GW XIII: Seven Tires and a Belt
For the Shire of Mooneschadowe, the trek to Gulf Wars really began two months before hand. A vigorous recruiting campaign by the shire had resulted in almost 31 people pre-registering to camp with us at Gulf Wars. Everyone was really excited about it, armourer’s guild was going two nights a week at our house, garb was being made over at Maggie’s place, plans for camp layout were being prepared, and in general the sounds of industry were ringing across the shire. It seemed that everything was on course, and that all necessary tasks would be done in time and the shire would have a great Gulf Wars. However, the King skewed the schedule when two weeks before we were to leave for Gulf Wars, at the Academy of the Sword event, he announced that Centurion Jean Paul was to be elevated to the Order of the Chivalry at Gulf Wars. The entire shire went into overdrive, finishing up all of their personal Gulf Wars preparations and started working long and hard to make sure his vigil and ceremony was the best he could have ever wished for. It is because of all their hard work that we did not turn around and go back home before we ever got out of the state.
Wednesday, March 10
For everything to make sense, I must go back a few days before we left for the war and fill in some details. It all started when, at JP’s suggestion, I went over to my brother’s (Anthony’s) house to make sure the trailer we were borrowing to haul stuff to the war worked well with the truck. This was a very good thing. Turned out that the plug-in for the lights on the trailer did not fit the adapter we had for the truck. They were supposed to fit, but try as we might, we could not get the lights to plug-in correctly. Anthony said that he was planning on re-wiring the lights anyway, so he would do that the next day when he was off work. I offered to help, and to bring people over the next evening to finish unloading the trailer.
Thursday, March 11
As I was leaving work Thursday evening, I got a phone call from my brother. He had been called into work that afternoon, and was still there. He would probably be there until his normally scheduled shift at 10pm. So, working on the trailer that evening was cancelled. He said he would be home all day tomorrow (Friday) and would call me when he started working on the lights and unloading the trailer. (I had already planned on taking Friday before the war off work so that I could prepare healthy food for us to eat at the war, as well as finish any last-minute packing. Our plan was to leave Stillwater by 10am Saturday morning, pick up Asoph & Michelle’s stuff in Moore and head for Mississippi. We had planned on staying in Jackson Saturday night, getting up Sunday morning for the last grocery shopping, and party in line Sunday night, in order to be on site as early as possible on Monday.) Typical of our shire, everyone who was going to help unload the trailer that evening showed up at our house not-so-promptly at 7pm and I had to tell them the story of the trailer thus far and let them know we would not be unloading the trailer that night. But, everything was still on for loading the trailer Saturday morning with all of the shire’s stuff.
Friday, March 12
Friday started off well. I woke up early and was making a list of all the last minute shopping that I needed to do, as well as preparing the packing list of our stuff. As I was leaving the house, Anthony called and said he was leaving work now and would be working on the trailer in about fifteen minutes. He also said that it should only take about thirty minutes. I said I would meet him there.
When I got to his house, we started out by removing the old wires from the trailer. This was really easy, as the wires were run on the inside of the trailer and not hidden anywhere. We got out the new wires and ran them from the front of the trailer back to the taillights and ended up being about six foot short. Anthony sent me off to Atwood’s to get more trailer wire while he starts to attach the new taillights. As I was in the checkout line at Atwood’s, I get a call from Anthony. Apparently, when Dad bought new lights and wires for the trailer, he got two left lights instead of a left and a right. I went to see if Atwood’s carried the same brand and happened to have a right light. No such luck. After purchasing the extra wire and some stick on reflectors for the trailer, I headed across town to Auto Zone where my Dad bought the lights. While I was driving, Anthony called them to make sure they had the light, and to hold it for me. When I arrived, I was quickly able to purchase the light and headed back out to my brother’s house. My schedule for the day was beginning to go awry.
