Road Trip! (Thusday July 24, part 4)

If you’re on the road long enough, sooner or later you’ll reach your destination.  We finally arrived at the site of the Virginia Renaissance Faire.  The Faire had ended a few weeks prior to our arrival, but the site was still accessible.  It’s located at a winery.  We passed rows of grape vines, and there were a couple of farmers doing vine-growing stuff.

Can you tell that I’m a white-butt city boy?  I always thought that wine grew on trees.  No sign of the cork mines, though.

H drove up to her trailer, which was sitting at the edge of an empty field.  After all this effort, I expected to see some great big mobile home with a jacuzzi, but it was just an old pop-up trailer.  Just as well; my car couldn’t have towed anything over 2000 pounds anyway.

It was easier to hook the trailer to my hitch than I’d figured.  It was pretty much what I saw in an article on Wikipedia.  H’s trailer had a coupling that accepted 1-7/8″ trailer balls.  Again, this was good news; it was another sign that my car could handle the towing weight.

Her trailer already had safety chains on it, which she had not known.  Oh well, at least I had a spare set of chains should it become necessary.

I put the trailer hitch bar into the trailer hitch, and locked it it in place with the trailer hitch pin.  I put the trailer ball into the trailer bar, and tightened it in place with the wrench I’d bought.  With H’s help, I got my car into position, hooked up the her trailer coupling to my trailer ball, and affixed the safety chains to the trailer hitch.  I had everything, and I knew what to do.

All that research had paid off!  Self-confidence is wonderful.  If only it would last.

Finally, I connected the wiring harness from my car to the trailer’s wiring.  Before we started up, I wanted to run a basic safety check.  I asked H to stand behind the trailer to test that the trailer’s signal lights blinked when I set my car’s turn signals.  She reported that they didn’t.  The trailer’s back and side lights had come on when my car’s had, but the trailer’s blinkers didn’t blink.

H remembered that the trailer’s blinkers had worked when it was towed in the past.  We chalked it up to corrosion of wiring as it sat in the field for three months.  After all, in H’s words, “It was a pretty craptastic trailer to begin with.”

I told H that, without working blinkers, we’d have to use arm signals.  H had no idea what I was talking about.  I explained to her the procedure: arm up = right turn, arm out = left turn, arm down = stop.  I teased her, “What’s the matter?  Didn’t you ever read your driver’s manual?”

Those words were to come back to haunt me.  H wasn’t the only one who hadn’t read a manual.

The next step was to see if the hitch connection held when I tried to actually tow the trailer.  H stood off to one side as I drove my car from the edge of the field, up a slight hill, and onto the dirt road leading out of the Faire site.

There were no particular problems with towing the trailer, but when H trudged up the hill and got into the car, she reported that the trailer’s lights had gone off as I was going up the hill.  I got out and checked.  I fiddled with the car’s lights.  The trailer’s lights remained off.

This was bad.  It was already 6:30PM, and the the site of the Pennsylvania Ren Faire was at least four hours away.  There was no way we could make it there before nightfall.  Driving at night with a trailer with no working lights would certainly get us stopped.  For all I knew, it’s illegal to tow a trailer without lights or blinkers.

We decided to get moving and discuss plans along the way.  I hooked my iPod to my car’s stereo in preparation for the next leg of the trip.  I started the car and started playing the iPod.

I heard nothing over the car’s speakers.

For a moment, I thought the new iPod had broken down.  A little inspection revealed that the iPod was fine, but the lights on the stereo were dark.  Hooking the trailer’s wiring to my car had done something to the car’s electrical system.

iPod.  Wiring harness.  Trailer hitch.  Trailer bar.  Trailer pin.  Trailer ball, two of them.  Trailer ball wrench.  Safety chains.  Cell phone.  And now the electrical system of my car.

Something in the universe thought I was made of money.

I remained calm.  There was nothing to be gained by getting upset.  The best thing to do was “get a move on” and figure out the rest along the way.

I think that I displayed a remarkable level of maturity, considering the circumstances.  I think I set a good example of rational adult behavior at that moment, especially since I couldn’t use my teddy bar… excuse me, my iPod.  Would that H had learned from that example!

We’ll get to that later.

I drove slowly along the dirt road that led off the site.  I had never driven a car while towing a trailer before, and it took a little getting used to.

I glanced at the rear-view mirror in order to get one last look at the grape vines… and saw the trailer.  I glanced at the left-hand mirror, and saw the trailer.  I glanced at the right-hand mirror, and saw the trailer.  I had no rear view at all.

I reported this to H, but she had no ideas.  I recognized that, again, I was probably doing something wrong and illegal.  I couldn’t figure out what to do, apart from continuing on.

Stop laughing.  I know the answer is obvious, but I just couldn’t see it then.  I was tired, OK?

We got on the main road.  There was no problem with the motion of the car or the trailer, but I didn’t want to drive too fast; apart from being uncomfortable about the trailer, on that stretch of road there were no speed-limit signs, and under the circumstances I certainly didn’t want to get pulled over.  I had no idea what was behind me, and I didn’t want to have to make any abrupt stops.  At the occasional turn, I became aware that were cars stacked up following me, but there wasn’t much I could do.  I tried to be co-operative about letting them pass me when the road markers gave them the chance.

H and I talked it over.  Even if we dared to travel to the PA Ren Faire site after the sun set, we’d be trying to tow and maneuver the trailer to her campsite in the dark.  It was pointless to try.  We’d get back onto I-95, heading north this time, and stop at the first motel we saw. We’d get a fresh start early the next morning.

Merging onto the highway was a little nerve-wracking.  I didn’t want to accelerate too fast either, so I had to wait until there was a good long gap between cars before speeding up the entrance ramp.  But finally we got on I-95.  We were only on it for about ten miles, getting off at the first exit with hotel signs.

There was a Super 8 right off the exit with a big, mostly-empty parking lot meant for trailer trucks.  Good; it meant that I’d have plenty of room to maneuver the trailer around if I had to.  We checked into the hotel, and decompressed for a while during a leisurely dinner at a nearby Pancho Villa’s.

I called up work on H’s cell phone and left a message that I wouldn’t be there the next day.  I knew I had the vacation day to spare, and fortunately there were no crucial projects that couldn’t wait for me.  I knew my cats would be unhappy, but they’d be fine; they had enough water and they usually didn’t finish the dry food I left out for them anyway.

It was a nice hotel, but it was still an uncomfortable night.  Neither of us had thought to bring an overnight bag or change of clothes.  I showered and made some vague attempt at washing my t-shirt.  H was reluctant to duplicate my attempt at laundry, since she wasn’t sure it would be dry by morning.

We went to bed early, with an alarm set to wake us up at 6AM the next day.

Sorry, folks.  No radiant fruits of passion tonight either.

Next: Road Trip! (Friday July 25, part 1)

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