Thursday, April 9, 2009

The First Trip - the Jersey Shore

After bringing the rig home to Maryland, my first trip was to the Jersey Shore to spend Memorial Day weekend with my son, Josh, and his wife and in-laws. It would be the first time I rigged the trailer for travel on my own. And I couldn’t have picked a better time and place for my inaugural trip. Who goes to the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day weekend?

I had bought a “caddy” to haul my motorcycle. It attaches to the trailer hitch on the trailer (an odd arrangement, a trailer hitched to a trailer) and holds the front wheel off the ground in a wheel-shaped cradle so the bike is dragged along on its rear wheel. Here’s an important point not mentioned in the directions: take the motorcycle out of first gear before driving off. Otherwise you’ll leave a long skid mark on the pavement. Just like the one I left.

Before I left the skid mark, I left some metal shavings. It turns out that properly attaching the tie-down straps is critical to the bike remaining upright when in motion. Who knew? I dragged the bike several feet on its side, doing no good for the chrome on the exhaust pipe. And not being on its wheel, I didn’t notice the first gear problem.

At that point it was simpler to leave the bike and caddy home.

The drive was uneventful. Slow, but uneventful. Slow because changing lanes in Memorial Day traffic is hard enough if you’re a State Trooper with lights and siren. If your 50 feet of blind spots, it’s simply not worth the stress. Uneventful for pretty much the same reason. The only crisis being the one of confidence when selecting a place to stop for gas, watching for overhead clearances and big, open places where turns are possible without taking out gas pumps and trailer bodywork.

The campground was another story. I don’t think they actually had a trailer arrive there in the past several years. Every trailer was anchored to a foundation, and the entry road included lots of overhead obstructions (in another time and place – trees). One of these trees was in the middle of the road, leaving narrow lanes around each side.

In every one of the United States that I have driven, your drive on the right side of the road. This campground must have been an Indian Reservation with its own traffic rules, because there was a car stopped dead in my lane around the tree, facing me. Two high-school aged girls were in it, one apparently the driver, except she didn’t. She sat in her seat staring at me like I was entertainment, never even trying to move.

Josh had met me at the campground, and he got out of his car a patiently explained to them that they were blocking the road. It was all pantomime to me from my truck, but the driver’s hand jumped to her mouth in surprise, and she gave a little embarrassed smile and wave like it had never dawned on her that she was an impediment.

She put her car in reverse, and still smiling apologetically to me, backed into someone else’s car. So she stopped, still blocking the road, and ran into the trailer where the car she’d hit was parked and came out with a spray bottle and paper towels. Not the owner of the car – cleaning supplies. She then started spraying and wiping the spot of the collision, like Windex would repair bent sheet metal..

Josh gave her a friendly little signal, and again the hand leapt to the mouth, and with another sheepish grin, she got into her car and moved it out of the way, taking only three or four more passes at forward and reverse than were strictly necessary.

I despair for our youth.

I drove to our assigned spot, and right past it. I passed it because it was so small, and so obstructed by trees, and the road so narrow that I couldn’t imagine a trailer would fit, let alone be backed in. Let alone by me.

It was Josh who saved the day. First of all by thinking that I could do it, both inspiring confidence and causing me to question his judgment. Second, by standing within the range of my rear-view mirrors and giving very good instructions. And third, by climbing the tree and holding the branch out of the way so I could pass under it.

The remainder of the weekend was spent without incident. Or maybe I just don’t remember after all the wine. Either way, it was a success.