Summer 2010
Pacific Northwest

Final Thoughts

Trip Map (as traveled)


When we discovered the problem with the trailer axle, I wrote, in frustration, that the trip was over... I was not going to add anything else to the trip commentary. A month has passed since the axle problem arose and the aftermath was not uneventful, so I decided to close out this episode in our travels with an update on the nearly three weeks until we finally got home.

After we had the tire replaced on the trailer in the rest area in Menomonie, WI, we continued on to our scheduled stop in Clearwater, MN, a few hours further west. When we got settled in the St. Cloud/Clearwater RV Park, we discussed our situation and decided that we would not chance continuing on with the trailer in its present condition. Even if we only went on to Vancouver for the wedding and returned, it would still put almost 5,000 miles of excessive wear on the tires on the rear axle. Our decision was to continue on to Vancouver for the wedding and come back to Clearwater to get the trailer and arrange to have it repaired while we were on the road.

Since our problem, like others before it, began on a Friday afternoon there was nothing we could do until Monday morning. Susie contacted all the RV Parks and cancelled our reservations. Needless to say, there were fees associated with the cancellations. We also made reservations in hotels along our route to and from Vancouver and asked my cousin Ruth to get us the wedding rate for the Vancouver hotel (we were not able to get the rate at this late date, but one call from my cousin took care of that). Thanks to Karen and Wes, owners of the St Cloud/Clearwater RV Park, we were also able to keep the trailer on a site at a reduced (we needed to have power to maintain refrigeration or lose a lot of food).

We left for Vancouver on Sunday morning making stops in Miles City, MT, Spokane, WA and Seattle and arrived in at our destination on Thursday. While in Seattle we had dinner with Laura G, one my Liberty Mutual friends, who was on her last business trip having been notified a few days earlier that her position was eliminated. The irony of having dinner with Laura in Seattle is that we live 50 miles apart and have been talking about getting together for quite a while and here we were having dinner 3,000 miles from home.

The long weekend in Vancouver was full of activities related to the wedding of Val and Noam Dolgin. This was the primary reason for traveling to the Pacific Northwest as Susie, my brother and I represented the Hess side of my Cousin Ruth’s (Noam’s mother) family. It was also an opportunity to spend some unhurried time with my brother. The ill luck that dogged us in the trailer didn’t stay behind in Minnesota. On Monday morning my cousin Ruth hosted a brunch for the out of town guests at her home. After the brunch Susie and I had planned to visit the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. As we were passing City Hall, I heard a pop from my tires and thought I probably hit a rock or something of that nature. I wasn’t that lucky and about 4 blocks later I pulled into a bus stop with a flat tire. We called AAA and BCAA truck came to change our flat tire. The BCAA service person told us of a tire shop not far from our location and we went there. Unfortunately, they did not have the tires in stock and we had to pay for a special delivery. We had a few hours before the tires would arrive so we continued on to the museum. Once again our “lucky streak” or as I called it, “The Black Cloud,” joined us. It turned out to be graduation day at UBC and parking anywhere near the museum was difficult so we gave up. The return trip from Vancouver to Clearwater was uneventful, but long.

During our trip to and from Vancouver we identified the name of the Warranty Manager for the Cardinal Division of Forest River. We made contact with him in the hopes that we could bring the trailer into the Forest River Service Center in Elkhart, IN to have the axle replaced. He advised that they usually schedule service a month in advance so that would be difficult. We were reluctant to pull the trailer the 1,500+ miles back to a dealer near home so we identified a dealer in Anoka, about 30 miles from the Clearwater RV Park. Working with the Warranty Manager and a representative of the axle manufacturer we were supposed to have the axle delivered to the dealer on June 9th, nearly three weeks after we discovered the problem. We left Clearwater on Wednesday morning in the hopes that we could be on the way later that day. It was not to be. The axle was not delivered until after noon the following day. By the time it was installed, it was really too late to get on the road. So, we wound up in the dealer parking lot for our second night. That second night we had a series of thunderstorms that went through the area from about 8pm until early morning.

It was still raining heavily when we headed out for Union, IL for an overnight stop on our way home. About three hours into our trip we stopped at a truck stop for fuel and I did my usual walk around the trailer to make sure everything was OK… it was. Ten minutes after leaving the truck stop, the passenger in a passing car pointed the trailer and then to the side of the road. So I pulled over. Walking to the back of the trailer I discovered that the rear stabilizer had deployed by itself and was now being dragged as we drove. Judging by the wear on the stabilizer, it must have just happened. In a driving rain, I tried to manually retract the stabilizer so that I could continue on to a place where I could get the stabilizer replaced. The shaft on the stabilizer was bent so I could not crank it up manually. As I struggled with the problem, a pickup truck stopped behind me and the driver came out to offer assistance. He turned out to be a professional truck driver and mechanic and he helped me partially disassemble the stabilizer and tie it to the bottom of the trailer. Once again I called the Cardinal Warranty Manager and told him of the newest problem we had with the trailer. He gave me the names of two dealers who were on our route. Neither of these dealers could help us, but one suggested going to Camping World in DeForest, WI (northwest of Madison). I called the Warranty Manager and told him that I was replacing the electric stabilizer with a manual version so that I could safely use the trailer on overnight stops and asked him to get us into the Elkhart Service Center to make the permanent replacement. He must have called in a few favors because he called me back in a few minutes and told me to be at the service center at 8am Monday morning.

We spent Friday night in Union, IL and while there, called a RV Park in Elkhart for reservations for the weekend. Monday morning we were at the Service Center gate before 8am and were brought right in to the shop area. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a stabilizer in stock in their local parts department and had to have it delivered from the plant in Goshen. By early afternoon repairs had been made and we headed to Streetsboro, OH for the night and on to home the following day. So ended the trip…

In the end, we drove over 7,000 miles and did not visit any of the places we wanted to see on this trip. As I said earlier, we did get to the wedding in Vancouver. During the trip we had two major mechanical failures, one of which had us staying in the St Cloud, MN area for a lot longer than planned. The plus side of our trailer problems is that we discovered an interesting area to visit and Susie discovered two quilting/fabric shops (one in St Cloud and the other in Anoka). Susie got to see the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, which is the largest Mall in the US (The West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada is the largest in North America). We also got to meet some nice people. I already mentioned Karen and Wes, the owners of the St Cloud/Clearwater RV Park. We should also mention Joy and Doug, who were in the site next to us on our first two nights in Clearwater. They offered to take our refrigerated and frozen food to their home and bring it back when we returned from Vancouver so we would not need to have the trailer powered up. They visited us at the campground when we returned to Clearwater and called when we got home to make sure our trip was OK. And finally, the unknown Good Samaritan who crawled under the trailer with me in a downpour on the side of a busy highway to help get the rear stabilizer secured so we could move on.

All in all, it was an adventure nonetheless. To quote sportscaster, Len Berman, “… and nobody got hurt!”