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Old 08-04-2014, 10:32 AM   #1
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Steve's Really Bad Day

6/16/14: Early Monday morning my husband went to the York River to launch his boat for the first time this year. This is always a debugging trip for the boat every year. The drive from our home in Ashland, VA to York River State Park boat landing in Williamsburg takes a little over an hour. On the way, one of the tires on the boat trailer started smoking and Steve pulled over to find that the fender brace had broken and had fallen down on the tire, which was now flat and had to be changed. That was the first bug.
After removing the fender and changing the tire, he continued to the road that winds down to the boat ramp where a stick in the road punctured a brake line and started draining the brake fluid. Bug #2.
Without knowledge of bug #2, he successfully launched his boat and parked the big red van with the trailer. Since he was boating alone, he had notified me of his intention to be off the water by 1:00 p.m. and, up until that time, he was having a wonderful day playing with the new GPS and fish finder he had recently installed on his boat.
At 1:00 p.m. he called me at work in Richmond to tell me that he had broken his arm and was about to be taken away by ambulance; and that I needed to get to the boat ramp immediately to stay with his boat and get our emergency roadside service to get the boat home, where it would be safe from the pilfering of his electronics and outboard. Bug #3. And, oh yes, there’s something wrong with the brakes (see bug #2).
I left immediately and arrived at the York River State Park boat ramp at 2:00 p.m. I found the boat safely on the trailer with the big red van parked just a few yards from the ramp. I immediately called the number on my Good Sam Travel Assist card and felt secure that they would be ready to come to the rescue. A word about this rather expensive program: the brochure lists many emergency services for folks who have medical emergencies while on the road with a towed vehicle, which had happened to us before; the logistics of which, proved to be overwhelming. The promise on which I was focusing at the moment was that they will return your towed vehicle to your home, so that you can deal with your medical emergency. This extra coverage program seemed prudent to us as we are past our prime. It gave us a sense of security that, when we need it most, there will be an agency there to help us through an emergency.
After describing my situation as quickly as possible, the man on the other end of the phone began stuttering. I don’t really know what to do… usually the people who call have a truck that works and we just drive it home for them, but your truck has the brakes out…so I don’t know how to help you until you get your truck fixed… maybe you should call your Good Sam Roadside Assistance program… and then call us back after your truck is fixed. Well that might take days and I need to leave here shortly to get to the emergency room and check on my husband! Isn’t that what this program is for?! Ordinarily, yes, but I don’t know what to do…. I’ll give you a case number… but I can’t do anything until your truck is fixed.
He gave me a case # 402-905 and I hung up feeling totally disappointed. Well that was a big waste of money. Immediately I pulled out the Good Sam Roadside Assistance card and dialed the number. A word about this program: Steve and I belonged to AAA for many years with no complaints, but we recently made the move to Good Sam Club because now our free time was spent towing our camper or boat to enjoy our nation’s state park systems, so it also seemed prudent.
After going through their automated system, punching in all the right numbers and making the most logical selections, I sat in my car, on hold for about 15 minutes. Finally, I was connected and again described my situation. During this conversation I realized that I didn’t have my key to the big red van in my purse! Bug #4. Steve had had the ambulance technician lock all the doors to the van, which only made sense. I asked if they had a way of opening a locked door so that we could get the van into neutral. The answer was no, and I needed to find the hospital to which Steve was taken, so that I could get his key and then call back. A quick call to Steve and a check of Google Maps had me on the way to Sentara Williamsburg.
I found him there in the emergency room waiting for his x-rays to be interpreted. He was in a great deal of pain and described to me how he had been pulling the trailer strap tight while bracing his foot on the side of the boat, when the strap broke (bug #5) and he flew backwards down to the pavement and heard the bones in his arm break. OMG. I wanted to stay with him, but I needed to get the key and return to the boat which I had abandoned on the boat ramp. I gave him a quick kiss and left.
After returning to the boat, I called Good Sam again. Punching in numbers and listening to the on-hold music, I found myself telling the story from scratch to a new person. She identified a shop that could fix my van, and was sending a tow truck immediately. Where are you? I’m on the boat ramp at York River State Park. What’s the numerical address? Huh? A word about York River State Park: There are only two roads that enter the park. One leads to a parking lot with a trailhead in the woods. The other leads down to the York River terminating in a very nice boat ramp with lots of slips and fishing piers. I described this park layout and explained that there probably was no numerical address, but it was the only boat ramp in the park. She accepted this, located my position and told me that I would receive a call from the tow truck operator to give me his arrival time. OK, thanks. We are getting it done! It’s now 3:00 p.m.
