Our First Day as Snowbirds; Off to a Crappy Start

102209_denverrockiespass_0It’s a good thing we left our summer home when we did, because we had obviously become complacent about life on the road. But I think after all that we went through in our first two days traveling again, we’re back in the game.

We left Red Feather on Saturday, after a light snowfall that seemed like Mother Nature’s final warning to get out before it was too late (and no, Balloon Boy couldn’t have helped us either). As soon as ascended the 10,000+ foot Rockies heading West, the sky turned dark, then snow, sleet and wind followed. Strike One.

Ignore Native Hitchhikers at Your Own Risk

We hit the Utah state line at dusk, looking for place to boondock. But the welcome center was quite unwelcoming, with it’s ban on overnight camping, so we jumped back on I-70 to find another spot. We had forgotten to fuel up then, but freeway signs said a gas station was ahead, so we weren’t concerned. We exited to fuel up, but when we got to the station, our jaws dropped. The pumps were closed. Permanently. Strike Two.

Our Dodge’s Distance to Empty readout said we had 110 miles left on the tank. The next fuel was 65 miles away. In 2 years and 35,000 miles of fulltiming, the only other time we pushed the envelope like that was in Texas, and we made it. So we kept driving, holding our breath and trying not to panic. As we got back on I-70, we drove past a hitchhiking Native American, who gave us a long look as Jim muttered “Sorrrrrrrry guy.”

We were confident we could make it to the next station. But what we didn’t count on, was the heavy crosswinds that made our fuel economy drop faster than we expected. Before we knew it, our DTE readout just kept flashing the words “FUEL LOW…FUEL LOW…FUEL LOW”

That’s when we knew we were in trouble. The old Native had put a hex on us. Strike Three.

102309_jimsiphonfuel1The engine shut down on the side of I-70, less than one mile from another visitor center and four miles from the next gas station. We rolled to a stop and I did my best not to panic (staying calm is not one of my best attributes). Jim grabbed our two cans of gasoline for our generator. Being a good environmentalist, he didn’t want to just dump it, so he thought he would give away the gas to someone at the visitor’s center then bribe another driver to refill them with diesel. He rode off into the night on his bike.

Down and Out but Not Alone

While he was gone, I stayed in the rig with Wyatt, who was doing a good job panicking for the two of us. As I looked out the back window, hoping to see a cop stop (do they even help stranded travelers anymore?), I spotted a car slowly moving toward us in the emergency lane.

The car’s hazards were flashing, then it came to a stop behind us. At that point, two scenarios are going through my mind; either he’s a psychopath who saw Jim leave and has plans to kill me, or he’s stranded too. But what were the chances that on this 100 mile stretch of highway, another traveler would break down behind us?

The chances were excellent that day.

102309_jimsiphonfuel3The guy got out and went over to the rig, but kept walking. Being a lone female on the road, I wasn’t about to get out and talk to him, and figured he might catch up with Jim. I thought to myself how nice it was to have a vehicle as a crash barrier behind us.

Minutes later, Jim returned with a kind stranger from Arkansas, who was driving a Mercedes Diesel. I got out of the trailer, assured that the other stranded traveler wasn’t going to kill me with Jim and the other guy around. I asked him what happened. Apparently he ran out of gas too. As we stood outside commiserating, I did my best to ignore Wyatt Ray, who was inside, panicking and tearing at the screen door.

The Arkansasan was nice enough to come to the rig so Jim could siphon more than the 3 gallons our cans would hold. But siphoning wasn’t working. Apparently the geniuses at Mercedes have put anti-theft devices in the car’s tanks. Another strike! The stranger wished us well, and left.

102309_jimsiphonfuel2Jim headed back to the visitor’s center, where a generous trucker let Jim fill up his cans. When Jim returned with diesel, he remembered: we still had a gallon of gas in our generator. By 8pm with enough fuel to get our fellow traveler started, and diesel for us, we all headed to the filling station, less than four miles away.

The stranger turned out to be a decent guy, who had a great old dog with him. I think the universe sent him our way, because if it wasn’t for him and his dog being there to lighten the mood, Jim and I might have killed each other.

Thing Couldn’t Get Worse, Right?

We said our goodbyes, and minutes later found a truck stop with a restaurant. Poor Wyatt, he was in a complete state of panic now. This is his first real road trip experience, and he was losing it.

We fed and tried to calm him, then crated him in his RV-friendly soft-sided crate. Off we went to grab a bite to eat, but with each tick of the clock, I keep hearing the warnings I got from other dog people, who said that collapsible crates won’t hold a panicked dog inside.

