Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Joys Of RV Ownership

   A few years back I got it in my head I needed a motor home.
I didn't want to go anywhere with it, I just thought I could rent it out once in awhile and set it up over on a rent-a-spot by the river and give me one more thing to tinker with around here. I spent a year procrastinating and looking on craigslist until finally I had to do something about it. It is never easy to buy something, particularly vehicles from way out here, as you need to get a ride, or a driver.
I don't have a phone, and always wonder if it will still be there when I arrive.
   So finally, during a hot stretch in the middle of August it all came together. I caught a ride out one Sunday to the Big City, 4-5 hours away. It was an older model and had been listed for a few weeks now, there was apparently another buyer in the loop but he's been dragging his feet and hasn't been around for a few days. The motor home looks to be about what I expected and seller and I exchange a signed transfer form for a thick stack of brown and orange Canadian bills. My ride is keen to dump me off but agrees to run me down to an agent to transfer the vehicle and buy a permit to drive it home. It being Sunday and all it wasn't easy, but finally find an insurance agent and I handed him the transfer form. Not too far into the process his experienced eye picks out a spot where the seller has made a small mistake, crossed it out, and corrected it. "That will never do" he says, explaining that it is an altered document. OK, back we go to the seller to fill out a new form, then turn around and head back to the insurance agent, whom it turns out closes at 5 and the place is now locked up. A little more frantic looking around and we discover another agent still open in a mall, but just barely. I thought these old heaps were supposed to be cheap to insure, I just needed to get it home this one time and I looked sceptically at the insurance girls offers of theft, fire and earthquake insurance. Unlikely anyone will carjack me on the logging road home, and I've never had a vehicle catch fire yet, as long as none of these idiots piles into me before I get out of town I'm laughing. So off I went with my new licence plates and basic insurance. I finally got back to the sellers house and turned my ride loose, the vehicle hardly coming to a stop to dump me out for the final time, and giving me some kind of hand gesture in the mirror as she drove off.
  I used the pliers I brought along to install the new plates and fired it up and wheeled out, stopping at the first gas station I saw. I was standing there putting gas into it for the longest time, and I got down to look underneath to see if it was pouring out under there or something. I can hear the leaf springs tick as it settles down with the weight of the huge fuel tanks filling, and I began to get alarmed if my debit card would cover it. Finally, with full fuel tanks, I drove over to the propane filling area and the attendant brought that hose over and began filling the huge tanks slung underneath. This filling went on for some time too, squatting the rig down on its springs even more. After putting one hell of a hole in my debit card I got on my way in the early evening traffic, working my way towards the freeway heading north. I stopped later on in Sqaumish for a bottle of water, and it was a lovely evening driving the Sea To Sky Highway with my arm out the window thinking about all the fun I was going to have with my new old motor home.
   Somewhere down the road, I got a slight whiff of smoke. "Stupid campers " I thought to myself, there was a fire ban on and it was seriously dry, how dare anyone have a fire going now, with the extreme fire hazard. The sun was going down and there wasn't much traffic at that time on a Sunday, and I was enjoying motoring along listening to tunes beyond the resort town of Whistler.
Once in awhile, I would get a whiff of smoke and I would think, "What the hell, that smelled just like the last campfire". It got a little more noticeable, and I'm looking around up and down the valley, looking for smoke. Finally, some semblance of common sense took over, I glanced in my rear view mirror, to see a plume of smoke behind me.
