A "Pitiful" Adventure This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   Sometimeseven miserable experiences can bring families closer. Even though the pain,whining and fights of a truly awful vacation can be traumatizing, when we lookback we realize it wasn't that bad. This is the story of the "Pitiful,"and the family trip that gave it its name.

When I was in fifth grade, myaunt and uncle purchased a motor home. It was beautiful inside, with the spaceand appliances of a house. I was fascinated - and so was my father. We startedlooking for our own, and finally decided on a 1992 Ford Pinnacle. It wasn'telaborate, but could accommodate six people, which was exactly what weneeded.

Our first venture was a weekend trip to Maine. We set out withhigh hopes to visit the Desert of Maine, which my aunt and uncle said wasabsolutely stunning. I, of course, did not believe there was a desert in Maine,but sure enough, there is. My brothers and I were ready to explore when suddenlythe sky grew dark and heavy bullets of cold water dropped on our heads. We allrushed into the RV.

My mother was making dinner when I felt a drop on myhead. I said, jokingly, "Dad, I think it's raining in here." He lookedup from his computer and gave a slight chuckle, but then hefrowned.

"Susan!" he said to my mom. "Look at the ceiling!The rain is coming right through the roof!" In a matter of seconds the dampspots became holes, and it actually started raining in the RV. We escaped thedownpour by driving home. All the roof needed was some minor caulking, and myfather assured us that the motor home was as good as new, and ready for our bigadventure out West: a three-week trip to Yellowstone National Park. How verywrong he was.

We set out with our hearts full of hope, and the promise ofcoming home to a beautiful new kitchen that would be completed in our absence.Our first indication of trouble was in the first four miles: whenever we stopped,everything in the cupboards and refrigerator flew to the ground. My mother wasangry at my father for stopping short, and my father was angry too, convincedthat she had forgotten to secure everything. My twin brothers and I found thisamusing, but knew better than to laugh.

Somewhere in New York, the motorhome made a rumbling noise and stopped in the middle of the highway. My fatherkept pressing the gas pedal to try to coast to the exit. Eventually, we weretowed to a gas station. My mother walked us down the road for pizza, and withinhours we were back on the road, my father not quite as confident.

We hadplanned to meet my aunt and uncle, who had set out two days before us, but wenever made it. In a place I'll never forget - Joliet, Illinois - at about 8 p.m.,our motor home once again rumbled to a stop. This time, ourentire electrical system had failed, leaving us stranded with no breakdownlights. The trucks rattled us as they whizzed by in pitch black.

As myparents once again frantically called the roadside service, my aunt and unclefound us. It was somewhere around 4 a.m. when the tow truck finally arrived andtook us to a nearby service station. The prognosis was grave. The fuel pumpneeded to be replaced, but this part was 90 miles away, and my father would needto be towed there for the part to be installed. The question was, should wecontinue? The adults argued, and my aunt and uncle even started to drive away.Then they turned back and said that if we could just fix this one problem, wewould all have a great time out West. So, we spent the next day in a parking lotin my aunt's motor home, waiting for our fuel pump.

By now, my parents hadspent a fortune, and were still not sure that the trip would be possible. Withthe fuel pump finally replaced, my father brought the motorhome back and wehovered around as he tried to start it up. Nothing happened. Well, now it reallylooked like we would have to cancel our trip. My aunt would have to go on andleave without us, and we would have to fly home. In the midst of this grimness,my mother decided to call my grandmother to find out how the remodeling was goingat home. More bad news.

The contractors had hung the wallpaper upside downand refused to fix it, so instead of baskets holding fruit, my grandmother said,the fruit was spilling out. This was too much for my mother. My brothers and Iwatched with despair as my mother broke down, wailing like a dying animal. Shehad been so good about all the problems, telling us that everything was fine, butthe wallpaper was too much.

My father and uncle decided to take mattersinto their own hands. Armed with a few tools and a battery charger, they weredetermined to make our hunk of junk work. Mysteriously, and to the amazement ofthe mechanics, within seconds the motor home fired up. My mother stopped herwailing. We would be able to make our trip after all.

We finally made itto the Mount Rushmore KOA, one of our scheduled stops. There we rented a car andset out to sightsee. My aunt and uncle wanted to stay and watch the fireworks,since it was the Fourth of July, but we decided to go back to the campground,since my brothers were tired.

On the way back, the rental car overheated,and we were once again stranded on the side of the road, this time engulfed insmoke. South Dakota is not a great place to be stranded, and it seemed aneternity before even one car came by. My father had to walk four miles back tothe campground (leaving my mother alone with three children) but as he started,an older couple drove by in their van, and my mother flagged them down. And so myparents did something they had always been hesitant about - they accepted a ridefrom strangers. Under the circumstances, we had no choice. The couple turned outto be nice, and very understanding about our situation.

We were fortunateduring the rest of our trip and had a wonderful time in Yellowstone the nextweek. Even though our brakes smoked as we drove down the mountains, we managed.We even took in a rodeo in Wyoming. As we swam in the beautiful hot springs atBozeman, Montana, we realized how fortunate we were after all. The effects of thehorrible journey west were starting to fade.

On the way home my fatherrealized that something terrible was happening with the transmission. For somereason, we could only go 40 m.p.h., and it would not pop into the next gear.Determined to ignore the problem, we continued home. By the time we got toConnecticut, the transmission was making very loud noises. We didn't care, wejust wanted to get home alive.

Several days later, when my family gatheredto reminisce about our great adventure, our Pinnacle RV was finally given itsrightful and well-deserved name. My seven-year-old cousin asked, "Is thename of your motor home really the Pinnacle? Or is it the Pitiful?" We alllaughed, with the upside-down fruit baskets hanging around us, and realized that,despite everything, we had made great memories we will share for years to come.

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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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