03 September 2009

A Cautionary Travel Tale

Since Ms. Charity posted her awful travel story, it got me thinking (and laughing) about my very worst travel adventure ever.

Many, many moons ago, in 1997, my ex Jason and I were still married, no kids, and living in Phoenix, AZ. We randomly moved back to CA. At some point, my old roommate asks me if I want my old furniture back since she was moving out. I tell her "nah, it was only $50 at a yard sale. I sure do love that furniture though but yeah, not worth the expense of coming to get it". Honestly, we might have even gotten the stuff for $25 or free because the neighbor selling it was interested in the roomie until he found out she was 17. Anyways, I get off the phone and my FIL perks up and says "you can't just leave perfectly good furniture". I proceed to tell him it was from a yard sale and looks like it was made for a log cabin in the 70's. While I appreciate that distinct lack of style, no one else in their right mind would want that furniture. Well, my FIL firmly felt that you should never leave a perfectly good couch, chair, end tables and lamp, behind, regardless of its campy exterior. After an hour of trying to talk him out of this, he insisted I call her back and say we will come get the furniture. I even pointed out to him that renting the trailer to haul it would cost more than the stuff was worth. "No matter," FIL says, "It's perfectly good furniture". *sigh*

I should have known this was not going to go well when I decided to wear sandals. I'm a big fan of thinking of all possible bad outcomes and planning accordingly. I went to put on my sandals and my mind goes "no no no! Wear socks and shoes in case the car breaks down in the middle of the desert and you have to walk half way to Phoenix in 120 degree weather. No need to get bit by a fire ant on top of it." And I told myself "Don't be ridiculous, be comfy, wear the sandals".

Our trip begins in an old, blue Buick with a lil'bit o' duct tape on the roof. Simon Rentals installs a little open trailer on the back and we set off. Everything is cool until just past Quartzsite, AZ when all the sudden, the car just sounds like hell. I say "Al, you should pull over" and he says "If I stop, it might not start again." I took the opportunity to mention that we just passed the last civilized place for about the next 400 miles. No matter, we drive til it dies apparently. Then a few more miles and I say "Oh crap! Al, I think it's on fire back there and it sounds like crap is falling off the car". Apparently, the word "fire" was enough to get it pulled over. So, I get out of the car, cursing my temptation of fate by wearing sandals, and take a look around. Nothing but desert as far as the eye can see. Al was right; the car didn't start ever again. So, we did what all old people and young girls do in this position. We started walking and decided that we couldn't be more than 10 miles out of town. It was flippin hot. Really flippin hot. And I'm in sandals. I don't like ants or dirt in my shoes. I didn't even want to go get this darn furniture in the first place. Luckily, we were only walking about a mile before some nice, Spanish-only family in a minivan pulls over. While Al was a little leery of a ride with people he couldn't speak to, I promised him that even a carload of Mexicans can put two and two together when they saw the dead car a mile back and an old man and a fat chick walking in the middle of nowhere in the AZ desert. Besides, there was kids in the car, how bad could these people be? I hopped in the van and I'm pretty sure Al only got in because he didn't want me being kidnapped by illegals or something equally lame. They offered us water and a sandwich too. They had a cooler :) So, they leave us in Quartzite and we determine that there is a U-Haul place. I take my second swing at convincing him that the furniture is not worth it and that we should get a rental car and go home. But no, this was not to be. After all, you can't leave perfectly good furniture.

So, we go to the U-Haul place and discover they have only one U-Haul. The largest one they make. This thing was the size of a semi. Al takes it after I make a third pitch for turning around and going home. He puts the several hundred dollar expenditure on the credit card. Al must have mentioned we were towing a trailer because the guy asks if we need a "ball hitch adapter" or something like that. Al, of course, says no because a hitch is a hitch and the U-Haul has a hook up on the back. I say "are you sure we don't need that thing?" and he says we don't need it. So we leave and drive the behemoth back to where the broke down car is. We park and get out. Al starts taking the trailer off the car and I see a ball of dust coming towards us in the distance. It gets a little closer then stops. At that point I can see it's the tow truck. The tow truck driver gets out and picks up something on the road, gets back in the truck and drives down to where we are. The tow truck driver hops out and says, with a twinkle in his eye, "I think I found something of yours". It a piece of our car. I take it and wave it at Al. I told him it sounded like we were losing part of the car! Our rather jolly tow truck driver hitches up the car and leaves. After Al signed the credit card slip, of course. Probably another $100 for the tow.

Al and I are alone in the desert with the world's largest U-Haul truck and a little indy brand trailer. It wasn't too long until Al discovers what the "ball hitch adapter" is. It's the thing that lets you hook a non-UHaul to a U-Haul. It turns out U-Haul has custom hitches that are specially sized to work only with other U-Haul products. I suggest we drive the behemoth back to Quartzite and rent the $10 trailer hitch. He says "I'm not spending $10 on a hitch. I have some rope in the car." That's right, people. He actually said that. "I have some rope in the car". He meant it too. An hour of the foulest language ever uttered by my former FIL ensued. After that, we have a craftily tied thin yellow nylon rope holding a trailer on to a near-semi. Al gives it a little bounce and attaches the flimsy safety chain (!)and says "Let's go". I smirk at him and point to the safety chain and say "Do you really thing that is going to do anything if that rope breaks?" and he says "The rope isn't going to break. Safety first!" with a smile and we set off for Phoenix. We make it without any other events. When we pull in to the apt complex, I get out. To my surprise, the trailer is still very securely fastened to the back of the U-Haul. Shock and awe, people. That was one heck of a surprise. Al smiles at me and says "See, it's fine! Let's go get the furniture. We load up. That U-haul is the biggest room that furniture has ever been in, guaranteed. We leave to head home. It was a really, really long day.

It's 1:00 A.M. We're 5 1/2 hours in to our 6 hour drive home. Al takes the 10/210 interchange, which is a rather sharp curve for a semi-truck sized U-Haul towing a little trailer. All the sudden, people in the cars are yelling at us. Finally, we understand the third guy who says "Dude! Your trailer!!" as he zooms by. I figure that thing must be swinging side to side or something. We pull over, Al gets out to check on the trailer. I hear him coming back because he's cussing again. He gets in the U-Haul and says "the trailer's gone". "The trailer's gone?" I say. He says "Yeah, it's gone. We have to go look for it". At this point, I just shut up. We drive up and down the freeways in the middle of the night for over a half hour. No trailer anywhere. Al finally gives up. He says in a very serious tone "Don't you EVER, EVER, EVER tell Sue I used a rope and tied that trailer on. EVER!" I say "ok" and we go home. We get there and my MIL, Sue, calls the highway patrol to try to find the trailer.

In the morning, the CHP calls back and says the located the trailer and the rental company was contacted. They were going to go pick it up. It turns out the trailer flew off the freeway at the interchange, went down the embankment, hit a motorcycle cop's bike, and landed against the cinderblock wall of a gas mart. Al calls the rental company and before he can try to find out the financial damage, they start profusely apologizing. Apparently, the thought the trailer, which they had attached, had fallen off of the Buick. Al didn't bother to correct them. Sue is wondering aloud "how could that trailer have come off the hitch like that??" and he just shrugged his shoulders and left the room.

For the record, we did keep it a secret for a long time and I don't think Sue ever found out about what happened. :P

Bad adventure, funny story :)

1 comment:

~liz said...

Great story, oh my gosh! Very well written as well!You had me a
laughing alot! What a nighmare...