   "Oh bastard", I think I said, backing off on the gas to pull over on the narrow shoulder. I came to a stop and jumped out to see there is most definitely a problem back there. There is big smoke, I hear crackling and a section of the metal siding paint is all burnt and bubbled off from underneath, and too hot to touch. Well I get down on my hands and knees to look and see the cause. At some point before I bought it, it had been backed into something, bending the exhaust tailpipe upwards enough that it blew the hot exhaust on the inside of the panel construction, and catching the interior plywood on fire inside the wall.  I bent the offending tailpipe back in place with my foot then ran back and dug in the cab for the pliers and the remainder of my bottle of water then returned, taking hold on the lower edge of the siding and yanking it loose enough to look under and make a futile attempt at splashing my water bottle in there.  I stood up and looked around. The highway right of way was narrow, and the thick forest on either side was tinder dry, ready to explode with a single spark. It was a sure thing. I would forever be known as the a-hole that burned the entire Whistler recreation area down during the fire ban in the summer of 2010. I recalled a wide pull off area further on down the road, not exactly sure how far down the road it was, just down the road some. I leaped back into the cab, jammed it in drive and put my foot to the floor. The motor home spun gravel and charged off down the road in passing gear, trailing a Blue Angels like smoke contrail. Things began to happen quickly from then on, there is smoke building up from the top down inside and I was out of my seat leaning over cranking the passenger window down, trying to steer, keep my other foot on the gas and swerving all over the road as you can imagine. I got back in the drivers seat and checked the mirrors. There are hazy headlights back there, holding well back, obscured in the smoke, and watching the performance from the lumbering motor home ahead, going hell for leather, swerving and spewing smoke and flame. In no time, the fire has come inside, the heavy smoke begins to glow orange from the rear cabinet area, I opened the drivers door to help rid the smoke, holding it open against the wind with my foot. I was hoping that parking lot would turn up pretty quick. It was getting to the point I was going to have to park this rig as it was getting difficult to operate when ahead I see the wide turn off area near a new development. I began to calmly gather up any items I was taking with me, like my wallet, my ball cap, empty water bottle, unplugging my mp3 player stuff and preparing for a bailout.
   That parking area couldn't have come too soon, I'd had enough by then and just managed to position it in the center and put it in park before stepping out coughing.
"Oh bastard" I think I said a few more times.
   I walked over to the road to flag a car down. Pretty soon a small car arrives on the scene, slowing down at the spectacle of a smoking RV, glowing from within.
The young woman  stops and winds her window down.
"Hi" I said, " you have one of those phone things, we need to call 1-1-9".
She says she does and flips it out, "Who would you like?" she asks.
"Lets start with the fire department." I suggested.
   Soon there is all kinds of traffic showing up, pulling over, parking and getting out to look from the relative safety from the other side of the road, taking on a carnival atmosphere as it gets dark. A tailgate party breaks out, people are opening trunks and coolers and getting drinks to enjoy the show with.

Fire soon engulfed the vehicle. Lines from the huge fuel tanks burnt off and spilled their contents underneath, feeding the inferno. "WHOOMF!"
The large spare tire underneath exploded with a big 'POW', shaking debris loose, and blowing chunks of burning rubber afar.
"Whoohooo!" went the crowd.
The full propane tanks began to vent off, sounding like a jet engine before doing a huge 'WHOOMF'!
"Whoohooo!" howls the crowd, truly enjoying the show.
Pretty soon word got around that I was the owner of the evenings entertainment and took on a certain level of celebrity.
"How long have you owned it?" one fella asked.
"Including standing here watching it burn, going on 4 hours." I said.
For a grand finale, the air conditioning unit on the roof finally exploded in an impressive flash of green, blue and orange.
"Whoohoo!" went everyone clapping.
   The whole thing had pretty much crumpled into its self and the crowd began to dissipate when I hear the sirens coming. They arrive and start to water down the steaming heap. Everyone is gone now, just the firemen mopping up and me standing there by myself across the road in the flash of their emergency lights.
One of the guys comes over and says, "Is that yours?, the boss wants to talk with you", so I crossed over to see the man.
"Good thing this pullout was here." he said first off.
He too thought it rather amusing I had just bought it, and I told him the whole story of getting it this far to let it go.
"Ha, you did good!" he said, slapping me hard on the back with a wet glove.
I told him I wanted to get on my way, and what came next.
"Well, the authorities will want to contact you, there will be a bill for a flat deck to haul the charred chassis away, to clean up the site, storage,...etc."
"Probably no more than a thousand dollars or so."
I hope he wasn't trying to make me feel better.
Me and my big ideas. I took one last look at the charred heap, I thought of that stack of money that you could hardly bend in half I paid for it, and went over to the road and put my thumb out, catching a ride north with the next vehicle.
