CHAPTER SEVEN - Midnight, Time For A Homicide

It was approaching midnight, and we were making good time up the highway. We were near Knoxville, and we all agreed that it would make sense to stop at the next exit for a pit stop. Suddenly, Scooter smelled smoke. Was it coming from in the RV? From outside? Were we on fire? JC and I proceeded to sniff out the problem, and the path led us to the RV bathroom. The smell was definitely coming from outside, and was pouring in the bathroom exhaust vent. No sooner had JC yelled up to T-mo, We better pull off at the next exit and check this out. We were jolted by a loud "BOOM" and a shift in the RV. JC and I barely held on, as we almost toppled into the bathroom from the impact. Something definitely wasn't right.

"PULL OVER, PULL OVER!!!", "STOP THE RV!!!", "WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!". T-Mo wrestled the behemoth to the side of the road, and we all piled out of the Rambler to assess the problem. And what a problem it was. As we walked around the back of the RV to get to the left side of the vehicle, the air was ripe with the smell of burning rubber. When we got to the other side, we found the problem: the back rear wheel was gone. GONE! There, on the side of the road in the middle of no where were six travelers, an RV, and an axle without a wheel.

It looked as though the ball bearings in the wheel had failed. As the wheel continued to spin, the faulty bearings caused the hub of the axle to heat up until it was a glowing mass of metal. Once this was happened it was a short time until the hub separated from the axle taking the entire wheel and tire as well as the whole braking system from that side with it. Now we were in a real pickle, so we decided to call the police. We explained to them what had happened, and they assured us that someone would "be right out". An hour later, we realized that they were in no rush to assist us. Our biggest fear was that the RV would get hit by an 18-wheeler as it lay crippled on the side of the highway, so half of us decided we would hike up the highway to the nearest exit and try to get help.

As JC, Don, and I made our way up the highway, we did our best to spot the missing tire. Although the tire was of no use to us anymore, the wheel and the brakes would be helpful if we were to have anyone fix our RV. But luck was not on our side that day, as our search turned up empty. Walking up the road we also realized one small, but important tidbit: All of that diesel fuel we pumped out of the gas tank and into 5-gallon containers earlier that day was lashed down on the top of the RV. We were lucky the whole damn Holiday Rambler didn't explode!

Making our way up the highway with our little flashlight, Don proceeded to take the lead. Maybe it was our only saving grace that night, or maybe it was 'spider-sense', but I proclaimed "STOP" to Don, noticing a dark patch of grass immediately in front of him. He stopped, and we shed some light on my hesitation. There, mere inches from Don's feet, was an open concrete water drain that dropped down about 6-8 feet. One more step and Don would have fallen in and probably broke an arm, leg, and possibly his head.

With thoughts of 'Deliverance' in our heads, we frantically, but cautiously, proceeded to the exit. Upon our arrival, we hit a gas station and got some food, and called our friends. The police had finally arrived at the RV, and picked the other three travelers up. They were headed our way. We figured that no one could help us with the RV tonight, so we got a hotel room and hoped we could find a repair shop the next morning.