When I was fresh out of boot camp a wise old chief petty officer once told me, “Take it slow and keep a steady strain.” At the time I had no clue what he meant as I had just begun sweeping grass clippings off a sidewalk. Come to think of it, I still have no idea what he was talking about yet his words have obviously stuck with me for upwards of 40 years!
When we first arrived, spring break was beginning to wind down with the older kids headed back to school leaving the parents busy in an almost futile attempt to keep the younger ones contained yet entertained. I believe one prime example would be the one group who seemed to take hourly walks around the park. This special train consisted of two pre-school aged children obviously making their first forray into bike riding struggling to balance on the training wheels followed by at least a couple of adults voicing their encouragement minute by minute (I'm pretty sure there was an alterior motive behind this as I for one can recall the difficulty of carrying the bike AND the tired kid back to camp). The older siblings, while not getting the hands-on encouragement were shouted at all the same with such phrases as “Watch for traffic.” or “Keep off the grass.” and even the “Stop pushing your sister/brother over!” Being situated in the middle of the park as we are, we can easily observe the goings on and silently cheer for the obvious underdogs.
I think I still owe Chris on a lost bet or two of who would crash first. Next time I think I'll bet more on the parents.
Thursdays and Fridays are definitely the fun days with out of towners rushing into the park and around the loops so they can hopefully be the first to the popular sites. Since our full hook-up spots fill first and are guarenteed to provide the most entertainment, that's where you can usually find us just in case someone “needs our help”. For people watchers like us, there is not much that beats an arrival day at a campground. There is no end to the different ways people can bash their heads, splash themselves with the output of their grey and black tanks, or break a folding chair. Add sharp tools like an ax or hatchet and I am amazed we don't have an ambulance on standby. Recently, we did have one very talented camper who beat the odds and managed to accomplish all three goals and by only the slimmest of margins avoided the fourth. Quickly.
I guess what first caught our eye was the blur going past our window. Looking down the road the blur resolved into a very large combination of 5th wheel trailer towed behind one of those super large diesel powered dually pickups – you've probably seen similar, the trailer has a garage or party room in the rear and usually has a severe weather type name like Typhoon or Tsunami painted in large swooping letters. The camper had obviously been here before, knew exactly what site he wanted, and by golly no one was going to pass him along the way. Pretty inspiring if you discount the narrow, one way road and complete lack of traffic.
Making a beeline to one of the prettiest sites overlooking the rest of the campground our camper whipped into the pull-thru and arrived with the groaning of stressed steel and a loud thump the overcompressed hitch. What caught my eye first off was what appeared to me to be sort of a backwards order on the steps to set up. Usually it consists of leveling, slides, and then hookups but what our guy did was to hookup his sewer hose first thing. Not sure if there may have been an emergency need to dump the tanks or not but right after hookup he pulled his front gray tank valve.
All could have proceeded without incident except for what happened next. The guy went back to the truck and began moving back and forth to I guess find the most level parking spot. Of course while doing this, he unknowingly disconnected the sewer hose from the dump pipe. Fortunately, the tank had emptied itself in the time it took him to begin his maneuvering. No harm, no foul odors, and the driver is still without a clue of what happened.
After a good dozen back and forths on the site he must have found a spot he was happy with as he commenced to set jacks and unhitch. There is something to be said for automatic levelers for this was the one procedure we observed where things actually progressed normally. I apologize up front for the visuals to follow, you can shut your eyes if you need to.
Okay, what we have now is a 5th wheel trailer that is level (this is assumed as Chris and I both saw a thumbs up). Connected to the trailer is a sewer hose with the other end laying beside a closed dump pipe. Our camper goes to the front of the trailer and hits the side twice. Unseen by us was the guy's wife who had entered the trailer and was waiting for just such a signal to put out the forward slides. Once done, the guy went around the trailer and was out of our sight but I'm pretty sure he was getting the patio slide out. For a brief moment I thought he was not going to put the off-side slide out until he completed the hookups but out they came while we watched.
All would have been perfect but for one minor miscalculation. You see, the posts guarding the services area stick up about 42 inches from the ground. The bottom of the guy's rear slide sits at 38 inches from the ground (we measured it afterwards). Wouldn't have been so bad except apparently he had gone inside to run slide rather than have his wife do it while he watched. Only after the very loud “kee-runch!” did the slide stop coming out. The damage must have looked much worse than it was as he did manage to get the slide all the way back in.
Not letting a little thing like structural damage get in the way our camper went back to the patio side to set up all the little sundry things we carry to make our camping comfortable. Chris and I were just about ready to move on for some fresher entertainment when we saw the guy come around the trailer carrying a chair.
You know, the neat thing about 5th wheels is that you can stoop and walk under the front end by the hitch and shorten the number of steps it takes to get around the trailer. There are two problems with doing so however; bumping your head and, if you are really tall, the lower back strain from stooping. Our camper was tall and I believe he had a prior back injury. At least that's my assumption because he was really slow in picking himself up off the ground after slamming his head on the hitch. I'm sure it was the distance and wind that prevented us from hearing what he was saying.
Rubbing his head the guy took the chair over to his wet bay and sat down. I'm not sure if he was running through a mental checklist or what but he sat there for a good 5 minutes occasionally rubbing and shaking his head. Time passed and the camper began finishing his hookups – first electrical, followed by fresh water. Note, he still doesn't notice the unconnected sewer hose.
He pulled the black valve. Out came a brown torrent with the full force of a only totally topped off tank can provide. This tragedy could have been mitigated and been a minor clean-up if only the guy had kept calm. That and maybe not become entangled in his folding chair. All he had to do was reach over and close the valve; ignoring the splash back effect the flopping hose spewing I don't what to know.
Third time's the charm I guess.
This was all within 30 to 45 minutes of his arrival and while Chris and I would have loved to stick around to see what else might have happened, we are volunteers and need to report spills such as this as soon as possible. That and quickly become busy doing something very important somewhere else.
A side note here. Did you know you can tell an experienced camper from one just beginning by their ability to distinguish black and gray water just by catching a whiff?
Whoever did do the cleanup while we were busy with important stuff elsewhere did a good job. When we returned to clean the fire ring and pick up litter two days later you couldn't tell what all had occurred there. Our park has an outstanding staff!