Monday, October 24, 2011

Houston (err, Birmingham)... We Have a Problem!

We had dinner at a Denny's in a truck stop in Birmingham.  (Normally enough blog material in and of itself.)

We were making our way through Birmingham.  Our GPS was chatting away:  < insert bossy robotic British voice here > Exit I-20E on left in 2.2 miles.  Exit I-20E on Right in 1.2 miles.

No problem. Wizzing through Birmingham was a cinch.  I towed through Dallas the day before, and Little Rock... not to mention the other 1,500 miles in the past week.  (Was HALF of it through road construction with concrete barriers on either side?  It seemed like it.)

We had just navigated Birmingham's stay-on-I-20E labyrinth when it happened.  We were in the middle lane when we heard a noise.  I looked back to see a stream of smoke coming from the curbside (passenger-side) tire.  Something else was amiss.  The trailer wasn't level.  I thought "Oh my gosh!  Do I pull the brake controller? No! It's not swaying."  I pulled over. (My neighbors were happy to give me all the space I needed.)

We expected to change a flat tire.  But, nope.  We wouldn't be changing a flat tire.  There was no tire there.  None at all.... and no wheel. 

What to do?  We had a very tippy trailer.  The trailer was low to the ground on the curbside.  There was no way to get a jack stand under the trailer to level it.

We sat in a daze by the side of the road.  We started calling towing places.  We found a towing company that could handle our trailer.  Then the question came:  Where do you want it towed?  Well, crap.  We had no idea where to have it towed. (Not the Denny's.)  Finally, we decided the best thing to do would be to leave the trailer, go to a hotel, sit down with our computers, and figure out what to do next.  We needed some perspective.
I ventured into our slant-y house of horrors and filled a laundry basket with our essentials.  We were about to unhitch when someone drove up. 

Mr. Good-Samaritan had a car jack, mechanic experience, and a can-do attitude.  He whipped out his doctor's bag full of all the right tools. He and Brian went right to work with his jack to make the trailer level.  Dr. Samaritan looked at the wheel hub and quickly diagnosed the problem: our lug nuts.  He explained that our lug nuts weren't tight enough which caused our wheel to wiggle.  As a result, the entire weight of the trailer was on the wheel studs instead of the hub.  (Our trailer was just a little bit too heavy for those tiny wheel studs so all six of them sheared off.)

After pounding out the wheel stud remnants, Brian & Dr. Samaritan set off in search of new studs. Two auto-parts stores later they finally had 6 tire studs.  Also, a bonus!  They found our intact wheel with tire by the side of the road.

They worked to set the new wheels studs.  Thirty minutes of hard work later, they realized the wheel studs were too short.  Dr. Samaritan was just as disappointed as we were. At this point it was getting pretty late.  There wasn't any place open to get more tire studs.  Dr. Good Samaritan offered to come back in the morning with his jack to help. (Seriously?!  Wow!!!) 

We stablized our trailer as best we could.  Thankfully, it was level.  With a little tweaking Brian even managed to get the L-77 to lock.  We left our blinky triangle light behind the trailer and unhitched.  Unhitched.  Unhitched!  Did you catch that part?!  We unhitched and left our trailer, our BABY, by the side of the road for the NIGHT.  Alone!

At the hotel the kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow.  Brian scrounged to find a place to get our wheel studs in the morning.

I hardly slept...I slept just long enough to dream about needing 5 wheel hubs and not being able to find them.  (Why would we need 5 wheel hubs?  What a strange dream!)

We got up when it was still dark outside.  The kids enjoyed a hot hotel breakfast (Brian and I were too anxious to eat a morsel... and wired enough we didn't need the coffee.)   We traveled to the other side of Birmingham where we waited for two different trailer parts stores to open.  Finally, we got some studs to try at a third trailer place.

With the wheel studs in hand, we texted Dr. Samaritan and he agreed to meet us at the trailer.

 It was some relief in the morning, to see our trailer still sitting by the side of the road in one piece.

Brian had the (perfectly sized) wheel studs pounded in before Dr. Samaratian arrived (with his even larger jack.) The two of them finished the job together.  We were hitched up and on our way in less than 30 minutes.  It was time to go find some breakfast.

