It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it didn’t start out that way, of course. We were still pretty new to RVing and didn’t think about things like checking the weather at our destination or along the route. We were just tooling around enjoying the sights.
We were wending our way through the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains headed to Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The fog started rolling in or maybe the clouds were coming down to rest on the mountain tops. The setting sun was shrouded, then obscured making the mountain road a mystery. With visibility a hundred feet or so, we had no idea how steep, twisting or treacherous the road would be ahead and we were barely making progress. Thoughts of going over the side of the mountain and plunging to our fiery deaths flashed through my mind. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. But for sure when I saw the turnout I thought it would be safer to pull over than continue.
The good news is, the fog/cloud cover lifted as the darkness settled around us on every side. The bad news is that the wind is what lifted it. The increasing wind. And then the rain fell. Sheets, buckets, cats and dogs, whatever worn out metaphor you could come up with is what the rain was that night. And it was whipped into a fury by a relentless wind. The rocking wasn’t the good kind that puts you to sleep, it was the kind that makes you wonder how far the trailer would tilt without tipping. I wish I had put out the stabilizer jacks, but with cold, wet, gale force winds we just held on hoped for the best.
Not only was there rocking, there was howling. There could have been a 500 pound mountain lion on the roof for all we knew. Praying is always appropriate, so we did between fitful naps throughout the night.
What we didn’t realize until daylight finally broke through the storm is that we had stopped on a scenic overlook. There we were in a tiny 19 foot travel trailer on the edge of destruction and not even knowing it. I thought we would be safest getting as far as possible off the road. But that put us pretty close to the edge and we ended up suffering the worst of the wind.
But now the weather was clearing. The wind had settled down. We had a breakfast right there and decided we should move on before another storm moved in. And to be safe, we went back down the mountain without ever making it to the park. It would be years before we discovered 1) how close we were, and 2) there was another, less steep way up the mountain.
This was our first experience with what we later discovered is “boondocking.” This was before the advent of smart phones that can tell you the weather anywhere in the world and there were no RV specific GPSs. You can bet we’ll have both before we go full-time.