RV Life – Year 3 – Falling Down

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down

Seen or unseen, weather dangers lurk beyond the horizon.

Even the most informed RV traveler can encounter a surprise storm and experience a falling down.

falling down

falling down

It was October 26, 2019 and we had just finished a fabulous summer season in the mountain west, exploring Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. See RV Life – Mountain Summer, Parts 1-3.

It was time to make our semi-annual visit to Nashville, our RV Life home base. We always made a stop there in the Spring and Fall before heading off to our Winter or Summer spots. We were targeting South Texas for the winter this time.

It’s a long haul from Kansas City to Nashville. The I-24 Campground in Smyrna, Tennessee is over 8 hours from the Trailside RV Park in Grain Valley, Missouri, nearly 600 miles. We typically try to stay in the six-to-seven-hour range, but we chose to press-on for this particular day. The route we took was nothing new to us. We had followed these same roads many times.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down

falling down

The weather was mild, offering clear skies as we merged onto Interstate-70 eastbound in the early dawn hours that morning. We made our usual fuel stops and restroom breaks along the way, stopping at the half-way point in Mount Vernon, Illinois for lunch.

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As we merged back-on to Interstate-57, I noticed the distant horizon beginning to billow-up with towering cumulus clouds. This is a classic sign in the mid-western USA for rain.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down

I didn’t pay it much mind and continued southbound.

I had hauled the rig through heavy rains many times before and was not overly concerned.

We switched over to I-24 and headed towards Paducah, Kentucky. Rain began to fall as we passed by the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The interstate turned to the southeast and the weather continued to change with darkening skies, heavy rain, and steadily increasing wind. I was beginning to worry, but did not see or hear any weather alerts on my phone or GPS system. I reduced my speed but pressed on.

We were about 10 miles away from the Tennessee border, approaching Exit 89 near Fort Campbell, when the wind speed increased suddenly. Rain started blowing horizontally across the highway and the trailer began rocking and swaying. I knew we were in trouble. Right then the GPS system confirmed my fear, flashing a high wind warning.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down

My first instinct was to get off the highway immediately. Terrifying images filled my head of being blown over in the middle of the interstate, creating a deadly pile-up scenario.

I exited right away, intending to take an immediate right turn and point the rig directly into the wind. By the time I reached the stop sign the wind was a raging tempest.

I looked into the rearview mirror and saw the trailer begin to tip. I yelled out in horror, “We’re going over!

I clenched my jaw and gripped the steering wheel in preparation for the impact. Cheri was in the backseat with Gypsy dog, holding on tight and expecting the worst. For half-a-second of terror the truck lifted off the ground as the trailer tipped. An ear-piercing sound of splintering metal rang out as the kingpin of the trailer shattered the hitch jaws. We dropped back down with a bone jarring bounce then heard an incredible THUD! as our 13,000-pound home was tossed onto a guardrail.

In total shock and disbelief, we sat there trying to wrap our minds around the reality of what had just happened. Survival mode kicked-in and we called 911 and roadside assistance. We stayed in the truck until the storm passed and then stepped-out to witness the carnage.

It was surreal. Our home laid there in ruin with the driver’s side of the truck bed crushed. My wife and I looked into each other’s eyes, chins trembling, eyes tearing-up, and embraced. With the shrill sound of sirens all around us we felt incredibly grateful that we were not hurt, because we weren’t the only ones in trouble. In fact, we were one of four vehicles that got knocked over right there at Exit 89. There was a tractor-trailer, along with two other RVs all laid over. One of the RVs was a motor coach that had people trapped inside!

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First responders and wrecking crews were rather busy for the next few hours. Although badly damaged, the truck was still drivable. So, I got back in and moved it to the side of the road while the recovery crew worked for over two hours to lift the trailer upright and clear the scene. While making the police report we discovered that we had encountered a surprise, pop-up tornado! A weak F-1 on the Fujita Scale, but clearly strong enough to wreak havoc with high-profile vehicles like the Crusader.

The sun was setting as we followed the tow truck to the nearest salvage yard in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It seemed like hours to make the short 15-mile drive. There was very little confidence in the structural integrity of the vehicle, so they pulled it slowly. There was also a huge hole in the backside of the trailer from being impaled by the guardrail. Various kitchen items were falling out as we creeped along the dark, rural backroads to the Jones Bros. lot.

It was well after 9:00pm by the time they secured the trailer for us. We had already called ahead to cancel our campground reservations in Smyrna and contacted our insurance carrier to report the incident.

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falling down

We were still over 100 miles away from our destination, but the good news was we have friends in Murfreesboro. We stayed the night with them and was up at dawn the next day to rent a U-Haul truck and drove back to Jones Bros. to retrieve what we could.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down
Everything was everywhere. Total chaos.

It was a physically and emotionally taxing 6-hour ordeal to sift through the wreckage and transfer items to the U-Haul.

Many things were lost, some irreplaceable, but many things were saved with only minor damage or no damage at all.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with how much we were able to recover.

The next day we secured a storage unit at the same location where we had our other household items, StorPlace. More amazing friends stepped-up and offered their guest room for as long as we needed. What a blessing!

I went to work right away with the insurance claim, but struggled with many questions about what life would become. Did our RV adventure just come to an abrupt end? Should we just settle back down in Tennessee and be thankful we are still alive?

Cheri and I agreed to wait and see what God would do with it. Psalms 27:14

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Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year 3 - Falling Down
The new rig. What an upgrade!

Long story short, an incredibly fast claim process got us back into a new truck and trailer by December.

God showed up!

We managed to upgrade the truck to a beautiful 2019 RAM 3500 Laramie and found an incredible 2020 model Forest River Cardinal that was even nicer than the Crusader.

Things came together much quicker than I ever believed possible, allowing us to remain on schedule and leave as planned for our winter spot in San Antonio, Texas shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday. An agent from the insurance company was inspired by our story and asked me to provide a written account. You can find it in one of my related Eye of the Beholder articles titled, Inspire Me – Emergency RV.

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On the way to our winter location, we made a 2-week stop near Waco to visit my brother and his family. We explored our usual favorites in the region, such as the Magnolia Silos, but also visited a few new places.

  • Texas Ranger Hall of Fame:  An inspiring hall of memories honoring legendary lawmen. Not only was I drawn to this location for the history and intrigue, but I have a very personal connection to the Texas Rangers. My ancestor, James Coryell, was an early member of the Rangers and is forever-enshrined there for his service. See Inspire Me – Family Roots.
  • Lake Waco:  A beautiful reservoir on Waco’s west side offering excellent fishing, boating, picnic spots, and water sports.
  • Mammoth National Monument:  A large deposit of fossil evidence from a herd of ice age Columbian mammoths. We learned about mammoth history, viewed amazing fossils and exhibits, and wandered along pleasant nature trails inside this 5-acre geological site.

We left the Waco area in late-December, arriving at the Greentree Village Mobile Home & RV Community in San Antonio. We settled-in for a South Texas winter, enjoying the Christmas & New Year’s holiday with my newlywed daughter. See RV Life – Year 3 – Mountain Summer Pt.1

We were very happy to be back on the road living the RV Life again in a brand-new rig! We were incredibly grateful for God’s providence through it all. Not only for sparing us from injury or death, but for how He brought it all together so quickly and perfectly. He certainly exceeded my expectations!

2 Corinthians 5:1

falling down

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Steve Coryell