Adventures in Downsizing pt. III: Why I can’t own nice things and how our RV almost caught fire

So, here’s what happened…this time.

I was coming out of a building in downtown Redding that I frequently visit that happens to be on a steep street. There are three, concrete steps directly outside the building, but thankfully there is also a wheelchair accessible ramp.

Unfortunately, while the building has an ADA compliant wheelchair ramp, the VERY steep ramp leads directly to a crazy, scary steep sidewalk, which leads directly to an always busy intersection.

I have nearly lost control a few times already and once even rammed into my 4Runner at full speed when the wheelchair’s brakes managed to stop the wheels, but that fact and message clearly wasn’t relayed to the steep roadway…because I continued sliding and hit that rig while still going at least 10 mph. My poor, innocent truck now has (yet another) new dent to prove it.

SEE RELATED: Adventures in Downsizing pt. I: Songs of the mountain

SEE RELATED: Adventures in Downsizing pt. II: Full-time RV living at its finest or living in a tin-can nightmare?

Anyways, the dang ramp and sidewalk honestly scare the hell out of me. And it seems like that ramp has somehow singled me out and is dead-set on trying to kill me each and every time I have to brave what I have dubbed “The Ramp o’ Death.”

After we were done, we were leaving the building when we saw the wheelchair ramp was temporarily cordoned off while a maintenance crew was repairing something or who knows, maybe they were installing speed bumps on my “Ricky Bobby” behalf. I’m quite sure that by now the folks who work at the location have gotten used to replaying the building’s exterior security cameras and having a good laugh at my weekly follies.

While Robin was looking for either a sign with directions or a person to ask if another wheelchair ramp was available, I took one look at those three steps – steps that I had been eyeballing for weeks – and without another thought, I popped up onto the back two wheels of my stylin’ ride and just went for it.

Now, I understand that some will likely ask why I would prefer to face an unknown danger by doing something reckless and frankly stupid, rather than face the known danger of a steep ramp and hill.

But in my experience, doing something dangerous by choice while accepting the risks is nowhere near as scary as being placed in a dangerous situation with risks and dangers that are outside your ability to directly control. So, the two are definitely not the same thing. At least not in my bass-ackwards life.

Regardless what led to my fateful choice, I successfully – and very gracefully, might I add – jumped those stairs, landing – quite victoriously, and also quite hard – on my two rear wheels, much to the shock of people and workers who had been in the area and witnessed my stupid stunt.

Of course I only call it a “stupid stunt” under duress, as my wife is withholding the keys to my truck until I make a formal apology about my “reckless behavior.” Can you note the sarcasm in my voice? Geez, I hope not because my exhausted woman will be reading this later, when she arises from this bizarre thing some lucky people get to call sleep.

Needless to say, my sudden and completely irrational decision to invoke the spirit of Evil Knievel nearly gave my poor wife a heart attack, as she thought I went over the steps accidentally. All she could imagine was the inevitable wipe out she figured was coming my way… once again.

So, there I was in mid-jump – watching my audaciousness playing out in front of me in ultra-sloooooow motion when it suddenly dawned on me that just because my wheelchair was well-built and rated for people who weigh up to 300 pounds, it probably wasn’t designed for a 250 pound man to jump a flight of steps in. Even a small flight of steps.

Realizing it was too late to try to be rational, I knew I had to go with the road – or lack of road – I had chosen. So, all I could do at that point was brace for the inevitable carnage…as well as the huge ration of crap my wife was – very rightfully – about to be giving me

Unfortunately, as any rational person would assume, my wheelchair was clearly not prepared or designed for my little dare-devil circus act.

As the chair’s back wheels bumped down the three steps and landed on the sidewalk, what started out as the thump, thump, thump of my wheels going down the steps ended – quite spectacularly – more like a thump, thump, CEEERAAAAAAACK, as my wheelchair came down for a harder than expected landing.

…annnnnd, I knew I was gonna be busted. Again.

Even though my poor, harried wife – and way too many of my frazzled Guardian Angels – have witnessed me jumping my wheelchair over and down things such as curbs and sidewalks on many occasions, I guess she figured I knew better than to attempt something so clearly dangerous and insane.


Soooooo, my newly bent rear axles, previously broken and snapped off right armrest and the part of the wheelchair’s frame that cracked from my awesome landing are all just great excuses to pull out the tools and fabricate some cool new modifications.

Besides, like I tried telling my wife, if it has wheels it can be jumped. If it can be broken it can be fixed and if it can’t be fixed, we probably needed a new one anyways.