Once back at Anthony’s, we quickly realized that the light the guy had given me at Auto Zone was not only the incorrect brand, but did not have a turn light. It was only a brake light. Grabbing the newly purchased light and the redundant left light, I headed back to Auto Zone to try and get the correct item. At Auto Zone, I found the correct brand of lights, as well as other left lights, but no right light. I went to ask one of the managers whether they had a right light, and they looked bemused. After much searching and discussion, it was determined that indeed a right light did exist, the Auto Zone in Stillwater did not have one, and the closest Auto Zone that had one was in Ponca City. Things were starting to go south. We finally decided that we could just flip the light over so that a left light could be used on the right side. The tag light would be facing up rather than down and there would be no way for water to drain out of the casing, but it would at least get us on the road to the war. On my way back to Anthony’s I stopped for some lunch for the both of us, as it was already past noon and we hadn’t eaten anything.
We finally get the lights mounted, the trailer emptied, and the wires run. As a last check, I pulled the truck around and plugged in the trailer lights to make sure everything worked the way it should. The lights didn’t work. (Can you imagine how frustrated and tired I am by now? Not to mention the fact that I haven’t gotten *anything* done that I had wanted to). After a few more hours of trying to track down the problem with the lights, JP shows up with a digital multimeter he just bought so we can determine if there is actually power getting to the trailer. The short of it is that the main problem was that we were not getting a good ground through the paint of the trailer. We scraped off paint on the trailer and ended up getting all the lights working except the left brake light and the left turn light. At this point, it was almost 5pm, and Anthony had to leave for National Guard. JP and I would have to try and figure out what was wrong with the lights in the morning.
Ox was having his birthday dinner that night, so I only had a few minutes to sit down and rest once I got home before heading over to Thai Café (YUM!). After dinner, we took the shire and communal stuff out to the trailer and went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for all the things I had planned on making during the day. As this task was supposed to be done 12 hours ago, you can see how poorly things were going at that time. When we got home around midnight, JP and I both crashed and didn’t even think about starting to pack our belongings for the war. We had pretty much decided that we weren’t going to be able to leave town in the morning, but that we would leave whenever we were finally ready. There was no hurry to get to site and wait in line Sunday night.
What our plan was:
Our plan was a fairly simple one. Gilyan had planned on taking of Friday, March 12 and spend the day cooking the Weight Watchers friendly food, and packing up all the things into totes. When I got home from work, we’d pack the truck and have it ready to go Saturday morning when we went to load the trailer. Saturday morning, we’d scheduled to meet the shire at Anthony’s house at 9:00 am to load the community stuff and the stuff they couldn’t fit in their vehicles into the trailer. We figured it would take around 2 hours to get packed and loaded, and we would be on the road by noon. We planned on stopping off at Michelle’s house in Moore to pick up her stuff (she was riding with Erasmus and Magdelena) and some vigil stuff for Gulf Wars, driving until we got tired, and then grabbing a hotel room. We figured we’d get up Sunday morning, grab a nice leisurely breakfast, and then finish the remaining miles to Lumberton. We also planned on doing the last minute grocery run on Sunday, as I have never ever really like buying groceries 14 hours away from where we’re going to eat them. We planned to get in line for GW, and enjoy the by now ritual Gulf Wars Line Party that has occurred the last several years that we’ve gone. Since we were the first ones to leave Stillwater we figured we would be the first ones on site. The suburban o’ people was leaving at 8:00 pm Saturday night, and the rest of the vehicles were all planning on leaving Sunday morning or later in the week.
What actually happened:
We borrowed the trailer from Gilyan's brother, and as she described it was kind of ready to go by Friday night. The wiring was new and we'd been informed that it had new tires by Gilyan’s Dad. What that meant was two years ago before Anthony (Gilyan's brother) deployed, the tires were new. However, after two years of sitting in the yard, without being used, and just basically just sitting their cooking in the sun, they were a bit, beat up. Granted, Gilyan and Anthony were working busily on Friday getting it rewired, and no one was looking much at the tires. So, we went to bed pretty exhausted from all the preparation we have made for the war (and then the vigil and knighting on top of it) and decided that we would go help the shire load up the trailer at Anthony’s in the morning, then come back and pack and load our stuff.
