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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Disaster Diverted

~Sunday, August 7, 2022~

Day 784 (Travel Day-sort of)

Day 48 of Alaska Trip

The morning was a little busy with campers inquiring about the availability of our campsite before we’d even left. That’s what happens when you have the best piece of real estate in the campground. It will be one we’ll miss for sure.

Our plan was to arrive in the town of Hope today for a 3 night’s stay after our friends Katie and Wayne suggested we spend more than just a day’s visit there. To do this meant shedding off 3 days in Cooper Landing and putting those into Hope. The drive from Cooper Landing to Hope would only be about an hour’s drive.

We had the convenience of a dump station at our campground, though there was a line. With the rain at bay, Jeff decided it was as good a day as any to rotate the tires on the trailer. We’re really good about this on the truck, but have never done it on the Billie Jean. Jeff had already had his eye on the perfect LEVEL, roomy spot to do it….an overflow parking lot/boat storage just a 100 yards away from the dump station.

Step 1: Open a beer

Step 2: Make sure there is a beer #2 already chilling in the fridge in case things go awry.

Step 3: Loosen lug nuts on the first tire slightly before jacking up the trailer, so the weight of the trailer is on the tire. If you try to loosen the lug nuts while the tire is off the ground, there’s way less resistance in getting the lug nuts off.

Step 4: Jack up or in our case, move up rig onto a tire ramp.

Step 5: (if you don’t have TPM’s on your tires go to step 6) Remove TPM (tire pressure monitoring) sensors

on the tires making sure to label them to the correct tire for when you put them back on (each tire sensor has been adjusted to a specific tire on the rig).

Step 6: Label each tire with duct tape where each tire

is going to go for the rotation: Front tires diagonally cross to the back and the backs go straight to the front (no cross)

Step 7: Remove the spare tire for the purposes of having something on the axle while rotating

Wait, hold that thought. It looks like I’ll have to complete listing the other steps at a later date. “Houston, we have a problem!” Jeff’s puzzled look and head scratching gave it all away (that’s what happens after 30 years of marriage….you can read the signs without even a word 🤣). He came to the front of the truck to tell me, “You need to come look at this…..we have a much bigger problem then a tire rotation.” As we went around the trailer, my first question was,“It’s the axle right?” Here’s the “bigger problem”.........When the passenger rear tire made it onto the tire stand, Jeff noticed that the front tire was still touching the ground. Hmm….it should have come off the ground as well. When he grabbed the front tire to see why it wasn’t touching, the whole thing was BOUNCY!

(even though we had loosened the lug nuts ever so slightly to be able to get the tire off, it shouldn’t be bouncy!) Oh my God……the trailer is not attached to the axle on that side!!!!!! To give you a better description of what this is supposed to look like, there is a steel C-channel with 2 holes in it. The bolts are still there, but the area where the bolts feed into is completely sheered off in not 1 place, but 2, on the one side of the trailer. Basically, the only thing keeping the axle attached to the C-channel was the WEIGHT of the trailer. We shudder to think what this could have done, especially in Alaska with all the brutal roads we’ve been on, not to mention hours from any repair shops. The question is how long have we been driving with it like this? If it hadn't been for the tire rotation, we wouldn’t have found it (likely). It’s not something you would really look for in the way of maintenance, but of course that’s changed now. So scary. We are very fortunate to dodge another bullet and at no expense (so far). It could have done thousands of dollars in damage to the underside of the trailer, not to mention possibly causing an accident. We certainly have our guardian angels with us.

O.k……now what? It’s Sunday and we are 20-30 minutes from any service. And we should not proceed in trying to get to our next campground at the risk of an accident or further damaging the trailer. Our solution was to drive back SLOWLY to our campground loop (only 5 minutes away), plop down the rig, and head into Cooper Landing to get a cell signal to cancel our campground reservation in Hope. We made it back to the campground safe and sound, though our former, awesome site #2 was already taken, but we were able to nab the next best site….Site #3. Just as we got cell service, I phoned to cancel our reservation at Mariner Park in Hope and boy were they ever understanding of our last minute cancellation. She even said they wouldn’t charge us for the short notice due to our misfortune. Thankyou Susan!

With that behind us, we could then come up with a plan for tomorrow, when things open up again. Since I have a great connection with Raeshell in the parts department at Lance in Lancaster, we’re going to start there to see 1. If they have the part and 2. What the fastest way would be to get it to us (maybe she’ll tell us to call the axle manufacturer (Dexter) directly….we just don’t know). Two things are for sure…..we won’t be getting out of here this week and we’re likely looking at a 2-hour drive to Anchorage to pick it up. Jeff is still on the fence about trying to fix it himself (will have to weigh the cost of buying the tools to fix it vs. paying someone to fix it). We will know more tomorrow. Yes, my handy dandy husband knows a thing or two about repairing RV’s. Gosh, the more we think about what COULD have happened, it might have been the end of our Alaska trip for sure.

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