Excuse my language, but Holy Hell what else can go wrong!
This weekend was supposed to be a camping for fun weekend. KOA had a free night of camping for members and only certain parks participated. Of course, Petaluma was not one of them. I looked up the California KOA’s that were and the Salinas/Monterey park was listed. I love Monterey! Salinas has a museum dedicated to one of my favorite authors!
I attended a 3 week teacher institute there five years ago about John Steinbeck. Then I parlayed that experience into the grant that bought me the pop-up camper and the start of this blog. I have very fond memories and associations with Monterey…
I’m trying very hard to hold on to those right now.
So let’s start with yesterday. The checkout time for the Fairgrounds was around noon, but since I would be at work and I had to reattached the tow dolly and load the car, the only way I could do this and arrive in Salinas at a reasonable time was to pull out Thursday night and park on the street for the night in Petaluma. Since the tow dolly adds a layer of difficulty to driving, my plan was to go fill up on diesel first, then come back and hook up the dolly.
You may remember that there is a hellva dip when you pull into the park. It’s what took out my bottles of olive oil , so I made extra sure everything was secure. I pulled out super slow and headed to a station that I had scouted out for diesel.
The strange thing about California is it is a huge state, but everything is compacted into tight spaces so when I approached the gas station, it was situated on a point where one road merged into another. What’s crazy is they put their diesel pumps on the small end of the point.
Think about that.
This station was right by a fairgrounds. The customers who need diesel are generally big trucks and many big trucks coming from a fairgrounds could also have a trailer. Of course, there was a car at the diesel pump and no room to pull in while he took his time washing the windows, so I had to keep going and turn around for a second approach. Another fun thing about California is you cannot assume the streets are laid out in a grid. What I hoped to just be a trip around a block was more like four and somehow, I came out somewhere I recognized. My second attempt at approaching the diesel pump was once again foiled, so I decided to head to the main drag where I knew there were some gas stations and a parking lot actually large enough for me to turn around without it being an ordeal. While I was headed that way, something came loose and I heard it scooting around on the floor, so I parked to re-moor all my cabinets. Turned out, it was the microwave that had opened and my coffeemaker had fallen out. It was a miracle the carafe did not break. I felt so dumb that I had not gotten the microwave shut all the way.
I headed to the main drag and once I got in the left turn lane, I saw that the station straight ahead had diesel, but I was stuck. I drove down the drag and the two stations I saw did not carry diesel, so I turned around in the parking lot I knew could handle me and headed back towards that station. When I turned in, they also had a monster dip and I heard glass shatter. I pulled up to a pump and headed to the back to see that the microwave had come open again and this time the carafe did not survive. I did not understand it because the little coffeemaker should not have enough weight to knock open the microwave, but then I realized the glass turntable did, so I stowed that in a drawer and gave the coffeemaker a new travel spot.
When I finished filling up, I had to make a right turn to get out and make it across three lanes to get in the left turn lane. Once again, there was a monster dip so I could not take it fast enough to make it across three lanes, so I had to do another loop back to the parking lot and backtrack to the campground to get the dolly and car. By this time, it was getting dark. I ended up getting everything but the last step done before it got completely dark. I also discovered that the right turn signal that is magnetically attached to the roof of my car did not work. I just hoped no cops were behind me for a right turn and I headed out to park by the Lucky’s (a grocery store) like I did the weekend I could not find an open campground.
When I finally got there, SOMEONE WAS IN MY SPOT! The nerve. Once again, I had to do a loop and parked across the street. This put me two blocks from the doggie daycare. My plan was to walk them there and drive to school early to get a spot for my huge set-up, then come back after work and get my groceries, get the doggies, and head to Salinas/Monterey.
I knew traffic would be bad, but the journey that had been predicted to last 1 hour and 40 minutes when I looked it up the night before, became 3 hours during prime rush hour. That would put me at arriving at the campground at 8pm. Night time. In an unfamiliar place. Crap.
The drive through San Francisco and Oakland was nerve-racking. I was in a huge vehicle, with terrible blind spots, a bunch of other drivers who had way too much faith in my brakes, and right lanes that would end without warning. By the time I reached my final exit, it was dark and my nerves were fried.
That’s when it all went to complete hell.
It was a short ramp and a weird configurations of possible turns. I thought I was supposed to go left, but the short distances confused me and Google Maps and I suddenly found myself too far into a street that dead ended. If had just been the RV, I could have done a five point turn, but no. I had the tow dolly and car, so my only hope was that the street ended in a cul-de-sac. It probably would have in Indiana, but not in California where every inch of real estate is compressed. OK, it was a very small cut-de-sac, and I thought there might be a little hope I could make it, but it would be really, really close. Unfortunately, it was trash day so my turning radius was made just a bit smaller. I tried to go as wide as I could but it was not even close to being enough. Now I had to back up.