A half hour wait and the tow truck driver called to say he’d be there at 5:40 p.m. Well that seems like a long wait time, but beggars aren’t choosey. I figured out how to unhitch the boat and I felt the sinking lack of brakes when I moved the van forward. There was no way I could drive it. I secured the boat as best I could by lowering the antennae and removing some of the electronics, grabbing the Go Pro box and turning off the batteries. I locked what I could in the van. Then I waited.
5:40 p.m. came and went. I called Good Sam again and went through the routine with yet another person, this time adding that the tow truck driver was late and could she contact him to find out what the problem was because I needed to get back to the hospital. But according to my notes he won’t be there till 5:40. Seriously! What state are you in? Texas. Well, I’m on the east coast and I’ve waited a half hour past 5:40! OK, ma’am. I’ll contact him and find out when he will be there. Can you hold? She was insolent and I was angry. Finally she came back on the line. There’s traffic and he’ll be there soon. It was 6:35.
At 7:00 p.m. my phone rang. Through the broken connection, I could make out the tow truck drivers voice. I’m here in the parking lot but I can’t find you. Can you flash your lights or something? No you’re not here! There’s nobody here but me! Where are you? He didn’t know where he was. The call dropped. I called the number back and described to him the park layout. How do I get there? I don’t know. Don’t you know the Williamsburg area? No. I opened Google Maps and was describing how to get from his location to mine, when the call dropped again.
I had reached a feeling of helplessness. I was thinking that I could have used the programs on my smart phone to find a service station and get myself towed much faster than what I was currently experiencing. I called a different number on the Good Sam card to file a complaint. Same routine… big long blah blah and she said she can’t help me, but she will connect me to a supervisor. Another routine and big long blah blah, but now I was crying and very angry. I wanted my money back because these two programs had failed me. An incensed woman asked me, why are you telling me this? What do you think I can do about it? Aren’t you a supervisor? Long silence… no, I am not. I hung up and decided that there are no good Samaritans at the Good Sam Club.
At 7:30 a tow truck made its way down the steep road to the boat landing. He lowered the flatbed and hoisted up the big red van, then turned to me and asked nicely, where are we taking your van tonight? Really? I don’t know! You would think that they would mention that one needs to find a pen and paper to write down this important information! Didn’t they give you that info on the phone? After a lot of confusion, he called his dispatcher who had the name and location of the Williamsburg Goodyear Service Station. At 8:00 p.m. he drove off with the big red van and I drove off to Sentara Williamsburg.
The x-rays had been interpreted and the doctor diagnosed that Steve had crushed his elbow at the distal end of the humerus bone and had broken off the ball that creates the shoulder joint at the proximal end of the humerus. So Steve had really (Mod Edit) his arm. The Orthopedic surgeon on call decided that this fracture was out of his league. He set us up with an elbow reconstruction specialist at MCV Hospital in Richmond, and gave us the bad news that the specialist was booked solid and wouldn’t be able to look at Steve till Friday. That is a very long time to endure with so many broken bones moving around in your arm.
6/17/14: The next morning, Tuesday, I excused myself from work, listing the vehicles in Williamsburg that I needed to retrieve and the doctor appointments that needed to be arranged. They were very understanding. I set out in a Ford explorer which is much lighter than the E250 that was our regular tow vehicle. I figured out how to turn on the batteries in the boat and lower the motor onto the towing brace. I managed to get the trailer hitched and the trailer leg secured. I drove it very slowly back to our place in Ashland and backed it neatly into its spot, lowered the motor and walked away. Thanks for nothing Travel Assist! I vowed to never deal with them again.
The surgeon’s office agreed to see Steve at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon to inspect the x-rays and schedule the surgery. Earlier in the day they had mentioned over the phone that he probably wouldn’t have surgery until the next Monday, but after the surgeon saw the x-rays he decided to do the surgery Saturday. Until then, nothing could be done for Steve except pain pills and ice packs.
6/18/14: Wednesday, I went into work. Williamsburg Goodyear called. The van is fixed and ready for me to pick up. I needed to figure out a way to get to Williamsburg without driving my own vehicle, so that I can drive the van home. I looked into renting a car one way. The answer was 286.00 dollars, due to the one way part. After several more calls I found a local taxi cab that would drop me off at Goodyear for 100.00 dollars cash. Sold. I began getting ready to meet him at home when Steve called. Good News I called Good Sam Travel Assist and they will pick up the van today and drive it home. Really? I was skeptical, but he insisted I stop worrying and let them take care of it. All I had to do was drive home, get the documents to prove that he had been seen at the emergency room in Williamsburg and was scheduled for surgery Saturday in Richmond, fax them to this name and number with case no. 402-905 on each sheet and it was a done deal. I drove the 30 miles home and drove back to work to use the fax machine, and finally got back to work. It was noon.