Well, we showed up at Anthony’s at 9:05, and the eager beavers of the shire had already begun loading the trailer in the back yard. I had planned on bringing it around to the front on the gravel first just in case, but they had already started so we loaded it up. With the help of the shire, we got the trailer loaded, and backed the truck up to the hitch. The trailer was about 8 inches lower than the hitch, and the front wheel had sunk about 2” into the ground (this should have been a warning). We started to use the trailer jack-winch-thing (I forget the name right now) to raise up the front of the trailer, and the cotter pin that attaches the crank to the gear box broke (we found out later that it was pretty rusted and that Anthony and his dad weren’t surprised that it busted). With the help of some grunting and lifting and judicious jumping up and down of heavy personages, we attached the trailer to the hitch, and pulled it around to the front yard. I was happy, because although it was definitely heavy, the truck was able to pull it relatively easily. Woohoo! Go Georgina! (the truck). So we pull around to the front onto the gravel, and get out to inspect the assembly.
It’s at this point in time that we notice that Georgina is basically popping a wheelie. The nose is obviously canted upwards, and it looks like the whole thing is getting ready to fold itself up around the trailer hitch. We realize that in our enthusiasm and energetic frenzy to load the trailer, that we hadn’t kept it balanced properly. We did attempt to mind you, but we just didn’t succeed. So we lowered the trailer door back down, and spent the next half hour re-loading and resituating everything. We get it done so that the truck is only barely popping a wheelie, and clap ourselves on the back, pleased with what we have accomplished. Gilyan and I wave goodbye to the shire members, and head back to our house to pack, finally. It was about 11:30 am by this time, and we decided that after all of our hard work we deserve a treat, so we stop by Taco Bueno for a quick lunch. I figured it would only take us two hours or so to pack up and head out, which would put us on the road around 2:00 pm… a couple of hours late, but no big deal.
So we head home and start cooking up a bunch of Weight Watchers snacks that Gilyan had tried out before (they are all really filling and really low points and keep well in a cooler, so they make for good event food for people on Weight Watchers). Vlad came over and dropped off some stuff, and we shanghaied him into helping us prepare all of the food. However, even with his help, it still took a lot longer than we had expected, and we didn’t get done with the food till around 3:00 pm. We started packing up all of our stuff, while Vlad helped and kept us company. We really appreciated that. He said he didn’t mind as he was so excited about going that he was just basically pacing around his dorm room until the time to leave arrived. J At about noon or so, we had received a call from Rafe and Sabin, and he’d said that he was REALLY concerned about the trailer and the tires on the trailer and since they were almost ready, would we mind if they caravanned with us. It sounded like a good idea, and we told them so, and told them we would be ready to leave around 3:00 or so. Well at 3:30 they called, and we told them we had not even started packing, so they came over and helped us. Finally, by 6:00 pm we were done. Everything was packed and loaded in the truck, and we headed over to Anthony’s to get the trailer. In the words of Douglas Adams, we were out the door in a flash, several hours late, but moving fast.
The Trip Itself
We drove both vehicles over to Anthony’s, attached the trailer to Georgina, and headed out. The trailer tires were a bit low, so we stopped at the closest gas station and aired them up. We ended up deciding to stop for gas and dinner on the way out of town. As we were driving through town, we started to get a bit concerned. It’s hard to describe, but imagine walking down the street, and any time you stop accelerating or braking that someone grabs you by the back of the shirt and starts jerking you around by it. That’s what it felt like. Gilyan and I pulled over, and talked Rafe into driving the truck a bit (he used to drive TRUCKS so we figured he would know if what we were feeling was “bad”). Rafe also got a bit concerned, so when we stopped for gas and food on the outskirts of town, we disconnected the trailer again (FYI, since the trailer jack had broken, we were using Mark’s truck jack that we appropriated from him) and looked at the hitch. It turns out (after some major head scratching and part jiggling) that the ball was too big for the stinger and was sliding inside of the hole. We called Gilyan’s dad (who’d given us the stinger and ball a couple of years back) and he managed to bring us another one that worked better and, after turning the stinger upside down using some huge and antiquated pipe wrenches of Gilyan’s dad, ended up lifting the trailer off the ground better.
