The weirdness began on March 31 as we traveled from City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico to Roper Lake State Park in Safford, Arizona. We stay off the interstates whenever possible as the local roads are more interesting. We passed some huge copper mines, a couple of quaint towns, drove through the Little Burro Mountains and dropped down into the Chihuahuan dessert, an expansive flatness surrounded by distant mountains. We were on Highway 70, a local two-lane highway, when we approached a mild bend in the road and noticed a large carcass on the right shoulder. A mule deer, probably. Several vultures were snacking and, as we approached, the vultures took flight off into the dessert. All but one vulture. That one remaining vulture stared us down as we lumbered closer, seeming to say, “This is MY carcass, and YOU can’t have it!”
I watched the vulture while thinking silently to myself, “Animals are so unpredictable.” Bob was probably thinking something similar, but before either of us could speak, we were at the carcass and that dang vulture decided to fly toward us! I wonder if it was trying to scare us away or simply a case of poor judgement? Whatever the motive, I heard either Bob or myself (or maybe both of us) calmly say, “Oh, shit.”
For a couple of seconds, it looked like the bird was attempting to back-pedal — wings were flapping all akimbo, and then … our windshield shattered like a huge spiderweb.
I think we may have both said, again, “oh, shit.” Despite being tempered, there were still tiny shards of glass in the cockpit area of the motorhome. We grabbed Tessa and rushed her out the door and into the car, I grabbed the phone and looked for glass businesses in Safford, the town we were heading for. The first company on the list, Boulevard Glass, said that yes, they worked on motorhome windshields. “Great,” I said. “A vulture just hit our windshield on Highway 70. We’re heading to you right now.” Bob drove the motorhome (wearing safety goggles just in case) and I followed in the car with Tessa. It was 44 miles to Safford; we took our time and arrived with the windshield intact.
When we pulled into the parking lot of Boulevard Glass the owner, Rhett Dodge, came out the door and was assessing the damage before Bob even turned off the engine. In short order, Seth and Patricia in the office got in touch with our insurance provider and the windshield manufacturer. Rhett assured us that the windshield wouldn’t fall in on us and we could continue the 7 miles to Roper Lake to wait for the new glass to arrive. (He was also kind enough to offer us a parking spot behind their shop, but obviously that wouldn’t have been nearly as comfortable, quiet or picturesque as the state park.)
The good news was that the glass manufacturer, Coach Glass, had a distribution center in Phoenix, just two hours away, and had a windshield for us that would ship it to arrive the following Tuesday. (Not much happens over the weekend out here, compared to the Northeast.) Tuesday was also our check-out date from Roper Lake, so the timing was perfect, we could go right back to the glass shop for installation.
Tuesday came, and we readied the motorhome for campground check-out, excited to get the new windshield installed. We called Boulevard Glass to let them know we were on our way. This should have been our first indication that we were in the Twilight Zone … our new windshield had arrived broken! The glass shop rejected the windshield and told the company to send another one. We had to wait three more days for the second windshield, and reserve another campsite at Roper Lake.
On Friday, when the windshield did not arrive, Boulevard called Coach Glass and learned that it had not been shipped from Phoenix, like the previous glass, but from Oregon! Shipping time to Safford from Oregon was expected to take five days, not three. But, again, it was the weekend, and nothing happens out here on weekends. We had to get another campsite at Roper Lake.
Back at the campground, Bob kept busy with maintenance tasks while I canceled and rescheduled campground reservations that were coming up. Bob was putting rubber dressing on the tires and checking their condition when he noticed that two of our rear tires had some pretty serious wear on them. We decided to use our extra time in Safford to get new tires before heading into the wilds of Utah and Nevada.
That Monday, we drove the rig over to Haralson’s Tire and got six brand new tires and an oil change to boot. We felt good that we accomplished something. The next morning, Bob discovered that one of our brand new tires was almost flat! He was able to pump it up with our compressor, and we drove back to Haralson’s to have it checked. It turned out to be the valve stem, easily fixed, fortunately!
