Lifeboat

You may notice that there’s no van in this picture. That’s because when I took it this morning, my van was going on day three of its one-day repair.

While I was busy last week with both jobs and preparing for Overland Expo, Honey Badger booked a campground for us to meet and stay at while we both got some work done on our vans. I didn’t like the idea of a campground instead of a house, hotel, AirBnB, etc. In those other situations, Lister and I would be perfectly comfortable at “home” while the van was away. It’s how I got all those repairs done in Los Angeles last year, staying in my friend’s house for the two and a half weeks it took. But this way, I’d have to set up my trailer as an office, work the day, then figure out how to pick up the van in the afternoon. Plus, there was no margin for error. If anything went wrong, I’d be screwed, especially since Honey Badger scheduled her new tire install for the morning after. But, it is what it is, so I went with it. She did reserve an RV site with full hook-ups, which would provide electricity for me to work out of the trailer, at least.

Day 1 of 1

Honey Badger and I dropped off the van Monday morning, with a promise of an electronic estimate sent right to my phone, and that the work would be done that day. The reason I had Smokey in the shop in the first place was worn out shock absorbers and other suspension strangeness. This also included a front end shimmy at 65 mph. It’s an extremely inconvenient shimmy speed for highway travel, and practically anywhere outside of town in the west, since that’s normally the speed limit. I don’t like towing much faster than that, either, both for the control as well as the gas mileage. The estimate included a bunch of suspension bits, as well as strong recommendations of an oil change (I just did one 2,000 miles ago), air filter (I can do that myself), a battery and battery terminals (battery is a year and a half old, and I can do terminals myself), and a whole lot of work on the brake system, including a fluid flush. I just had a lot of work done on the brakes in LA, including a flush. So I declined all of the non-suspension recommendations, but accepted the additional suspension bits as well as four heavy duty Bilstein shock absorbers. They’re not cheap, but it’s the good stuff. I’ll probably never have to replace them again.

At the end of the day, they called to tell me they were sent the wrong suspension bushings, and I couldn’t get my van back after all. They didn’t seem to understand that this is my home, despite me being as clear as I could be about it all along. Setting up an office in my trailer is one thing, but I was utterly unprepared to spend a night without my van. I could’ve set up the trailer for sleeping if they hadn’t promised I’d have it back that day, but they had. Even taking the van “home” for the night wasn’t an option because they were already in the middle of all the suspension work, and it wasn’t drivable with the suspension already dismantled. I was screwed.

I’d been a ball of stress all day because there was no margin for error, and now here was a massive one. And then, Honey Badger thought that now would be a great time to bring a bunch of issues she had with our relationship up for discussion. There was no worse time, and I told her so, but she persisted. It went at least as poorly as you might expect. Thankfully, she at least allowed me to sleep in her van that night. Lister had to stay in the trailer, though, because he and Honey Badger’s cat have not yet integrated. The temperature was okay overnight, and I’d put his food, water, and litter box inside. He was fine.

Day 2 of 1

My stress continued to build throughout the next day. They didn’t get the wrong part situation straightened out until mid afternoon, but they were still quite sure they could finish it that day — at least, until they couldn’t. A bolt broke in one of the control arms. It had to be drilled out and rethreaded, which was a time consuming process that wouldn’t be done that day. What was supposed to be a one-day job had now turned into three, and I still didn’t have my home back. I ended up hopping on my motorcycle to go pick up a few essentials from my home, like clothes and cat food, since the repair was never supposed to take this long. I couldn’t fit pillows or my sleeping bag on the bike, which I would’ve left in the trailer before I’d dropped off the van if I’d known about this.

Back at camp, stress levels continued to skyrocket. I had my problems, while the tires that had been specifically ordered for Honey Badger’s van (at a different shop) were the wrong size. She ended up with all-terrain tires instead of highway-terrain like mine — ironically, the same model I used on my VW Jetta pickup truck kit car. We’re only in this area for a couple of days, and this stuff had to get done NOW, but people kept screwing things up. To add injury to insult, she also had a new metallic grinding sound after ner new tires were installed. So now both of our vans were messed up.

I looked into adding another day to our campground stay to work out everyone else’s mistakes. The site we were using was booked, but one within sight of there was available, so we took it. Of course, now we’d have to figure out how to move my trailer over there, since I still didn’t have a van to tow it, and Honey Badger had to get her metal scraping issue fixed. If I didn’t have my van back before noon the next day, I was going to have a real problem on my hands, with my trailer stuck at someone else’s campsite.

The Stress-O-Meter exploded, and things went badly. Very badly. Badly to the point of Honey Badger insisting that I sleep in my trailer, with no bedding or padding whatsoever. This was outrageous. Even while Trisha and I were arguing non-stop at the end, I always at least made sure she had a place to sleep comfortably. Not Honey Badger. It would be safe to assume that we are no longer in a relationship.

(Update: It seems that Honey Badger had tried to check on me in the trailer and loan me some bedding. I didn’t hear her, but she’s never lied to me before, and I have no reason to believe she would about this. I was still quite angry with her when I originally wrote this and assumed the worst. I’ll leave what I wrote at that time since I believed it was true then, but I have since learned that she’s not evil and vindictive enough to intentionally make me suffer like I did. It remains true that we are no longer in a relationship, however.)

Day 3 of 1

I had a terrible night’s sleep on the plywood floor of the trailer. Its only redeeming quality was having me awake early enough to catch this beautiful sunrise, which is something I almost never see. I didn’t even have coffee because Honey Badger took it. It was legitimately hers, but still, I really could’ve used a cup of coffee.

I didn’t get much done most of the morning except pacing my campsite and worrying about how I was going to get my trailer moved. At 10:00 am I finally got the call I’d been waiting three days to get. My van was ready, and they were sending someone over to pick me up. Things might just work out after all — at least, with the van. Honey Badger was already gone.

From this point on, things actually went according to plan for the first time this week. I got a ride to the shop, paid for the repairs, and drove back to camp. It was quite the hassle, but the results are excellent. The van is much more stable on the road with the stiffer shocks, and the 65 mph shimmy is completely gone. I look forward to seeing how well it tows now. The short hop three or four campsites over wasn’t a real test, but it did get my trailer moved over there on time.

Since then I’ve just been catching up on everything. I put my home back together. I had my first real meal since all this began — between the heat and stress I hadn’t been eating much. I took a shower and did laundry in the main building here at Chatfield State Park Campground. Might as well use the facilities while I have them. Tomorrow I’ll move on and find a place to sit still through the long weekend. It’s early, but if I find a place to park before someone else does, I can sit for the duration, not worry about where to park during a long weekend, then move on next week toward… I have no idea. I was supposed to be traveling with Honey Badger, but not anymore, so I’ll have to come up with a new plan.

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