A friend of mine, whom I now call Bubba, just acquired a camper. He was perusing new campers priced in the tens of thousands of dollars when another friend of his offered him a used camping trailer, free. He liked the ancient 24-foot Corsair right off the bat. It had two axles and while he joked about the color scheme, I think the orange, yellow and brown upholstery was what he liked best. In the original Corsair sales brochure, found in a drawer, a fashionably modern 70’s woman is pictured lounging in the camper in her neatly pressed camping slacks (I think they were bell-bottoms) and mohair sweater. She and her bouffant hair-doo look uncomfortable. I imagine her discomfort was due to the gaudy orange and yellow interior she had to model in, or the threat of being photographed in the other available color scheme, ‘Avocado’.
I was to meet Bubba at his friends’ house; my presence was requested to follow him in my car while he pulled the trailer to a shop for repair. The brakes and brake lights did not work and there were no turn signals. I didn’t mind following him and I would have suggested it if Bubba had not asked. I would rather follow him in my car as he pulled the trailer to the repair shop, than ride with him. It wasn’t a long drive but much of it was on a hilly and twisted section of old route 219 known locally as Nunweiler Hill.
As I drove to our meeting place, the ride took me back years, to a time when I traversed this same stretch of road as a young man. I was in the passenger seat of my 1962 Rambler convertible, dozing. My little brother David was driving with a learner’s permit. We shared a ride most of that summer and he drove, like any other 16 year old, whenever he could coerce someone to let him. Leaving home at 6 AM meant I was easily coerced; I spent my trip to work dozing rather than driving.
A quite string of mumbled expletives from David woke me from my slumber; the fright in his voice was unmistakable. The first thing I noticed, his knuckles, were white as he grasped the steering wheel. The second thing I noticed was one of our tires rolling out ahead of us on the right shoulder of the road, traveling by itself. It was supposed to be attached to the car we were riding in. The Rambler didn’t have a smooth ride to begin with - on three wheels, it was decidedly worse.
I grabbed the dashboard in front of me and offered verbal encouragement to David, mixed with my own expletives. In a lackluster end to our incident, David brought the old Rambler to a rest, on the remaining wheels and one brake drum.
With that experience in mind, I headed back over the road I’d just taken, falling in behind Bubba. I used my four-way flashers to warn drivers coming from behind our low speed procession not to run into us. I assumed we would travel a great deal slower than the speed limit. After all, the trailer hadn’t been on the road for a number of years. Brakes, brake lights, and turn signals weren’t working. When I assume things, I often get an abrupt education.
Bubba, or the tow-boy Mario Andretti, had a different plan, or maybe no plan, in either case I couldn’t legally keep up with him, without speeding, as he pulled the trailer. I shut off my four-ways. There was no sense calling attention to our high-speed convoy. I could imagine being stopped by the police and trying to explain that the reason I was speeding was because I was trying to catch up to a 34 year old camper being towed by a retired academic-want-to-be-race-driver.
The brakes and lights are fixed on Bubba’s camper. If you see a mid 70’s vintage RV with orange curtains rolling down the road, you might want to stay out of his way.
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