Used camper purchase just the beginning

Thursday, July 4, 2013

We became the proud owners of a secondhand travel trailer last summer. Our story began in the northern realms of upstate New Hampshire last June, in the driveway of some rather scary hillbillies.

We scoured Craigslist looking for an ideal used camper and it is true what they say; you have to kiss many, many toads before you find your prince.

After several weeks of obsessive searching, we finally found the perfect camper for our family. It took about a week or so to realize we needed to purchase a vehicle that could properly tow it. The perils of owning a camper are much more expansive that we initially thought.

We were thrilled when we found an older Ford Expedition in our budget. When we purchased it last year, we did not realize the extent of rust damage and exhaust issues, or that the front brakes had practically disintegrated. The unscrupulous seller had even put a 13-month sticker on it to appease us. We certainly learned to appreciate the phrase “buyer beware.”

We spent several weeks last summer doing necessary repairs, and then managed to squeeze in three weekend adventures before packing our camper up securely for the winter.

We filled it with dryer sheets, moth balls, mouse traps, mouse poison and ant poison to boot. As luck would have it, a pesky little critter somehow managed to survive regardless.

Upon opening the camper this year we found remnants of its nest and one hole in each end of our sleeping quarters. Thank goodness for Clorox bleach and duct tape.

After the extensive repairs we did last summer to our Expedition, we also applied a high-end rust treatment in the fall and replaced a leaky brake line this spring. We felt confident we were ready to head out on our inaugural summer getaway.

The first camping trip of the new season is always a big adventure. We had the Expedition inspected just two weeks before our trip to ensure it was in tip-top shape.

Our plan was to hit the road at noon; as soon as school officially ended. As our plans usually have a way of working out, we finally pulled out of our driveway around 4:30 p.m.

As soon as we turned onto the highway, we knew something was terribly wrong. The car was lugging just to get up to 20 mph. My husband and I shared distraught glances with one another, as our 3-year-old kept happily chirping away “Are we almost to the beach yet?”

We tried to stay optimistic and even placed a frantic call to our mechanic. He advised that the engine might just need to get used to pulling the trailer again, so we held our breath (literally) and prayed for the best. It did not take long to figure out that we were not going to be successful.

We pulled off the highway just outside of Nashua and I called a friend while my husband Paul inspected the car. Much to our pleasant surprise, we realized it was not a transmission issue as we had feared. Rather, smoke and heat was literally pouring from the rear driver’s tire wheel.

Our amazing and talented friend, Joe, a wizard mechanic in his spare time, happened to be nearby, en route home from work. We gave him our location and he found us in no time at all.

We must have been a sight to see. Four little cherubs running around in bare feet on the strip of lawn that separated two industrial parking lots; tossing empty water bottles, giggling, practicing cartwheels and nibbling on goldfish. One distraught mother trying to keep them safe, and two men working on an old rusty broken down Ford with a camper in tow.

We got the wheel off the car to realize the brake had somehow seized up completely. After a frantic 90 minutes, we had successfully replaced the caliper, bled the brakes and we were finally en route again.

We arrived to the campground as the sun slipped away. Pulling into our site, I vaguely recall noticing a large white pipe right behind us and thinking; “Hmm, I wonder what that is.” By noon time the next day, it became crystal clear that it was the main campground sewer pipe. And it had a leak.

Thankfully there were other available sites and a few hours later, we were finally able to head down to the ocean to meet up with our friends. The shoreline at Wingarsheek Beach in Gloucester, Mass., is truly astounding, one of my favorite all-time beaches. It stretches out forever at low tide, and is simply stunning. The children frolicked in the shallow waters collecting hermit crabs and sand dollars, while we enjoyed the tranquil sunset.

That evening, one of the more industrious fellows in our group wired up an amazing outdoor theater where we all gathered together to watch the Bruins lose Game 5. For me, it was no big shake because honestly the only sporting events I really pay attention to are the ones that my children are playing in. After the game, we headed back to our new site with a couple of our oldest friends to celebrate a birthday with chocolate cake at the campfire.

As the rain began to softly patter just moments later, we said our goodnights and headed into our campers for much-needed sleep. It was a long day for sure, but in hindsight, a simply amazing one. Certainly a trip we shall never forget.

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