With food in my belly and feeling much better, on our way back to the rig, I fell into a ditch.

A wet, mucky ditch. Yep. No joke. And that’s when I lost it. I cried and whined as I walked back with my foot soaked in what I hoped was just mud.

We approached the trailer, and could hear Wyatt moving around. As Jim opened the door he was greeted by a hideous stench, and copious amounts of runny dog poo all over the floor.

Nervous Wyatt Ray DawgPoor Wyatt, he escaped from his crate, and was so upset, his butt exploded everywhere!

Then, I really lost it. Flipped out. Cried, Threw a tantrum. Made Jim take Wyatt away for a very long time while I wet down the rugs with our outdoor shower. The trucker next to us got dinner and a show.

With the rugs outside and Wyatt tucked in for the night, Jim and I crashed hard. Late at night we heard Wyatt whining at one point, but opted to see if he would whine a little louder, figuring if he really had to go . . .

He never whined again that night. Instead, he just crapped all over the rig. Again.

Such a lovely way to wake up the next day, our second day on the road.

Keep Smiling, Keep Driving

We survived, and after all that, I think that we did pretty good. We’re still talking to each other, and I resisted the temptation to ditch Wyatt in Green River, Utah (haha, just kidding!).

Things could’ve been so much worse. In 12 years of marriage, we’ve never tried harder not to fight or bicker. And through this ordeal, we think we did pretty good. In the middle of it all, we just had to accept that no amount of screaming was going to fix the “crappy situation” we had gotten ourselves into.

Keeping a sense of humor is definitely key to living on the road, which brings with it a life of uncertainty, and oftentimes, mis-adventure.

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25 Responses to “Our First Day as Snowbirds; Off to a Crappy Start”

  1. holy sh*t rene! what a day. winston has also had butt explosion incidents…though, only on hardwood floors…always horrific to come home to a house full of runny poop. some days there is nothing left to do but cry!

  2. Oh man what a day. Only way is up from there. Great story, now I know what you ment when you said Wyatt can’t be left alone…

  3. Hey, Kim made me promise to read this tonite, sorry to say but it’s hilarious! We’ve been through similar episodes, but none with so many “repeats” as this one, Wow! what a day & night…

    Kim said I don’t get as stressed out etc in times like these…guess this ole guy has been thru more shit than you’d believe…and lived to tell about it!

    so, in spite of these trying times, you’ll find over the years, those will be the most remembered, talked about and LAUGHED ABOUT stories of your lives! Continue the adventure hang in there & enjoy,
    Sam

  4. After a half dozen exploding poop incidents, we finally got rid of our carpet. Now we praise any animal that craps on the bare vinyl instead of a throw rug, or worse, the bed. Both cats “yodel” loudly before barfing, giving me a chance to run upstairs and herd the offender onto a cleanable surface. “Puke HERE! HERE!” Pooping seems to be much more stealthy, a midnight endeavor…

    Thanks for the laugh!

    • Hey Louise, you’re so right. No carpet is the way to go. I’ve been getting the itch to gut the inside of the rig and redo it, but it’s only 2 years old so I thought I’d wait a while. However it looks like Wyatt will help get us started, that’s for sure.

      Yah, it’s that funny how we chase our animals around telling them where to barf? Wyatt makes this hideous sound before he does. Gotta love these cats and dogs!

  5. Would it have been better if you hadn’t fallen in the ditch? Tomorrow will be better, I am sure of that. Good luck!

    • Hmmm, it might have been a little better. The ditch episode put me over the top! But it’s all a learning experience, I keep telling myself. And yeah, it’s already better. The sun is out here in Nevada and for the first time in 3 weeks I’m not wearing thermal underwear underneath my sweats. Yeayy!

  6. Becky and Norm Johnson October 29, 2009 at 9:17 pm Reply

    well you have survived!!! wow!!! we’ll keep Norm’s little pooch statue!!! where are you heading off to? we are in Rochester still will leave after we get a few things done on motorhome. keep on truckin!!Becky

  7. Rich O'Connell October 28, 2009 at 5:07 pm Reply

    Oh god that reminds me of the early days at the off grid house…..I (now) always carry my Dewalt flashlight with me anywhere (yep even in the house) just ’cause. I something similiar during a snow storm when the inverters crashed (one bad setting that took days to show up) shut down the house while I was alone working up in Mt. Shasta and had to string a rope from the house to the equipment shed during the snow. If I hadn’t done that I would not have found my way back to the house…..scared the heck out of me. I have heard of people freezing only feet away from house…..never thought it would happen to me!

