Our Trip Up The Creek

By Jerry D. Haight

Early in our motorhome experience, we heard the advice “don’t go in if you can’t get out or you may find yourself up that proverbial creek”. Since then it seems “the creek” must be a tourist destination as almost everyone has been there. It also appears the trip up the creek is usually connected to the road to somewhere else. Our somewhere else was on the way to a Campground in Sault Ste Marie when the beckoning call of the creek summoned.

On approach to the campground, Maggie (the name we gave our navigator) advised us to turn right. We were in the middle lane of a six lane highway preparing to turn left.  As quickly as possible with safety in mind,  we guided motorhome to the right lane, now preparing for a right turn. That was just before we saw the campground’s sign pointing left.  Since we were committed, we turned right and soon the pungent odor of the proverbial creek made our new destination quite clear. Our innocent but dutiful navigator then suggested we make a legal “U” turn as soon as possible. The pilot figured there would have to be a better place up the road. When through our windshield we saw nothing but forest, the navigator’s wisdom became apparent.  And when the pavement suddenly ended and the road narrowed to one lane, a sickening feeling of being sucked into a place we really did not want to go settled in.    

Again, Maggie advised us to make a legal “U” turn as soon as possible. Did we just hear a tacit threat?  But turning around was not going to be easy.  The motorhome is about forty feet long. Then we had a dolly carrying a van. The total length was about sixty-five feet. Normally, a large rest area along a freeway is quite adequate for turning a rig such as ours around. We have used large parking lots like Wal-Mart or Home Depot for the purpose. But from the looks of the road ahead, we didn’t think it would lead to anything like a Home Depot. In fact for all we knew, it just might end at the edge of a bottomless abyss. It became apparent, if we were going to get turned around, we would have to become very creative and fast.

Eventually we came to a section of road having a small area along its edge, about a car width wide. It was there a small driveway intersected with the road.  Viola! It appeared that we might just be able to use that spot. It would require dismounting the van from the dolly, unhitching the dolly from the motorhome. Then, there might be enough room to turn the motorhome around using the driveway. Once the motorhome was headed in the right direction, we would hitch the dolly back to the motorhome and remount the van and be on our way.  But that scheme would prove far more difficult than first surmised.

We encountered a new nemesis.  A tow dolly comes equipped with two long safety chains which attach to the van once in position. The safety chain passes from the dolly to a hook deep within the bowels of the upper echelons of each wheel well. To actually make this happen one must embrace the tire, kind of like a bear hug, then blindly feel for the hook in back of the tire. When we tried to remove the chains and dismount the van, we found the chains bound so tight it was impossible to unhook them. By this time, we were beginning to see our paddle floating down the creek.

My aversion to tools of any kind is somewhat legendary having its roots in my father’s auto repair shop. By the end of summer of my fifteenth year, most serious tools were mentally off limits. So, the act of purposely purchasing a tool for this situation would never cross my mind. But that is exactly what happened.    

Some weeks before going up this road, we encountered a small store in Stonington Connecticut. It was one of those stores that attempted to sell everything, kind of like a “big box store” but much smaller. Next to oranges, motor oil and toys (we were actually there to find a toy) was a display of bright green bolt cutters.  I had no idea why, but I felt drawn to the little green tool. Following a brief discussion and a mild attempt to dissuade the purchase we bought it and tossed it in our very small tool box in our motorhome and promptly forgot about it..

After attacking the bound up safety chains with numerous implements like a hammer, pliers, screw driver and even a rock, I remembered the little green bolt cutter. The little tool swiftly parted the chain and the van was free. What might seem like coincidence to some is far too specific to be that. We probably would have found another solution given enough time. But that green bolt cutter has earned a special place in our memory and especially how we safely returned from our trip up the creek.