Almost Heaven

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River –
Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Growin’ like a breeze
Country Roads, take me home

I was very excited yesterday morning as I hit the road knowing that I would be at my friend’s within the day. It has been four years and one month since we last saw each other. I have traveled more than 27,000km since I last saw her. I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter after such a long journey than to fall into the arms of my oldest and dearest friend. A few more days now…

Because I had some mountain driving ahead of me, I planned yesterday that it would be a short driving day and that I would not be arriving at my friend’s. I took my time getting on the road and had a long break at the rest area after Charleston. This was my first time ever seeing a restaurant (snack bar) at a rest area!

I was purposely setting myself up to make arrival at her place too late to be feasible so that I wouldn’t rush through the day, get distracted, and get into an accident. Now that you know my mindset yesterday, it becomes even more evident why I don’t blame myself for the toad’s demise.

The section of I-64 between Charleston and Beckley is the West Virginia Turnpike, a toll road. I had reviewed the list of tolls ahead of time and felt that the information was very clear. I was a motorhome towing the equivalent of a trailer so I would have to pay $3.25 twice. I made sure to get a bunch of singles and quarters when I bought some things at Walmart the night before so I would have exact change. The first toll booth guide was visibly surprised that I had my exact fare in hand!

approaching the second toll booth

So that was yesterday. The accident happened just after the second toll booth.

This morning, I set off in good spirits. Miranda was purring and nothing felt amiss. I have done a lot of mileage in my rig and know how she behaves. She never hinted at been hurt today. Oh, sweet Miranda, aren’t you supposed to tell me you’re hurtin’ before you keen?

I hadn’t been on the road long today when I got a hint that the big challenge of the day, the 7% 5-mile long descent, was upon me:

Almost there:

At the summit:

Here we go! *gulp*

Motorhome goes into D2 and we start the hill at 40MPH.

What is it about those Blue Ridge Mountains?

Halfway there!

Recommended truck speed is 45MPH. The engine would start strain at that speed, so that’s when I’d hit the brakes, about four times total over the five miles.


Have I mentioned in this post how much I love the Blue Ridge Mountains?

It was coming on lunchtime when I hit Lewisburg, so I did something I just about never do when towing the car, I made an unplanned exit from the highway for something other than fuel. In plain English, that means I saw a sign for Applebee’s and I heeded its call. 😀 I barely eaten anything the day before and had very little for breakfast, so that was just what I needed to get those gastric juices flowing again. I headed in the general direction of the Applebee’s and noticed a Walmart, so I decided to park there since the Applebee’s would be nearby. It turned out to be right next door. I ordered a pasta and salad lunch deal but only had room for the salad (and a one-bite brownie with ice cream), so I got a to-go box for the pasta. $11 for lunch and dinner, not a bad deal, huh? I ended up having the pasta while waiting for the tow truck. But I digress again.

I made it to Virginia!!!

The Virginia Welcome Centre is not RV friendly as there is only car-sized parking and no pull-thrus. I couldn’t have done this with the toad attached!

I had to back out of that parking stall!

Nice-looking welcome centre:

I stocked up on a ton of tourist information material.

Then I drove through some more beautiful scenery marred only by a dirty windshield:

Approaching Richmond, I was due for a break, so I turned off the interstate to go to a ‘tourist information centre’ that I never succeeded in finding. That put me on a lovely rural route that paralleled I-64 for about five miles before merging back onto it.

A wave of emotion hit when I reached the I-64/I-95 junction and hit familiar territory. I’d only been that way once before, but there were a few familiar landmarks; a building, the city names on the exits, the stench of tobacco at the Philip Morris plant.

The last bit of my journey was on back roads and I looked forward to pulling over just shy of my destination for a bite to eat and to text my friend to let her know I was incoming. Well, we all know what happened there.

I Think I’m Officially Cursed

I am sitting at a repair shop in Petersburg, VA, where I had to get towed only 45 miles from my destination. I am now 60 miles from my destination. Without any warning whatsoever on that final stretch, the needle on my odometer went crazy and I had no control over the rig except to pull over, put her in neutral, and turn off the engine. Everything seemed fine from the cab and walking around outside, but there was a strong burnt smell inside the study.

It was not a good place to be stuck, on a very rural road with no shoulder. I knew I was done for so I looked up automotive services on the GPS and called the first place that had the word towing in the name. They couldn’t help me so they gave me the name of another company that also couldn’t help me but was able to give me the name of a third company that was able to help. It took about 45 minutes for him to arrive. Just before he did, I saw a police car stop behind Miranda. I hoped that he’d been sent by the towing company, but I decided to be careful and start off with, “I’m sorry. I know this is a bad spot.” I forget what he replied but his tone will remain seared in my memory. He was just so, so, so kind. He asked me if this was my first time away from Alberta traveling with the rig and I said that, no, I’ve been fulltiming for four years and traveling all over. He replied, “God bless you!” It was amazing to meet a law enforcement official who was so enthusiastic about my lifestyle choice. Thank you, officer.

But I digress.

