Dead Battery, No Brakes, No Winch, Ramp Stuck, Too Wide, Too Dark, Too Tired

I witnessed a magnificent example of persistence over the weekend. I saw someone who simply would not give up, despite numerous opportunities to do so.  I was sitting on my second floor deck with my wife Mary Lynn early Friday evening when our friend Charlie stopped by. He had a cup of Stewart’s coffee with him as he usually does and we chatted for 10 or 15 minutes. He told me that he had just bought a flatbed trailer and he was going to haul a van to Florida. He had to go home, hitch up the trailer and go pick up the van that was a few miles away on Route 40. I asked him if he needed any help and he said yes. Charlie has helped me out with a number of things around my house and I thought I could pay him back a little bit. I figured, how long could it take to put a van on a trailer? An hour?

He had just picked up the trailer that day and brought it home. He backed his pickup truck to the trailer and connected everything. We tested the trailer lights and turn signals and everything worked except the license plate light. It was still daylight so we didn’t worry about that yet. We drove over to Route 40 and parked by the van. It was a 1994 Ford Mark III van that had a wheelchair lift in it. It looked like it had been sitting there for a while. Charlie jumped in and tried to start it, but it was quickly obvious that the battery was dead. He grabbed a set of battery cables and we tried to jump start it from his pickup truck’s battery. It made a weak groaning sound as it tried to turnover. We let the charge run for a while longer and then tried again. No luck. Charlie went and got the owner of the truck who was in the back yard behind the house. The owner of the van is 78 years old and tireless. He had a portable battery charger that he put on the van. We let it charge for a minute and then tried to start it again. It fired right up. We let the van run to charge the battery.

The trailer was parked across the street at an old farm stand that was no longer being used. I then learned that the van didn’t have any brakes. Someone was going to have to drive the van across the street and get it lined up with the ramps on the trailer. But first, we had to get the ramps out from under the trailer where they were stored. They were a little rusty. I don’t know when they had been last used, but it had been long enough for them to be stuck with rust and corrosion. Charlie crawled under the trailer and tried to dislodge the first ramp. After a lot of banging and pulling and cursing, the first one came loose. The second ramp was even worse. No amount of banging, pulling and cursing would make it budge more than a few inches. The van owner went and got his lawn tractor. We hooked up a chain to the lawn tractor and tried to pull the ramp loose. It barely budged. We were going to need something bigger.

I called Mary Lynn and asked her to drive over in our Honda Pilot. I’ve used the Pilot lots of times on my 4 acres of yard to haul large limbs that fell out of my 100 foot tall pine trees. I wrap a tow strap around the branches and attach them to a very convenient hook under the driver side rear of the Pilot. I drag them over to a fire pit behind my house. Charlie and the owner didn’t think there was enough room to get a full size vehicle next to the trailer and between one of the structures at the farm stand. I assured them that my Honda would fit.

When Mary Lynn arrived, I moved the Pilot into position and hooked up the chain. It took several tries and we heard some horrible noises that made me wonder if something awful had happened to my truck or the trailer, but the ramp finally slid out completely onto the ground. We attached the ramps to the back of the trailer.

Next, it was time to move the van across the road. Route 40 is a two lane highway with a speed limit of 55. Traffic whizzes by at a pretty good clip, but fortunately it is not a busy road with constant traffic. The owner of the van hopped in and tried to put the van in gear. He had some difficulty for some reason and the van slipped into neutral and lurched backward into a bush, snapping part of the bush off. At least it didn’t hit the fence and pole that was right behind it. Somehow, he got the van going forward and crossed the road safely. At one point I was concerned that he was going to hit the Pilot before stopping and then I thought he might hit one of the farm stand buildings, but he didn’t. Then, after a series of maneuvers, he aligned the front tires with the trailer ramps.

The trailer had a winch on it with a strong metal cable. The only problem was that it didn’t work. We had another dead battery on our hands. I moved the Pilot into position and we jumped the winch battery. The winch then made noises like it was working, but it wouldn’t pull the cable  back into the housing. Charlie and the owner tried a lot of different things, but could not make the winch work. At this point, I decided to take Mary Lynn home because I didn’t know how much longer we were going to be. It was dark already at this point or almost dark. I can’t remember exactly what time it was.

When I arrived back at the trailer, Charlie and the owner had rigged up some sort of a pulley with a block and tackle. It was going to take the place of the broken winch. I think a lot of people would have given up or stopped trying at this point. If Charlie or the owner had not had a block and tackle and pulley or if they did not know how to use one, that would have been it (at least for the night). I suppose someone could have tried to drive the van onto the trailer, but it didn’t have brakes and what if you missed and fell off the ramps? You would have a damaged van.

They hooked the chains to the van and started to pull it up the ramps. They had to reposition the pulley and chains several times, but it was moving up. We chocked the wheels every time we moved the chains. When the front tires got up to the trailer wheels, we realized that the van was too wide to fit through. If we had another 2 inches it would have worked, but we didn’t. The tires on the trailer stuck up higher than the trailer bed. They had a strong fender over them. We were going to have to use more blocks and lift the van higher over the wheels.

