Jeep 1, Deer 0.
Siobhan and I had just finished a stellar bike ride in Lassen Volcanic National Park see previous post for more on that) and were driving back to our campsite at Manzanita Campground when it happened.
Bam 💥, right out of nowhere, a buck 🦌 was bouncing off the grill of the Jeep! It happened so fast I never even saw it coming.
One minute we are driving along, chatting about the great day we had. The next minute, I’m standing in the road surveying the damage to the Jeep and the deer while Siobhan is sitting inside the Jeep watching me freak out.
The deer lost, for sure. It’s no longer with us. We are fine, although, the Jeep sustained some front end damage in the altercation.
Ok, take a deep breath, this isn’t so bad, I kept telling myself. The Jeep is still drivable so we can continue our trip. It’s just an inconvenience…oh, no it’s not, that’s my Jeep and I love that thing and that deer just crunched the front end…wait, it’s no big deal, it will all work out…back and forth…trying to settle down…ok, take another deep breath!
I flipped back and forth like that for a while as Siobhan was worrying about the deer that was still alive but clearly suffering on the side of the road.
After a few minutes passed and I regained my composure, we drove the forty-five minutes to the Manzanita Visitors Center to inform the Park Ranger of what had just happened. He asked for the specific location and headed out immediately to put the deer out of its misery. (We learned later that the deer had expired by the time the Ranger arrived.)
Back at our campsite, we checked the Jeep damage more closely to find that a critical (yet simple) component of the towing system was missing. Prior to the altercation with the deer, there was a small plastic pin inserted into a black box just below the tow bar under the front bumper of the Jeep. It had a small wire loop hanging out of it that gets connected to the RV and serves the purpose of a back-up braking system. If the Jeep, while being towed by the RV, should somehow break away from the RV, this pin would be pulled from the black box and its absence would cause the Jeep brakes to lock, stopping it from rolling away.
Well, without that pin, guess what’s going to happen to the Jeep’s brakes as soon as we connect it to the RV. Yup, you guessed it, they are gonna lock up tight and that Jeep isn’t going anywhere!
At this point, panic set in. How long are we going to be stuck in this place before we can get a replacement pin? We didn’t even have cell service way the heck out here in the middle of nowhere. Internet connection to order one from Amazon, you’ve got to be kidding, right! Ahhh…
Well, if you’ve been following our adventure blog, you may recall that I believe certain people show up in your life at just the right times, when you need them most. They could be anyone. Maybe someone close to you that you don’t see too often or maybe even a stranger. (Think back to John at the USA RV Park in New Mexico when we lost the RV’s exterior refrigerator access panel, for example.). In this case, the campground host, Dave, was the guy that just happened to stop by our site to chat, having heard about what happened. He and I had spent some time talking about our motorcycle adventures when we checked in because his BMW was parked outside his RV when we arrived. We got to know each other a little through that common interest and I think that made him feel comfortable stopping by to see what happened. As I explained my dilemma about the brake safety pin, he urged me to drive back up to the scene of the deer altercation and see if I could find the pin. I thought, that is like searching for a needle in a haystack, not gonna happen, why even bother driving all that way. He kept pushing, questioning what did we have to lose.
So, back we went, against my better judgement. Siobhan and I both searched the road from a point prior to impact to a point well beyond where the deer landed. Then we searched both sides of that area too. No luck. Then, in a last ditch effort, I decided to walk the space near the impact one final time. Off to the side, under the brush along the roadside, there it was! We found it!
What a relief. Now we would be able to not only drive the Jeep but tow it too. That makes a huge difference to the rest of our journey because our only other alternative (until we could have found a replacement pin somewhere) would have been to have one of us drive the RV while the other drove the Jeep. Doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that also means neither of us ever get a break from driving.
With the pin placed back where it belonged, this sudden impact resulted in only one limitation for us as we moved on to our next destination. No more driving at night. That’s because the deer knocked both headlights loose. We were able to duct tape (that stuff is so helpful) them in place so they don’t fall out completely and they both still light up so we are technically legal (I guess). The drivers side headlight points up into the sky toward the passenger side and the passenger side headlight points straight down toward the road about two feet in front of the drivers side. Neither is very helpful in illuminating the road at this point. Good news is the duct tape matches the Jeep pretty well so it’s not that noticeable!
So, even after this sudden impact, we are back on the road again, rolling along, continuing our adventure! We will get the Jeep repaired when we arrive in New Hampshire.