There is an expression in the full-timing world that our plans are made in sand. That is because unexpected things happen pretty frequently that can really blow up your schedule. As we have traveled we have changed plans for family emergencies, RV repairs, and work changes, and last year we had to change our plans last year on my birthday when we got hit by a driver in a McDonalds parking lot. That was a real pain in the butt, and an anomaly I thought, but nothing close to what happened to us on the Friday of Labor Day weekend.
A series of odd coincidences led to us being in that area at all, and since I don’t believe in coincidence to this magnitude I have to believe we were in that place and time for a reason. It started with us traveling slightly out of town to visit a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in twenty years. Originally we were going to see her on Saturday but plans changed and we went down for dinner on Friday evening. On the way back we took a longer route so we could check out a campground on her end of town. It’s a struggle finding decent places to stay in Columbus, but unfortunately I really didn’t like the campground at all. It was still light out, but getting a little later when we headed up a major road towards our campground.
There was a motorcycle in front of Lee and we were in a little speed trap of a town called New Rome, so Lee was going 25mph. The motorcycle stopped suddenly and Lee stopped behind it because there was a car traveling in our lane but the wrong direction. The car hit the motorcycle head on and pushed the motorcycle into us. Let me say it was terrifying because I was sure the motorcyclist was going to die. Lee saw the motorcyclist fly up in the air and land in front of the truck, but I squeezed my eyes shut and just heard the crunch of the bike.
Showing a tremendous amount of courage Lee ran out of the truck to the motorist and yelled at me to call 911. I was looking down and fumbling through that, when the driver and passenger of the car who hit us switched seats. Neither of us saw it but thankfully a passerby did and I turned the truck off and jumped out and ran around. I truly expected to see the guys brains splattered on the ground (he wasn’t wearing a helmet), but he was laying on the ground and actually conscious. He had a nasty cut on his head, and another on his arm but he knew his name. Lee talked to him and his name was Sergei from Belarus and he told Lee he was a music teacher. Lee got him to stay down and then helped the woman out of the car that hit us. By this time we had drawn a crowd (including a nurse) and the sheriff’s and ambulance started to arrive.
The biggest concern then was the liquid pouring onto the ground which I originally thought was diesel. It turned out it coolant because our radiator was punctured. The EMT’s got the motorcyclist onto a gurney and into an ambulance, but because he was sitting up and talking everyone thought he would be OK. At that point I called our insurance company and started taking pictures of the scene. I learned from our last accident that documentation is critical so I took as many pictures as I could.
After giving statements and talking to the police here is what we have pieced together. The blue car actually hit our truck on the drivers side which punctured our radiator. Our truck, which is amazing, didn’t even move so the blue car spun around (largely missing the motorcycle) and hit us again on the drivers side. By some miracle (and I believe it was) the motorcyclist himself was largely safe in the pocket between the two hits. The guy was definitely an idiot for not wearing his helmet, but he definitely wouldn’t deserve to die because of that and hopefully he learned something important.
The driver of the other car was physically fine and if there hadn’t been a motorcyclist it wouldn’t have been nearly as difficult. Well maybe it would have because it turned out that both people in the car that hit us were altered. They had open containers in their vehicle and both of them had outstanding warrants. I am not sure what the point of switching drivers was, but the woman driver also had 7 DUI priors and no license. Thankfully the car was owned by the guy so his insurance should kick in.
Initially I was just relieved no one was hurt, but the longer we stayed the more angry I became. We were minding our own business and not doing anything wrong and someone came out of nowhere and blew up our plans. They kept calling it an accident, but that just made me angrier. An accident is when someone hits some ice or makes a mistake but getting behind the wheel of a car that drunk isn’t an accident its intentional. I felt assaulted, which is a better word for it, no different than if this stranger walked up to me and smacked me in the face. The fact that both of them were so far gone only made it worse. Initially I thought we needed to get a tow, but since we were blocking a major street the Sherriff’s had to have it towed. They were all incredibly nice, but their mandate is public safety and that was their priority. I will say the tow truck came VERY quickly and our truck was loaded onto a flatbed with the motorcycle. The smaller car was initially pushed into a nearby parking lot and I got some small satisfaction when we saw them scoop the sand and antifreeze into their front seat. Hey, it had to go somewhere.
