June 2-11, 2022
So why did we backtrack 90 miles from Pink Mountain to Fort St. John instead of continuing our slow, merry way north on the Alaska Highway? Herein lies a sad tale; but then, you all would expect nothing less from us, would you?
Departing from Dawson Creek midmorning on June 1, we only had about 140 miles to go. It was an uneventful journey north, up and down several short grades, down one not-so-gentle grade of 10 percent -- reminiscent of our harrowing drive towing the rig up and over Teton Pass back in 2015. Pink Mountain is the halfway point between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson, the next major - and I use that word very loosely - town along the Alaska Highway. I think for the sake of brevity I'll refer to the Alaska Highway as "AH" from here on out. As it's a pretty remote area, I fully expected to be out of any cell signal range, but was quite pleasantly surprised that due to a recently installed cell tower in the campground, my AT&T was working wonderfully! This turned into an exceeding good thing as we were very soon to discover.
Being so early in the season, the campsites had no water or sewer operating, just electricity. So we headed over to the water/dump station to dump the waste tanks and fill up with fresh water. We don't like to travel with fully loaded water tanks, especially on up and down roads and the price of fuel. We just carry a few gallons to use the toilet if needed. As Al went to the side of the trailer to open up the control panel, he noticed a crack in the outer skin of the front of the trailer. He also noticed the molding along the edge was pulling downwards. In his succinct words to me after pulling into our campsite, " You need to come and look at this. We have a serious problem." These are not words you want to hear!
As you all can imagine, we were really at a loss for several moments. The only thing we could think of was that something had broken inside, welds or whatever. My mind immediately flashed to the issues our friends Linda and Howard Payne of RV-Dreams had with their fiver a few years ago. There's definitely an element of shock that takes place, and it takes a while for your brain to unscramble, come out of panic mode, and try to figure out what to do.
First, deciding it was not safe to tow was probably the easiest step. But then we had to find a place that we could get it to that might have a reasonable chance of being able to deal with the issue. And realize that we are really not close to any large, urban area at all! Here is where the helpfulness of having cell service came in extremely helpful as we were able to jump on the internet and start researching. Do we look north, in the direction we are ultimately headed, to Fort Nelson? Do we backtrack to Dawson Creek, Fort St. John? So we started in Fort Nelson. Found a place that does RV work and called them. Nope, can't handle it. They do not have any certified welders. Gave us names of welding companies. There are quite a few as the area is all oil and pipeline workers. The places we called did not answer their phone, so we left messages, which, I might add, we never had a single call returned to us.
Then we turned to Dawson Creek. Didn't see anything there, but did find a place in Fort St. John. Called them, and stated the problem as we thought it may be, and they said sure, we can deal with it. We just have to get it to them. So that's the next problem. These folks recommended someone, but when we called them they were very hesitant about the prospect. You see, it can't be towed normally; otherwise, we'd be able to do it ourselves. It needed to go on a flatbed. So after thinking and reading a bit more, we decided first thing in the morning we would call our roadside assistance through Good Sam.
Now, I know a lot of people don't like them and diss them something terrible; but the three times in the last 12 years that we've needed assistance, they've come through. And this time is no different. We called, told the gentleman our situation and what was needed, and he was back on the line in about 15 minutes with a semi and a flatbed lined up for us. It wouldn't be coming for about 6 hours, but, hey, I was just happy that someone was coming!
So by about 6 p.m. we were down at Fort St. John, had the rig dropped off at the repair shop, and we moved into what would be our home for the next week or so at Pomeroy Inn and Suites. I booked this as the rooms have full kitchens because we would need to move our food into the refrigerator and we wouldn't have to eat out. And we've been very happy with it. It's clean and tidy, quiet, with free breakfast every morning, free dinner on Wednesdays, and free laundry!
So first thing in the morning, Al headed over to the repair shop to see what was going on. They had told us it would be midweek before they could deal with it but would take a look at it to see what would need to be done. He was gone quite a while. Long story short, they couldn't do it. They thought it was just a welding problem and weren't going to be able to deal with taking it apart and putting it together. They called another place that did RV repair, but they couldn't do it, or didn't want to anyway. At this point, he was feeling back to square one and we were possibly going to have to get it back to Grande Prairie or possibly even Edmonton. Then he remembered as we came into town, our tow-truck driver, Sam - who was excellent! took great care with getting the rig on the flatbed, making sure it didn't scrape anywhere - pointed out an RV repair shop and said it was fairly new but he's heard they do excellent work. So Al drove down there and talked with them. They were pretty confident they could repair it, and, based on what Al saw going on in the shop, he said it definitely looked like they were capable. So Saturday the two owners came up to the lot of the first shop and took a look at it and said to bring it on by Monday morning. They were going to finish up the work on a rig they had in one of the bays and pull us right in, take off the outer skin of the front and see exactly what we're dealing with and how long it's going to take. Awesome. Now we just have to tow it about 3 miles, slowly, on flat roads. We can do this.
Monday morning came and the ride over was uneventful, thank goodness! We backed it into the bay, and the one gentleman that we would be dealing with from that point on and who did the bulk of the work said to come on back after lunch. He would have it taken apart and would be able to see what happened and decide the best course of action. The pictures that follow will show what all happened.
So once the skin that is on the front of the trailer was removed, we started to look for the damage. When you are looking at the front of the trailer right where it makes the bend from the part that hangs over the truck when it's hooked to the hitch, there is a beam that goes from side to side. On that beam, the main frame forms the front of the trailer and also connects to the kingpin. I call it the neck of the trailer. Right where these all come together it looks like the welds have broken. But upon closer inspection, the beam that goes side to side is actually tearing. The same is happening on the other side also. So, instead of having a welding repair, we now have to replace the beam.
This is a picture of the passenger-side damage.