October 4, 1996, was the official day our adventure began. Last-minute preparations were put in place. Excitement ran rampant and spirits soared.

We removed a captain’s chair and replaced it with a cabinet that would house our desktop computer and purchased a car dolly to haul our van. The last two pieces were finally in place.

We enjoyed farewells and well wishes with family and friends while anticipating what lay before us.

Although the day had finally arrived, a smooth launch was not to be. We drove about five miles before the engine of our RV stopped and we came to a standstill on the side of the road. It was a heart-stopping moment, and you could feel the excitement drain from the coach.

The initial diagnosis was that we were out of gas because the fuel gauge read low. After several trips for cans of fuel from a nearby station, the engine failed to respond and the problem escalated. A couple of hours had passed and since we wanted and needed to get going, a mechanic was called and he fixed a clogged fuel filter.

Relieved, eager, and $50 poorer, we continued the short distance to the expressway for a full gas tank. But our first-day ordeals were not over yet. At the pump, we discovered a flat dolly tire caused by a bent rim. We had left around 2 p.m. and it was now around 7, so open repair shops were limited. We took the van off the dolly and towed it behind the van to a station 10 miles in the wrong direction. Luckily, though, the tire repair was quick.

As we prepared to load the van back onto the dolly behind the motorhome, you guessed it… the van would not start. We finally got the starter to click in but as we tried to jockey the van into position on the dolly, it was too much out of alignment. So we needed to back off to line it up properly and, of course, caught the bumper on the dolly and pulled the left side completely off. With mechanical assistance from the now disbelieving attendant, we reattached the bumper. But the starter was very stubborn this time, and we needed to short it out to get the van started and back on the dolly.

We managed to work through the despair and while dazed and dismayed, we struck out around 11 pm for Cleveland. Looking back, this was a bold move. We could have legitimately just turned around and started the next day. It was very late when we pulled into the noisy rest area outside of Cleveland that provided the safest immediate area to camp, sleep and recharge our physical and emotional energies. In retrospect we made the right decision.

Cleveland would provide a boost to our morale and the perfect first stop on our adventure.

Mark Blondin, www.talesup.com