Meeting Mississippi's Finest
EXCERPT FROM MY SOON TO BE RELEASED TRAVEL MEMOIR: RV THERE YET?
We rolled out the next morning headed back toward the southernmost part of Mississippi.
"How're the gauges?" Wendy asked.
"The battery gauge looks a little low, but it should charge back up on the road."
Despite the random whining from the engine compartment, the RV kept rolling toward Florida.
We picked up I-10 crossing back into Mississippi. An off ramp showed signage to Gulfport and Biloxi on Highway 90.
"You know what?" Wendy said. "Mary always said Biloxi was nice. Should we go through there?" She studied the map.
Mary was a very good friend of ours from England and an extensive world traveler. If she said Biloxi was nice, you could count on it being nice.
"Could do," I confirmed.
"Highway ninety goes along the coast," Wendy the navigator proclaimed. "We'll see the Gulf of Mexico from there."
It wasn't long before we rolled along next to magnificent white sand and the Gulf gently pushing waves toward the beach.
"Wow, this is gorgeous," Wendy cooed.
I glanced at the water briefly but kept a more watchful eye on the gauges. "The battery gauge is going down," I informed her.
"Oh bloody hell."
She whipped out her smartphone faster than an Old Western gunslinger and began searching for "RV repair shop in Gulfport, Mississippi."
"There!" Her finger pointed wildly toward an upcoming intersection. "Highway forty-nine. There's a repair shop about ten miles up the road."
Coming off Highway 90 turning onto Highway 49 was in the heart of downtown Gulfport and busy as hell. Just as I turned the corner getting off 90 we got caught at the traffic light. As we waited for it to turn green, I watched as the battery gauge did a nosedive. When it hit zero, the engine died. I tried to restart it. Nothing. I flipped over to auxiliary batteries to start it. Nothing.
The traffic light changed. Cars moved. We didn't. A garbage truck flew around the corner barely missing us. He let us know he disapproved of us stopping there by honking his horn and throwing us the long finger salute. It had just passed midday and we must have been blocking the lunch hour traffic from getting their Arby's. God were people getting pissed, but it didn't slow them down. They honked, gestured, and kept moving.
A police car came down Highway 49 the opposite way. Relief hit us when he turned on his sirens, did a U-turn, and pulled in behind us. With a cop now covering our back door we felt a little safer against a rear-end collision.
He came up to the side door. "What happened?" he asked.
"We were on our way to an RV repair shop and it just died."
He laughed. "You saw it dying?"
"It's not the first time," I admitted.
He stood back, looking at the RV. "It looks in okay shape. What's wrong with it?"
"Wheel bearing, thermostat, mechanical fan—and now whatever the hell this is."
He looked around at the traffic whizzing past us. "We should try to get it out of the intersection," he suggested.
"I couldn’t agree more. I can call Triple A, but I don't think they'll be very quick."
He cocked his head to one side, eyeing up the RV from top to bottom. "How much does this thing weigh?"
"Whew," he whistled. "I've never pushed anything that big before, but I can try it with my Charger." He nodded toward his police car with a fierce-looking bulbar adorning the front end.
The traffic continued to rush past—without the rude gestures. It must have been the man in uniform that gave us a little more respectability.
"Let's try it," I agreed.
Wendy and I got in the RV. After a gentle shunt, we rolled forward. We had to cross two lanes of traffic to an opening in front of the post office. People were just going to have to give way because I wasn't stopping or braking until we were clear. It was pure relief when the front end nestled up to the sidewalk. I got out and put the chocks under the tires.
"What's that for?" The cop asked.
I didn't know if it was illegal to operate an RV without a working parking brake or not. "Safety precaution."
He nodded approval. "Where you coming from?"
"How long you had this thing?"
"About six weeks."
"You mean you just bought it and you're taking it cross-country?" A smile crossed his face. "Untested?"
"It drove well on the test drive."
He chuckled. "So you decided to drive it to Gulfport?"
"We're trying to get it to Florida, actually."
"What are you going to do there?"
His grin widened. "Why, 'cause it broke down?"
"Like five times. We're going back to England."
His grin turned into howls of laughter. "I gotta hear this."
"Wendy!" I yelled.
She came out of the RV.
"Tell the officer about our trip. I gotta call Triple A."
I left Wendy to fill the cop in our expedition while I summoned help. Triple A and I played the usual game of who did I want to tow us and where did we want to go. We finally made the arrangement and now we just had to wait.
I stepped out of the RV and Wendy was still giving the police officer the low-down on our string of disasters. He looked totally bemused by our misfortunes—or was it Wendy's British accent in the American Deep South? Whatever it was stretched his grin from sideburn to sideburn. In the time it took me to get through to Triple A and get them on the way, he was still listening to Wendy. Laughing mostly.
Then another police car showed up. The first cop recanted parts of our story to the second cop. They liked the bit about five days in Waterloo and a blind Shih Tzu being designated as a service dog.
The second officer walked around the RV. He stopped at the auxiliary battery compartment and looked inside. "Geez, look at the corrosion on those cables. When's the last time you've cleaned them?"
The first cop piped up. "He obviously hasn't. He's only had it six seeks."
The cops enjoyed a good laugh at my naivety.
"You need to look after them," he advised. He continued his inspection with me and the other officer lagging behind. He pointed to the back. "What happened here?"
I figured he was admiring my traviscasey.com logo. Cop one and I walked around to the back. The bumper was smashed in the middle. It was more than a dent—it was a mangle.
The first cop smiled. "I did that when I pushed him off the road." He pointed to his squad car. "I did it with the Charger."
He nodded, pride swelling his smile. "Seventeen-thousand pounds."
Cop two was impressed. "Wow."
I could tell this was going to be a donut shop story for years to come.