Our second to last night in Gardiner, Montana, I really wanted to get outside to appreciate the awe that is seeing the stars on a crystal clear night outside of much civilization in the “Big Sky” state (and before the moon came out). John was exhausted, just having laid down in bed, but I was antsy and really wanted to go out for a few minutes. Being nervous about going out into the near pitch dark by myself given all of the bear warnings and that we had just seen an elk at the next campsite that evening, John graciously got out of bed to look at them with me.
They were the most spectacular either of us had ever seen. As far as your naked eye could take you, there were endless amounts of stars, and a faint sighting of the Milky Way stretching across the sky. We lamented the fact that with our current camera knowledge, we could not capture such a sight, but if you Google “stars in Montana”, it was almost that good (unless you see the Northern Lights – wrong time of year for that!).
John, in fact, thanked me for getting him out of bed to see this – until…we tried to open the bedroom door to our camper and couldn’t. Knowing that we had only put the deadbolt on the front door, we couldn’t figure out why this wouldn’t open. We tried and tried until we realized that since we rarely use this door, the door handle must still have been locked from the outside. This was news to me, as I wrongly assumed that since we could open the door from the inside that it must have been unlocked.
Panic-stricken, having locked our keys, wallets, AND phones inside the camper and John being shirt-less and shoe-less in his pajama pants and me in PJs with a blanket around me in forty degree weather, we quickly brainstormed things we could do. We walked around to see if we had left any windows open – no dice. John then tried prying the door open with anything he could get his hands on since we had luckily left the under carriage storage unlocked in the camper. I might add that by the grace of God I had memorized the code to the keypad lock on our F-150 JUST THAT DAY, and was able to gain us access to the truck as well.
Not having any luck on our own, we went over to the one campsite still awake and sitting around their campfire. One of the campers had an old “slim jim” kit, made for when you get locked out of your car. We were convinced this would work, but to no avail. John pried away at our door like his life depended on it, but only managed to bend the bottom and top of the door out of shape. We even tried desperately to hook his jeans, which were on the bedroom floor and contained his keys, but could not even get close.
We then went over and the same very generous campsite neighbor loaned us his phone to call Good Sam. Also by divine intervention of the universe, he had Verizon, which seemed to the be the only carrier to work in our campground. We then tried multiple numbers we found for Good Sam, but only reached an Allstate customer service line. (We later learned that had we had our membership card on us, that the proper number was on that.) So we tried AAA to see if there was anything they could do.
After being on the phone with them for a while, we learned that someone could be out in an hour. However, they could not tell us if he would have the proper tools to help us, nor could they tell us how much it would cost because that computer system was only operational during business hours. We also could not upgrade to the RV level of coverage for 48 hours, as it takes that long to process a request. I politely got the claim number from the representative, thanked her, and asked if she had any Good Sam numbers, and that I would call her back if I was unable to reach them. She gave me a couple of numbers, both of which unfortunately also led back to the Allstate number. This time around though, I pressed whatever I could to get hold of an operator. Surprised to hear that I was not a service provider, but “locked outside of my camper in the middle of nowhere in bear country!” as I adamantly told him out of my frustration and increasingly numbing body standing outside of our neighbor’s car, he was very helpful and made sure I got through to the right Good Sam number – thank you, caring operator!
Once I got hold of the Good Sam operator, I held onto the phone for dear life as I could barely hear her and was afraid of losing reception like someone lost at sea afraid of losing their life preserver. They were having trouble with their computer system, and took probably twenty minutes just to bring John’s account up. We understand these things happen, but had some delirious, tired laughs about it at the time.
She then had trouble finding a service provider since we were so far out from everything. After being put on hold another 10-15 minutes total, she finally found someone who was three hours out.
Just then, we saw the loudest, clunkiest car at least 20 years old zipping around the campground. Saying to each other that it would be kind of funny if this was AAA, sure enough, the guy pulled up to us and asked if we knew of anyone “looking to get into a whiiite F-150?”. We then emphatically said it was us but that we had told the operator that we were locked outside our camper, not the truck, and that we were not sure if he could help us. After pointing out that our neighbor’s car that we were standing beside “didn’t look like no whiiite F-150”, John took him over to the site while I stayed on the line with Good Sam, waiting to give them the go ahead if he couldn’t help us. Nothing against AAA, they are usually great, but this was not the type of service we usually get from them.
Sure enough, shining his bright headlights on the camper and surely waking up everyone in the campground, he took a look at our emergency exit windows and doors and declared that he was not equipped to help us, and zipped out of there with a plume of exhaust following him. I then desperately told Good Sam that we wanted their representative to come out in three hours.
We then thanked our neighbor profusely for all of his help. Another stroke of luck, we had some extra bedding and blankets stored in the under carriage compartment of the camper, so we dug that out to curl up in the truck.
John got a little light sleep, while I tossed and turned, not really able to get comfortable in the front seat. Around 4AM, we both darted up as we saw headlights pulling right up to our site. In a sleepy stupor, I declared that this must have been what the people in the Titanic’s lifeboats felt like when they saw land, after which we had a pretty good laugh about realizing that that would have been a pretty far lifeboat ride to reach land.
The Good Sam representative was very professional and immediately told us that we could stay in our car where it was warm and safe. His vehicle had dim lights on the side which were much less harsh to our neighbors I’m sure, and he had the lock picked in a matter of 90 seconds. I apologized for him having to come out so far that night, knowing that he also had to climb that dirt mountain road to find us in the process, but he was very polite about it and said he had no trouble finding the place.
John tipped him for his efforts, which he said did not happen very often, so we were glad we did. With the relief of climbing back into our comfortable bed, we knew that this situation could have been much worse. We could not have had neighbors who could help us. We could not have had access to the truck, bedding, or water. But it still felt like we had gone through a bit of a trial at the time. With a good story under our belts, though, we were still glad to have seen those stars!