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  • Writer's pictureSusan Byers

Think of a Cow in a Green Pasture

Thursday, April 10

"Think of a cow in a green pasture," my mother would always say when we were stressed. Today, her words came back to me as I turned away from Interstate 81 and our tilted camper and saw this. I had to smile. It did make me feel better, despite a rather harrowing day.

But to back up a bit: We've been staying in my sister's basement for two and a half weeks, cats, dogs and us. We had planned to be there while I recovered from shoulder surgery and the camper got some work done. Of course, the surgery got cancelled ...

So, I was going to catch up with my blogging while we stayed at my sister's, but somehow the time was absorbed by the black hole of COVID-19 news, watching the numbers climb and the administration's abject failure to handle the pandemic. The news on both fronts just kept getting worse, yet, like a train wreck or an accident, you can't stop looking ...

So I busied myself making masks for family while I listened to endless news.

And when I couldn't take news anymore, I watched cooking shows. And decorating shows. House-hunting shows. Renovation shows. Tiny house shows ... I even watched a Hallmark movie once, but don't tell anyone.

While I listened, I cut and pinned and sewed. I used an N95 mask my sister had as a pattern; I also wore it to Walmart to buy fabric, then got lucky and found some elastic in my sewing stuff (because there ain't none nowhere to be found!) and went to work.

Sometimes I had "help."

McTavish, especially, found the sewing machine fascinating and the threads and bits of fabric and elastic too much to resist.

When he got too curious, I had to chase him off, lest we end up with a needle where it didn't belong, but his sweet-natured attempts to play with whatever I was "playing" with were endearing.

One day, desperate with cabin fever, we went with my sister, brother-in-law and niece on a hike in search of bluebells. It was a lovely, soft spring day, and not a newscaster in sight.

After a somewhat strenuous climb up and down, we got lucky and found lovely washes of bluebells painted across the forest floor.

A couple of days--and several masks--later, we finally got word that the work was done on the camper--a leak fixed, a fan repaired, a new air conditioner, and additional batteries added to our bank of solar power-storage--so we planned to head out of the DC area today to Floyd, Virginia, a little town near Roanoke about which we'd heard a lot (and where there are no known cases of COVID-19). Yesterday, we took a load of stuff--clothes and other miscellaneous other items--down to the trailer. This morning, we thought we mostly just had to load the cats. HA! There was still a ton of stuff to bring down--how did it all get there?!

Plus, yesterday evening, a dear friend had called to see if we might have room to take her daughter's bunnies down to her daughter in Radford, which was on the way. This morning, my friend arrived with the bunnies, their pen, hay, bedding, food, and might we have room for a suitcase? We got it all loaded and she was about to leave, when her daughter called. There had been a misunderstanding with the roommate and ... the bunnies couldn't come. So we transferred the bunnies, their paraphernalia and the suitcase back into her car ... When she left, we returned to packing, but a few minutes later, she called again; she had forgotten that her daughter's birthday present was in the suitcase. We agreed to make sure the birthday present got to Radford by the 13th, and she brought it back. We were still packing ...

Finally, much later than we'd planned, we headed home to our little house on wheels.

But we discovered that the fan in the WC wasn't fixed. It turned out that one of the techs put the new part, which was ordered months ago before we headed to points south and west, into the new kitchen fan (which they had installed just before we headed to points south and west). Since the part had to be ordered, there was no way to fix it now, so they rigged the lid on the fan open so we could use it and we'll get it repaired down in Floyd.

Not long after we reached 81 and turned south, Len, who was following behind in our Toyota, called me. Something was smoking. I looked, and sure enough, smoke was billowing out of the wheels on the passenger side. Great. There were no exits near and just the shoulder to pull over on. I got over as far as I could without tipping and jumped out. The cats were riding in the bedroom, which seems to stress them less than riding in the truck, but there was a fair amount of smoke and I wanted to get them out.

No cats to be seen. Joy. Okay, well, the bedroom's not smokey, so let's go assess the damage.

Smoke was still pouring out from behind the wheel, and the cap covering the bearings was missing from the hub. Not good. But the smoke seemed to be diminishing, and there was no apparent fire. I immediately called Holly Acres, where we got our work done, and told them what happened. I'm not sure why, because they certainly couldn't help us, but ... moment of panic and I trust them; they always take good care of us. I sent a picture to Tom, their lead technician and a friend, and he and I texted while Len (so much more practical) called Good Sam. Then we started rounding up cats and putting them in carriers so we could move them to the truck. Only we couldn't find one cat. We searched for over an hour--in a tiny bedroom in a camper ... how many places could she be? We could. Not. Find. Her.

Finally, about two hours after we called Good Sam, the tow truck arrived.

Except apparently there was no way to tow the trailer with the bad wheel. Randy, our knight in shining armor (okay, our knight in a shiny, big truck), took off the tire on the bad wheel and spent the next hour or so doing something mysterious with the springs and wood blocks to enable us to get back on the road, with only one tire on the bad side.

We were heading for an RV repair shop in Woodstock, a charming little town dating to 1752. We found this fellow holding forth in front of the courthouse.

Randy followed us 9 miles south to the RV repair shop and helped get us parked. We felt terrible that we only had about $10 on us, but we gave him all we had and a lot of thanks. He earned every penny he got from Good Sam, and more.

Unfortunately, he said there's a good chance we will need a new axle ... we'll find out in the morning.

So here we are, in an RV repair shop parking lot in Woodstock, Virginia. We originally planned to take the pets and go on to Harrisonburg, half an hour south, to stay with our daughter, but we still hadn't found our one missing kitty and couldn't bring ourselves to leave her. So we ran out the sides, turned on the heat, and I pulled a beer for me and a hard cider for Len out of the fridge. As we decompressed, the sun went down. And there she was, our little ghost cat, appearing out of nowhere.

Tomorrow morning, we have to try and catch her again and crate her so they can work on the camper.

Will the camper get fixed tomorrow? Will we be able to continue our journey? Will we make it to our safe haven in Floyd? Stay tuned ...

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Susan Byers
Susan Byers
Apr 10, 2020

This wasn't nearly as bad as the blowout on 95 just outside NYC, when Len had taken a different turn-off and I was alone with the cats--and waaay more smoke. This time, it was only about 2, so hours of daylight. We put out our emergency triangles and stayed occupied looking for the blankety blank cat, so there wasn't time to worry.

What was odd was that, in the two or three hours we were beside 81, not a single cop stopped.

And we're still waiting to find out how bad the damage was ... But we're social distancing with our daughter a few miles further south. It's all good.


Bill Fogle
Bill Fogle
Apr 10, 2020

I always feel sorry for people I see on the side of the road broken down. Gary & I couldn't handle that kind of stress. Glad you are able to breathe deeply even in the worst of times and see beyond the (bad) moment!


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