Tales from the Road | Member Testimonials
In November of 2003 we were returning to our home in Anchorage, Alaska, from a rally in Georgia, pulling a 25’ trailer behind our Wanderlodge. Our combined weight was over 20 tons and our length was 61 feet. A short time after we passed through Cache Creek, B.C. our air pressure began to drop, just before we started up a long grade. I looked in the rear view mirror. Billows of steam from the rear of the coach told me we were overheating. I immediately pulled as far to the right side of the road as I could, shut the engine down, put the emergency brake on and started to get up from my seat. We started rolling backward down the hill. I jumped back in the seat and stepped on the brake pedal. I had barely enough air pressure left to stop the backward roll. My wife put her foot on the brake pedal and we did an acrobatic routine to get her in the driver seat to stand on the brake while I went out and chocked the wheels. I couldn’t understand what was going on. When you lose air pressure the emergency brake is supposed to be applied automatically by springs.
We were miles from any repair facility and miles from any cell phone coverage. It was just getting dark we were on a busy high speed road on a bad turn on an icy road and temperature about zero(f) or a little below. I walked to a nearby farmhouse and they kindly let me use their phone to call Good Sam’s ERS. ERS got back to me and advised that the nearest tow truck that could handle the Wanderlodge was in Kamloops, 70 miles away. It would take several hours for them to get to us and they would have to send a second truck to tow the trailer.
We were pretty relaxed for a while after that. We had heat, the rig was not rolling backward and help was on the way. Then the Mountie arrived and that all changed. We were blocking part of the lane because there was not much shoulder. The Mountie advised that we were on a bad curve on one of the worst hills in that area and it was dark (fortunately we were on a section with a passing lane so there was room to get by us). He was worried and wanted us out of there right now! He called and had his dispatcher try to get a tow truck right away. The answer was the same. The truck had to come from Kamloops. I had my emergency lights out behind the rig and the Mountie added some of his and we spent ensuing hours anxiously watching semis barreling by from both directions.
Several hours later the tow truck arrived. It took at least a couple of hours to get the “bus” hitched up to the truck, pull axels etc. Finally we were on our way. We had to go eight miles into Clinton B.C. before we could turn around and head back to Kamloops because there was no place to safely turn around before Clinton.
Our three Wheaten Terriers got to ride in the warm RV, but, my wife and I had to ride in the tow truck which had very little “cockpit” heat. We had to go through a weigh station and the driver said he had to do some fast talking to keep them for citing him for being overweight with the almost 38,000 pound RV. The tow truck dropped us off in the lot of Finning Caterpillar at about 3 am. Saturday morning (I believe it’s federal law in Canada and the U.S., RV’s are not allowed to break down until after work hours on Friday). Fortunately Finning works a half day on Saturday so they found “camped on their doorstep” us when they arrived later that morning.
It turned out that an automatic “spitter valve” on the air brakes had failed resulting in moisture building up in the air lines and freeze. The mechanics said they drained more than a liter of water from the lines. The frozen lines had trapped enough air in the brakes to prevent the emergency brake from actuating. The radiator fan is air operated so the lack of air prevented it from cooling the radiator on the long climb. A replacement automatic “spitter” was not available in Kamloops so they had to install a manual valve. By the following Tuesday they had the air lines flushed out with methanol (methyl hydrate in Canada) and we were back in business. We were a couple of thousand dollars lighter when we left Kamloops but not due to the towing. We were thankful we had Good Sam’s ERS. Without it we would have spent at least several hours more before we found a tow truck that could handle the rig and we would have had a tow bill for the 150 mile round trip. It was an “exciting” experience and an expensive one for my wife and me. The dogs weren’t worried at all. Most problems are easier to deal with after a tail wag and a lick.
Good Sam’s ERS? We don’t travel without it (and the dogs) to help make bad experiences a little easier to handle.