We got off to a great start! My sister and I had the motor home loaded with fuel, water, and enough food to get our collective families through the weekend (husbands and kids to join us later that day). Menu planned (sloppy joes tonight, grilled burgers tomorrow), on-time departure, and very little traffic up to the Mogollon Rim (trying to escape the 117 degree Phoenix heat). Cranking some Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, and Jake Owen. Life is good!
A couple hours later, there we were – high up on the rim, deep in the cool, dense forest, searching for that perfect RV site to set up camp. We wanted to be out in the wilderness, so we headed toward the “dispersed camping” areas of the Sitgreaves National Forest. Two miles down an unpaved road, we came across the first camping area. “Camping Full.” Two more miles, “Camping Full.” Apparently we weren’t the only geniuses escaping the god-forsaken heat!
Four more miles, 45 minutes, and one ginormous u-turn later (word of advice… don’t even think about making a u-turn on a gravel fire road in a 40 foot motor home. Just sayin’), we found the site! It was huge and beautiful, notwithstanding the very very narrow entry point. I maneuvered my way through the entrance, careful not to brush up against the massive pines on either side. Once in the site, I decided to make one more minor pivot with the RV to ensure we had the “perfect” view. That’s when I heard it – sssshhhhheeeewwww. Yep. Flat tire. I got out, looked around, and sure enough… how the heck did that tree stump get under my tire?? (Oops!)
There we were, my sister who temporarily can’t walk (she’s been on crutches for more than 3 months because she shattered her foot falling off a ladder while decorating for my daughter’s wedding, but I digress) and I – stuck in the middle of nowheresville with a massively huge flat tire. By some miracle, my phone got reception. By some other miracle, I actually have RV roadside assistance. I won’t even begin to tell you how difficult it was to explain to them where, exactly, we were, but we managed. The wonderfully helpful roadside assistance person was able to locate a “nearby” tire repair shop that happened to have one of our ridiculously huge (ridiculously expensive) tires on hand. (Another miracle?) The only problem, she said, was that “he seemed really confused by the directions I gave him.” She added, “And he isn’t exactly the nicest person I’ve spoken with.” Excellent.
Well, he got lost. He called me. His phone cut out. Called again. Cut out again. This went on and on and on… The few minutes of conversation we actually managed over the course of the 20 or so dropped calls went something like this:
Repair Guy: You’re not where you said you were, Sweetie.
Me: Yes I am.
Repair Guy: Honey, I’m by Woods Canyon Lake. You’re not here.
Me: I never said I was at Woods Canyon Lake. I’m four miles down the fire road on the left side.
Repair Guy: I have no idea what you’re talking about, Little Missy.
Me: Please just listen to me again and I will give you great directions. Again.
Repair Guy: You don’t need to tell me where Woods Canyon Lake is. I know where it is. You’re not here.
Me: I never said I was at Woods Canyon Lake.
Repair Guy: It isn’t like I’m going to send out the police, the helicopter, and the fire truck for you, Girlie. I’ll find you when I find you.
Three hours later, he found us. He was agitated. I was agitated. The grumpy old man and his sidekick (who I’m pretty sure is an ex-con) barreled out of their truck and immediately started searching the campsite, but not before grabbing his big ol’ sidearm from the bench seat. Yep, he was packing heat and wanted me to know it! With a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his Glock on his hip, he finally introduced himself to us with a grunt.
Just about that time, another big pick up came cruising into our campsite. He appeared to know our gun wielding repair man and ex-con “rescue team.” They chatted a moment, then the repair guys sized up the tire damage (only after uttering a gratuitous you did a nice job on that tire there, Honey.) The third guy waved at us, then grabbed something out of the back of his truck. A chainsaw. Seriously! I felt like I was somewhere in the Twilight Zone. It was nuts. Here we were – my immobile sister who can’t even walk, let alone run if necessary, and I were completely alone, sitting under our little shade structure in our comfy camp lounge chairs next to a massive motorhome with a massive flat tire with an ex-con, a guy with a gun, and a guy with a chainsaw. You’ve gotta be kidding me! It was late, we were starving (desperately wanting those awesome sloppy joes I still had to make), and our husbands and kids were still on the road, also trying to find us.
Then a strange thing happened. My sister and I started laughing at the absurdity of it all, then they started laughing. It turns out, these were some of the nicest guys we’ve ever met. The “grumpy” old man was really a softy at heart. The ex-con was just a big teddy bear. And the guy with the chainsaw was just looking around for some firewood to chop. They worked tirelessly on the tire (hard to believe how hard that was to change). And the chainsaw guy offered to cut a bunch of firewood for us, too. When it was all said and done, we gave them a tip, and a beer, and a big hug. And off they went into the sunset. Surreal.
An hour later when our families arrived, the tire was changed, there was a big stack of freshly cut firewood, cold beer in the cooler, and the piping hot, tangy, comforting sloppy joes were just coming off the stove. Welcome to the wild, wild west.
Life is either a great adventure, or nothing. – Helen Keller