Now, throughout the whole day, Michelle had been calling us about every two hours, asking if we had left yet. We would answer in the negative, and tell her that we would call her on our way out of town. Approximately two hours later, we would get another phone call from Michelle. Unfortunately, all of the ball hitch corrections took around two hours, and at 7:30 pm, we FINALLY started out of town. A mere 7 and a half hours late, but moving fast. Well, as a matter of fact, we *weren’t* moving fast. While Georgina could pull the trailer, and get it going, she really couldn’t get it above 65 miles per hour unless it was on level ground. But no matter, we figured that it was no big deal if it took us an hour or so longer to get to site. Getting there safe and sound (and alive) was much better than getting there an hour earlier. Also, on the few times we did get above 65, the wind started really pounding the trailer and the trailer would start swinging the truck around, a kind of tail-wagging-the-dog sort of experience. We found it to be not enjoyable, and stayed around 65 or so. This turned out to be fortunate because about 30 minutes from Stillwater we blew the tire on trailer.
I was driving, and Gilyan was like “Quick!! Pull Over!” I did and we inspected the damage. Rafe and Sabin, who had been behind us, said that the sparks were really impressive. We spent the next half hour trying to decide what to do. It was 9:00 pm, there was no place anywhere within half an hour drive time that were open, and after calls to Asoph, Bunny, et al, we got a hold of one of the people in the suburban that was coming that way (since we were only really about half an hour in front of them time wise). Somehow they found us a tire, with rim, to replace the one that was blown. We figured we would wait for them to swing by with the new tire, swap it out, go to my mom's house in Edmond, stay the night there, and get 3 more new tires in the morning. We didn’t feel like continuing on as the tires that hadn't blown on the trailer looked to be in WORSE condition than the one that did blow.
So about 10:30, the second vehicle rolls to the gas station with the tire. However, the tire was on the wrong kind of rim. Apparently there's a difference between a Ford and a Chevy rim, which I didn't know right up until that point. So there we are with a blown tire on the right rim, and a good tire on the wrong rim. The people in the suburban basically did a "well, you're screwed" and took off without us. I never figured that out, ‘because all of their stuff was with US so if we never made it to site, what would they do? But we couldn't leave the trailer there, and there were no tire places within convenient distance open at 10:00 pm in Guthrie, Edmond, or Stillwater. So, we decided to sleep the night at the gas station, being unwilling to disconnect and leave the trailer there, and unwilling to drive on three tires for any appreciable distance. Gilyan and I spent a night sleeping in a truck stop down the road from the Lazy E Arena, as we watch hundreds of people leaving the rodeo stop in the gas station. That night was one of the worst nights of sleep in my entire life. We woke up at 6:30 in the morning when Rafe and Sabin came back (we had sent them home to sleep since they were only about 10 miles from their house in Perkins) and Rafe and I took the new tire and rim, and the old tire and rim, down to the Petro station at 1-40 and I-35 intersection and left Gilyan and Sabin in Georgina to wait for us.
