My latest quest for a Travco again ended in futility.
We thought we had a great deal with this one – the seventh we’ve looked at in just over a year. “Old Blue” was a 1977 320 in Summerville, South Carolina. Her owner Wayne was honest. She needed some work, but she ran well and was mechanically sound.
After a confusing week of import regulations with Canada and US Customs, our family booked a flight to Charleston. At 6 AM we caught a taxi to the bus station, where I discovered I’d misplaced the bus tickets. I offered to re-pay, but the driver must have felt sorry for us and took us at our word. The three hour ride to the airport was blissfully uneventful, but the five hour wait before takeoff was tedious to say the least. On arriving in South Carolina we realized we had no directions to the pre-booked hotel. The rental car clerk pointed us in the right direction and luckily we found the place in the dark.
The first day, we did touristy things – visited the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, boarded a submarine, walked through a living museum representing US military action in Vietnam – and crossed something off our bucket list. We saw the first submarine to make a successful combat attack – the Confederate Navy’s HL Hunley.
The next morning we drove to Summerville to meet Old Blue. She sat steadfastly under a mulberry tree, two little Chihuahuas lounging under the chassis. We introduced ourselves to Wayne, who took us on a tour of Old Blue.
As I stepped inside, I saw Old Blue’s engine parts strewn across the floor. And the steering column was loose. Wayne said there had been an ignition issue, but assured me it was taken care of and Old Blue would take us the 1,000-plus miles to Canada without a hitch.
My son and I spent the next day at Folly Beach searching for fossil shark teeth. We hunted for three hours, only to have an older gent bend over behind us and pick two perfect specimens from the spot we had just searched. It was warm and sunny, though, and we did get some decent shells to bring home.
That evening we walked along Charleston’s Battery Park seawall, marveling at the beautiful antebellum mansions on the waterfront. The weather was hot and humid with a gentle sea breeze blowing in from the ocean. Birdsong filled the air. A brown and white pointer stalked a grey squirrel. After a couple hours we returned to our hotel to pack for the trip home the next day with Old Blue.
The next morning Wayne helped me complete the Department of Motor Vehicles paperwork for a 30-day license tag. After lunch we inspected Old Blue one more time. The engine still had serious issues. After several hours of fiddling, Old Blue started. I eased her out to the main highway. The brakes shuddered. My left hand moved to flick the right signal switch. The handle came loose in my hand. Nervous, I steered Old Blue onto the street. The engine burbled one last time, overheated and died. I smelled burning wires.
We grabbed our bags and bailed out the door, leaving the stinking, smoky engine behind.
Old Blue wasn’t going anywhere. Wayne kindly refunded our payment. We scrambled to find a rental car to get us back to Canada at a very high cost due to the border crossing. As we pulled out of the Enterprise rental lot, I caught a glimpse of Old Blue being towed in the other direction.
Two and a half days later we made it home. We don’t regret the trip. Charleston gave me a taste of the Old South I never thought I’d get to try. And I really mean taste. Our last meal in the city was at a specialty burger joint and one of the dishes was alligator. It really does taste like chicken!
The quest for a running Travco had exhausted both our confidence and our resources. All we wanted was a special RV to travel and create family adventures in. Was that too much to ask?
Not 24 hours later, I was surfing Facebook when a message popped up. A sympathetic lady in Wisconsin was following my posts of woe online. She was selling her late father’s restored 1974 270 as part of his estate. She sent lots of photos, and we talked on the phone. Was I interested?
Finding a functional Travco had now become a mission. My husband and I thought about it for an hour. We went for it!
We will be in the air again, off to Wisconsin mid-June to pick up this Travco. I’d go this week, but I lost a week’s work going after Old Blue. Surely number seven is the one. I will hold my breath all the way there and all the way back until I get this one home safe and sound.