Monday, November 1, 2010

Trailer Tragedy

Any story that begins with "Everybody is fine" usually takes you on a few twists and turns, right?  For starters, "everybody is fine..."

If you have been following our story recently you know that Friday night and Saturday morning we spent in Mission, just a couple of miles from the US-Mexico border.  We took Sage to the Texas Butterfly Festival in Mission and then headed north for a week's worth of meetings in the DFW/Denton area.  Initially we had planned to stay at Ray Roberts State Park, but as we approached DFW, we decided to stay in Cedar Hill.  We hoped to find a car wash to hose off our truck/camper/trailer configuration before checking into the state park there.  Three weeks on the beach have left a thick film of salt, sand and who-knows-what-else on the siding, the windows and everywhere in between.  By the time we arrived in CH, we chucked that idea and decided to go directly to the park and check in, then dress Sage for trick-or-treating and head out for an early and quick Halloween celebration.  Good thing we had a sudden change in plans...Sometimes all the best-laid plans fall apart.  Have I not written about this, ad nauseum?  And recently?

We checked in without incident.  I asked the reservations clerk about neighborhoods close to the park that might be suitable for t-or-t with a 2-year-old. She drew a map for me and even told me where she lives.  Armed with a fistful of useful information, and happy that Sage was napping before the Big Night, I suggested to David that we quickly set up our campsite first, then rifle through Sage's dress-up clothes to pull together a unique handmade costume before hitting the nearby neighborhood.  I was recounting some of my favorite childhood costumes -- the gypsy, the year I was Pete Rose (before he was dishonored) -- and the virtues of creating something spectacular from everyday items lying around the house.  I think I was mid-sentence describing the map Stella had drawn for me, and thinking aloud about the materials I needed to pull together Sage's trick-or-treat bag costume, as she had requested.  Suddenly, I heard metal crunch and an awful grinding sound -- it sounded like the truck's transmission was falling off a cliff and hitting every boulder.  Sage continued to nap peacefully. 

"What's wrong with the truck?" I shrieked. 

And then everything shifted into slow...motion...

Nothing was wrong with the truck.  I looked into the rearview mirror in time to watch -- again, in slow motion -- a chasm between the trailer and the truck develop then widen.  The trailer pitched forward and made an awful, pitiful moaning sound as it skidded to stop.  The truck kept lurching forward -- faster, faster.  The trailer faceplanted onto the road.  Everything inside surely had been destroyed, because the heaviest item -- the 88-lb. generator -- was at the back of the trailer.  And everything in its path forward is flimsy, plastic drawers filled with tiny toys, books and puzzles, and clothing.  Surely none of these items escaped the destruction of the flying dead-weight, gas-leaking generator. 
sheared metal

The trailer did not become unhitched.  The hitch and about half the towing arm were still attached to the truck.  Metal fatigue is how a few people on the scene as well as on facebook have explained the 'tragedy.'  Basically, the arm broke off at the trailer.  Here are some of the weird and wonderful details of our catastrophe:

1.  None of us were injured.
2.  The incident occurred inside Cedar Hill State Park, not on the highway.
3.  We were moving at 15 mph, no more but most likely less, on an uphill section of park road.
4.  The park is nearly empty so we did not cause any serious traffic problems.
5.  The trailer pitched itself forward, tumbling very slowly uphill, instead of rolling backwards and downhill into the trees.  Or worse, into the few cars that did follow us uphill.
6.  When the trailer landed on its nose, the gas cans mounted on either side were facing upward and did not leak.
7.  The generator fell "up", sort-of, so no gas leaked.  Only a few knicks in one of the sets of plastic drawers, the generator did not destroy anything, surprisingly.  And it was being stored at the rear of the trailer.  When it went on its nose, I was certain the generator pulverized everything in its path.  Aside from the minor knicks, there is no damage to anything.  Miraculous.
8.  The generator started on the first test-pull.  We might not need it for another few months but at least we know it still works.

showing sage the scene..."mommy, i don't think sticky tape will fix this."
my kitchen!

The failure of the metalworks is easier to understand than rationalizing the minimal nature of the damage to our belongings.  Logically, everything should be completely useless now.  Quite the opposite.  Everything but the 'tongue' is intact. 