The nice guys at the Petro station were able to put the new tire on the old rim, but during the process, the valve stem rotted off the old rim. Sigh. The mechanics were like “we don’t have any of those sized stems” (they had truck sized ones) and basically said “you’re screwed.” Fortunately one of the guys was more considerate, and managed to gently ease the new valve-stem out of the new rim, and put it in the old rim. It worked, but didn't create an air-tight seal. As a matter of fact, it was leaking fairly badly. We decided it was better than nothing, they aired it up and we roared back to the truck. By the time we got there, the tire was half-deflated again, but we aired it up again, and took off, slowly, towards Edmond (Rafe had checked online and found out that their tire center opened at 9:00 am at the Edmond store, and it was the closest one to where we were). We took back roads to Edmond (about 13 miles away) and limped to the Wal-mart there at about 8:45 am, to discover that they were already open. This store had apparently changed their hours, and the web-site hadn’t been updated. Grrr.
So they replace the 3 remaining trailer tires and put a new valve-stem in the tire that was patched together. Hooray, new tires all around, we’re ready to go. Perhaps things will be better now right? At 10:00 am, we take off down the road to go visit Owen and his family at the children’s hospital (his new son had problems that they were able to finally assuage). On the way, we heard a bit of a "flap flap flap" sound, and stop a couple of times to check out the new trailer tires. Nothing looked wrong, but we were concerned after all the trouble we’d had with the trailer. We get to the hospital around 11:00 am, and spend an hour or so with Owen, see Henry (new baby), and get back on the road. We’re still hearing hear the flap flap, but can't figure out what's wrong with the trailer.
We arrive at Asoph and Michelle's house around noon to pick up Michelle's stuff. Asoph, in truly knightly fashion, starts harassing me about “trusting a squire to do a knight’s job” etc, etc, and basically giving me a hard time. However, he’s actually checking stuff out to while doing it, so I didn’t want to punch him…. too much. So he was like “Is everything else fine? Have you checked the oil, fluids, etc?”
And we said, "Yah, we changed oil and all the fluids last week in prep for the trip. We will need a new belt soon, but the one we have should be alright.” Well, Asoph was unconvinced, and determined to make his squire look bad one last time, starts inspecting around the truck, looks at the back left tire, and to our horror we see a big (I mean 6"x12") long piece of tread just hanging off the tire. He busts out laughing, we exclaimed "OH MY GOD!!" having realized that we just narrowly avoided a truck tire blow-out with a trailer, which is a very scary thing. Well, we disconnect the trailer (AGAIN); take the truck to Moore's Wal-mart, where they told us it would be 3 hours, so we took it over Hibdon’s. We decided to get the serpentine belt changed while we were at it as after everything else I decided to not press my luck, with the way this trip was going, it WOULD break if we gave it the opportunity.
Hibdon’s said it would take 2 hours, so we went and got lunch at Applebee’s, I got a BEER (and wanted many more) and we went over to Asoph’s to watch TV until the truck was ready. They called us about 3:00, and Asoph and I went over to pick up the truck. At this point in time, the whole episode had gone past tragic and headed directly into comic. Asoph and I were giggling the whole way there about how absurd this trip had been. I picked up the truck, paid for 4 new truck tires (those of you who own trucks understand what that means), and drove back to Asoph’s place to reconnect the trailer. So here it was Sunday Afternoon, 4:00 pm, we'd gone 90 miles, replaced 8 tires, bought 7 of them, and a serpentine belt. Gulf Wars XIII had already cost me almost $800, and we hadn't even left the state yet.
I swear, if they hadn't been knighting me, I might have just turned around right then and gone home. But we left Moore, drove for 11 hours (the truck couldn't really get above 65 with that trailer, and I've got a 5.9L V8 in it) crashed for 4 hours in a restaurant parking lot, and arrived on site about 9:00 am Monday morning. We averaged around 8 miles a gallon, so the trip took 36 hours, and cost almost $1000.
It ended up that Georgina and the trailer made it on site before us. Everyone who had left the shire after we did were already on site, and basically standing around twiddling their thumbs waiting for us to show up with all of their stuff. Ox and Charles ended up walking out to the troll staging grounds with the Gulf Wars parking tag for Ox’s truck and taking Georgina and the trailer in with them. We stayed in line with Aelfwyn and Rick and went through troll with them.