Monday, December 20, 2010

Evil in my Back Yard

Most bad ideas seem like good ideas at the time they’re unfolding.  I have a ton of 1977 motor home parked on my back lawn to support this statement.

Summer, two years ago, we were looking for a camper, and my friend got a lead on an RV in Hartley.  The guy wanted $3000 for it, a self-contained class C motor home.  My parents loaned us the money, and we drove up to Hartley on a Sunday, I think it was the weekend before Labor Day weekend.  At the time, we did not have a vehicle that could pull a camper, so this seemed like a good choice for us.

It was ~30 years old, had 80,000+ miles on it and some hail damage but otherwise was in pretty good shape, all things considered.  The owner, an older man, had worked on it himself, replace the battery and alternator, got it cleaned up and running.  He cautioned that we should unhook the battery if we planned to leave it sitting for long periods of time, but he and his wife had traveled all over in it, even pulled a jeep with it.  We took it for a drive.  Everything seemed OK.  We offered the guy $2100, and he took it!    

Suckers, er, proud owners of a motor home, we started the 3 ½ hour drive home.

After an hour or so on the road, with me driving lead in the car, and my husband, our daughter and our dog in the motor home, he started flashing his lights at me and gesturing I should pull over.  I did.  When he pulled in behind me I could hear the noise.  A steady, rhythmic clanging.  We looked under the hood, couldn’t see anything.  Let’s just keep going I suggested, and we drove on to the next town and pulled into a bank parking lot.  I called my dad in Minnesota, and he listened over the phone.  His assessment: the fan is hitting something.  My husband crawled under the front end but couldn’t get a good enough look.  Let’s just keep going I suggested again.  We can make it home.

We made it another half an hour before stopping.  My husband was getting really worried.  We crept on through Fort Dodge and stopped again along Hwy 169 within view of Hwy 30.  It was getting dark.  We had no tools.  I drove back to town and bought a flashlight.  We thought about abandoning it there for the night, but decided to drive it back into town where we were fortunate enough to be able to leave it parked behind the Casey’s.   We finally made it home around 10:00 pm.

My husband took Monday off, got some advice on what to look for, bought some tools, drove back to Fort Dodge and fixed the beast.  The alternator had not been properly bolted in place.  It had shifted, and the fan was indeed hitting it.  He got a jump because the battery wouldn’t hold a charge.  He left his car behind Casey’s and drove home.  We drove back up that night to get his car and drove home again separately.

It was nearly a year before we licensed it, and that cost over $300.  We had it into the shop to get the battery replaced and have it checked over.  They also repaired the fuel line.  That cost ~$100.  We took it camping once, a year ago over Labor Day weekend.  We drove to a campground less than 10 miles from home.  Actually, my husband drove the motor home and followed me as I drove our new truck, one that can tow.  The speedometer doesn’t work, and the odometer is disconnected.  We had to buy some new electrical cords to plug in, but we had good weekend camping.  It was fun, but it was difficult.  We knew that this motor home business was not going to be good for us.  We parked it in the driveway, and this past spring we started looking for a small camper that we could pull with our truck.  In April we purchased a beautiful little 19-foot travel trailer, and we used it several time over the summer, including a week-long vacation camping in Minnesota and Illinois.  We love it.

We hate the motor home.  It has become an evil presence in our back yard.  We had to move it off the driveway and park it in the grass close to the alley by our garden.  It sat all summer.  It killed all the grass.  We have signs in it,  For Sale $2500 OBO.  We’ve had interest.  I fret over it sitting there all winter, and so we decided to at least drive it up onto wood slabs for the winter.  Chalk up one more fiasco, one more point to the motor home. 

It took more than a half an hour to get it started so that it would stay running while he put it in gear.  He backed up onto the boards and immediately slid off.  Over and over and over.  We jockeyed positions, tried again, spun the wheels, burned rubber and never made it on those boards again.  We were shouting at each other.  The air was filled with the smell of fuel and exhaust and hot wood and hot rubber.  The neighbors were certainly wondering what the hell was going on.  We gave up in the interest of saving our marriage.

What seemed like a good idea has really not turned out that way, and we still owe my parents $500.  Hopefully when spring comes we can turn our luck around a little.  We plan to license it again and get it fixed up so that it runs better with a working odometer.  I am optimistic that we can sell it.  We just have to keep going.

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