Wellllll, let me tell ya…. that “rationalization” went over like a lead balloon.

But, speaking of welding machines…

Recently deposited into the “It Could Only Happen To You” files was an incident involving my son’s new welding machine.

Last week my Mountain Man son got a nice, fat tax return from his hard work as a Millwright at a lumber yard and he went out and “treated” himself and the family to a new professional welding machine.

So, early the morning after Zack bought himself his new toy, I was sound asleep when I heard him fire up the machine. Through bleary eyes I saw it was just after 6:30 in the morning, but the mountain was clearly already awake and would not care about a bit more early-morning activity.

I was lulling in and out of sleep and listening to our neighbor’s insane goat Louie screaming to his owner the goat-whisperer to be fed and the sound of the neighborhood bully – The Stalker Chicken – lurking around outside our RV. Both those dang creatures like to hang around outside our RV and just stare at our door and windows, waiting for one of us to come out so they can attack. I swear to God, that chicken and goat are of the devil and want to devour our souls.

Anyways, I was enjoying the snugly warmth of my woman next to me in bed when I thought I heard a loud boom come from the old carriage house right next to where we now live in our RV. I sat straight up in bed and listened for the sound of screaming or chaos, but I heard nothing but loud, salty language coming from Zack. I found out later he had just witnessed his very expensive new machine suffer a catastrophic failure – after which it was basically rendered into a big pile of scrap metal on wheels.

But there I was in the RV, with no real clue regarding what had just happened when I began to smell acrid, electrical smoke. The scary thing was I was not smelling the stench of burning wires coming from outside…I was smelling the smoke coming from inside our new, temporary home on wheels.

I woke Robin up and leaped out of bed, hopping/hobbling/maneuvering around in the dark on my one leg like a deranged flamingo that forgot to put its leg back down after being woken up unexpectedly.

To make a long story short, in spite of our sad and pathetic Laurel and Hardy act, we quickly figured out what happened.

After a bit of detective work and quick use of a handy fire extinguisher… twice… we learned that when my son tried to run his powerful new welding machine, the old cabin he and his little family live in was never designed to draw so much juice at once and decided it had put up with enough of the ongoing abuse.

So when he fired up his welder, the house’s electrical panel decided to go on strike, at which time the entire panel fried and blew out the electricity for the whole property.

And sorta caught fire.

But the fun, destruction and excitement didn’t end there.

Unfortunately, when the house’s breaker panel blew, it sent a huge electrical surge bolting into our RV like a literal shock-wave. Since we are running off a standard 110 outlet via an extension cord, rather than a dedicated and surge-protected 220 outlet, the surge completely fried our relay and melted/destroyed almost everything in the RV that was plugged in.

The final tally of destruction included our nice and cozy electric blanket, which we had only had for a week or two and happened to be the source of the smoke I originally smelled that jolted me out of bed; a DVD/Blu-Ray player that had all its buttons and face melted; an X-Box 360 with its power cord and adapter; one of the RV’s 4 TV’s; and our little space heater and a few other minor things that were fried as well.

Not to mention my embarrassed kid’s welding machine and the house’s breaker panel of course, both of which were still smoking an hour after the blasted welding machine threw its temper tantrum and caused our rude and smoky wake up call.

Now, before ya’ll say anything, I know…I know… “It could only happen to me.” and “I lead such an interesting and often bizarre life,” but this time it was my son’s stupid welding machine’s fault! Seriously! I was sound asleep and as far as the wives are concerned I had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thankfully I have learned in life – often times the hard way – that true success only comes from repeatedly trying and often times failing.

So, as I have always told my kids, Make mistakes. Make spectacular mistakes. Just learn from those mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes twice.

Needless to say, we will now only be running Zack’s new, replacement welder off our big generator.

Other than that, on counsel’s advice, I am invoking my right under the Fifth Amendment to not answer any questions, on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

Adventures in Downsizing is a semi-regular series, chronicling my move from a 3600 sq. ft., seven bedroom home into an RV with about 300 square feet, which coincidentally happens to be about the size of my old walk-in closet. I will also be going back and publishing a number of earlier “Adventures in Downsizing” and “Small Town Living” meanderings and observations I previously posted on social media. I hope you all enjoy my wandering, nonsensical ramblings.


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

One comment

  • Trevor, you are a great story teller, second only to an elderly Navajo man on the Big Res in AZ. I have listened to him for hours telling about when he was just a young Buck.. Oh BTW, my Science of Mind Minister once said ” if you want to be twice as smart-make twice as many mistakes”.