At 5:30 I left work and drove home to find no big red van in the driveway. So I watched Steve go through the routine and tell the story to a new person who told him that the case was in decision mode with a committee and sometimes it takes 2 to 3 weeks for a decision like this to be made. Ha! Poor Steve, in all his pain, could see that I was about to tip over the edge. He convinced me to leave the van retrieval to him and that if Good Sam couldn’t help then he would get a friend who was willing to drive for 2 hours to get me to my van and back home. OK, I can do that.
6/19/14: Thursday morning Steve and I were in a pre-surgical meeting at MCV Hospital with the anesthesia doctor, when I got a phone call. Good news. We have decided that your case is valid and we have made arrangements for your van to be delivered home by 2:00 p.m. today. Yay! The logistical portion of this nightmare is about to be over. Then we drove off to the south side of Richmond for an additional MRI that the surgeon requested, and back home. Steve’s pain level, after all that driving around, was at about a 10; when in the driveway, pulled a big flatbed tow truck with a small green rusty 1970’s minivan with the front end smashed in and one headlight dangling out of the socket. You have got to be kidding!
I flew out the door and ran up the driveway beside the tow truck looking at the driver and pointing at the heap chained onto the back. What the hell is this? What the hell is this? He couldn’t hear me, but he had a big smile on his face. He stopped the truck and shouted, I brought your van back! I shouted (Mod Edit) and stomped back into the house. Immediately I went back out and apologized to the driver who now was becoming aware that something was wrong. That piece of junk is not my van! My van is a big red beautiful E250 with a license plate that says Old Stuff! O yeah, I saw that one there, but this is the one they gave me. Are you saying that you went there not knowing what it was you were supposed to pick up? They just told me to drive to Williamsburg and pick up a van at Goodyear. Steve, who had limped onto the back porch, threw up his one good arm and said, we’re cursed! At that point I started to laugh. We all managed a small laugh. Man, I hope you’re paid by the hour. Nope, I’m paid by the job. There was a little more nervous laughter, and then I began begging him get this piece of junk off my property, drive back to Williamsburg, get my big red van and bring it home to us. I could tell that he had done his job - he picked up and delivered a van, crossing 140 miles to do so. I saw that the fate of the van rested in his kind willingness to help. So off he went with the ugly green van and I drove off to work. It was 1:00 p.m.
The drive to and from Williamsburg takes about 2 and a half hours. Rush hour traffic makes it 3 and a half, tops. I got home at 6:00 p.m. to no red van in the driveway. It had been over 4 hours. By 8:00 p.m. I began to wonder what my next step could possibly be. Call the police and report a stolen van? Just then the big flatbed tow truck with the smiling driver, pulled in the driveway with the big red van! I ran outside jumping up and down. You brought home my van! Thank you! He then described how he had had a flat tire on the back inner duelly tire on his flatbed and had to sit out a thunderstorm before he could change the tire. I have no idea how a person would go about changing the inside tire of a double tire set, but apparently it takes some time. We talked for a while about shoulder injuries, America’s health care system and Vietnam. I gave him a hug and thanked him.
6/21/14: Saturday morning I must admit I was frightened about the impending surgery, given the long string of errors that this week had dealt us. What else could happen? I didn’t want to think about it. Steve’s surgery took many hours, but finally he was screwed and plated back together and was safely sleeping in a hospital bed. The healing had begun. Thank you Dr. Boardman.
I brought Steve home from the hospital Monday morning, a week after the accident. It’s taken me another few days to calm down. I think I can relax now. As I am writing this, I want to thank Bowman Consulting Group, the civil engineering company where I work, for quickly setting me up to work at home, and for their kind words of encouragement. The folks there turned out to be the rock that was always on our side. To Steve’s family, I want you all to know that he will have six weeks in a sling and another six months of recovery and physical therapy, so I don’t think he will be back on the water for a while. In fact, Steve probably won’t be back on the boat till next year’s debugging trip. I think next year I will just go along with him, take my smart phone and make all of my own aftermath arrangements. It will be much less stressful that way. Lastly, I want to tell all of the recreationally-towing public, stuff happens. Stay calm and take care of it. Don’t fall prey to fear-mongering, or you may find yourself in a big web of incompetence that will only make the stuff you’re going through worse.
Karen Laniewicz,
Newly reinstated AAA member,
Ashland, Virginia.