    I also keep 10 gallons of diesel down stairs…I was afraid to keep any until Ken told me that it is hard to set fire to. Because with out it the snow plow won’t work so maybe having a couple 5 gallon cans might be a good investment. With out the snow plow there is no way your coming off the hill during a “white out”.

    Ok so the dog didn’t do so good on the first day…..he will get better….but I sure understand being stranded on the side of the freeway……that is why I always take “old betsy” when I travel…..(Big Five 00 buck-$5.99) ……..I hate being out of gas…..MC loves to get the “fill tank” light?…(;] life really is an adventure for you two….Love you guys and be carefull out there.

  8. Oh, MAN.. you guys.. haha. Yeah I’ve had days like that. In retrospect you realize how much more it would have sucked to go through it alone, no matter how much wishing you did at the time that the other half would be abducted by a UFO.

    BTW, it’s your own damn fault for feeding Wyatt in the first place!

  9. Oh Dear~ I am glad you guys made it through together! What a story!

    Jeremy likes to carry two filled diesel cans in the truck bed in case we run out of gas on the road when we are traveling from one spot to the other. I think that might helped a little in your situation.

    But I don’t know how I would have been able to handle with Wyatt’s situation~ He is a lucky, lucky puppy to have such loving parents…

    Though, Jeremy and I know that we are not suited to have pets in our lives since we are always away.

    I wish this is just to get all the bad lucks out of the way for you and the rest of the journey will be sun shines and lots of smiles!

    Best wishes – JacQ

  10. I’m sorry to hear about the time you had! I’m also sorry to say that it brought a smile to my face at the same time. 🙂 Anyway, you made it and I’m glad to hear that you did. Sam and I seem to fight less during those kinds of stressful times. I haven’t figured out why. I hope you’re out of the way of this upcoming storm that is bringing snow to us.

  11. Totally! Sell that story and see yourselves up on the big screen! I laughed all the way through it! But hey, you got through it without a d-i-v-o-r-c-e and without leaving Wyatt behind at some roadside Mormon sect compound. So things have to be looking up, right?

    Hope you are having smoother sailing today!
    Martha

    ps dont forget……..we will always take Wyatt back! Anytime!
    pss if my previous post actually came through you can delete this one-I hit something by accident and it vaporized…..

  12. Gineej & Paris October 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm Reply

    You could not make this up!!!!!!!!!

    I read once that if a trip is free of obstacles and disasters you won’t remember it……..you guys created quite a memory!! Unforgettable!!

    I can’t wait for the next chapter. Be safe!!

  13. Well, that should keep you from converting to mormonism.
    Glad it turned out okay.

  14. Oh, what a crappy start to a funfilled winter! Brings back memories of being stranded in Gadsden AL about 4 hours into our life as fulltimers, but fortunately minus the poo. That was after James accidentally tore a hole in the rubber roof, and not too long before he was in a terrible wreck in Phoenix that almost totalled our truck. Hopefully the hex has run it’s course and it will be smooth sailing from here!

  15. A LOT of people run out of gas on that stretch of I-70. Basically, it pays to know what you’re getting into when you’re approaching Utah there — we get used to having gas stations all over the place on the Interstate. On the plus side, you’ll never do that again. 🙂

  16. LOL! I had a dog do that to me in the back of the Land Rover in Seville, Spain once. Ever tried getting dog muck out of a spring loaded roller load cover? Not fun. Oh well guy’s, it’s what one would call character building. It can only get better.

  17. Oh my, what a mess (pun intended)! Hope things only improve from here on out!

  18. Btw, where did you get the dashboard jackelope?

    • Well, that jackelope is a replacement I found in New Mexico. I broke our first one, which came from Wall Drug South Dakota. How do you know about the Jackelope? Have you seen one/

  19. Oh you two, what a nightmare! Jerry has GOT to be just having a little fun with you guys. We couldn’t help but laugh, because the crap just kept piling on and on and on. My kids agreed “that story is so bad it must be made up.” I swear you have the seeds there for a new “National Lampoon’s RV Vacation” movie. Nova totally understands all of Wyatt’s, uh, crap. Poor guy. Nova’s a little neurotic like that too when she is out of her comfort zone. Hopefully your RV is starting to smell a little fresher by now. Take a deep breath (no wait, scratch that) and keep moving.

    • Sue, I’ve heard about other dogs exploding all over but I never understood how that could be possible until Wyatt showed us how it’s done.

      Thank dog I brought baking soda to throw on the rugs, it does smell fresher.

      And I promise, the entire story is true, even the falling in the ditch part.

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