Snowstorms and Breakdowns

March 28, 2018
Antelope Island State Park, in Great Salt Lake, Utah*

_MG_1079When I woke up on Sunday morning in Boise, there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground and more pouring from the sky. I am a vastly intrepid driver of unparalleled courage – not – and I wrapped the camera in a plastic bag, wrapped myself in my big winter coat and went over to the office to ask to stay another day.

I wrote several outraged pages about the next couple hours but for the sake of everyone’s sanity including my own, I will distill them down into the following list. Boise Riverside RV Park, everyone, if you’re googling, or looking for a place to stay. 

  • The space I had been occupying for the last five days was rented to someone else starting that afternoon.
  • All the full hookup sites were booked. This certainly seemed to be a flat fucking lie, since as of the next morning there were lots of empty ones. But they were not going to shuffle things around to accommodate me, oh no.
  • The roads are fine everywhere outside this trailer park, you’ll be fine! This was absolutely a flat fucking lie. I drove out in the truck to check. I got three blocks before I had to turn around.
  • Well, OK, we can give you a partial hookup site by the river.
  • Yes, that means you have to hitch up the camper, disconnect, etc., all in the pouring snow.
  • We’ll send our dude over to help you.  Another flat fucking lie! Their dude was no help at all, just another surly voice.
  • So I spent an hour out in the snow and at the end of it I had moved the camper through the snow to the new site. And I was soaked, shivering, and furious.
  • By 3:00 the sun was out, the snow was melted, the ducks were back and, well, god DAMN.
  • It took 48 hours to dry my hiking boots and my fleece hat. Just, you know, sayin’.

_MG_1121On Monday the sun was still shining and Boise and I parted ways in polite mutual loathing. I went off in search of the Hagerman Fossil Beds. I found, instead, the Hagerman Idaho Sheep Monument, which is quite a glorious thing in its own right, but the fossil beds proved elusive. Where the GPS said they were was instead the town hall. I drove on through Hagerman and along Route 30, which is beautiful and boasts a really great rest stop – I love that rural two lane roads in Oregon and Idaho and, for all I know, other western states, have rest areas! And they’re mostly super nice ones too. – where there is a wildlife observation area. I thought I had spotted a bufflehead, which was exciting because bufflehead! Great name! What the hell is it? But on further inspection I believe it was an American Coot. Or the bufflehead left while I was getting lenses and so on. Never, ever is the right lens on the camera at the right time, it is known.

_MG_1125Then I drove on, past waterfalls – multiple waterfalls and hot springs! – and eventually I ended up where I was planning to spend the night, which was Rock Creek Park, which is sort of on the border of Twin Falls, Idaho. I found the park but not the campground. A mean man honked and yelled at me. A nice man told me he thought the campground was closed for the winter. “You could go out to the desert,” he said helpfully, “BLM lands, it’s free out there. I like the desert, myself,” he continued, a faraway look in his eyes, “I just go out there and think I’ll never come back. Yeah, the desert.”

_MG_1147I went instead to the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds. Did you know that most if not all county fairgrounds have RV hookups and rent spots quite cheaply? Fairgrounds are great places to camp! This one was super amazing awesome: there were only two other campers there and the whole place was deserted and delightfully eerie. All this for $21. It was cold as hell and windy with it and I slept better than I have in weeks. Boise was noisy.

_MG_1182Yesterday, which was Tuesday, I drove and drove and drove. I drove from Twin Falls, Idaho to Antelope Island, Utah and on the way I stopped at a crazy little roadside gas station and petting zoo, where I paid way too much for 10 gallons of gas and declined to open the crate that said Baby Jackalope on it. I took pictures of woefully neglected obese animals and felt bad and then I drove on, across mountains and desert and more desert and another rest area where I saw some hawks, but, surprise, the wrong lens was on the camera. The highway turned into freeway turned into city sprawl but then, finally, I got to the delightfully named Antelope Island State Park.

It is a large state park on an island. I paid for two nights at the campground and noted uneasily that I was about out of gas. How far can it be? I thought.

_MG_1190Far. It is a long drive along a causeway through Great Salt Lake, which is hauntingly beautiful and deeply strange, onto Antelope Island and then if you follow the signs it is a longer drive yet to the campground, which, by the way, has no hookups at all. I thought it did but no, it was like being back in Joshua Tree: just a nice little loop to pull over and a grill and a picnic table. Well, I thought, okay, no problem. So I unhitched the truck – I am going to write up a whole explanation of this process and put it in the about section sometime, but it’s a helluva process and it takes, depending, about 45 minutes. Longer to hitch up. I did all that and went into the camper, looked at the refrigerator and. . . it was not on. Neither was . . anything. I tried the lights. Nothing. Nada.


If there is no battery power I have no lights and no fridge, sure, yeah, that is not great, but also I have no heat, which is a bit more serious and no running water. And since it was so early in the season, the campground had no open bathroom. Yike! To make things worse, I also had no money, because I am an unwilling piece of flotsam being tossed on the seas of high finance. My fucking bank got sold to another bank and the transition, which was supposed to be seamless, is of course not, and the new bank is a rapacious avatar of evil, even more than usual. And I had no cell service because remote island. OK. But I am mighty.

I drove to a gas station – made it! Barely! – and a bank – the new ATM card worked for the first time! – so now I had gas and money and a phone. I sat down and called for help. AAA does not help with campers that you tow. It took over an hour and several transfers between North Carolina and Utah to figure this out. “Good” Sam, which is a highly theoretical discount and camping / RV help service including, supposedly, roadside assistance, was even worse.

FUCK GOOD SAM. DO NOT GIVE THOSE FUCKERS ONE THIN DIME OF YOUR MONEY, EVER, EVER, EVER. THEY LIE AND CHEAT AND STEAL. THEY DO NOT PROVIDE ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE OF ANY KIND. GOOD SAM SUCKS and I hope this page becomes a google return for this phrase and helps somebody before they pay for it. I have now called them twice. Both times they have flat refused to help me and instead given me useless phone numbers for truck – semi trucks, big rigs – repair places that laugh at campers.

Quit,” I said to the guy on the phone, “I know it’s not your fault, but the company you work for is evil. Don’t work for them anymore. It will destroy your soul. It’s not worth it.”

He didn’t say anything.

So there went two hours. I returned to the island and poor, silent, comatose Amelia. I took the battery cover off and opened the battery tester that has been knocking around in the glove compartment since I left Asheville. The battery had power! I lay down under the camper and saw, uh, wires. I don’t know. Testing the battery and flipping the breakers and seeing if the fuses are blown is the full extent of my technical knowledge. So I prepared for a cold dark night.

It was fine. I survived. I remembered that while my propane heat doesn’t work without power, my propane stovetop most certainly does, so I ate everything most likely to go bad in the fridge – a lot of Trader Joe’s goat cheese and sundried tomato ravioli; why does ravioli always sound so much better than it tastes? – and went to bed early, stuffed, wrapped in blankets against the cold and honestly loving the silent beautiful darkness.

And because I am NOW writing this from WYOMING on Friday, I will end here by saying that the mechanic I found, Charlie’s Auto, was lovely and it turns out that I have never had trailer brakes and the wiring between the truck and the camper was totally fucked, which eventually led to fucking up the other wiring. But fortunately, it ended up not being a huge fix and now I have not just lights and heat when I boondock but also consistent brake, turn and hazard lights on the trailer (hadn’t had those either) and trailer brakes! But there will be more about that, and Antelope Island, which was an AMAZING place, soon.

* Actually mostly written in the waiting room of Charlie’s Auto in Sunset, Utah, to be specific and being posted from Rawlins, Wyoming! 

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