Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hattiesburg Agility Trial - 1st Pop-Up Excursion

John, Max and Willow pose just before we leave our house.
Legs Earned:  Maxie NS2, NS3, NJ2, NJ3
Q 4 out of 4 runs, all 1st place.
Earned NA and NAJ Titles

Our first excursion in the pop-up was a total disaster! I had entered Max in our first out-of-town trial, in Hattiesburg, and wrote about the trial here. Since John's days off are Thursday and Friday, he followed me as I towed the camper behind my Grand Marquis on Thursday.  We gave ourselves a whole afternoon to set it up.  It was my first time pulling it, and while it was jerky and bumpy in town, once I got going 75 miles per hour, at a steady pace, it towed fine.

Unfortunately, nobody told me I needed an extension mirror on the drivers side, so I couldn't see over or around the camper. Had no idea who was behind me. We had our walky talkies, though, and I was able to tell John to stay a good distance behind me, and watch my back. The traffic wasn't bad.

Arriving in Hattiesburg, at the RV area of the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center, we found all the desirable slabs (near the lake, close to the arena) were on a steep slant. What stupid engineering! Nobody prepared us for that. Nevertheless, I chose the best view, near a hiking trail. When lowered and fully extended, the two back feet of the camper were 3" off the ground, and we had no levelling boards! We scrounged around the park and found a discarded 2x4" piece and some pressboard we were able to tear up into little bits to wedge between the back feet and the slab.

Cracked slab under car.
Unhitching the camper from the car was a bitch because the slab surface wasn't flat, either. It had an enormous dip shaped like a V, which I had not noticed when choosing the site. No matter where we positioned the car, the camper was either pulling UP on the hitch, or pushing DOWN on the hitch. We had a devil of a time finding a spot where both were level, but this positioned the camper too far back from the patio slab extension, or too far forward of the electric and water hookups.

Feet finally stabilized, we unhitched the camper from the car it immediately began chattering off the boards and down the hill, and by the time we got it stopped, the back feet were no longer over the slab and there was a 6" dropoff to the soggy grass. Let me tell you, we were sweating buckets by this time. Of course, no one had told us we needed wheel chocks! We managed to push it back up the hill a foot or two, John held it while I backed the car up enough to chain it back to the hitch and pull it up about 5 feet, pulled the brake, then went searching for anything to chock the wheels before unhooking it from the car again. We finally found two old broken pieces of concrete block that were plugging up holes under the chain link fence around the lake, thank god, and used those.
At this distance, we discovered that our 15' hoses (one for water, one for drainage) were too short to reach the water spigot.  So we had to join them together to make one hose long enough so I could have running water. OOPS!  Need to buy longer hoses. I'm beginning to realize, this rig didn't come with ANYTHING EXTRA!  I didn't really need a sink drain hose anyway because I wasn't washing dishes, just brushing my teeth and rinsing out the coffee cups, etc.  What the hell, the sink could just drain on the slab, and excuse me for not knowing everything already.

All this in 90 degree weather, windy, and overcast.  It was muggy as hell!

?, with linked pens set up for all her boxers,
and a separate trailer to house her scooter
and other stuff.
We got the rest set up without a problem, went to the arena to set up our crates, then came back and fried up some thick pork chops on the built-in outdoor stove under out awning, somewhat what we had pictured our first campout to be, and visited a few other dog people in the park.  One of them was Susan Kelley, competing with her Champion boxers, and we were amazed at all the pens she set up to feed 6 or 8 of them, and how she walked them twice daily on her motor scooter, 1 or 2 at a time.  It was quite an operation! She warned us to take down our awning, as horrible storms have come thru that park suddenly and ripped them off of dozens of rigs.  So we took the awning down, then turned in.  For the rest of the weekend I smoked my cigarettes outdoors in the rain under an umbrella!

Next morning John and I were awoken by Nedra, who was walking her dogs and had come to find us.  That was real nice.  Then we went to the arena for awhile and watched the Excellent dogs compete before John had to leave for BR.  I was on my own.