I have entertained many a campground with my bad attempts at backing up with a trailer and I had just not gotten enough around to have any hope of the tow dolly going the direction I needed. I kept trying and just ended up like that scene in Austin Powers where he has the golf cart sideways in a hallway and he just keeps going forward an inch and backing up an inch. I kept trying until I felt a resistance that made it clear I was too jack-knifed.
I got out and the car had gotten off kilter and one wheel was against the fender of the dolly. The safety chains were too tight to unhook. I had no hope of even just taking the car off, unhooking the dolly, getting turned around, and re-hooking everything up.
I was living my worst tow dolly nightmare. (Seriously, I had imagined this very scenario many times.)
First I called the RV warranty company’s roadside assistance. She determined I needed a winch (I think she imagined me stuck in a ditch or something. She had no idea what jack-knifed meant) and Surprise! Winches aren’t covered.
I had just added roadside assistance on my RV’s insurance policy, but I had not printed it out. I headed back into the RV and fired up the computer and my sloooowww internet (Verizon’s unlimited internet is a joke, the fast internet is very limited). I finally got the policy pulled up and called the number that said 24/7 claims service. I called and was immediately routed to a commercial/survey. When I declined the product, IT HUNG UP ON ME! I called again and this time, the automated system told me it was not business hours. Imagine my frustration and the choice words I screamed as I was looking right at the sentence “24/7 customer service” at the number I had just called.
That’s when I called the tow company number the warranty lady had given me, knowing I was either going to just suck up the cost or fill out a bunch of paperwork to try to get reimbursed. As I was explaining to the guy what was going on, a cop car pulled up. He asked for ID and if there was anyone else in the RV. When I said no, he said he was there because they’d gotten a call about a fight in the camper and three more cop cars were on the way. I got off the phone with the tow guy.
He asked if I had any weapons, and was all business like he did not believe I was alone. I explained that I had yelled out of frustration when I was not having luck getting help on the phone. The other three cops arrived and slowly, it went from being on high alert because of a possible domestic dispute with a hidden assailant to “ha-ha, how’d she manage to get herself in such a mess?”
I think one of my superpowers is when I get myself into situations like this, I come off as quite helpless and pathetic (probably because at this point, I am) and it seems to make people want to help me. I’m like a starving kitten in a dumpster.
So after I was no longer under suspicion, they all decided to try everything before calling in a tow truck for a few hundred dollars. I think it may have become a challenging puzzle to solve. They ended up literally picking up the back of my car and moving it over so it was back to being lined up on the dolly. They then took the car off the dolly for me, unhooked the dolly, turned my RV around because I was still shaking so much that I couldn’t get the key in the ignition (see, pathetic), re-hooking up the dolly, and reloading the car.
All that and it turned out I managed to fray a wire and my lights on the dolly would not work. D’oh!
They were like, “the KOA is real close, just take care of that tomorrow.” I then asked if they would let me follow them to the KOA, because I was confused about the directions.
I finally got there and they had said it was a sharp turn. So I pull in and I can either go straight or take a sharp right and there is a Welcome sign on the road on the right.
It was the wrong way! I was going the wrong way on a one way road in a campground full of tight turns set-up on a terrace system on the side of a hill. I just parked and hoped for the best.
Of course it was late, so the office was closed. I had reservations so there was an envelope with my name and site. Turns out, I did not have to go too far down and the road became two way and my site was part of a group of pull-throughs that alternated the direction you pull through and I’d be on the correct side to pull-through.
My momentary relief was shattered when I reached the site and it required a tight, sharp turn that would have been difficult to make with just the RV. If I tried, then I’d risk the dolly and car falling off an edge, not something minor like driving in grass. BTW, the whole place is paved.
I did a loop (a theme for the week) and decided I would just pull in from the wrong end and use my extension cord to get plugged in. After an overabundance of speed bumps, I approached and got pulled in. I took the dogs on a well-deserved and overdue walk. It wasn’t until I was almost back to my site when it occurred to me that if I would have went around the end of and approached my site coming from the other direction, I could have made the turn.
I really, really wish I would have bought some wine when I was at the grocery store.
Or kept Lester’s stash.
Forget it. It was late, I was starving, and I had had enough. I’m only here for the weekend.
Tomorrow, I will have to see if I can get the dolly’s lights fixed and I have zero desire to mess with the car, so I don’t know if I’ll even make it somewhere nice in Monterey or Salinas.
All I know for sure is I have to get a new car that can be towed all wheels down and rid myself of this damn tow dolly. If I didn’t have that dolly, I could have left my car behind in Petaluma for the weekend or if I still brought it, I could have been easily unhooked instead of four men having to commit a feat of strength.
One cop took a lot of pictures, so who knows, maybe the story of the silly woman in the RV who Austin Powers’ed her car will become a story cops pass around.
Maybe this is how Urban Legends are made.