Between quarantine stress and boy-energy excess, June had me ready to drive off a cliff, Thelma-and-Louise style. Instead, my ever-patient hubby suggested we drive off into the sunset instead – vacation-style! And that’s how our Unforgettable RV Road Trip began …
Yes, I said RV. As in, a 30-foot home on wheels, totally tricked out with every convenience, including a fridge for all my vegan food, to make a road trip seem more like a pleasure cruise. Not that I wouldn’t have been happy with a VW Vanagon at this point – the idea of climbing into a ‘Rona-infected fuselage was giving me the heebie-jeebies. So I did what any logical jetsetter would do. I contacted Quest RV and rented a sweet Mercedes Citation 24 ft Class C single slide for our most excellent multi-state road trip adventure (not pictured… just you wait).
This wasn’t our first rodeo renting from Quest, and it won’t be our last. But it certainly wasn’t the easiest. In fact, it just might have been the hardest start to a vacation we’ve ever had. Before I lay out the deets of our epic state-by-state adventure, let me tell you about the series of unfortunate events that hit us like falling rocks before we even backed out the driveway.
It all started out fine-seeming. As per usual, I overpacked. I clearly forgot that loading up an RV is kinda like moving into a house. It certainly wasn’t as quick and easy as putting some luggage and a cooler into the trunk of a car. Nevertheless, we finally pulled out of our driveway around 2 p.m., a mere five hours later than our planned 9AM departure. With a 5-hour drive ahead of us, that would put us in Hot Springs, Arkansas just in time for dinner … in a perfect world.
MELTDOWNS AND ROADBLOCKS
We hadn’t even made it past our zipcode when the trouble began. It started when the AC suddenly crapped out. Jason pulled over to take a look at the generator. It wouldn’t turn back on for him, so he decided to check the oil, and that’s when he noticed that it was low. He filled the oil tank up with the remaining amount from a container sitting next to the unit.
After he got back in the RV and turned on the generator, we heard loud noises, and our youngest son saw plumes of white smoke billowing from the back of the vehicle. I seriously thought we were going to blow up, but Jason assured us that, no, it was just the oil burning off the generator’s exhaust. Only it wasn’t. When he called to check in with Quest, the mechanic gave us the bad news. The generator was completely shot and needed to be rebuilt.
Feeling defeated, we limped back to our driveway to figure out what the next step would be to get out of town. At this point, Jason wanted to cancel the whole trip, and I felt like I needed a drink. Fortunately, Quest RV just so happened to have ONE extra unrented RV.
After convincing Jason that the show must go on, we were just about to pull out of our driveway, this time for the RV trade-out, when another disaster struck. Right before our eyes, a city construction worker driving an 18-wheeler flatbed carrying heavy machinery HIT OUR PROPERTY WALL and kept on driving. I have never jumped out of an RV so fast to chase another giant vehicle down the street on foot. I screamed and yelled and flailed my arms … with no luck. And then they were gone.
After telling our awesome neighbors about what had just happened, they were able to track down the city construction supervisor at – where else – the nearby 7-11. I guess nothing caps off a day of property damage quite like a taquito. The supervisor agreed to come and assess the damage and, sure enough, he kept his word. After we exchanged info, the Smith family was final ready to roll. It was now 4 p.m., and I couldn’t believe we were still in our freaking driveway. I also couldn’t believe that Jason didn’t throw his hands in the air and yell UNCLE! Thankfully he didn’t, so we finally left Fort Worth and started driving to trade out our RV.
It was about 6:30PM by the time we switched out our rides and coasted out of the Quest RV parking lot to officially … finally … start driving to Hot Springs. I checked MAPS and ETA was now 10:30 p.m. if we didn’t pass go or collect $200. OK, more like 11 because at that point, the boys, who had been so patient all day began demanding that we feed them. So, after a quick trip to Micky D’s, we were officially … finally … REALLY on the road. We just didn’t realize what we were driving into …
As we drove further and further east, we started to see lightning in the distance. No biggie, right? Wrong. Watching the radar, I could see in real time as the digital storm blotches kept getting bigger and bigger until they swallowed the entire screen. Just before midnight – and only one short hour away from our destination –we drove straight into our own personal version of the movie Twister. Rain was now coming down in sheets and jagged lines of lightening crackled all around us. Jason wisely decided to get the heck off the highway. We pulled into a gas station in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and parked our RV next to a cinder block shed in the back lot of a gas station, the safest option available at the time. There was nothing else to do but hunker down and wait it out.
The straight-line winds blew our massive RV around like it was a see-saw. My heart was racing. It was loud. And then a transformer near us blew. The whole area lit up with a blinding flash of light. You could see all of the power lines bouncing around and whipping up and down over us, and then it was pitch black. Not a glimmer of light all around us except for the eerie illumination of lightning. Finally, the storm passed by us, and we were, yet again, on our way. I felt like I was holding the Bingo Card of Doom and I had just checked the box for “Biblical-Level Storm” – along with Pandemic, Car Trouble, and Home Disaster.
OK, so the good news was, we finally arrived at our destination in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. The bad news was … literally everything after that. The hotel couldn’t accommodate parking for our RV, so we had to park at the Visitors Bureau five blocks away. No problem, I thought – we’ll just take an Uber! Nope. I guess Uber drivers in Arkansas need their beauty sleep, because there isn’t a car service to be found after midnight. I hope at least someone was awake at that hour, because they would have gotten a good laugh watching our exhausted family of four schlepping all our luggage down the deserted streets in the dead of night.
It’s always wonderful when everyone in the family can agree on something. And we all agreed that this was by far THE WORST TRAVEL DAY we have experienced. Thankfully, this was literally the darkness before the dawn. The next morning, the sun rose, our moods improved and we truly embarked on what was to be an UNFORGETTABLE RV ROAD TRIP that took us to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and back home to Texas. Stay tuned for Part 2!