Max competed in Novice FAST on Friday, just for kicks and to get Max used to the arena.  We scratched.  Need more distance training.  Everyone from BR went out to dinner but I was so darn exhausted, I stayed home and downloaded to my computer the videos I had taken of all our club members' runs, and watched them.  That was my evening's entertainment.

I slept well Friday night and we did very well on Saturday, 2 more Q's, 2 1st places with perfect scores.  We were 1/2 way to our goal.  Now we just needed one more Q in Jumpers, and one in Standard, to earn both our Novice Titles.  Saturday night we all went out to dinner and had a good time.  I refrained from alcohol, planned to get to bed early, and was confident all would be well on Sunday.

What I came home to, though, was a Battle Of The Bands going on in an open air arena right next to the RV Park.  The bands screeched horribly and the crowds were loud 'til 2 a.m.  I hardly slept.  Nedra had also told me to pack up as much as possible on Sat. night because as soon as our dogs ran on Sunday they were leaving.  I needed their help getting the camper hitched back up to my car!  So I packed everything I could on Saturday night, and between runs on Sunday I had to go pack some more, and lower the roof.  By this time it was raining and hot!  I left the dogs crated up inside the arena. I wore my thin waterproof jacket with hood, but while that kept the rain off, I was sweating buckets inside.  I felt almost feverish, weak and light-headed.

When Max and I had our first Sunday run, we Q'd with a score of 90, but barely, due to my exhaustion. My legs were like jello. Then Nedra and Cheryl H. and I went out to the camper and they helped me raise the feet, back the car up to the hitch, then unchock those wheels.  I drove the camper up to the arena and parked sideways along a curb, perpendicular to the painted lines of a long row of parking spots.  I took up about 5 slots.  Then I had to go back inside for our last run.  We Q'd again, but barely.  I was so sweaty, tired and disoriented, I just made stupid mistakes, such as releasing Max from the table BEFORE the judge said GO.  Duh!  I just could not concentrate.

My wee little pop-up amongst the big rigs.
Notice my neighbors' dogs behind their portable fences.
There were a husband, wife and 5 dogs in that family.
When I got back out to leave, someone had parked in the slot right in front of my car, and someone in the slot right behind the camper! Fortunately, one of the cars moved within about 5 minutes or I could have been hemmed in for hours.  So, I'm thinking, what the fuck else can go wrong?  I couldn't wait to get safely home.

I pulled out of there and vowed NEVER AGAIN to take my pop-up to a trial unless I have checked out the area beforehand, the weather is nice, go the day before to set up, and have some help.  Going solo almost cost us our title.

Yet hundreds of agility competitors travel to trials all over the country in their RV's.  They do this weekend after weekend, and many have real nice rigs, with fences to let their dogs out in, scooters to walk their dogs with, barbeque pits, etc.  It was so pathetic to see my wee little pop-up amidst all the big rigs.  But you know what?  Max, Willow and I were as snug as a bug in a rug.  Were it not for the, er, "learning curve", we would have been very, very content.

So, what else could go wrong?  When I got home, the next day I had to put the camper back up to dry the canvas out.  While raising the roof, a cable popped, one of the 4 telescoping pillars that raise the roof collapsed, and I could neither raise nor lower the roof any more.  It sat there totally lopsided. Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  What if this had happened in Hattiesburg?  We finally got our strong, tall neighbor, Thom, to come over and hold that corner up while I cranked the roof down, then towed it to a shop for repairs.  I explained about that repair in my Pop-Up Camper post yesterday.

Ace Maximillion von Fry, NA NAJ
Summary:  We earned our AKC Novice titles and the right to list them after his name!  Goal met. But it was sweating buckets the whole way. Here's a picture of Maxie posing with all his Novice ribbons. It shows 6 green "qualifying" ribbons, plus 6 blue "first place" ribbons, plus 2 red Titling ribbons. The best part is he earned 6 legs in 6 runs, and didn't NQ once.  It's a fantastic beginning, but I'm told it won't last.

Now on to the next trial to earn our Open titles.

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