Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10/23/07 No One Was Killed & Car Wasn't Totaled

One of the arms on the tow hitch connecting the towed car, a Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, to the RV came loose on Highway 2 nearby the Kootenai Water Fall, just west of the town of Libby, Montana.

During the drive through the mountain pass, I noticed that the floor was vibrating more the usual, but I attributed that to the rough roads in Montana due to the use of studded snow tires.

When I looked at my rear view camera screen, I saw the Maxx was not in it's normal centered position directly behind the RV. I confirmed this by looking out the left mirror and saw the Maxx (Yikes!), which should never be possible since the RV is wider than the tow car.

At this point, I believed that the Maxx had broken free. As I started to slow down, the Maxx bumped me. I thought if I slowed down the RV, I could stop the Maxx too. I alerted the children. When I got to a full stop, Dave was to run back the highway and wave him arms to stop any drivers from crashing into us.

I started to pull the RV closer to the side of the road and the Maxx neatly followed. I was surprised at how easy it was to stop both vehicles. Dave and I flew out of the RV. He ran like lightening down the highway. At the back of the RV I could see that the Maxx was still attached with one arm.

I moved the RV all the way off the road, called Dave back and we put the Maxx parking brake on, unhooked it's good arm from the RV hitch, removed the cables and electrical wiring, moved the Brake Buddy from the driver's seat, reinstalled the fuse in the engine compartment and started the engine to see if it would still run, at a speed that make a pit crew envious. Dave stowed the broken hitch and we checked the RV and car for damage.

The tow hitch arm that had come loose (probably because Dave didn't correctly anchor the pin, compounded by my incomplete check of his work -- I should have found the error in my pre-trip checkout) was completely ground down by rubbing on the highway, probably that was the vibration I was feeling. Of course the securing pin was missing. The rest of the hitch looked fine.

The RV was completely undamaged. The Maxx has a couple gashes out of the front bumper, maybe from bumping into the RV, and the license plate is smashed, but readable.

We drove the Maxx into town and stopped at the local Forest Ranger's office. In there I met a local woman with an RV who thought "Twinkle Welding" might be able to help me. She even drove me to their location -- thank you, good samaritan!

Twinkle Welding took me back to get the RV. When they saw the tow hitch, they thought it could be repaired. They ordered parts from the manufacturer of the tow hitch which were sent by overnight mail.

There was a lovely RV park a few miles from the welding shop, so we parked and hoped that the overnight shipment would arrive. We were told by numerous local residents that there really is no "overnight" to the town of Libby; UPS overnight usually takes two days.

The owner of the RV park told her own "tow car sets free from the RV" story. Their car completely escaped, even breaking the emergency cables, and rolled away, over a berm, and into a farmer's field between the posts of the fence virtually undamaged. If the car had broken free earlier, it could have killed pedestrians in the town or if it was later, the car could have gone over a cliff.

We also feel remarkably lucky. Look at all the lucky breaks:

1. The car didn't break all the way free and run someone over or crash into another car.
2. The car could have been very badly damaged, but instead it tracked neatly behind the RV for enough miles to grind one of the tow arms off, yet it was only slightly banged up.
3. The RV could have been damaged by the car bashing into it.
4. We broke down close to a town.
5. I met a kind stranger who took me to quality, welding repair shop that knew about tow hitches.
6. The tow package manufacturer in Nebraska had a web site where the welding shop manager could identify the needed parts.
7. He accidentally ordered the parts for the 2007 tow package, but I had the 2006 tow package. He realized his problem before the 2007 parts had been sent out, thus saving us from paying a $90 shipping fee to get the wrong parts.
8. The tow package manufacturer took the order and shipped the parts from Nebraska 35 minutes before they closed for the day.
9. We stayed overnight in a lovely RV park with WIFI.
10. UPS got an overnight package in 21 hours to "no-where Wyoming" to quote the welding shop manager.
11. The right parts were in the package to repair the tow arm.
12. The welding shop stopped everything to work on the project.
13. The parts, shipping and repair bill was only $255.

If we hadn't gotten so lucky, the damage costs could have been staggering and someone could have gotten seriously hurt...

Conclusion: Mary Ann handles all the major safety systems herself; Dave can help on unhooking and managing other areas of the RV.


Catherine said...

Am I the first to notice the 'hidden boo-boo'?


Do I win a prize?


Mary Ann said...

Yes, Catherine, you do win the prize! You are now entitled to a magical day at Disneyland in December for you and your handsome son -- hosted by the charming and dazzling Sarah Malkoff! An additional bonus prize -- Mary Ann will meet you to drink margaritas in Long Beach!

Robert said...

Crazy story. I'm suddenly struck by a safety problem. Dave standing in the road waving at on-coming traffic. With the holidays fast approaching, could you use some of those bright red warning triangles and perhaps a bright red vest that someone could wear while placing the triangles?

Mary Ann said...

We bought a bright orange vest for Dave to go deer hunting today that I'm planning on using for exactly this purpose. (Will post more on this later this week.)

Some red warning triangles or some electronic flares would be an ideal gift!

Andreia (homeschooling said...

I love your blog and I love your attitude.

Living vicariously through your travels. Stay safe and keep blogging

Kuehn Family said...

Absolutely there with you... Hilarious! And happy that nothing major happened!

Love Much,
Katherine and the Travelinwelders...