For those of you who don’t follow me closely, I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-creationist group with an international membership. For those who don’t care to follow the above link, the short version is that I and my extended circle of friends and acquaintances gather together in groups large and small to wear armor, bash each other with swords, blacksmith, and make antique furniture, while you wait.
My most recent exploit was a visit to Gulf Wars, an annual gathering of about 3500 people down in Lumberton, Mississippi. Now, I’m still in stage three recovery from heart surgery, so I wasn’t able to fight this year. I had hauled my kit down there, but two days of setup, pounding stakes, lifting canvas, and so on, convinced me that I wasn’t fit. I was good for ten minutes of normal active human activity, but that had to be followed with twenty minutes of rest. Not gonna happen on the battlefield.
So I was a spectator for this one. There are quite a few stories to be told, but for your amusement, I’ll instead share the story of my voyage home. I’ve not had a road trip like that in a few years.
First, we broke down camp on Saturday. This is hard for me; the War is still going on. You can hear the captain’s commands from my camp. But all, and I mean ALL of my helpers want to decamp on Saturday so that they can have Sunday to recover. Accordingly, if I want any help tearing down the common areas in camp, I have to do it Saturday. And it was very effective. I worked my fellow campers like rented mules and before the sun had set, only one tent, my sleeping tent, remained.
The next day, my neighbors came over to help, and all was packed and loaded by 11 AM. This is around four hours earlier than the previous record. And so my party, two ladies, me, and a four-year-old-blond noise, saddled up and headed north.Wow! Four Hours Early. Hell, we were going to get home before TEN!
Not too terribly far up the road, my right trailer tire exploded. And it took the right fender with it. At about eighty miles an hour. By the time I had brought the two vehicles to a stop, the rim was rendered utterly useless. And “get a spare tire for the trailer” was still on my to-do list.
Before I had come to a complete stop, a lovely family from South Downs, Meridies stopped and loaned me a floor jack, saving me MUCH effort.
So here I sat, in rural Mississippi, on a Sunday afternoon, with no tire, no rim, and no local connections. It could have been worse. I was only a few minutes north of Meridian. While not a bustling metropolis, Meridian does have stores open on Sundays, and so my lead car and I were off on our quest. Sam’s Club had a tire that would fit the rim, but no rim. Sears could get both items for me (tomorrow). Wal-mart, regretfully, could not help me at all. Firestone was closed. U-Haul had no spare parts. (What the hell is up with that? They had thirty trailers in the yard for rent. What if one of them has a flat?) Finally, Liz, the pilot of my lead car abruptly turned into an RV dealership.
Now – I’m not saying that the lady running the parts department of the RV dealership was a lesbian. But if she was straight, she was being straight ironically. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more butch, crop haired, comfortable-shoe wearing, forefinger-and-middle-nail-cut-short woman in my life. If there was a stereotype, she was living up to it. Except for one: the man-hating part. She was kind, gracious, and generous. They kept a spare tire around the lot in case one of the trailers had a flat, and she was willing to sell it to me. Sadly, they had no way to take the tire off of it, and it was the wrong size. But I bought it anyway, and we headed back to Sam’s Wholesale Club, who thought they might have a tire.
Well, it turned out that Sam’s didn’t have a tire to replace my casualty. They were reluctant, but they did finally decide to sell me a tire that fit, but was designed to haul lighter loads. That was when we discovered that my pilot-car’s driver didn’t have her Sam’s card with her. Off to customer service to get a new card.
Membership card in hand, we attempted once again to make the purchase. Cards expired. (Why didn’t Customer Service notice this?) So – buy a new membership. Now we can buy, mount, and balance the tire that’s really too lightweight to do the job.
Back to the stranded van and trailer, finally.
A quick efficient mounting, and we’re ready to hit the road. At a reduced speed. To the very next exit. Where we would spend an additional hour shifting cargo from that flimsy, light duty tire to my heavy duty van. It took more than a little effort, but we moved about five or six hundred pounds off of the trailer and into the van by trading large, bulky, light objects for heavy, compact ones.
The sun was now golden in the west, and I was maybe ninety minutes into about a nine-hour voyage. But now we are truly on the road. For a while. Eventually the sun set, the sky darkened, and it was time for dinner. Now hopelessly behind, we declined to have a sit-down dinner, but instead opted to stop at Burger King for a brief rest. The ladies went in to order while I inspected the rig.
That was when I discovered that the trailer had no lights. No lights at all.
Did I violate a shrine or something?
I found the problem. Somehow, I’d managed to drag the harness on the ground and it had abraded through. Good news – I need no parts. This is something that I can fix with duct tape and a leatherman. In the dark. On my back. In a Burger King parking lot, somewhere in northern Alabama.
It was shortly after that that Mistress Solveig sat on my dinner.