Our family’s lifestyle is a little unorthodox; we live in a 36ft fifth-wheel camper. We chose this lifestyle to better accommodate what the Lord was asking us to do for a season: be nomadic church workers. It took us a while to come around to the idea, but once we did, we haven’t looked back. Too much. And only when it gets hard. Which is quite often, actually. Take our most recent moving experience for example.
After living in an RV park near Houston, TX, ministering to a group of saints for seven months, it was time to leave town. Our plan was to move to my hometown in SW Oklahoma for the month of April to rest and recuperate before heading to another group in May. Our plan was to load up and head out on Friday. It’s about an eight-hour drive, unless you’re pulling a rig and driving slow, then it could be closer to nine hours. Either way, it’s doable in one day.
Thursday (The Day Before Moving Day)
On Thursday morning, someone asks about the hot water. I really can’t remember who it was; everything is still a blur. We have no hot water. We had hot water the night before, and we even had hot water an hour earlier. But now, we have no hot water. We can turn on the cold water faucet, and we have running water, but when we turn on the hot water faucet, we have no water. Nuthin’. Nada. Zilch. All the pipes screech and halt, and nothing comes out. Weird. The hot water tank is still warm, but we have no water. So, no showers on Thursday.
At this point, we’re not too concerned about it, because we know that in my hometown, we can shower over at my parents’ house if needed. And it’s gonna be needed. We also know that my dad can come over to help me try to figure out what in the world is wrong with the hot water heater. So, potentially, only a couple of days worth of inconvenience.
Friday (Moving Day)
The alarm wakes us up at 7:00 Friday morning. By 7:20, I’m off to get donuts for our moving day breakfast. Our plan is to be packed up, loaded up, and on the road by around 9:00. That’s our plan.
By 8:45ish, I’m ready to hitch up the camper to the truck. All things considered, this shouldn’t take very long. Around 9:30, we realize that the hitch just isn’t hitching. My clamps aren’t clamping, my pincers aren’t pinching, and my connectors just aren’t connecting. We can’t leave if we can’t hitch up. So, I leave in the truck to try to get the hitch fixed.
By noon, I’m back at the camper with a brand new fifth-wheel hitch in the back of the truck and a lot less money in the bank. The old hitch, so I’m told, is broken, and parts, if I can find any, won’t be easy to come by. So, a new hitch is my quickest, easiest, and costliest solution. It’s an unexpected cost, and we’re now over three hours behind schedule. Our schedule. By around 12:30ish, we’re finally on the road.
We make for a nice caravan. I lead the pack, with son number three, in the truck pulling the camper. Our eldest two boys are in the vehicle behind me, and the Mrs. and our daughter bring up the rear. My wife is typically my navigator, but she’s two cars back, so I’m the navigator and pilot. I could’ve asked the 12-year-old in the truck with me to help navigate, but I thought I had the route down. And I did. For the most part.
We get to Fort Worth right at drive time: 5:00 pm. The route we are to take skirts around Fort Worth, so we’ll have as little traffic as possible – still a lot of traffic, mind you, but not as much as going through the heart of Fort Worth. That’s the route we are supposed to take. I take us on a different one. I had just managed to get over a few lanes of traffic to the road I knew we were supposed to be on, and had breathed a little sigh of relief, when my wife calls me.
“Hey, just so you know, you’ll be coming up on your exit from the other side than if we had taken the other route.” She was very calm, she was very cool, and she wasn’t judgemental in any way. Basically, the road we wanted to be on is a big loop. I got on it earlier than we normally would. It will still get us to where we want to go, but now we’re headed through lines of red on the map: heavy traffic. In examining the map, since I now had time to examine it, I note that the other way had significantly less red on it. In other words, we would’ve skirted the traffic.
A solid hour later, maybe closer to an hour and a half, we emerge from Fort Worth. I’m frustrated, but not angry. I’m down but not out. I have a difficult time making out a sign, and when I finally do, I realize I’m in the wrong lane. I’m turning left when I should be going straight. Now there’s a gas station at my turn, so I take advantage of filling up again. Didn’t necessarily need to, but after stop and go for over an hour, I would feel better about it. I tell the family that I really don’t want to have to stop again any time soon, so now’s the time for restroom breaks and dinner. We get Subway, I fill up, I check the tires, and all is well.
We’re back on the road headed to our destination. We’re still three and half to four hours away, but the worst is behind us. It’s all downhill from here. Some of the road really is downhill, so I pick up the pace a little. I start to push it. We’re behind schedule, it’s getting late, and I’m ready to no longer be driving.
We get through another city, Wichita Falls, TX, and now we’re really on the back nine. We’re just over an hour away. Our plan had been to get to the RV park, set up shop, and be back in business all in the same day. That plan is now out the window, and our new plan is to get there, park the RV somewhere, and crash at my parents’. It’s looking like we should be there sometime before 11:00 pm. I can maybe squeeze 10:30 out of the deal if I keep up the pace.
Somewhere between Wichita Falls and Vernon, TX, on Highway 287, I start to feel the truck shimmy and shake. I consider calling Bridget to see if she is also shimmying and shaking when my son and I hear what sounds like an explosion, and the truck shimmies and shakes hard. I fancy that I can see sparks in the side view mirror. One of my tires is shot.
I pull over to the side of the road with a shredded rear passenger tire. Oh, it’s still aired up, but the tread is gone. Upon further inspection, the whole passenger side of the truck bed is beat up. It’s beat up good. Or bad. Either way, it’s beat up. Bridget calls the insurance company who calls the roadside assistance hero. Bridge and I get the truck separated from the trailer, and over an hour later, the RAH arrives to save the day. Or night. He arrives around 10:45 pm. He changes the tire, we hitch back up, and we’re back on the road by 11:30.
Finally, around 12:30 Saturday morning, we pull in to Altus, OK. My parents pick up my son and me, and we all crash at their house for the night. We. Are. Exhausted. Twelve hours after leaving the Houston area, we are safely at our destination, if not completely soundly. It was only supposed to take eight to nine hours, but at least we’ve arrived. Now, the worst is behind us, and it will all be smooth sailing from here.
And it is. Until the next day.