Matt's Initiation - part 1 - Stuck in the mud.
It's not like we planned a hazing ritual or anything. We knew that once we left Tampa, it would be long and hard travel days in order to get to California in time for the LA Religious Education Conference. We expected the schedule to go something like this: drive 5 hours, unhitch, unload, play a concert, re-load, sleep, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. This is a challenging schedule for Michael - who has been touring for several years. The kids and I really don't like to have both traveling and concerts in the same day. Matt had not even been around long enough to know his preferences!
Things did not work out exactly like planned. Our water pump went out the week we were in Tampa. Matt had been enjoying his private room at the retreat center, but was a bit nervous as he saw our faucets spitting water. I remember him saying, "I like showers." We assured him that this was not normal, but we knew that it would be an adjustment for him to stay with us in the Airstream, even if it was just for travel days.
When we arrived in Alabama early Monday afternoon, we were planning on a day of rest, since the Sunday before had been full of work. As we tried to maneuver into our parking space, our rear wheels went off the pavement a bit. In Florida, where we had been for the past month the sandy soil would not have been a problem. Now, however, we were in Alabama. The mud sucked us right in and we immediately sunk.
We had been driving down a long, narrow driveway while pulling the Airstream. We tried unhitching the Airstream and pushing, but that did absolutely nothing. We considered our other options. (One of which involved driving the church van through the neighbors years to pull us out.) I want to thank whoever remembered that calling Roadside assistance was an option! We keep 2 different types of roadside assistance. One through our auto insurance company and zone through Good Sams Club, which specializes in RVs. The big disadvantage to Roadside assistance is that it takes usually 90 minutes for them to get there, but we had been trying to park in the driveway at a guest house. We had a pleasant place to sit and wait for them. I made the call.
Since it was the van tires that were stuck, I called USAA, our van insurance. They dispatched a winching service to us. When they asked me the situation on the phone, I told them that we were just a few inches off the pavement and that only one wheel was stuck. When the truck arrived, however, there was no way for him to reach our van. The trailer was behind it and the lane was narrow. He devised a plan to jack up the van and pull it from the side to nudge the wheel back on the pavement.
The whole ordeal was scary. Our van is a raised roof, 15-passenger - and it was loaded to the top with gear. Of course it was sitting unlevel to begin with. Upon first attempt the technician jacked up the van and asked Michael to push the lever slowly. As soon as he made a move, the jack began to twist under the weight. We all screamed "STOP!!!" and Michael's heart skipped a few beats as he was sure the van was going to topple.
The man was brave enough to try again, this time he asked us to unload the gear from the back of the van and he set the wheels of the jack on a more straight trajectory. We tried again. It was shaky, but was working... until the bumper of the van edged within inches of the Airstream. We had to stop.
The man then decided that he had to move the Airstream. I don't think this was in his expertise, but he managed to arranged some boards under the jack in order to jack up the tongue. He found a piece of frame that was accessible and pulled it back a few feet.
Now we had to go back to work on the van. It was easier the third attempt and we were able to get the rear wheel on the pavement so Michael could pull forward. The technician could not get his chain free, though because he had connected it with the van loaded and now that the van was empty, it was inaccessible. We re-loaded the music gear and he reclaimed his chain. We sent him on his way, as he warned us not to get stuck again, trying to re-hitch with the trailer.
After that, we were able to hitch up, back out of the long driveway, use the road to turn around, and reverse into the driveway properly - all without a problem. By the time we made it inside for our "day of rest" it was after 6 PM. We quickly put together some dinner, took showers, and called it a night!