Just as we were pulling into the tire dealer, Boulevard Glass called to let us know that the windshield, which was supposed to arrive in Safford Monday or Tuesday, had been shipped to Phoenix instead of Safford! Coach Glass said it would take another two to three days for them to send it to us in Safford!
It’s hard not to lose your mind when you have campgrounds reserved and you’re trying to stay as close to on-track as possible with this ever-changing situation. But, we went back to the campground, reserved another site, and I worked on adjusting our route and reservations … again. It was then that Bob noticed the gap above the cabinet.
The cockpit of our motorhome has wrap-around style cabinets along the ceiling right over the dashboard, and right in the middle of those cabinets there is a frame in which the television is mounted. The cabinet above the passenger seat (my seat) was drooping slightly on one corner. Closer inspection revealed that the two screws in the front corner were pulling out of the ceiling. The weight was also causing the cabinet to pull on the television frame. Basically, if that cabinet was not securely attached to the ceiling, any jarring ride on a poorly paved road (we encounter a lot of them) could cause the entire thing … cabinets and TV … to fall on us.
Bob spent hours that night and the next morning investigating the construction of the cabinet to see how to fix it. After trying several ideas, he finally got the job done by securing an L-bracket to the cabinet and ceiling and adding screws to the side that joins the TV cabinet. I know it’s not the ‘pretty’ job he was hoping for, but it was the best solution given our current situation. The bracket is holding the cabinet and we’ll be able to travel safely!
Back at the glass shop, Rhett was at the end of his rope with Coach Glass. His whole staff was trying to get our windshield installed so we could get back on the road. Rhett told Coach that he’d be sending a truck to Phoenix to pick up the windshield. Funny thing was, the people at the Phoenix warehouse didn’t know where it was. They lost our huge windshield?! Apparently it was just a temporary misplacement, as they called Boulevard a short time later to say they had found it. They also found five other windshields just like it. We don’t know for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise us if those other windshields were there the entire two weeks that we were dealing with this fiasco!
Anyway, Boulevard did pick up our windshield in Phoenix. We were camped out in the shop’s back yard when the truck arrived, and we cheered on the truck! Sixteen days after that #$@& vulture flew into our path, Bob pulled our motorhome into the big bay at Boulevard and they worked their magic. We felt like we were saying goodbye to family, and when they asked where we were headed, we jokingly said, “Out of Safford as fast at possible!”
Despite the entire crazy ill-fated situation, Roper Lake State Park was a pretty darned good place to be “stuck.” It’s a migratory bird area, and we saw birds that we’d never seen before. I hung a nectar feeder from our shrubs and not only hummingbirds, but a pair of hooded orioles were constant visitors. There were just enough trails to get a little exercise, Tessa swam and ran almost every day … something for everyone. And the dessert was just starting to bloom! We got to stare at Mount Graham, the highest peak in Arizona, every day and we drove up to 9,200 feet one day (the end of the paved part of the mountain road). The camp hosts, particularly Tim and Kathy, Steve and Caren, and the park rangers were a great help at getting us settled in new campsites each time we had to extend our stay. We were stars of the campground, as other campers would wander by just to take a look at the windshield and ask what happened.
And now, we’re back on the road. When we’re traveling, everything pretty much falls into place, we have routines for arriving, departing, getting gas, dumping tanks, etc. In only two weeks, we’re out of the groove and have to move for a couple of days to get it back. Tonight we’re in one of the loudest Walmart lots we’ve ever been in. There’s unfortunately a train track right across the street that has to blow it’s horn right there. There are quite a few more RVs here than we ever see in Walmart, maybe about 7 or 8. There was a character selling Piñon nuts earlier, another who told Bob that he’s walking from his home in Portland, Oregon, to Washington, DC, because he wants to run for President. Tomorrow we finally get to catch up with friends Kathleen and Ruben, who we met in San Antonio. Then we finally start heading toward Utah!