We are so thankful for many things:
1) our personal safety & the safety of those around us during the incident
2) the safety of our trailer (both during the incident & the night alone)
3) the kindness of a stranger with the gumption we lacked
 4) being able to find the wheel studs the next day
5) having our problem diagnosed  (Giving us the confidence to get right back on the road... after tightening our lug nuts, of course.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Our Big Trip to Texas

Roosevelt State Park, in Mississippi
After our first big day of towing we were thankful for a state park near the interstate.  (I was especially thankful to get a break from the road construction in Mississippi.)  Before heading out in the morning we stopped at the deer pens. How cool!

Tyler State Park, Texas
Wireless access in the whole park!  Fantastic!  The kids' favorite part about this park was the thriving racoon population.  They loved staying up past their bedtime and watching the racoons by the dumpsters.  (Conveniently located across from our campsite.)

Grandma's House
It's always fun at Grandma's house.  She filled our bellies and invited lots of relatives over to visit.  We had a great round of Christmas in October.

We took in the Texas State Fair.  It's the largest state fair in the country.  You just wouldn't believe this place.  There's a full blown auto show, bird show, buildings and buildings full of exhibitors, midway rides,
Big Tex (a 52' cowboy) and 21 story Ferris wheel.

Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.
I remember visiting this place as a kid.  I was really excited about sharing this place with my children.  When I went as a child, we waded in the water and we could (kind-of) see fossilized dinosaur tracks in the riverbed.  Now, Texas is having a huge drought.  (Everything is bigger in Texas, right?)  We picked a really great time to go to Glen Rose.  There were dinosaur tracks visible that hadn't been seen for 30 years.  It was A-Mazing!!!

These dinosaurs were at the Sinclair exhibit at the 1964/1965 Wold's Fair in New York.

We also visited the Fort Worth Stockyards.  It was such a treat to see the longhorn cattle drive right through the streets of Ft. Worth!

After a  fantastic week in Fort Worth (ending with some much needed rain) it was time for us to head back home.  For a little change in scenery, we decided to take the Little Rock/Memphis route home.  It's only about 50 miles farther.  We slept at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas our first night. We were the only ones in the horse camping area.  The girls were delighted that some campers with horses pulled in before we left in the morning.

We planned to drive the rest of the way home from Village Creek State Park in Arkansas. 

< insert deep anticipation-filled-movie-announcer voice >  Tune in next time to hear about our unexpected stop.  What kept the Sanders from getting home?  Find out in next week's episode of "Adventures with the Sanders."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Room Dividers, the details

I would love to take all the credit for making our room dividers but they weren't my idea.  I found a great thread on Airforums that had instructions for making the dividers.

Here's how I made our room dividers:
We purchased two sets of vertical blinds.

They come in 3 1/2'' widths.  The slats were too wide for our curtain.  So, I cut them (lengthwise) down to 2 1/2''.  They were also too tall.  I cut them to 70''.

Here's the sew-boring details:
  • Cut the fabric to make a giant pillow case.
    • For the front curtain:  144" tall (plus 1'' for two 1/2'' seam allowances) by 51'' wide (plus 1'' for two 1/2'' seam allowances.)
    • For the back curtain: 144'' tall (plus 1'') by 42'' wide (plus 1'')
  • Sew over the top edges 1/2'' inch
  • Sew the fabric edges together like a giant pillowcase, right sides together.  
  • Turn the "pillowcase" right sides out.
  • Sew a sleeve 3'' wide for each vertical slat.  Front curtain will have 17 sleeves/slats.  Back curtain will have 14 sleeves/slats.
We were able to use our current track but needed to get new curtain sliders.  VTS sells sliders for our track but I was able to pick our curtain sliders up locally.  Georgia's "oldest and largest RV dealer" is only a convenient 3 miles from my house.  They've been open since 1952. 

I didn't want to use the traditional curtain pin hooks/drapery hooks because I was afraid they would fall out easily.  Instead, I used 1'' binder rings that I picked up at the office supply store.

After I made the curtain, I made holes in every other slat to hang the curtains.  I made a hole in both sides of the fabric where I attached a brass eyelet.  I also made a hole in the vertical slat.  (Putting a hole through the slat will help keep the curtain from sagging.)  I used a nifty tool that I bought at the fabric store to punch a hole in the fabric and attach brass eyelets.  I used the eyelet tool to make a hole in the slats too.  (I didn't attach an eyelet but the tool made a hole just the right size.)

tiny brass eyelet, 1'' binder ring, handy eyelet tool

 assembled curtain hardware

I found the perfect place for my vertical-blinds left-overs.