Strange beginnings

This week has been an almost perfect whirlwind of activity. Literally. And we’ve had highs and lows in abundance.

I’ll start with the highs: we got Cubie (our nickname for our RV… we have the Subie and our RV is a 35QBA, so Cubie). And she’s beautiful. Catherine likes her more than she thought she would, and she thought she’d love her. We quite often just sit and marvel how much we love the appearance of everything, and how roomy it is, and how usable it is, and how it’s even still usable when the slides are in which, unfortunately, we have considerable practice at.

So we got done at the dealership, and I hopped behind the wheel, Cat followed in the Subie, and off we went to our first park, Jellystone Memphis. It was just delightful! We planned to stay for two nights. That first night we were so nervous and happy.

Our site at Jellystone Memphis
Our site at Jellystone Memphis

We woke up early and drove to Red Bay for the Tiffin plant tour since the girls didn’t get to go down for the build. It was interesting but hot. We made our way back and enjoyed a quiet evening at the pool.

While we were getting ready for bed, I noticed that the weather wasn’t looking great. Checking the forecast showed severe weather coming through with thunderstorms, hail, and possibly 60MPH winds. I made the decision to “batten down the hatches” and pull the slides in overnight to protect the slide toppers (small awnings that keep rain and debris off the tops of the slides). We were very thankful that the floorplan we chose remains usable even when the slides are closed. You can get everywhere and there are only two storage areas you can’t reach.

We made it just fine. It was quite a storm, but I think we got off light. Plenty of hard rain and lightning, but no hail and, while it was windy it didn’t gust as hard as they predicted.

Here’s where things get a little worse. We were scheduled to leave for Nashville Thursday and we did. Cat was following along in the Subie. We got maybe 40 miles out of town and I got warning lights for the brake system and the brake reserve system. (I didn’t know what they meant at the time, just that one of them looked like the parking brake indicator). I pulled off the interstate and into a Pilot Travel Center (a fairly large truck stop) and broke out the manual where I found the indicators and what they meant. Also, the warning that you should stop driving immediately and get service. My heart dropped. As did my stomach.

I called our roadside assistance number and talked to a tech. Possibly my worst fear: we’ll have to tow you to a service center. And that will have to be done tomorrow.


So, we found a decent place at the back of the Pilot and got ready to spend the night. We kept the slides in, of course, but we did pop a couple of them out briefly so we could grab our food from an inaccessible cabinet and our clothes from our drawers which we can’t get to when the slides are in. After that? We played cards and watched a movie. It was quite surreal.

Sunset over the Pilot Travel Center in Stanton, TN
Sunset over the Pilot Travel Center in Stanton, TN

I somehow got the impression — because it was said — that they would be coming to tow us at 6am. So I got us up at 5:30am.

Sunrise and mist over the Pilot Travel Center in Stanton, TN
Sunrise and mist over the Pilot Travel Center in Stanton, TN

At 6:20 I called back.

“I’m not sure where 6am came from, we’re still trying to line up a service provider. Your new ETA is 8:00.”

Now we enter a phase I like to refer to as waiting. We played more cards, we started another movie, I called occasionally to get new ETAs when the previous ETA expired.

Finally, at 11:20 our tow truck shows up. There’s one thing I can say during this whole ordeal: we’ve met some wonderfully nice and helpful people. The tow truck guy was great. He was nice and this wasn’t his first rodeo. I will say, though, that seeing your 3-day-old (to us, anyway) RV hoisted up in the air is not a great time, though I was very relieved that we were finally getting somewhere.

Poor Cubie.
Poor Cubie.

We followed behind the 45 minutes to the Ford truck service center, where the roadside assistance people said they hoped they’d be able to fit a look on that Friday.

“We are backed up like you wouldn’t believe. If I had all these guys working overtime they wouldn’t be done before 6. Can you leave it with me? I should be able to get someone to look at it Monday.”

Stomach drop, heart drop, part 2. We’re supposed to be home on Sunday. I have work. I can’t futz around in Memphis indefinitely.

But, what are you going to do?

The guy was very nice. They would let us stay in Cubie over the weekend on their lot, with water and, if I heard right, electricity. I mentioned I was worried about even getting it to the right place… remember, the whole braking thing? He said they’d get it back there, no problem.

I took the girls to lunch, then we went to a bookstore for a while to give them time to determine how they’d want to handle everything.

We were heading back at around 4 when my phone rang.

“You’re all ready to go.”


“Yeah, the brake fluid reservoir (that I’d thought was empty because it sure looked empty) is completely full, no leaks, no codes on the computer. Our tech is returning from about a 20 mile road trip right now and reports the brakes feel great. I suspect that with these new coaches you might have had some air in the lines that worked it’s way somewhere and kicked a sensor. We bled your brakes so there should be no air anymore. You’re good to go.”

(EDIT FOR FUTURE READERS: it wasn’t air in the lines. Ford eventually issued a TCM software update that corrected this issue which required a trip to a Ford dealer for a reflash. Never had a problem since. It was essentially a false indication.)

I admit, I never imagined that outcome. We got there and I thanked that guy from the bottom of my heart. He didn’t have to work us in, he didn’t have to do anything. But he knew we were stuck in a non-ideal situation and he got us out of it. Another amazingly kind person met.

Cat got on the phone to, you guessed it, Jellystone Memphis and got us a site. I got behind the wheel again and got Cubie back where we’d started with no drama and we breathed a sigh of relief.


I had lost a bit of trust. It’s one thing to have a 22,000 pound RV that won’t go. It’s another thing entirely to have a 22,000 pound RV that won’t stop. So I had a bit of anxiety about getting to Nashville. Would the indicator lights return? Would something else go wrong?

Spoiler alert: they didn’t and nothing else did.

At a lovely site at Jellystone Nashville.
At a lovely site at Jellystone Nashville.

We’re about to break camp and head to a beautiful park on a creek near Asheville. That will be the true test for me: navigating the mountains. If Cubie gets me through the mountains with no problems, I’ll trust her again. Cat and Julia will be following along in Subie. I suspect we’ll have a wonderful night at a beautiful creekside spot and be home tomorrow, one day late.

So what does all this mean in the grand scheme of things?

Honestly? Nothing. We love Cubie. We actually love everything more than we ever imagined. We chose perfectly. And you have to expect the unexpected. No matter what you do something can go wrong. It’s a rare time during vacations when our flights actually work out perfectly the whole way. Cars break down, rides break down, things can go wrong. Someone who I told all this to said it best: it’s how you handle it when things aren’t perfect that determine your character.

We were nervous and anxious but we made the most of it. Had coffee, breakfast, played cards, watched movies. And through it all we met and dealt with some amazingly kind people. From the tow truck guy, to that service manager, to the person at the RV park we were supposed to visit in Nashville who had such understanding and didn’t charge us anything and even offered to hold a site for free in case we did make it. Our neighbors have been invariably awesome.

That’s what makes this even more awesome. I’m not the most outgoing person. People — especially my wife — wondered how I would deal with the closeness. If even a fraction of the people we meet are as amazing as the ones we’ve run into so far this will be an adventure worth having. And I think we’re showing Julia how to handle various situations with aplomb (I hope). She’s been a trooper and has just rolled with it.

In the end, our adventure is just starting. It didn’t start how we wanted it, but neither was it disasterous. And we still had fun. If we can make it fun when things aren’t great, we’ll have a blast when things work as expected… which is how it should usually be.

Adios from Nashville. Next stop: Asheville.

2 Comments on “Strange beginnings

  1. Pingback: Taking stock: the first 3 months | Shallow Roots

  2. Pingback: Catching up – Shallow Roots

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