   So I had a camp out away from home, getting a room late in Pemberton and paying in excess of a hundred bucks for a few hours of fitful sleep. The moment I awoke I jumped up and ran out the lobby to the road in front, hoping to catch a ride with one of the loggers that slept in or something, other than that, there would not be much traffic heading out to my neck of the woods until later in the day.
I'm not much one for standing there, waiting for a ride, I need to keep walking, because I know I never have much luck hitchhiking and end up walking most of the way anyways. I got several short rides that got me past Mt. Currie and out to the gravel road along the lake towards home. So I'm striding along with my shirt over my shoulder, theres no traffic and it gets warmer as the sun comes up over the mountain and I was sorry I left my cap back in the room. The few vehicles I have seen have been headed into town. Only one old car went by in my direction, although I have to admit I may have been a little sweaty and stressed out looking by then so I can't really blame them. They took one look, then roared by like I was sporting horns and a forked tail, so now I was covered in sweat, and dust.
I get all the way to the 17km marker alongside the lake. There has been no dinner nor breakfast, my butt is dragging a little and the temperature feels like it is a 100 degrees.
   Finally, I hear something coming, and I was glad it wasn't a bear this time.
Looking back I see a vehicle, so I pulled my shirt back on over my head, inside out of course, and getting half of it tucked in before the vehicle arrived. It gets closer and I'm glad to see it is the new air-conditioned import SUV the public health nurses use to go out to visit the remote first nations settlements.
Well, this is good luck for a change, I can relax in back soaking up the cool air, charming them along the way with witty anecdotes of life out here.  I might get lucky and they will offer to share their lunch bag and thermos with the well known Mr. Trethewey of the hot spring property.
They slow down and stop, tentatively, curious about some character out in the middle of no-where, with his shirt on inside out, smelling of smoke and looking like he's had a rough night. That, or just escaped from somewhere.
  The nurses have a discussion between themselves behind the tinted glass before lowering the passenger window a crack.
"We don't pick up hitchhikers." a pair of lips inform me through the slit.
Well thanks for stopping to tell me.
I stood there trying to suck up what cool air was seeping from the window and explained my whole ordeal, pleading my case to the younger of the pair, going through the whole pitiful story and giving her my best old puppy dog eyes.
"Maybe we can make an exception this time!" she suggests to the more mature of the two, who eyes me suspiciously from behind the wheel.
Just then, a loud vehicle roars into sight down the road, broad sliding around the corner and raising a rooster tail of dust and accelerates toward us.
Suspicious cranky puss at the wheel glances in her rear view and states dryly, "Well, if they don't take you, I guess we will have to".
The car charges up the road towards us spewing rocks and a huge dust cloud.
"They not stopping ladies, I'll just squeeze in the back there", I said, tugging on the locked door handle with enough force to rock the vehicle and occupants.
At the last moment the cars tires lock and it skids up next to us, the dust cloud continued past us down the road for a ways on its own.
"Hey Rob!" the driver yells. It turns out it is Darryl Peters, past chief of the small remote Douglas native band at the head of Harrison Lake. That was all the encouragement the nurses needed to give me a quick wave and bugger off.
Darryl and his teenage son Darryl have been off to the city buying a vehicle too. "Always wanted a Cadillac." he states, sitting back in the faded velour.
"Talked 'em down to $500", he boasts, adding that it was a 'hazzard' car.
I thought he was talking about his driving.
"No" he says, " Dukes of Hazzard, you need to climb in through the window!", indicating a problem with the door handle.
So I clambered in through the passenger window and we charged off down the lake road, the 3 of us giggling like schoolkids when we passed the nurses on a corner and left them in the dust. Within the hour we arrived at the hot spring and stopped at the end of my driveway. I tumbled out the window, bade my friends good day, and stumbled up to the lodge to greet my cats and head directly for the refrigerator. Exactly 24 hours had transpired since I left on my little sojourn to buy an RV. Next time, if ever there is one, I'm going to buy full insurance.
Better yet, I think I will just stay home.

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