I told Charlie that this van did not want to go to Florida.

We drove to Charlie’s house in the owners pickup truck. Charlie had a lot of blocks in his basement. They were 4 inches by 4 inches and about 2 feet long. We packed them in the truck and headed back to the trailer. It was definitely dark out by now. We were working with a flashlight and the truck headlights. We built a strong ramp on the trailer using the wood blocks and wooden ramps that appeared from somewhere. Slowly but surely the van inched onto the trailer. Charlie and the owner did the heavy, important work of moving the chains. Finally, the van was positioned where we wanted it on the trailer. We called it a night. It was 3:30 in the morning. I was tired. Charlie had to be at work Saturday at 7:00 AM. I went to bed at 5:00 AM and got up at noon.

Charlie stopped over Saturday afternoon around 5:00 PM and we went back to the trailer. He spent some more time chaining down the van and  moving blocks around to make sure it was as safe as it could be. He then drove the trailer back across the street so that he could put air in the tires of the trailer, the van, and his pickup truck. The owner of the van had a compressor in his garage. We worked on the license plate light again. We tried to pick up a new bulb, but it was almost 8 PM and the auto parts store was closing. We wouldn’t make it in time. We stopped at Kmart and Radio Shack,  but they don’t sell those types of bulbs.

Charlie drove the trailer to my house and parked it in my yard. My property has a large parking area. The first floor used to be a tavern.

Late Monday morning, Charlie came and hooked up the trailer again. Earlier that morning he had fixed a problem with the right front brake on his truck. He had some new, additional straps that he put on the van and he put a new bulb in the license plate light. It didn’t work right away, but after playing with the bulb housing some more, he got it to work. He decided that he needed to fix the left front brake on his truck too. We went to the auto parts store, got the part, and he put it on. Then, Monday afternoon, he pulled out of my parking lot and headed to Florida.

Tuesday afternoon I called him on his cell phone. I thought he might be in Florida already. He wasn’t. He was still in New York. His truck had had some sort of problem driving down Route 88 and he had to stop and get it fixed. When I called him, he was back on the road, but still in New York.

I called him at 1:00 PM on Wednesday and he is cruising through South Carolina.

I know he will make it to his destination in Florida. Charlie had all kinds of opportunities to quit, but he didn’t. He kept on going.

Charlie called at 9:15 PM Wednesday to announce that he had made it to his destination in central Florida.

Let Your Love Flow and Relationshop

Bellamy Brothers Album Cover 1976

The Bellamy Brothers Album Cover from 1976 featuring "Let Your Love Flow." Howard Bellamy is on the left and David Bellamy is on the right.

The recent Toyota Prius ad with the song, “Let Your Love Flow” by Larry E. Williams instantly took me back in time to March of 1980 and my first Relationshop in New York City. Although the song I remember was performed and made famous by the Bellamy Brothers, it was performed by someone else in the Prius ad. I bet that anyone who participated in Relationshop recognized the song also and was taken back to the moment at the end of the workshop when the song was played.  Relationshop was a two and a half day workshop that took place over a weekend. The workshops were held in NYC and Los Angeles. The purpose of Relationshop was to “provide participants with the opportunity to experience the truth about love, sexuality, and relationships so that frustration, effort, and scarcity in these areas are supplanted by mastery, spontaneity, and fulfillment.”

Dr. Michael F. Valente and Dr. Lawrence D. Lewis were the co-founders of Relationshop. I wrote about Larry in a previous post called, “Thanks for having the courage to be here.” Larry lived in Princeton, NJ. Michael taught at Seton Hall University and moved to Santa Monica, California in the early 1980’s.

The workshop was held in a hotel ballroom. It began on a Friday night and usually went into the early hours of Saturday. It started again on Saturday morning at 9:00 AM and went into the early hours of Sunday morning. It started again at 9:00 AM Sunday morning and went late into the night. There were breaks during the day and a dinner break sometime in the evening. The Bellamy Brothers song was played at the very end of the weekend. During the weekend there were lectures, discussions and what Larry called “experiments.” Sometimes the experiments were done individually, sometimes with another person and sometimes with the entire group. Relationshop was a powerful, life-changing experience for a lot of people, myself included.

If you click here, you can watch a recent video for Barclay’s Bank in England with the Bellamy Brothers original version of “Let Your Love Flow” playing. According to the credits on the back of the album cover, “Let Your Love Flow” was written by Larry E. Williams. According to Wikpedia, Larry Williams was a “roadie” for Neil Diamond.

If you visit the Bellamy Brothers website, you can see a video of them  performing a new song called “Guilty of the Crime” (with Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael.  Kevin Bacon really is everywhere).  I am almost certain that Howard Bellamy is the one on the left on the album cover. David Bellamy is on the right.  Howard’s picture on the album cover looks a lot like Larry Lewis to me. I don’t remember noticing that in 1980 when I first saw the cover.

I’d love to hear from any Relationshop graduates out there who run across this post. In March 2010 it will be 30 years since my first Relationshop weekend. It seems like yesterday.

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