Day 4 – Ut oh

I woke up Friday optimistic for what the day had in store. I was to wake up, make breakfast, get some drone shots, pack up camp, shower, and hit the road. After departing I’d make my way to Mississippi for a hike before settling down in Alabama for the night. Or so I thought.

The first part of the morning went as planned, although it started a little earlier than expected due to some commotion in the campground. Around 5:30 (not long before my usual 6 AM start time) lots of car doors started slamming. After letting Penny go to the bathroom I went to do the same and guess who’s making all the noise? If you guessed it was the trash pandas from Arkansas, I don’t blame you. It was the pickup truck lady! Once again I thought it odd but chalked it up to a coincidence. As I was making breakfast they pulled forward and joined the guys that I presume had a Breaking Bad type situation going on. It all made sense now. I have no idea how you make meth or crack, but I suspect it involves a lot of water. When I had walked the campground earlier I noticed plenty of sites with pay stubs dating back nearly 3 weeks. I suspect the  crew knew how frequently the rangers came through. Based on where the pickup truck lady had been parked on the hill, she was probably keeping a lookout for any inbound Rangers. It likely explains the make shift structure I saw camouflaged in the campground as well.  Definitely time to hurry things along.

Penny and I finished our breakfast, went for a walk and got some cool drone shots of the sunrise.

It was time to break down camp and start a pretty full day. And this is where we really hit a snag. The camper wouldn’t collapse. I’d crank and I’d crank but the handle would just spin, the camper wasn’t actually lowering. Of course the worst possible situation immediately comes to mind – I’m stuck here in this miserable heat trying to fix this next to Walter White.

With each turn of the crank the cables I could see when laying on the ground remained motionless. It wasn’t budging a bit, I have no idea how these work, and no internet to google it. Not to mention, a stupid lack of tools. I had meant to bring a ratchet set, but In my haste to get out the door, forgot it.

I wasn’t panicking, but I certainly wasn’t at my calmest. I decided to stop and take a deep breath, disconnect the camper from my car, and head to cell service. I remember it being available not far outside the campground. In no more than 10 minutes I had just enough service to google some basics. I had no idea what was going on inside this gear box that was closed with pop rivets.

With barely any more knowledge than I had started with, I decided it was time to return to camp and try again. A few cranks on the handle in both directions and suddenly I had progress. If I pushed the handle towards the camper it would slowly collapse. It was clearly only closing about 1/3 as much as it should for each crank, but it was progress! I wasn’t going to get my kidneys removed!

After what felt like an hour I was finally able to get the camper broken down and ready for the road. I took a quick shower and was on the road in no time.  Now that I had broken down the camper I had to figure out what my next move was. If I get to Alabama and then can’t break it down again I’m in a bad position. I’d likely be in a State Park without cell service or tools and would then have a stuck pop up that’s unable to be towed.

At this point I realized I had to pull an audible.  I couldn’t risk getting stuck with the popup in an up position.  I need to hurry through Mississippi and Alabama and get to Tennessee, where I’d have a place to stay while I figured things out, along with help from my good friend, Joe. And I’m not talking about myself in the third person like some wierdo.  I met a great couple at Bonnaroo about 4 or 5 years ago.  They were my camping neighbor and we hit it off.  Over the years I’ve gone to Nashville to visit Joe & Lorraine a number of times, and they’ve joined me in Denver for some Adventures and I now consider them very close friends.  I knew Joe would be able to help me in a pinch.

In the meantime, I needed to start calling some service centers to see who could work on it.  I tried all around Nashville, near Memphis, and near any other cities I knew I’d be near.  As it turns out, most RV places don’t service pop up campers.  In addition to that, the few that do sometimes won’t work on the lift mechanism.  Finally I got a hold of someone who said they could help.  “Sure, I can definitely fix that” the mechanic said.  Instantly it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders, that is, until he finished his sentence.  “….in September.”  Obviously that wasn’t going to work.  In total I called around 25 places.  Of them, only 1 was able to help me, but they were closed for the weekend and there was no way I’d make it before the end of the workday Friday.  Looked like I’d be staying in Tennessee longer than expected while things got repaired.

I couldn’t let this issue completely derail my road trip.  At this point I’d come to the conclusion that I would put it up in Joe’s driveway. If I couldn’t get it collapsed, I’d have to cut the cables to lower it.  I wanted to avoid this at all costs because recabling the camper would cost nearly as much as I paid for it to begin with.  Once it was broken down, I could take a detour back to Denver on my way to the PNW to drop off the trailer and I would sleep in my tent the remainder of the trip.  Either way, I couldn’t just skip through Mississippi and Alabama or I wouldn’t complete my 50 by 30 goal.  I needed to, at minimum, eat at a local, non-chain restaurant.

I did some quick Googling and found a local place, Blue Canoe, ranked among the top in Tupelo, MS.  Penny was pleased to learn they had a dog friendly back patio.  I had the pulled pork and collard greens over cheese grits with sweet vinegar BBQ sauce, and it was just as amazing as it sounds.

Penny at Blue Canoe
Penny at Blue Canoe

If Tupelo sounds familiar its because its the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  Sadly I was losing sunlight and still trying to squeeze in a hike in Alabama, so I didn’t have time to check out any of the historical stuff related to him.  It also may sound familiar due to the recent opening of Tupelo Honey at Union Station in Denver.  Later that day I was disappointed to find out that Tupelo Honey is actually a chain.  My interest grabbing a bite at the Union Station location quickly diminished.

I’m not entirely sure why they call it comfort food, given that every time I eat it I end up so full I’m in serious discomfort.  After getting some affection from strangers, it was once again time for Penny and I to hit the road.  We’d checked the “Mississippi” box.  The sun was setting quickly so it was time for me to make a bee-line to Franklin, TN, where Joe & Lo live.

I decided I had to pull another audible, and skip Alabama for the day.  Joe & Lo only live an hour or so from the state line, so I could always back track.  My plan had always been to spend the weekend in Tennessee, so I wasn’t losing much time.  Penny and I hopped in the car and set our sights on Franklin.  It was time to get some rest and look at things again after a good night’s rest.



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