The mechanic says that my rear axle is broken. He’s only done a cursory assessment, but this is going to be a huge job.

He advised me that since I drove almost 4,000km without incident and had this happen the day after I got rear ended that I talk to my insurance company before having him take anything apart. Because of the time zone difference, that might not happen till mid-day tomorrow and then it could be a few days to get an adjuster out here. Meanwhile, I can rent a car and go spend some time with my friend, but I won’t be able to breathe until I know if I am paying for this out of pocket or not.

If I have to pay, and the mechanic says that at first glance I’m looking at $2,000 to $3,000, then I’m at a loss. I’ve been through a lot in the last four years and I have always dealt with these matters myself, but now I have to admit that I am stuck. If you haven’t bought any of my e-books yet or have a friend who would be interested in one, I’d really appreciate some sales right now. There is also my Early Bird RV Show Seminar that is available to download at whatever price you feel is fair. This would mean so much to me. Right now, I can cover the repairs and get back to Canada, but my holidays with my friend would be shot. Having a little extra in the bank would mean that I could spent the next few days tooling around Virginia with her, providing you with exciting reading material (huh uh), instead of sitting in the rig and at her place utterly depressed.

The time zone difference is going to make tomorrow morning very trying as I might not be able to get hold of the motorhome adjuster until noon. The good news is that the car insurance company will be paying for a rental car for at least a few days. So I can leave Miranda parked here and take off in the rental car to visit my friend. We have tickets for an event Thursday night and it looks like that will still be able to happen. My current location is noisy, but the mechanic made sure I was level, and the work will be done right where I am, so there will be minimal bother to the cats. If I wasn’t waiting on the insurance, he would start first thing tomorrow and I’d be on my way Friday, but the whole insurance thing could make this drag on for a bit. I may have no choice but to pay out of pocket and hope that the insurance will reimburse me.

Now, I have otherwise had an amazing day of travel and I will be putting together a blog post with pictures of the good parts of yesterday and today.

Ready to Pull Out

It’s still much too earlier to get a hold of the insurance companies today and I was given the go ahead to leave Beckley, so I’m leaving. Web reviews for Glen’s Towing, who got my car off the turnpike, are very negative. All I can say is that they don’t seem very organized and their towing prices seem crazy, but they have absolutely no problem with my taking off without paying the towing bill and without having heard from my insurance company. I imagine that’s probably because they have some rights to my car now and could recoup that way, but I appreciate them not being hard asses about this. Paying that towing bill wouldn’t kill me, but since I won’t ultimately have to worry about it, why pay now only to get reimbursed later?

Jody reminded me to grab the license plate off the car so I don’t have to pay for a new one. I don’t know if my new toad will be plated in Alberta or not, but it’ll be nice to have that plate if I do reregister in Alberta.

My plate registrations are due this month. Guess I’m saving on the car, huh?

One thing I forgot to ask the adjuster is if I should be contacting BMO, which holds the loan on the car, regarding the crash. I imagine that any monies I get from the insurance would go to BMO first to clear the loan and I’d get whatever is left over, if anything. One thing that is in my favour is that the car is in great shape and has low mileage on the odometer, so there is a chance that it will get appraised on the higher end of the scale.

Well, I’m off to see if I’m right that traveling without a toad will be a lot less stressful

Thank You To My Readers

I am replying to all your comments about my toad’s demise in a post rather than a comment.

First of all, thank you to everyone who sent good wishes. Especially in reply to Linda, I am okay this morning. I’m a little sunburned from all those hours on the turnpike waiting on the state trooper, but that’s it. Sitting so far ahead of the wreck, I didn’t really feel the impact and only knew something was seriously wrong because I could feel the car fishtailing behind me. I’m not sitting here feeling traumatized at all. This is not at all like the morning after I lost the brakes when I know I did fifty billion things wrong beforehand and ignored my instincts. Yesterday was an accident pure and simple and I can deal with that. I had a decent night’s sleep and am ready to move on.

Croft suggested I replace the toad in the US. This would require me to have the rig fixed and I know I won’t have time for this, plus I have to wait for the insurance settlement. I have thought of buying a beater for getting around in Quebec for the summer, selling it in the fall, and then looking for a new toad when I get to the US. I really don’t want to talk about my plans for a new toad at this point, so please don’t push me about that, but I know exactly what I want and I’m pretty sure I’ll only find it in the States.

westernerbychoice provided a link to a company in Phoenix that can set up vehicles for towing. That will probably be too far for me, but I’m grateful for the lead.

Amber complimented me on my driving skills. Have I told you recently how much I adore you?

Sue asked questions about my insurance coverage. I am insured with Aviva Elite under a full-timer’s policy that covers damage to the rig and to the contents.  I am insured under Intact (formerly Axa) for damage to the car and liability issues related to the motorhome. It looks like I won’t have any issues with Aviva and they told me to get back in touch with them when I’m ready to have the rig repaired. My adjuster immediately got in touch with me by email and I was able to send her pictures. We didn’t talk too much about contents over the phone, but after I went through the rig last night I decided to make a modest claim for a few things so we’ll see how that goes.  I am not certain how Intact is going to be yet. They asked me a lot more questions about the circumstances of the crash. They will have an appraiser out here in a few days to look at the toad and we’ll go from there. Regarding the tow bar system, there could be some back and forth between the two companies, but I have put in a claim for it and both say that it should end up being covered, especially if the other driver admits he’s at fault and my insurance companies can recoup from his. That’s all I know for now.

