Due to a combination of circumstances beyond our control, J and I haven’t had much time off lately. In fact, we’ve hardly seen each other except for a few minutes before bed at night or a few minutes in the morning grabbing a coffee for breakfast (if we have time.) We’re both fully tied up handling the various demands that make up our lives these days. So when we realized that Easter fell in March, we were excited. What’s special about Easter in March? Well, March is the slow month in the tax season for the office. And Easter, well, in our area there’s no point in being open on Easter; no one is going to come in. A slow weekend with Sunday off. We could snatch a few days of actual vacation! And it’s our only shot. In April things get crazy; no time off ‘till May.
We decided to take the fifthwheel out to Lancaster, Friday through Sunday. I still, at this point, hadn’t seen it fully deployed, as it were. Close enough to get home if my MIL needed us, far away enough to feel like a trip. And with all those outlets there, we could spend some time shopping for the fiver; that would be fun! Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy, which in this case was J’s customer with a problem in Maryland.
He got called to go down on Tuesday. One day on site turned into two, and it looked like the trip would be cancelled. He had to be on site or nearby through Sunday. But he had a plan. Call and cancel the reservation, he said, we’ll camp at Gettysburg. Initially, I was dubious. Looking at the websites, there was only one campground even open in March. But other folks said there were more. I called around on Wednesday. The one campground that was open only had limited hookups – no water. Another campground, officially closed for the season, actually produced a full hookup site for us on the shortest notice. Artillery Ridge; they were very, very nice, and it was a great location. Right on top of the National Park and moments from route 15 for a fast trip to Maryland as needed. I made the reservation in the morning for that evening; they promised to leave a site map on the office door. “Just come on up and settle in the morning,” they said. J drove up from Maryland early; I hastily tossed about half of what we needed in the truck, he set up the dishes of dry catfood for abandoning two of our three cats and boxed the third (daily meds) for transport while I went to a commitment I couldn’t get out of in the morning.
Cutting my meeting a little short got us to the storage lot around 2 pm. Hooking up went great; “easy-peasy,” thought I. Oops. Make sure I have brake lights on the trailer, said J, as he pulled out and came to a stop. Uhh, no. No. Nope not yet. He has me stand on the brakes while he checks. Still no dice. Trying to re-level the controller (Voyager, for those as know about these things) produces no result. He decides against my strong misgivings to go anyway. He has to be back to near the customer that night. It’s go or lose the chance to be the first person to stay in our trailer. The trailer brakes are working in manual mode, using the little lever on the brake controller. This requires a fine and steady hand and nerves of steel until I finally figure out to tone down the gain a bit and get more range on the little lever. After that it only takes nerves of steel. I didn’t actually weep (in public) but it was not a good trip, limping the trailer along in heavy winds to Gettysburg. We got in around five and the promised note was on the door. Helpful neighbors and a pull-through site made getting set up actually easy. We got the trailer to level enough (side to side was fine, fore and aft was a little steep.)
We made most of the newbie mistakes. (I thought all that time spent perusing rv.net would immunize us. Hah! n.b. Close the low water valves and the hot water drain before you turn on the city water.) We learned a ton about how to set up. We were warm and comfortable and the smoke alarm only went off a few times while J was cooking dinner. I went to bed (yay flannel sheets) while J stayed up till 2 am on a con call.
Friday was all work all day. The wireless connection was on and off at the campground, so the first order of business was finding wireless internet access. Which we finally did at a Starbucks. I took my appliqué project and worked on that while J spent the morning alternating between cell phone and laptop. After lunch and the early afternoon conference call, we marched into a Verizon store and came out with an aircard (the next step will be a cell booster installed on the trailer – and we shall have internets wherever we go!) On the way back to the trailer in the late afternoon, the nice folks at Beckley’s Camping Center were kind enough to say they could help us immediately when we explained the problem with the brake controller. We wanted to swap out the “bad one” for a Prodigy. I broke out the appliqué again and J fired up the new aircard and we both worked for not very long at all before the install was complete. Alas for hopes of a complete repair. It turned out that the problem wasn’t the controller at all. Our brake light sensor, the switch on the brake pedal lever that tells the brake lights to come on and also incidentally supplies power to brake controllers, was bad. We were still happy with the swap, and I got a little “I told you so” action. The Prodigy brake controller was a lot more to our taste (I’d told him to get that one when he bought the trailer.)
J called around and found a Ford dealership that had the part in stock and would be open on Saturday and we went carefully back to Gettysburg, since we were now aware that the truck had no brake lights either. First thing Saturday morning it’s off to the parts store, where after some confusion about which part we need we get sorted out and come away with a little plastic gizmo. Next stop, Home Depot for tools. After a few trips in and out for a flashlight so we can see what we’re doing and pliers so we can pry off the cotter clip, and a few minutes spent lying on the driver’s side floor looking up, the brakes are working again and so is the controller. We actually got in some actual touristy time; Saturday afternoon turned out way nicer than it was supposed to so we did the driving tour of the battlefields and walked around a lot of the sights.
Sunday, everything working well, we packed up and headed home. We dumped for the first time (not as icky as I thought it would be) and got more good advice from our friendly neighbors. At lunchtime we wound up in an empty shopping center where I was able to practice slow turns, and with the light traffic even tried some highway driving briefly. Once back at the storage center, our time for getting back into our spot was only an hour, and a lot of that was setting the trailer up for storage. I backed the last few feet into the space, once we got it almost in place. J did the majority of the work, no matter what he says. All in all it was a wonderful trip, even though it wasn’t at all what we set out to do.