It’s been a crazy summer in many ways, but Madelyn and I finally made it out camping. I can’t believe it took until the middle of July for us to get away for some nights on the road in our little camper. While I was getting everything ready I thought how lucky I am that I have time now to get ready properly for a getaway. Back in the days of my youth, I was always throwing things together at the last minute because that was the only time I had. When I pack in a rush at the end of a long work day or early in the morning because I was too tired to do it the night before, something invariably gets left behind, something gets lost, or something nasty happens like poorly lashed boats coming off the top of the car, life jackets flying out the back of the pickup, or we get pulled over because the trailer lights aren’t working. But now I’m retired, and I can spend a whole day getting ready to go on a trip and that’s what I did.
I changed the oil in the car, checked the tire pressure on the car and trailer tires, and charged the auxiliary battery on the trailer. I rinsed and filled the water tank in the teardrop and made sure that the cook kit was complete, both camp stoves were clean and supplied with fuel. Madelyn cleaned the trailer and inventoried the first aid kit, pillows, blankets, and spare clothes. We were ready. We had a cooler full of food, a tank of gas, and decent weather for driving. By Monday noon we were on the road.
The first night we found King Mountain State Park with plenty of campsites and enough wind to keep the bugs down. The dogs got a walk and settled into camp mode, which for them involves lying under a tree waiting for a treat. The next day we were cruising in warm sunny weather in light traffic and glad to be away from the hectic traffic of the Kenai Peninsula. We scouted the campground at Paxson Lake —what a lovely spot that is, also very quiet. We were tempted to stay but elected to press on another hour to Tangle Lakes. We were eleven miles down the Denali Highway when I looked in the side rearview mirror and saw the right tire on the teardrop trailer leave us, roll down the hill we were climbing, and disappear into the brush along the roadside. Almost immediately the bare axle end hit the pavement and I hit the brakes.
I didn’t even have to get out of the car to know what had happened, and worse than that I knew whose fault it was.
We were only a hundred feet from a scenic pullout with a paved shoulder, so I moved the car and crippled trailer off the road and spent ten minutes looking for my tire in the waist-high willows and dwarf birch. After a brief board meeting which included my mea culpa and hugs all around, a couple in a Ford Pickup stopped to check on us and told us that one of the lodges at Tangle Lakes was open and had a phone.
It was an interesting challenge to pack everything we needed from the trailer into the car already loaded with two kayaks, two adults, two dogs, and too much gear. We managed. And yes it was a glorious clear hit day. Within an hour we were checked into a tidy cabin at the Tangle Lakes Lodge, had scheduled a tow truck from Glennallen ($$$$$$) to fetch the trailer, and had borrowed a cooler to store our food in since the trailer has a built-in cooler and we never thought we’d need more.
Dave, Trek, and Tawnie at the Tangle Lake Lodge were great hosts, and we salvaged our trip by staying there for three days hiking, kayaking, and relaxing. Of course, we were hopeful that the stars would align and we’d be able to pick up the trailer on our way home on Friday. No such luck. We were not the only people having trouble on the highway, and the mechanics in Glennallen were backed up for several days on ‘emergency’ repairs.
It was highly likely that when the bearings went out on the trailer the axle was damaged enough that it has to be replaced which means ordering a part from Anchorage and then the mechanic having time to install it. We left the trailer in Glennallen and drove home trying to remind ourselves that we actually had some fun during our little getaway. And now, we wait for the call telling us it’s time to drive to Glennallen and bring the trailer home.
You might be asking, How does this happen? and how was it my fault? Well, that’s where stupid comes in. Back at the beginning of the story, I bragged about how thoroughly I was prepping my vehicles for the trip. Well, I was thorough but stupid. I didn’t grease the bearings on the trailer. Heck, I didn’t even inspect them. I’ve had the trailer for three years and it’s over ten years old. How stupid can you be to never in that time to inspect or repack the bearings? At seventy years old I should know better. So, yeah, I guess you're never too old to be stupid.