The first vehicle that was "officially" mine to drive was a dark blue 1985 Ford Ranger stick shift that had belonged to my Grandpa on my Mom's side before he passed. I have memories of riding alongside him both grossed out by the Styrofoam cup full of Mail Pouch Tobacco spit but also comforted by it since I associated the smell with him.
The cup was removed before I took ownership but hints of the scent still lingered which while should be gross I found rather pleasant.
Even if it did gross me out, I didn't mind, I finally had the freedom to drive to school instead of taking the bus. Obviously I was on top of the world. During the winter months the defroster would clear the entire windshield except for the driver's side. I spent many frigid mornings driving to school Ace Ventura style with my head out the window so I could see the road.
The time eventually came to sell the truck which was at that point worth less than the cost of maintenance.
One weekend my parents were preparing for a trip to Ohio to see family. I had taken the truck to the high school to stop by the band room and pick up some music. One way to enter is through the student parking lot. Just passed the crest of the lot you had to turn right which put you in front of the little island separating some of the spots from the drive. The road then curved left up a hill which brought you to the band room entrance. I pulled half up on the sidewalk, turned on the 4-ways, threw it in gear (first instead of reverse for some unknown reason) and went inside. About 30ft behind the truck was a fence that ended where the sidewalk became the drive.
I was inside the school no more than 3 minutes to grab whatever chart I needed to pick up. When I came back out, something caught my eye.
"Who the hell would be backing their truck down the drive towards the student parking lot" I started to ask myself.
I got as far a "truck" in that thought before I realized the person backing their truck down the drive also had a blue 1985 Ford Ranger with their 4-ways on. An instant after that thought entered my head, I realized no one was in the driver's seat and I was looking at my truck flying backwards down the hill heading straight for a Mercedes parked just over the little island.
Sprinting down the hill yelling at a teacher in the lot to watch out the truck hit and jumped the island Dukes of Hazzard style and somehow shifted to the right (from my perspective) just enough to miss the Mercedes.
"Well that was close" I thought as I continued to yell.
Then I noticed there were only a couple cars parked in the rest of the lot. Beyond the lot was a little hill that ran into the road where the entrance was. Beyond that was another steeper hill. Just beyond that was a baseball field where the girls softball team was practicing directly in the path of my wayward truck.
There was one beat up old car in the lot parked in a spot just before the hill leading to the hill leading to a soon-to-be-very-surprised Girls Softball Team.
Somehow the truck managed to align itself with the old junker and just SMASHED right into the side of it. It totaled the other car but the truck only received very minor damage to the tailgate. Some serious shit would have went down had that car not been parked there.
I first called my parents and the police to report the incident.
The owner of the car and his dad arrived before the cop.
The dad simply said "well, we were trying to get rid of this thing anyway. You probably did us a favor."
The cop showed up and in his Cop-ly fashion went to the dad for the story. When I tried to interject he both cut me off and did the whole "are you looking for trouble blah blah." Total douche.
Anyway, insurance took care of everything and I was able to drive the truck home. My parents were able to still head into Ohio.
Even if the truck did slip out of gear on its own the fence was right behind it. It's hard to believe it turned itself off the sidewalk and then straightened itself back up to start it's jaunt down the hill. We were convinced it was just my Grandpa protesting sending us the message of "This truck lived in the family, it dies in the family. No one else is getting this thing".
Flash forward some 10 odd years.
On the drive from Pittsburgh to Pikeville, I listened to several installments of the 'Stuff You Should Know' podcast. Cool stuff. Highly recommended. One theme they constantly arrive at time and time again intentionally or not is the whole "Fight or Flight" deal when you're faced with some kind of danger.
Once it dawned on me what was happening with the truck, that response kicked in hardcore for me. After the ordeal I was shaking for quite a long time.
So...getting to the point after a long winded lead-up:
We arrived around 11:40 and scoped out where to park. After finding two spots, I backed the trailer into my spot. The ground here slopes downhill to the left so I had to drive up on my levelers. Two for the base, one in the middle on top. That didn't quite cut it. Could still be a little more level. So, it was two for the base, and two high in the middle. I pulled forward and managed to roll up on them. Perfectly level. Awesome.
I chocked the wheels on the other side, dropped the front legs, opened the tailgate, and prepared to un-hitch. Totally routine.
The latch would come out as is sometimes the case. This is solved by putting the truck in reverse and nudging it back (still hitched) very very slightly and the arm should come smoothly out. It did.
The one sound that you never ever ever want to hear after completing that step is . c-c-c-c-C-C-C-C-R-R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E-E-A-A-A-A-K-K-K-K-KABOOOOOOMMMMMMSSSSMMMHASHGRINDBANG!!!!!!!!!!!
The sound got as far as c-c-c-c-c-c- before I knew what was coming and re-lived the possessed truck episode from my past over again only this time exponentially worse. The trailer legs slipped off the wood and SLAMMMED into the ground. Since I was on a hill only one leg was on the ground holding the trailer up. The tires had slipped off the levelers and the other side wheel backed right over the wheel chocks.
I slipped a piece of wood under the leg hanging in the air and lowered the legs to stabilize the trailer. The tailgate was still up but somehow the way the trailer fell there's just one teeny nick in it. My only guess is that driving up on the levers twisted the hitch just enough so that while the trailer was level, it was hitched to the truck which wasn't. I still can't figure out how it happened.
I owe Steve a few beers for making him stand out there with me as I hitched back up and unhitched again still in shock of what happened. It took forever when usually I get it on the first try.
I re-rolled up on the levels, this time two for the base and only ONE in the middle. I can deal with a slightly slanted trailer. It's a milder version of the 'Mystery Spot' in Santa Cruz, CA.
I had to take a break before lowering the rear stabilizers, hooking up power, etc. as my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't keep the flashlight focused on anything.
By far one of the scariest experiences I've had to date. I'm still a little bit shaken. But I'm sitting here typing this from the kitchen table with power plugged in and slides out so it seems everything is in order.
I was quite looking forward to sleep after the trip but something tells me with the excitement of the City Paper cover story coming out today combined with this whole.....episode.....I'll be up for a while yet.
The lot here in Pikeville, KY is know for being very unpleasant. We are on all dirt and grass so If it rains hard, this place will turn into Elbonia (as in nothing but mud). If you leave your cables/hoses on the ground they will sink into said mud. If it gets really cold overnight, said mud will freeze leaving said cables stuck in the ground. I've heard stories of people with shovels digging out their cables before leaving for the next city.
:knocks on wood:
Oh, and Steve informed me that there's a goddamn rooster that will crow at the crack of dawn every day.
The main tourist attraction here from what I can gather is a cemetery where a lot of the actual Hatfields and McCoys are buried. Woot.