Our six week long trip to Texas and New Mexico via Florida came to a smashing halt just hours after we left home. The weather was bad, pouring rain through North Carolina and then heavy traffic the moment we got into South Carolina. In fact we were often stopped on I95 and then would slowly inch forward. If we let the car/truck in front of us get too far away someone would quickly pull in front of us. We didn’t follow too closely but had to be vigilant at all times. All in all it was slow going but it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s so it was to be somewhat expected however we had a trucker who routinely travels 95 tell us that he had never seen traffic so heavy and it was heavy both ways.
Around 3:30 we were behind a propane tanker who was behind a big truck hauling some sort of mobile home – I never saw that truck. Suddenly the big truck stopped, the propane tanker stopped and we tried to stop but as the highway patrolman said it was unavoidable. It would appear that our braking assist did not work properly thus a 4,000 pound car plowed into the back of the coach as we were trying to stop forcing us forward. Fortunately we were only going 15 mph when we crashed into the back of the tanker. Also, fortunately the tanker had just been cleaned out and it only had compressed air in it and no propane. The big truck that essentially caused the accident went on down the road but there we were, the propane tanker and us stopped in the right lane of a busy I95 around 3:30 in the afternoon near Yemassee, SC.
Immediately Jerry and I began questioning each other “are you alright?” I would love to know how many times we said that to each other but thankfully the answer was yes. We were shaken to say the least but no apparent injuries to us or the driver of the tanker.
We all got out of the vehicles and the tanker driver immediately put out hazard signs to divert traffic. I called 911 and of course they wanted to know where we were. Other than I95 I couldn’t tell them anything. There was an exit a couple of miles down the road but I couldn’t read it at that distance. Then the operator told me that I had been connected to the wrong county and switched me over to someone else. It was a frustrating experience as I was expecting more immediate attention. Glad we weren’t injured! We waited over 30 minutes for the local police to arrive. Two policemen eventually arrived and assessed the situation – I guess. One of them never spoke and never made eye contact. I guess we looked OK because we were never asked. No warm fuzzies there!
As we waited for the highway patrolman we tried to assess the damage. The front had significant damage especially on the right side. Jerry had tried to pull into the left lane before we hit but had nowhere to go thus the damage to the right side. The jeep that we tow four down was right up against the back of the RV and the front wheels were off of the ground. The blue ox tow bar was hanging.
After an hour of so the highway patrolman finally showed up. Naturally he wanted us to pull off of the road. We didn’t even know if the coach would start but it did. We pulled off of the road onto the right side and then the patrolman told us to drive on to the exit to get off the highway and let traffic start flowing again. He fell in behind us and with lights flashing we continued on to a Love’s Travel Station. Although we only went a couple of miles it was a bit frightening as slivers of glass continued to fall on the dashboard plus we didn’t know if we were doing more damage to everything. As we made the necessary turns we could hear something dragging on the pavement but had no idea what it was.
We finally made it into the back parking area of Love’s and it began to pour rain. There we were, me inside and Jerry outside talking with the tanker driver and the patrolman getting soaking wet. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and when I opened it a guy was standing in the pouring rain telling me he knew how to get our car down. Jerry appeared and the gentleman explained to Jerry that he had had the same thing happen to him twice so he knew what to do. They told me to sit in the driver’s seat and to press the brake when they told me. I sat down and waited for them to tell me to press the break but suddenly I felt a big jerk and then the guy walked by with his thumb up. Our car was down! Another blessing. RVer’s are always ready to help a fellow RVer! The gentleman, Danny, was in his RV parked further down and had his Jeep hooked up but had realized our situation. In the pouring rain he detached his Jeep and then drove over to hook it to our Jeep to pull it down. It would have been a gracious thing to do anyway but with the pouring rain – well, that shows you the spirit of the RV world, always willing to help a fellow RVer.