Park police were on the scene within seconds.  The officer tried not to laugh but eventually he could not help himself.  The sight of our bicycles dangling into the sky alone was comical.  He remained with us as we tried to assess what went wrong, photographed the 'carnage' (ha), and even assisted us by calling a wrecker service to turn our trailer upright.  He continued to stay with us as the tow truck picked up the trailer, towed her, and deposited her onto our site inside the park.  Wonderful guy -- thank you, if you are reading this!  The trailer was on our site but we still needed to prop her up so we could access the contents -- namely, Sage's clothing so that we could assemble a creative and suitable Halloween costume.  First, we needed to open the front end door.  When the trailer landed on it, we were certain that all the contents had also landed there.  David asked me to stand back while he opened the door.  He pried it open...and stood back to the side of the trailer...and out tumbled Sage's tricycle, slightly bent, and one beer.  That was all.  A few taps of a hammer and the trike was good as new.  The beer was still cold...

Apparently when the trailer fell forward the cooler spilled ice, beer and food we had purchased the night before.  The beer and food fell INTO the ice, so when we were ready to imbibe, our beverages were cold and ripe for the drinking.  Thank you, army of angels. ;-)  Feverishly and frantically, we worked to empty the trailer (and an ice cold beer or two) so that we could lift the trailer high enough to stabilize it on blocks.  By the time we finished that, and found enough elements to create a Dora costume (the bag idea was not to be...) it was almost 9pm.  Who takes their 2-yr-old trick-or-treating at 9pm???

We did.  Despite the near-miss-tragedy, and the potential for all of our clothing, Sage's toys and some of our business supplies (e.g. printer and laminator) being destroyed, David and I were adamant about taking our little girl out to celebrate Halloween.  Just in case we could not remedy the situation in time, I prepared her for the worst.  She started to whine a little.  Then she said she heart crumbled.  There was no way I was going to let her down.  She was going out, no matter what.

In her drawers I found a pair of orange shorts, a pink sweater (not a pink t-shirt as Dora is known to wear), white and pink (instead of white and yellow) ruffled socks, tennis shoes, and an official Dora backpack with Map hanging out the side.  I pulled back her hair -- c'mon, there was no way I was going to find a brunette bobbed wig at that late hour -- and painted flowers and "Dora" on her tiny cheeks.  She carried her monkey doll -- Boots -- that she has had since before birth.  Maybe it was a half-ass costume, pulled together two hours past the eleventh hour -- but it worked.  We made sure we complimented her incessantly and treated her as if she were the 'real' Dora.  Smiles galore. 

We don't know the neighborhoods well enough but I had that map from Stella, the park employee.  In all the chaos, the map fell between other papers and possibly under the seat.  I don't know.  I couldn't find the darned thing.  As of this moment, I still have not excavated it from the rubble inside the truck.  So I relied on my memory and we found an area nearby that still had revelers going door-to-door.  As you might imagine, there were not many homes receiving trick-or-treaters at 9:30pm.  Actually, we found only two homes.  I'm sure there were more but there was no way I was keeping her up any later for such slim possibilities.  My grand idea was to take her to WalMart (it's almost next door to the park) and buy candy and holiday decor.  When we returned to our site, I could decorate the camper and then let her t-o-t for the candy we picked out.  She seemed to love the idea, or maybe she felt really sorry about all that we had been through, and decided to be grateful for David's and my effort to make the holiday special.

oh noooooo
ready to tilt

almost up now

quick and professional, and personal, this company

ilfrey ladies in total shock

oh look, i found a book under all this mess

In my family, we call this the Easter Basket Incident.  When I was younger than Sage my mom totally freaked out on my dad because they did not have a basket for me on Easter.  She wigged.  Seriously.  I don't remember the incident but I've heard about it my entire life.  There was a time that I rolled my eyes..."oh Mommmmm."  Now I'm that mommy.  My little girl was looking forward to dressing up, getting candy, and celebrating spookiness.  Two of her favorite books are Halloween-themed Dora the Explorer tomes.  No way I was going to disappoint her.  No way I was going to let something like a trailer flipping over and breaking off our truck ruin her holiday.  So we emptied the contents of the trailer all around our site and pulled something together, last-minute.  I cried while we worked, because I was concerned we might not be able to get to her things in time to dress her and celebrate.  I cried because although I had no direct responsibility for anything that had happened, I felt guilty that her holiday might be ruined.  No way that was happening.  No way was my little girl going to bed without even a hint of the Halloween spirit.

Everything we dragged out of the trailer was left disorganized and strewn around our site.  Doors were left open.  We hit the town and had a great time.  Although she only got a few treats, she enjoyed the experience.  She got it.  We celebrated together at home briefly before everybody collapsed into bed around midnight.  Today, we organized the mess as best we could.  A welder repaired our trailer, so now we are back in the mobile lifestyle business.  And Sage's fondest memory of Halloween is "driving to go trick-or-treating."  Tragedy (somewhat) resolved.

exhausted but ecstatic about being dora

boots?  oh yes, boots.  my best friend.  right.

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