Wipers and Demons

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

This past Sunday we left Fort Stevens Park and made our way along the Columbia River back to our same parking spot in Vancouver. We did have one rather interesting experience along the way.

Highway 30 out of Astoria is a winding and hilly stretch of road for the first 20 miles or so, as it finds its way through and along the edges of the Coastal Range of mountains in Oregon. In addition to the challenges of the roadway itself, it was intermittently raining. I know this is hard to believe, but you've got to take my word for it... it was actually raining. We're moving along with a camper that weighs, with it's attached toad, somewhere around 36,000 lbs. The speed limits on the curves and bends are often 30 or 35 mph. For a mid-day Sunday, there was a significant amount of traffic. It was busy. Driving this thing normally demands your full attention. Challenging conditions like these make the edge a little sharper.

Then it happened. We're making a bend around a rocky outcropping in heavy rain... and the windshield wipers stopped working. What? That's right... just quit -- locked up -- something broke. Yikes! I managed to stay on the road until, a mile or two up the road, a wayside rest area appeared on the left and I turned in. Usually, on smaller two lane roads like this one, we're careful about getting into roadside parks and rest areas because many of them are too small to turn around without backing up... and there's to be NO backing when pulling the toad. I didn't care, if we had to unhook and re-hook to get out of there, we'd do it. The priority was to get off the road.

To our good fortune, the little roadside park turned out to be plenty large enough. I pulled over, stopped, -- took a deep breath -- and we assessed the situation. It's a Sunday, there probably not much chance at getting someone out here to help us. We could always wait for the rain to stop... but this is Oregon, and, if you've been reading this blog during the past few weeks at all, you know it's been known to rain in Oregon this time of the year. Our first choice was to try to effect repairs ourselves... at least temporary repairs.

Well, a long story short, I'm very happy to report that Dar and I, as a team, were able to fix the problem. With Dar hanging onto a wrench on one end while I reached inside to tighten the nut on the other end... we got those wipers working again. In fact, they now work better than they ever did. The situation, and working from problem through to solution, gave us a little more confidence that we can tackle tough situations and handle them ourselves... a measure of self-reliance.

Two things worked in our favor. First, there was still a residual coat of Rain-X on the windshield that I'd put on last summer. With this product, rain doesn't stick and spread out on the glass... it just seems to bead-up and roll off. With a fresh coat of Rain-X, it's possible to drive in heavy rain at highway speeds without wipers at all. The bit that was left was enough to keep the view out reasonably clear despite the weather. The second thing that helped us was that as soon as we pulled into the roadside park, it stopped raining. It was much easier to work on something like this if you're not getting soaked in the process.