Jerry drove the car around the parking lot to see if there was any damage to it and fortunately there wasn’t. In fact there didn’t even seem to be a scratch on it. Actually a couple of days later we saw that a small bit of paint was rubbed off on the front bumper but you have to be looking for it to see it.
Since we had planned to be gone for quite a while we had stocked up our refrigerator and freezer. Realizing that all of that food would go bad we offered it to Danny. We gave him cartons of frozen shrimp, chicken, steaks, peas, butter beans – golly, I don’t know what else but nearly everything in the freezer, probably over $200 worth of food. It was a small price to pay for his help and I hope he has enjoyed it.
After the patrolman left we were able to park the coach against a fence and then had to decide what to do for the night. Do we stay with the RV or go to a hotel? Since we could run the generator we decided to stay in the coach as I hated to leave everything there while we were away overnight. Naturally we had not had dinner so we drove over to the Love’s station where there was a Hardee’s inside. I didn’t have much appetite but ate a little bit.
Do you have any idea how far a bottle of Thai Sweet Chili Sauce can go? I do now! When we hit the tanker I heard something in the back crash and roll but of course had no idea what it was. It was a bottle of the sauce and it broke as it hit the floor. We had a trail of sticky chili sauce down the kitchen floor extending all the way to the carpet in the doghouse. There we were at 8:00 at night scrubbing the kitchen floor in the narrow kitchen – the slides were not out – and trying to locate the missing bottle. We finally found it under the recliner. What a mess of chili sauce and broken glass but we got it up.
We had never stayed in a truck stop before preferring to leave the parking spaces for working truckers but we had no choice. By the time we closed up everything there were trucks parked in every available space. In fact one had backed in beside us where I didn’t even realize there was room. I could open our door but I could have stood on the steps and touched the truck. Amazingly I never heard him come in.
As we discussed our situation we decided that we would need to empty the RV of almost everything after it was towed to the tow shop facility in Barnwell, SC sixty miles away. We decided that renting a U-Haul was probably the best thing to do as we were 300 miles from home and couldn’t possibly get everything in our Jeep. Of course, the trailer hitch for the Jeep was home so we needed to buy a new one so off to the nearest Lowe’s we went. In addition to the hitch we bought some boxes to pack up some things.
We had also decided to go on to the game in Jacksonville since we had the tickets and were meeting Becky and Billy plus we didn’t want to return home until we knew more about the RV situation. With that in mind we tried to get the necessary clothes and items to take to a hotel. Several years ago we bought a small suitcase that we kept in the RV in case we were on a trip and needed to fly home for an emergency. It was the only suitcase we had so we packed it, a laundry basket, a box and a satchel. With the hanging clothes without a clothes bag I was sure we would look like homeless people when we checked in! We also tried to get everything out on the bed so we could easily get to it when we returned to empty the coach. All of this was done in the small confines of a coach with no slides out. We were afraid to put out the slides on the driver’s side as we didn’t know if they would retract. The sliding window on the driver’s side could not be opened so we didn’t know if there was frame damage.
The tow truck arrived around 1:00. They asked Jerry to pull the coach over to the side of the parking lot so we wouldn’t be blocking anyone as they attached the coach to the truck. The night before we had pulled down the front shade but we couldn’t get it to go back up. Amazingly the coach started and one of the tow truck fellows held the shade up so Jerry could drive to the side of the lot. They hooked the coach to the tow truck, a beautiful new truck and then removed the drive shaft so it could be towed.
With everything under control Jerry and I left for Jacksonville. I had called earlier and despite the Gator Bowl and New Year’s weekend was able to secure a reservation at the Hyatt Place on the St. John’s River. Again the traffic was horrible. In fact it took us an hour and twenty minutes to go forty miles. As soon as we hit the Georgia state lane and an additional lane, traffic resumed a normal pace. Admittedly I was a bit jumpy. Every time Jerry hit the breaks my heart would miss a beat. I think it will take some time before my travel jitters go away.