My Tuesday did not get less exciting. Or less frustrating, actually.
Or less fortunate, for that matter.
I drove away from Pisgah, heading toward Asheville. It wouldn’t be my day to write, but that was okay, it would be my day to explore. I stopped along the way to eat breakfast, pulling into a random empty parking lot. Breakfast was fine, just my usual yogurt and granola, but the parking lot had an unexpected dip to the exit. When I pulled out, I heard the kind of crunch that you get if you go over a speed bump too fast.
It wasn’t more than ten miles down the road before I started to hear a noise. It wasn’t a big noise. I tried to convince myself for the space of one traffic light that I was hearing my dirty dishes rattle in the sink. And then I pulled over into another empty parking lot, and got out and walked around the van.
The brackets that had fallen off in Yellowstone were hanging loose again. And this time, one of the weird metal pieces that ought to be holding the bracket in place was gone.
But! I was in a town! Which meant I had cell service, yay. I googled RV service and called a place in Asheville, 15 miles away. They recommended a truck service place only two miles away. So I zip-tied the brackets in place (sorta) and drove to the truck repair shop.
The woman behind the counter said that someone might be able to take a look around 3PM. I said that was fine, I’d hang out in the parking lot, since I couldn’t really drive with parts hanging loose. She asked what I thought the problem was.
I said, “I think it’s probably trivial, except not trivial for me, because I can’t fix it myself.”
She said, “Let me come take a look.”
About half an hour later, as she was lying under the van in the parking lot with a lug wrench and a part that one of the guys in the shop had cut down to size for her, I asked her, “How often are you the person who ends up lying on the ground in the parking lot?”
She replied, “Very, very, very, very, very, very, very seldom.”
That was what I thought.
She wouldn’t let me pay her anything, not even for the parts, so I hugged her and told her she was my goddess. And if you are ever in Black Mountain, North Carolina: Valley Truck Service, absolutely fantastic service. I wish I’d thought to ask her name, but I will be eternally grateful for her efforts.
(The brackets actually run under the black tank, not the generator, and I think they’re probably just holding the heated drainage system in place. Or rather, were holding the heated drainage system in place. I suspect I also lost a piece of the insulation yesterday, but driving slowly along the highway looking for it felt like it would be a stupid idea.)
My next decision also turned out to be a stupid idea. So it goes. But I’d been thinking I’d explore Asheville for a while, then drive up to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then look for a campground. But it’s been getting dark really early, and I didn’t want to wind up in the park when it was too late to actually see or do anything. So I decided to first go to the park, then to come back and explore Asheville.
It was a beautiful drive — no regrets on the drive. I wound up back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is just gorgeous.
But Great Smoky Mountains reminded me of why I avoid the national parks. It was ridiculously crowded. On a Tuesday! There was no room in the parking lot at the visitor center at all. I drove through, then drove through again, then looked for nearby overflow parking, then said “the hell with it.”
At that point, I felt like I’d been on the road forever and I was exhausted. And traffic was stop-and-go, roads packed with people, just miserable.
So I headed to Asheville, but by the time I got there, it was rush hour. And Asheville really is a city. A lovely city, it looks very fun, and I understand why people always say it’s great. But cities at rush hour are not terribly convenient places for camper vans with tired drivers. I’d decided that my first stop would be a fancy grocery store, “better than Whole Foods” according to an online review, to buy myself a well-deserved gluten-free treat, but there was absolutely no chance of parking anywhere nearby. And so I wound up back on the highway, headed south.
After a stop at a non-fancy grocery store, where I picked up a rotisserie chicken, some potato chips, and a gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffin — (Total win for the healthy dinner, yeah? I think those are my worst food choices for a “meal” in months) — I made my way to North Mills River Campground, still in the Pisgah National Forest, but a real campground.
I hate my site, which is totally on me. Why did I pick it? I actually think I picked it because it was close to the dumpster, which reminded me that I really needed to get rid of a full garbage bag, but it’s also fairly private, no other campsites in immediate view. But it’s sloped, and the van door opens onto the road, so Z can’t be outside on her tie-out without actually being in traffic. Not that there’s been much traffic, but it’s the principle of the thing.
On the other hand, it is a nice quiet national forest, and it was very reasonably priced ($11 with an America the Beautiful pass), and rumor has it that there are showers. I paid for two nights when I arrived, then when I realized how stupid my site pick was, I thought I might leave after one anyway. But instead I’ve been writing blog posts and taking nice walks and puttering around the van.
And being grateful.
Tuesday was not a fun day. It was definitely not the excellent day that I was looking forward to when I was writing my morning words. But I didn’t get shot, I didn’t spend the day in a truck service shop parking lot, I wasn’t in the accident that totally snarled traffic in Cherokee. It could have been so much worse.
And, on the positive side, the woman at Valley Truck Service was fantastic. The scenery was beautiful. A helpful store clerk found me my gluten-free treat at my non-fancy grocery store, and Zelda loved the rotisserie chicken, gobbling it down with enormous enthusiasm after a few days of being picky about her food. So all is well.
I suspect that I am not going to finish writing APM while on the road, but I’ll have plenty of time once I get to Florida to focus. It’ll be a lot easier when I’m not thinking about things like where I’m going to spend the night and when I might shower again and whether I should try to find a laundromat. (Yes, I should. I’m probably not going to, though. But my first order of business on my Saturday arrival is definitely going to be a load of laundry and a real shower!)