opal finally gets out of the car. This is really confusing. I’m sticking close to Mom and Dad tonight!
The next morning we finally get on the road for the 5 1/2 hour drive to Mobile. We find Camping World and there are 6 parking spots with hookups. We pull in and get set up. Not wanting to cook we check the iPhone App for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. There are 3 places in the area. We choose the Gumbo Shack in Fairhope, Alabama. This sports bar setting offers creole dishes as well as regular offerings. This is the first time we’ve been in an area to try one of the restaurants since we left Charlotte. I ordered gumbo (excellent) and a shrimp panini. I had jambalaya (also excellent). Then we ordered cajun oysters. Oysters on the half shell with parmesan cheese, tobasco sauce and a slice of jalepeno. No leftovers! What about the dog? While we were eating a local man came in with his Weimaraner. The dog obviously knew everyone and stood up on his back legs with his front feet on the bar just like he was ordering a drink. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a picture but if you’ve ever seen those photos of Weimaraners dressed up and placed in human like situations you can picture this. A friendly, quirky place with good food.
The next day the trailer was packed up and taken to the shop. We were in luck. The warranty paid all but $136 of an almost $800 bill. Since we were here it seemed like a good time to have some routine maintenance done, tires rotated , a problem with premature wear on one tire resolved, an interior light replaced and 2 shades fixed. Since not all of the work could be completed in one day the trailer was moved back to the campsite for our second night in the parking lot. Again we call Meaher State Park where we were to stay and this time we tell them to cancel the whole reservation. They only accept cash or check so we didn’t have any money to loose. We weren’t alone. There were 5 other vehicles there. To kill time while we were waiting we drove around stopping at local businesses. Then we decided to drive down to Gulf Shores State Park. We’d tried to get reservations here back in August and we were surprised when they told us it was full all winter. After talking to the volunteer at the gate we now know why. Most state parks limit you to 14 days. Between November 1 and March 31 Gulf Shores allows continuous camping and only charges $450/month including water and electric. Reservations need to be made a year in advance. It looked like a beautiful park. One to remember for the future. We were hungry and stopped at one of the many seafood restaurants along the beach. When I looked at the menu I saw that today’s special was popcorn shrimp but Tuesday’s was crab cakes. I teasingly asked the waitress if she could pretend it was Tuesday. She said she’d have to ask. I really didn’t expect them to say yes since the special was half price. They did! The special was supposed to be a smaller portion but I had 2 large crab cakes.
While we waited on Tuesday for the trailer to be finished we drove down to Mobile and stopped at the Visitors Center which is housed in a 4/5 recreation of the original Fort Conde that founded Mobile. As with many cities in this area Mobile has been under French, British, Spanish and American governments. We took a tour of Fort Conde then walked over to the Carnival Museum (closed). Mobile has a Carnival at the same time as New Orleans Mardi Gras. By then we received a call that the trailer was done. Now to find a place for tonight. After 2 nights in a parking lot we decided to move on. There was Plantation Escapees Rainbow Park not far away so we checked in there. Escapees Club members receive a discount on site rates but the park is open to general RVers too. Laundry had mounted up so this was a priority. We drove around while the clothes were drying and saw that there were homes with RV garages, permanent sites with storage buildings and the temporary lots. While we’re not ready to stay in one place for a long time yet, this did give us an insight into options available to us. Like many RV parks with lot owners and long term residents they have a lot of activities. Tonight they were having a community dinner for $5/person. So we went. It was nice to talk with people who had been doing what we’re doing for many years. One couple at our table had been RVers for 15 years. They all nodded knowingly at our tale of woe. Yes, they had similar experiences.
Wednesday morning after a quick breakfast and we’re off to Florida. Bedroom slide in. Desk slide in. Main slide in but what’s this? It’s not closed on the left and it’s not lined up correctly. We call Camping World to tell them we need to come back. “Just an adjustment” they say. Two hours later we really do get on the road. With this unexpected delay we don’t know if we’ll make it before dark. We stick to the interstate instead of the scenic routes we prefer.
To be continued in our next post Paddles, Peddles and Playas On St. George Island. OK so you caught Chari’s brain slipping a gear. Let’s try again. Make that Paddles, Pedals and Playas.