Now, I’m ready to get back on the road to visit my friend, but I want to doubly verify that I can go, so I may have to wait a couple of hours for the insurance companies to open back west. I will go into the wrecking company shortly to see if Intact has called them and confirmed that they will be handing the towing and storage fee and that they are comfortable with my leaving. My ETA in Virginia is sometime between 6 and 8PM and all I can say is that I can’t wait to be there. I knew driving out east wasn’t going to be fun, but I didn’t expect the party to start until I was heading north out of Virginia!

RIP My Faithful Toad

It’s tough to know how to start a post like this. I guess that “I’m fine, the cats are fine, and Miranda is more or less fine” should do it.

I’d been on the road about an hour today and was approaching Beckley on the West Virginia turnpike. Traffic was heavy and there was construction. I merged into the left hand lane around some construction when the semi in front of me slammed on his brakes to the point that there was smoke coming from them. The man in the pickup behind me was riding my car bumper and had no room to stop. He slammed into the back of the car, which slammed into the back of the motorhome.

The state trooper took me aside to say that the fact that I did not hit the semi and that the guy in the pickup did not get rear ended suffices as proof that he did not give himself enough braking distance. Because I was rear ended there is no question that the guy behind me is responsible, but the state trooper assured me that I couldn’t have done anything to prevent this. So, please, no comments like I got after the brakes incidents asking me to rehash every single moment of this. It happened, it’s being dealt with, and I can continue on to Virginia tomorrow. I am parked at the wrecking yard for the night and was given the go ahead by both insurance companies to go ahead with my travel plans.

The first photo I am going to share is going to be shocking. You can see that my tow bar assembly is sheered off and that I was pulling the car only by the cables. This is important, folks. Look at the tow assembly. It isn’t dragging on the ground. You need to crisscross the cables so that if something like this were to happen, the cables would act as a net and catch the tow bar. My system worked flawlessly.

Damage to the front of the car:

Damage to the rear of the car:

Motorhome bumper:

I don’t believe that the damage to the motorhome requires immediate attention. She drove fine the 10 miles or so from the crash site to the wrecking yard. There is damage to the under carriage where the receiver hitch was welded on. However, none of the damaged parts are attached directly to the main part of the chassis. I feel comfortable driving to Montreal but I will have the rig looked at once I get there and won’t be taking the road again until the repairs are done.

It will take a few days for an appraiser to come out and look at the car, but I reasonably certain that I am looking at a total loss on it so I am okay with leaving it behind. So long as the other party takes responsibility for his idiocy, my insurance companies will not charge me a deductible. So it would make sense to have the car repaired if the appraiser says it needs to be, and I’ll be close enough by to come back and pick it up. But I seriously doubt that will happen.

At this point, there is no sense making guesses about how I am going to proceed. I will know more once the motorhome damage is appraised and dealt with next month. The big question is my towing assembly; it could cost almost $5,000 including parts and installation, to get a new vehicle set up for towing.

I’ll be renting a car in Virginia and will see what my options are when I get to Montreal regarding getting a new toad. I’m fairly confident that the car is worth twice what I owe on it, so there is a chance that I could get the loan cleared and have enough left over to buy a decent used vehicle. One thing is for certain; I have no intention of financing another vehicle.

The big question now is, how do I carry the bike and extra propane tank? I stuffed the car roof rack and whatever I had in the car trunk into the motorhome basement, but the bike and propane tank are going to be tricky.

To my surprise, my insurance company is paying the absurd towing bill for the car, $250. It cost half that to have Miranda towed after she lost her brakes and she was going further! Anyway, the wrecking yard is letting the insurance company settle the bill rather than making me pay it and then be reimbursed, so that’s fine.

As for the inside of the rig, I need to do a thorough evaluation, but I lost one external hard drive and a bunch of dishes. It looks like everything else was secure.

It has been a very long day. The accident happened at 10:30AM. I got to the wrecking yard at 12:30 and called my insurance broker. He told me to stay by the phone and that my insurance companies would call me. I spent about an hour emptying the car (thank you so much to the nice man who helped me get the bike out of the car through the passenger side door since I couldn’t get the trunk open and to the other one who carried my 30lb propane tank the equivalent of a full block). Aviva called me around 3 for the motorhome. I hadn’t heard from Intact for the car so I called my broker back at 4 and he gave me the adjuster’s number. By the time I hung up with her, it was 5:30. It is now 7:45 and I’ve only had a small slice of pizza to eat all day (damn those nerves), so I think I will go grab a few things at the Walmart next door to make a quick cold picnic. Sitting in Miranda today was like sitting in an oven, but at least I was home.