Tales of the Trail I Don’t Tell Mom About

May 31, 2017

Dear Friend,

As a family of four traveling in a fifth wheel around the United States for the past 10 months, we have had our share of stories. Most of them we eventually summoned up the courage to tell Mom about, but those remaining ones…well…she would just worry a bit too much. Of course, these unexpected tales just add to the adventure of the unknown. Enjoy!

A New England State: We were pulling our heavy trailer down the mountainside on a rural road. Things were going well when an old jalopy of a car pulled out in front of us. This annoyed us as we had to stomp on the brakes. After he cut us off, he slowly increased his speed to 40 mph (when the limit was 55 mph). We soon realized why he did not travel any faster as we watched his one wheel wobble back and forth. All of a sudden his entire tire flew off his car, shooting across on-coming traffic into a nearby ditch. His left rear axle scraped on the pavement shooting sparks the entire way as he pulled off to the side of the road. I’d assume he was probably late to work that morning.

New Orleans: While we were pulling our trailer through New Orleans, a trucker honked his horn and I caught his mouthed word, “fall”. We glanced at our rear camera to discover our last bicycle was virtually sideways hanging off the back end of the bike rack. The extra tie down straps were the only mechanism preventing the bike from laying in the middle of a busy highway. We put our turn signal on to get over the four lanes. Just when we almost had enough room to cross a lane, a little car sped up closing in the opportunity. About five such vehicles did this to us. We grew frustrated with the mindset of these metropolitan types. At that point a kind pick-up truck quickly crossed into the next lane and flashed us to go in front of him. We were so grateful. Once we made it to the shoulder we inspected the issue as cars zoomed by. The last ratchet hook of the bike rack sheared off causing the bicycle to fall backwards. I watched traffic quickly bottleneck behind us at the sight of us on the side of the road. After a few minutes a roadside curtesy assistant pulled off behind us with yellow flashers signaling caution to others. I was relieved on his arrival as I feared a careless driver would gawk and run into my husband. But that was short-lived. After five minutes or so, he merged into traffic and off he went. At least we were almost done patching up the problem and got underway soon after.

Northeast Arizona: As we exited a small museum we noticed a middle-aged, native American man staggering to a nearby parked car to beg. Our family briskly walked to our truck and shut the doors knowing he was not too far behind us. I instinctively locked the doors. Sure enough he stumbled along to the driver’s side and stared inside with his face only an inch or so away from the window. His eyes were half mast, staring as if on some kind of drug. The man’s mouth hung slightly open as if to ask for something but not even making out the words. The defining memory of this man was the four inch bloody wound on the right side of his forehead. Half red, half coagulated, this wound had the appearance of being there for a little while already, but he did not bother to tend to himself. He was so out of it, he probably was unaware of the blood all over his face. We wanted to drive away, however, we had dualies and the fifth wheel trailer behind us. He was so close, we would certainly have run him over as he practically left an imprint of his forehead on our driver’s side window. How could we escape this situation? Time stood still, though perhaps only a minute or two went by. I watched him as my husband silently motioned to him to move on. Finally conceding that we were not going to feed his addictions, he cursed and then backed off to wander across the street.

Flagstaff, Arizona: My oldest son and I were placing groceries in the back of our truck in the boondocks at a Walmart. I noticed a young, overweight, minority couple casually crossing the nearby intersection holding hands. After a few more bags I glanced up again to see them coming towards me. As soon as his eyes made contact with mine, his disposition instantly changed from the easy “Sunday stroll” to the “desperately needing water” look with the scrunched eyebrows and hunching, exhausted-looking walk. I was not fooled with this acting job. I was not in any mood to be conned that day. With his girlfriend looking on, he approached me, “Excuse me, Ma’am, (dramatic pause) I was wondering…”

My “momma bear” instinct kicked in with my son working right by my side. I was tired, the sun was getting low and no one else was nearby. I did not know if their intentions were just panhandling, or if they were teaming up for something more. I felt I needed to be confident, firm, yet respectful. I did not wait before I responded, “No thank you. I am not interested. You need to move along RIGHT now.” I smiled firmly, looked him in the eyes the entire time and then held out my left arm pointing down the parking lot.

He paused in silence, unsure what to do next. This response must not be too common for him as he stood motionless processing my words. I repeated them again, “You need to go right now.” Once again I pointed down the parking lot and raised my eyebrow with added emphasis. Reminiscing, I probably had the same look as a mom who clearly told her kid to go clean his room.

The couple held hands again and walked halfway across the parking lot. We finished loading our groceries and were going to leave to meet up with the other half of the family still inside. Just then, he turned around and started a 30 second rant yelling curse words at the top of his lungs out at me. I never said another word to him. However, I decided to stay with the truck for fear he would retaliate by keying the truck or slashing the tires in our absence. This was definitely a learning experience for my son. Reflecting back on the incident, it makes sense that Walmart would be the perfect place to beg as out-of-towners often patronize this familiar nation-wide chain.

Williams, Arizona: Traveling to several of the national parks has opened our eyes to how common tragedy and death is around us. In the evening we often heard on television about the latest mishap that occurred. We even passed the start of a search and rescue at one park. But at our RV Resort, we thankfully missed out on this tragedy.

This resort was divided by a public road that was not well lit so people may enjoy the “dark sky”. Our neighbor filled us in on the details. Long story short, someone was hit by a vehicle while trying to cross the road. Around four squad cars blocked off the entire resort entrance for over four hours while the person and scene was tended to. We didn’t realize how good our timing was as they just reopened the road again right as we were returning. We even saw the police cars with lights still flashing not too far away. I never found out if the person lived or not.

Southern Utah: One evening we were returning home after a long day exploring in the desert. The dark country road had a speed limit of at least 60 mph. All of a sudden I thought I saw a large black object in the middle of the road. Seeing movement with black on black, we quickly slowed down to find ourselves in the middle of a herd of cattle. A large black cow stood in the middle of the road. Likewise on the shoulder, a tiny brown calf was about to catch up to “momma” and the others on the other side. We were certain at that point we were in the middle of an open range area. We were fortunate enough to miss these animals. On a different day, we came across one cow already stiff and bloated on the roadside. That must have done some serious damage to someone’s vehicle for sure. I suppose, I’m not quite sold on the idea of open ranges any more.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: We had a rough start to our long drive back home to Minnesota. Within 15 minutes of a 17 hour drive, we turned onto a highway entrance ramp. A woman, seeing a huge rig entering ahead of her, stepped on the gas to try and get around us before the lanes merged. Despite obviously seeing us, she lost control of her car while maneuvering around us and lunged into the side of our truck. We both pulled over to inspect for damage. The top of her mirror caught the lower portion of the driver’s side mirror. Thankfully our truck mirrors slide in and out as well as rotate inward, so our only damage was a small gouge that looked like a bug splatter on the back side of the mirror. We dismissed the issue and went on our way wondering what else was in store for us with this kind of start— blizzard? hail? tornados? The journey only began.

These crazy stories made different kinds of memories for sure, but I am glad Mom does not use internet. She would not welcome the tales of vehicles losing wheels, panhandler confrontations, close encounters of the animal kind, and accidents. No sense her worrying about us, God’s brought us through it all.

Until we meet again,


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