Some unclear Great River Road signage leads to a close call and our first trailer damage.
I hate playing the victim.
Everything we’re doing is by choice.
Bailing on suburbia. Living in an RV. Following the Mississippi River down to the Gulf.
No one is holding a gun to our head to do any of this.
But there are times where we feel a bit at the mercy of decisions made by other people and organizations.
The Great River Road is a collection of existing roads, managed by a collection of the 10 states the Mississippi River touches, each state having their own ‘Great River Road’ marketing. The entire deal then gets a top-level committee and website.
The GRR is mainly anchored by backcountry two-lane highways with occasional offshoots to smaller roads. We’ve taken a number of these offshoot “loops” - usually heading down a hill as you get closer to the river, getting a view of the river for a ways, and then heading back up a steep hill back to the main route.
Cue Tense Music
So far these have all been enjoyable - until this day in Kentucky.
We’re still not sure if we were technically on the GRR - and that’s the point, really. We followed a sign off the main route which looked like one of the river-bound “loops” that we have experienced. A couple of miles in the road came to a “V” - and with no signage to the contrary we stayed on the road we were on.
As expected the road headed down a hill and around a slight bend - but this time it started getting much narrower than in past. Signage started talking about “water over the road” and “ATV Route”.
As we neared the bottom of the hill the “water over the road” wasn’t a puddle - it was a stream crossing. The road was getting narrow, everything was looking muddy, and it just didn’t feel like a place to be with a 34’ RV on your back.
I wanted out.
I stopped us in the middle of the road and we got out to inspect. Crissa went behind and I went forward.
Behind was a small triangular-shaped shoulder area but also lots of edges with 1’ - 2’ drop-offs. Turning around would require backing up to this point and then a lot of back and forths, each with risk of dropping tires off the edges and getting hung up.
The only other ‘behind’ option was backing the entire half-mile up the hill and around the bend to a driveway we saw.
Ahead, past the water crossing, was more room to maneuver but the road edged a farmers field that was pretty muddy. That field is where I’d have to back the trailer into.
We were low on gas. Below a quarter tank which puts me in the “need gas in 20 miles” mode.
My truck tires are marginal.
And the truck is two-wheel-drive.
Visions of Tow Bills
I was starting to have visions of tow bills. We’re in rural Kentucky - probably an hour from any decent sized town. That wouldn’t be cheap.
Ahead It Is
I decided to go forward.
If we got stuck there at least there would be room to get a tow truck involved if need be.
My main concern was my marginal tires and the mud. I knew from my Jeeping days that it’s harder to get stuck if you have some movement going. I approached the water crossing at a slightly faster pace than I would have preferred. You can see what happened there in the video below.
I knew backing the trailer up would probably be OK - the spot where it had to go was softer and muddier but the road where the truck would be was harder pack and drier.
The transition point from backing up the trailer to pulling forward again was where I was most worried. If I applied the gas too fast and spun the truck tires in the mud we were done. The truck would dig in, the tires would be mud-caked, and with no 4WD I’d be stuck and calling a tow truck.
The second video has this part - you can see how slow I was in getting the truck moving forward again. But I didn’t spin a tire and the trailer came out of the muck OK. Videos never seem to really show the reality of the situation!