Our next trip in the RV which would be our last was about a month later and it was our annual trip to Florida to our timeshare (yup I done got suckered into buying one). This time we had two more people with us, my Mother and my daughters friend. so 7 of us trooping down 95 in the big RV to Florida. Now mind you there are no slide outs and it really only sleeps 5 comfortable so we would still need to get a room on travel days. Everything seems to be going good, the bathroom is getting used, the kitchen is being used and I am happy – for a minute. It’s a few hours in when I need to make our first fuel stop that I realize we can’t go nearly as fast as we do in a car and it takes me three swipes of the credit card at the pump to fill this tank. At least a 20 minute plus fuel stop. Wait, wasn’t this thing supposed to save time?
So on we go and my daughters are both bugging me to stop off somewhere like a Wal-Mart so they can pick up the Glee DVD season 1 or 2 set so they have something to watch. Around 7 PM or so while we are somewhere in Virginia we stop off at an exit and find a Wal-Mart. I am turning through the parking lot and I hear something underneath thinking maybe I hit a pothole or something, I ignore it and find a spot at the back of the lot. We go in and look for the DVD which of course turns into like a 45 minute shopping adventure. We come out and my wife notices that the RV is slumping a little bit on the drivers side and says “hey what’s that thing hanging down”. I get down on my knees and look and notice that the whole front shock absorber has broken off from the frame. A guy in a Jeep across from me sees this and comes over and looks. He gets out some of his socket wrenches and tries to take it apart but it’s not budging. He tries to call his brother who is a welder but says – It’s Saturday night and he’s probably getting ready to go our partying. Then another guy and his son come over from another RV half way across the lot and ask what’s going on. The first guy from the Jeep says I can just ignore it and get it fixed when I get to Florida, the RV guy says no you can’t drive on that – you better get that fixed ASAP. I’m going with the RV guy on this one.
The Jeep guy’s family comes out of WM and he wishes us luck and goes on his way. The RV guy is this really tall guy who hails from Montana, has some facial hair and scraggly semi-long hair (down to mid neck all around) and a baseball cap and his son who is also very tall and is not the sharpest tool in the shed but he took direction well. Every time his Dad told him to get a tool he happily went back to their RV and retrieved it. So the RV guy and I go into the WM looking for a ratchet strap to at least tie the shock up so it wasn’t bouncing around under there and I could at least drive a little ways – my reality set in that it was now past 8:00 PM on a Saturday night and no one would be open on Sunday for me to get this fixed. We got the strap and tied it up and called it a night. We went to a hotel across the street and got a room for half of us and my wife, son and I stayed in the RV.
The next morning my wife and I got up early and started combing the local yellow pages (i.e. google on my phone) for a local tire place that also does shocks. I found one open that was a few miles up the road and they said they could help me so off we went while everyone else stayed asleep in the hotel room. We arrived and I was met by a little old spitfire woman who was running the place and it was very clear she was the boss. She was ordering people around like they were little children not knowing what to do next. She came out and looked at the problem and said “oh no, we can’t fix that! You will need a welder that can put that back together and we don’t have one”. My hopes again crashed to the ground thinking that we would be stuck in this remote little town in Virginia for a few days rather than sunny Florida.
Then she says “let me make a couple of calls, I need to help you get back on the road”. Sure enough about three calls in she finds a guy with a welding shop about 15 miles away that just happened to be in on a Sunday morning doing a quick job. He said if we got there within 20 minutes he would take a look. We quickly got in the RV and off we went. This place was way out in the middle of nowhere in the farmlands of Virginia and the guy was still there and said “oh yeah I can fix that in a jiffy”. I was sure that this was going to cost me a small fortune. He got under it and made a couple of quick welds and was done in 10 minutes. He also was a family man with kids that had done several RV trips to Florida and could relate. I asked how much I owed him and he said that didn’t take me very long, just give me 15 bucks. What? I offered him 50 but he said no 15, c’mon at least take double that $30. Nope $15. I handed him the cash shook his hand and off we went. We were all in Florida before dark. We thank all of the Virginia folks that got us back on the road and for your southern hospitality. Back in New England that shit would’ve cost me at least $200 and two days! To my girls – that Glee DVD better have been the best damned DVD you ever watched – oh wait, the WM didn’t even have it!