Since we were on the completely wrong side of town we ordered an Uber and on the way home all of the ramifications set in. We were supposed to leave on Monday to head to PA and see Kelly and Bill so those plans had to be cancelled. After that we were meeting Cori and Greg, and again that had to be cancelled. I was also super bummed that our plans to see Falling Waters house had to be cancelled as well, because those tickets are hard to get and we booked it months in advance. Thankfully they gave us a refund, but that’s twice we have missed seeing one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses. And finally, and most importantly, we had to move our RV.
I have to say that I am usually not a huge fan of state parks when we are working and traveling. Cell signal is often weak, they have very strict dog leash rules, and hardly any have full hookups. They also almost universally have two week limits and we were coming up to the end of ours. In places where RVing is popular finding someone to move our RV would be relatively easy, but Columbus isn’t a big RV town (they don’t even have a Camping World) and we needed a dually with a fifth wheel hitch to complete the move.
The first step though was to see if we could even stay, but thankfully the camp hosts were very accommodating. As soon as they heard we were full timers they were very helpful and let us pick from one of their four “safety” sites. These are sites campgrounds don’t keep in the reservation systems and they are used when there is a problem with a site, emergency situation, or a double booking. I actually liked the site we picked out better than our current one but we still had to find a way to move the RV. Thankfully the campground manager recommended an RV repair shop close by and for $100 cash one of the salespeople came and moved our RV.
Our next problem was getting the blue boy and water tank out of our truck and thankfully Lee’s parents had loaned us their pickup truck so we could get it. Unfortunately it was a holiday weekend and the tow place was closed for the entire weekend. What??!?!? We knew that we would need to make sure they were paid before we got anything from the truck but had no idea it would be closed for three days. Lee ultimately went and bought some extra hose to stretch to the nearest water spigot and we squeaked by with the existing tanks.
First thing Tuesday morning though we went to the towing lot and it’s a good thing Lee called first because my name is on the title and I had to sign some paperwork before they would allow the repair shop to pick it up. We lost another half a day to getting down there (around my work schedule), but finally we got our blue boy and tank and around 2pm the repair shop picked it up. We were also able to pick up a rental car and again the holiday hurt us. There were no cars available until Tuesday morning but thankfully we had Lee’s parents truck to drive. We would have been really screwed without a vehicle for three days if that wasn’t an option and we were both shocked that all the rental companies were closed (or had no cars) over the weekend.
The repair shop was another issue because the first place the claims agent called had a three week wait. Thankfully the office manager is an avid RVer and when the agent explained our situation they put us to the front of the list. It still took three days to get an estimate though and when it came back it was a doozy. They are replacing the radiator, grill, two front headlights, hood, tow rings, and coolant deflector, basically everything in the front. It didn’t seem like the damage was that bad but getting hit twice screwed up stuff on both sides. The estimate for completion is September 21st which considering everything really isn’t that bad. We will miss Cori and Greg, but can still see Kelly and Bill and will probably have to give Cape Cod a pass. I’m just glad this won’t cut into time with our youngest daughter Kay who we have only seen once in two years because of COVID.
And to end on a high note the delay allowed us to attend my dad’s 75th birthday party. I am a big believer that things happen for a reason…even the bad things and I am grateful things turned out OK. It certainly could have been much worse!
Update: After 10 months of waiting we learned the women who hit us was found guilty of multiple felonies and sentenced to five years in prison. Unfortunately to get our $1000 deductible back we would have to take her to civil court which wouldn’t be worth it to us, but I am glad that justice was served.
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