Jan
12
2013

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Black Ice

by Tyler

We planned on driving through the night in order to reach Deanne's place in time for our postponed reed-collecting workshop tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, there is no way that is going to happen. Just a few hours into our road trip east, our meager progress has been stymied by yet another unforeseen challenge, one we have no control over: the weather.

Ice and snow are raining down on the highway in Wisconsin. The road conditions are worsening with every passing minute. All around us, cars have gone skidding into the ditch, their stationary taillights beaming like eyes in the darkness. The speedometer reads a plodding 28mph as we pass another truck on the side of the road. Its cab is crumpled and the windshield is shattered, presumably from flipping through the ditch.

Ice on Windshield

Suddenly, without warning or perceptible reason, our camper starts fishtailing. We've just hit a patch of black ice and our truck is being dragged sideways by our trailer. In a matter of seconds, we're sliding down the highway in slow motion, almost perpendicular to the road. Immediately, I am groping for our electronic brake controller, the one we had installed less than 24 hours ago.

As I flip the spring-loaded manual override lever, vividly recalling just hours ago asking, "In what situation would I want to use this?", the trailer jerks back on the hitch. Almost instantly our truck and camper are back in a parallel line with the road, but we're still drifting towards the ditch. Thankfully, we come to a stop on the shoulder, just shy of disaster.

We exchange wide-eyed and silent looks, both visualizing ourselves and all of our belongings careening off the road. Clearly, it's time to call it a night. I take a deep breath and limp us down the road at a snail's pace for two miles, until we reach the nearest rest area. I guess we'll be camping for the night in our trailer! When we arrive safely, pulling into a spot for the night, I text our families, and call Deanne to postpone our workshop yet again.

Tyler Texting

When those quick tasks are over, it's time to start setting up camp. It's then we realize that we've packed our generator in the worst possible place, behind all of our worldly possessions, under a table. With heavy sighs, we heave our nicely stacked boxes out of the way, remove the generator, and stack up all the boxes again.

Boxes in Camper

Then, I head outside to open the propane tanks, wondering if they'll even last the night. Then, I chain the generator to our truck and start it up, unsure of how much fuel it will churn through. The number of things I don't know is immense, and I feel very, very out of my element. Back inside, the lights are on, the heat is blasting and it feels really homey. Suddenly we're both excited to be spending our first night in the revamped camper. Adventure!

We brush our teeth and get ready for bed, settling into our new sheets, resting our heads on our new pillows. Tara is freaked out because we can't figure out how to lock the camper door, so she assumes her free-camping position on the "inside" of our little bed. In her mind, if any bad guys show up, they'll have to come through me to get to her.

Tara Flossing in Our Camper Tyler in Our Camper

Snuggled in our bed, I am reminded of the first night on our bicycle tour, spent free-camping on a daffodil-covered hill in Scotland. I am just as excited, nervous, happy and scared as I was then. As we listen to the hum of the generator and the plunking of a thousand tiny bits of ice showering down upon our camper, we fall asleep, wondering what in the hell we've gotten ourselves into.


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