The most expensive birthday present ever!

This post may contain affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.
Updated November 24, 2018
Bristol Campground View

After our stay near Rochester we wanted to slowly make our way to Albany/Saratoga Springs area to visit with some of Jonathan’s friends. We stopped in Bristol for a week so that Jon could get caught up on work after having some time off in order to get the RV worked on and visit with family.

We are all in love with up state New York. It was an absolutely breathtaking drive to Bristol Woodlands Campgrounds. With my birthday coming up in a couple days I just wanted to be somewhere pretty and near a town with something fun to do.

We pulled up to the camp ground, and the hosts were wonderful. There was a small problem with the site that we were supposed to have. The guy who was in our site decided to take off and leave his camper there in our spot even though he was supposed to have moved it that morning. So, they tried to accommodate us into a site meant for travel trailers, not large 5th wheels. After many sad attempts to back it in we were getting very frustrated with the whole situation. The truck was working real hard and acting up again then I saw it happen.

It began dumping transmission fluid all over the ground. Not just a little, it was a steady stream coming out. I told Jon we need to get the trailer in there or go somewhere else cause we are loosing a ton of fluid. After a few more attempts we decided to just drive back up the hill and take a moment to figure out what to do next. Only, the truck wouldn’t move. It wouldn’t budge in any gear. Craaapp! I just knew it, we blew our transmission. Ken, the manager, drove 20 minutes to the nearest automotive store to get us more transmission fluid thinking that would help. After pouring in several gallons we tried again to no avail. 

At this point, we had been here for 2 hours and still not in a spot, and now our truck wouldn’t move...we are stuck on a hill. I called a tow truck and they said they’d be out in about an hour and a half. The kids (and I) were HANGRY, I was so upset about the truck, and Jon was so frustrated with not being able to get into the spot we were supposed to have...THEN THE RAIN CAME! The manager could sense our frustration and invited us into the office and he went to buy the kids a pizza. Again, Ken the manager is awesome.

Truck Transmission Dying on Hill

Once the tow truck driver came, Jon rode down with him to the truck to see if they could unhook the trailer from the truck. We were real concerned to do that being on a fairly steep hill. If it rolled down that hill it would have rolled right into the trailer of the other gentleman helping us that day. He strongly suggested we not unhook it on the hill, I agreed with him. The driver of the tow truck got in our truck and used gravity to back the trailer down into an empty spot all the way down the hill. That was our only option. Jon and he worked in the rain for nearly 2 hours unhooking, backing in, and getting everything situated. The ground was so wet that you sank with every step and the rain showed no sign of stopping. Once the trailer was on the site Jon began to hook things up...until he realized all the hookups were in the back corner of the lot and our water line and electric cords were not long enough. Ken, again, helped us out by letting us borrow supplies from the office. Hospitality award for the best camp host goes to Ken!

The tow truck driver hooked up our truck and took it to the nearest Ford dealership in a town 20 minutes away. Since no one was there on a Sunday we would just call first thing in the morning to see when they’d be able to look at it.

I might add that the next day, Monday, was my birthday. We were stuck at home all Monday with very little food, no transportation and it was my birthday... Happy Freaking Birthday to me. We ‘celebrated’ by eating couscous and hotdogs, TWICE, because that’s all we had on hand. 

We found out later that day that we did, in fact, blow our transmission. They began working on it Tuesday and said we would have it sometime Wednesday. I had to get to the grocery so we ended up renting an SUV for Tuesday-Wednesday so we could run errands.

4K later, we got our truck back (my birthday present) and it’s been great ever since. This is why it is ALWAYS a great idea to have a large emergency fund readily available (thanks Dave Ramsey). When something goes wrong on the road, it always costs lots of money. 

The rain let up after a few days but the ground was so soggy at the campground every time the kids played outside we had to change clothes and wash shoes, it was a disaster. However, that campground is so beautiful. We will be going back for sure. Hopefully it will not rain next time we are there so we can enjoy the trails and scenery. 

Muddy Shoes

This was a really rough week for me. It was a not the best birthday. It ranks right up there with the time my mom and dad forgot my birthday in college. Jon tried his best to cheer me up with a song he had wrote for me 13 years ago.

Jon playing guitar

Looking back, it could have been a lot worse. We were still all together, we were all healthy, and a couple days of living off granola bars and couscous and hot dogs wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. But in that moment, I questioned our whole way of life. Was this the right choice for us? Did we think this through? But the answer was clear. This is the life we chose to have and God is with us through this whole transition. He has had his hand on this process from day one and we must not forget that.

While in Bristol, we found a near by town, Naples, and a cool little place to hike up to a couple waterfalls.  

Naples Waterfall

This is one of Jonathan's favorite spots so far.

Grimes glen

Ada held her shorts up like this for half of the hike. She didn't want them to get wet. Ha!

Ada shorts

There was a sweet little cave by the lower falls that we thought was super cute. Kids loved it.


Lower falls.


I ordered a paper towel holder which turned into a WHOLE ORDEAL because our cabinets aren’t solid wood so mounting it where we wanted was out of the question. Anyways, got that up after a couple hours...seriously, a couple hours!

Paper towel holder

We searched for a mouse after Jon discovered a chewed up granola bar in the pantry (on my birthday night we turned the whole house upside down looking for it. Never found it).

Jon looking for mouse

I made brownies from a mix I found stashed away in the back of the pantry and ate my sorrows away.


I taught Jax how to paint in the lines of a drawing. He didn’t know he was supposed to do that which I thought was super funny.

Jax painting

I went to a movie later that week, alone. I just needed to get away that week. I was a mess. The theater had leather seats that relined all they way! WHAT??!! I was in heaven.

Ashley movie reclining seats

I painted a sign, to remind myself that “it’s ok” when things don’t go as planned.

It's Ok Sign

I witnessed Ada consoling Jax about his hurt finger. Her saying to him, “It’s ok Jax. I love you. God will make it better.” I held back the tears. This is why we live this way. I don’t want to miss my kids’ childhoods. Because we live this way, we are able to see their relationships bloom and them become friends, not just siblings.

Ada and Jax

Adali copied a poem all on her own because she loved it so much and wanted it hung up in her room.

Adali's Poem

We looked for frogs.

Frog hunt

And we packed up in a sweet sunset and got ready to head to Saratoga Springs to visit with some of Jonathan’s friends.

Bike sunset

Up next, Saratoga Springs and visits with friends!


Become a Tiny Shiny Homie!

Subscribe to our patreon-style community & help support our family so we can keep making things for you! Get early access to videos, special behind-the-scenes updates, & goodies like exclusive stickers and name drops in our videos.

Signup & Become a Homie


Grab a fun, comfy t-shirt & help support our family.

Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

follow Ashley: facebook instagram pinterest

Posted July 21, 2015

comments powered by Disqus

Want to follow our story?

We'll send you email newsletters whenever we post new content. Just enter your info and hit subscribe!