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Old 08-04-2014, 10:47 AM   #2
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Nice. In a few years you can look back on it with a few laughs.

Hope your hubby recovers soon and good luck!

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Old 08-04-2014, 10:51 AM   #3
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Wow, that was quite a week for you! Between the errors and worry about your husband, you were running ragged. Glad that your husband is fixed up and on the mend. Good for you being able to get the boat hooked up to Explorer and back home safe. Can't say what all added up to the numerous problems all at once, guess it was your turn for the crap sandwich.

About the only thing I can see out of this is another example of Bad Sam service. It seems you are better off to do things yourself.
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:52 AM   #4
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Welcome to the club, Karen, and I think you missed your calling. Your post could easily be in, "Readers' Digest"

Thanks, also, for your comments about dealing with Good Sam...er, with Sam, anyway!
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Old 08-04-2014, 02:20 PM   #5
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I think you should post this on RV.Net RV and Camping Forum ? RV, Trailer, Camper, Motorhome, Camping and Campground Information. Good Sam monitors those forums.
Linda, Robin & Buddee(Cavalier)
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Old 08-04-2014, 02:27 PM   #6
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If you didn't have bad luck you wouldn't have any @ all.. sorry for you hubby hurting him self. not a good thing to go by self some time. Get will soon and you really no how to tell a story.
hang in there and have a good rest of the yr.
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Old 08-04-2014, 02:28 PM   #7
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Old 08-04-2014, 03:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Not a Clue View Post
I think you should post this on RV.Net RV and Camping Forum ? RV, Trailer, Camper, Motorhome, Camping and Campground Information. Good Sam monitors those forums.
i think so too

there are alot of us that are unhappy with Good Sam
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:17 PM   #9
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Sorry for your bad luck. When your hubby is back into boating look into a Boat US membership with the Trailering add-on. It's not horribly expensive and it won't cover your camper but everything I've heard about them and dealing with boats a d tow vehicles is good.
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:53 AM   #10
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Thanks. I never heard of that and I will look into it.
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:53 AM   #11
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OK. I'll give it a try.
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Old 08-05-2014, 06:17 AM   #12
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What an ordeal! I'm glad your DH is on the mend. That sounds like a horrific break and no doubt will take quite sometime to fully recover from.

The delivery of the beat up green van is hilarious. No doubt, all you could do is laugh at that point.

I had contemplated switching to GS but think I'll stay where I am. Thanks for the chuckles this morning!
Karen & Gary Glamping is not for the faint of heart!
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Old 08-05-2014, 06:47 AM   #13
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I thought I was reading an episode of "I Love Lucy."
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:15 AM   #14
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Another reason why I use Coach-Net and want nothing to do with Camping World service.

God speed and a speedy recovery!

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