Thursday, April 15, 2010

‘Emergency’ Driver Change

We left Willow Tree RV Resort, in Longs, SC, Monday morning about 10:30 am knowing that we had maybe 3-4 hours drive to our campground at James Island, SC .  

We didn’t know that it would end up being the first time we’d ever have to become dependent on my ability to drive the rig.

Ken had scoped out the route I had in our itinerary and as we got closer to Charleston, and the wind started picking up, he decided he preferred to take the I-625  loop around Charleston versus the GPS route which took us over the suspension bridge.   The drive was one of our shorter one’s but he seemed to be getting really worn down by it.  One sign that he is ‘crashing’ is that his voice gets hoarse so I knew we needed were pushing it.

Ken took the loop exit when he saw a sign with flashing lights warning all bigger vehicles to go that way.  I was still trying to recalibrate on the maps and GPS when suddenly Ken exclaimed ‘Ah ____”!   I looked up to see a huge bridge in front of us that looked like it was going straight in to the sky.  It had a steep enough grade to require a separate truck lane.   They obviously were leaving plenty of room for tall ships to cross under this bridge, turning it in to it in to a man-made mountain to climb.

Now about 10 years ago, when Ken was on a lot of heavy drugs for his Crohn’s disease, he also had major issues with vertigo.  He was so bad back then that he had to leave sporting events on a couple occasions because our seats were higher than he could handle, and he’d become lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous.   He couldn’t even look up at tall buildings without getting dizzy.  He couldn’t handle being on smaller water craft where there was a lot of motion. That said, in the past several years it seemed that as he’s been able to get off the steroids he’s also been able to  handle heights and motion without much problem. So ,we assumed that the vertigo was a side-effect of the drugs.  Well APPARENTLY NOT….and in a sudden and big way.

We were in pretty heavy traffic and just as we reached the beginning of the bridge, Ken whipped the rig over on to the shoulder.  He was nauseous, lightheaded and dizzy and wasn’t about to head on that bridge when he felt like he was close to passing out.  We sat for some time.  I thought maybe it would pass.  He got out of the rig to try to ‘walk it off, get air’, no good.  The traffic was getting heavier as rush hour started to get closer and there was absolutely no place to turn around.

Ok, out of the 32,000 miles on the motorhome, I’ve driven the 2 part, not much at all and as soon as we would get a little wind or traffic, I’d turn it over to Ken.  Now, Ken was too sick to continue and we had nowhere to go but in to that traffic and up and over that bridge in some pretty high winds.

I finally got into the driver’s seat and said I’d take it over.  He sat on the floor next too me because just watching the cars rush by seemed to add to his dizzyness and nausea and everything around him seemed to sway.  I got more and more nervous as I waited for a break in traffic which there just didn’t seem to be.   There wasn’t enough room between us and the bridge to ease in to traffic.   Then when I finally decided to kick it and take a small opening, DRAT, I’d forgot to take it out of neutral….ok, this wasn’t looking good, but I waited again and finally got another small break and gunned it (well, to the extent you can gun a 26,000 pound box!!) into the traffic lane. 

With all the traffic I really didn’t appreciate the truck lane since it meant steering right over toward the rail of the bridge between two semi’s and then getting myself back over when the truck lane ended before the bridge did….geesh!!

Meantime, Ken was going his best to be my cheerleader from  the floor!!

Ken offered that I pull over in a lot somewhere as soon as there was opportunity.   At this point, I figured I could handle anything after that hill-bridge-wind-traffic so said I’d take it the rest of the way in which meant a couple more bridges and a surprisingly tight right turn in the middle of a congested area of St. James Island.   I think the little lady sitting in the left-turn lane was the more surprised when she saw this blonde woman steering this big rig straight at her.   By that time Ken had been able to make his way back up to the passengers seat, and busted out laughing just watching the lady’s reaction.  I had it though, missing her bumper with inches to spare,  and the jeep didn’t even touch the curb  as it followed behind. 

By the time I had checked us in at the campground office, Ken was starting to feel better.

Neither of us was feeling at all like cooking by the time we got set up so Ken decided instead to treat me to dinner out to celebrate my ‘victory’.   The gentleman who taught Ken so much about his Allegro Bus last week had also recommended a great local restaurant,  the Long Point Grill.  It was a recommendation well deserved and we’ll be telling others about it when they are headed to this area. 

In a strange way this was a very bonding experience for us.  Even with his health problems, I’m always pretty much the one dependent on Ken.  This proved that I could step up to a tough and scary ‘blue job’ when necessary and he could turn over the reins and trust me with it which is not easy for him. I think that was a really important step for us.

In retrospect, we’ve also learned a big lesson in how we plan our travels. We already had come to realize in recent years  that Ken stays healthy if he has adequate down-time.  If not we see these sudden crashes that manifest in different ways, a very different way this time!   Yet,  knowing this, we had gone for almost 3 weeks without adequate downtime.  We think it was during the drive that Ken’s whole system just started crying uncle and  the result was what will always be to us the ‘Charleston bridge incident’.    As a result we decided to stay pretty low key for the early part of this week, with small trips on the island areas where we are camping, but pretty much making it ‘’eat and sleep’ days for Ken.

I’ll include some pictures tomorrow of some of what we have seen here but I’m happy to report that it seems Ken is much recovered from how he was feeling on Monday.

Hugs, C


Gail said...

Wow! What a story! So glad you both came through it fine. Isn't it wonderful that we can, at times, surprise even ourselves? Tell Ken to rest and get well soon.

Laurie and Odel said...

Oh, gosh. Just began reading your blog after we became FB friends. :) What a perfect illustration of why BOTH partners in the RV need to know how to drive and feel comfortable doing it. Well done!

Happytrails said...

Oh wow! I think your story is a wake up call for all of us. We also have a motorhome in which I have little or no experience in driving. I will start clocking some driving time. Thanks.

So glad all ended well for you all and you enjoyed your dinner out.
Take care and enjoy some "down" time.

Mike & Gerri (

Margie M. said...

Holy Cow! We drove on that bridge several years ago and I know exactly what you mean. It is scary beyond words. Good for you in being able to step up and take over. Look forward to any pics you share.

Travelwithwhippets said...

Enjoying your blog after meeting you at the rally. Wow, I would have been scared!! Learning to drive the MH is still on my to-do list!! Guess I'd better get at it.
-- Dianne

Jim and Dee said...

I'm catching up on blogs. This is amazing. I'm so glad I took the driving class, but guess I better get behind the wheel from time to time. See you soon, rest up please!