Long haul

by Chuck July 9, 2010

This year Dana convinced me that we needed to take a real vacation in the summer, a vacation where we packed the kids and dogs up and headed out of town for a week. A vacation where we took the boat along for the ride and dropped it in the water and I got to sail as much as I wanted. A vacation in July to Lake Chelan.


I spent my evenings during the week loading up Odyssey and making sure that I had everything that I thought I would need for a trip like this one. The one change that I made was to add a jib downhaul. I’ve never used one, but from what I read it made recovering the genoa easier when you were single handing. Since part of the plan for the week was to learn how to single hand, it seemed like a good idea.

Thursday night and Friday morning I loaded up the truck and tied everything down. We needed to be in Chelan around 4:00 p.m., so we figured we needed to be on the road by noon. In defiance of every other trip we’ve made, we were pulling out onto the road at noon.

Joe was riding with me, and as I headed down the hill I felt a funny “thunk” from behind. I stopped in the two-way left hand turn lane on Chain Lake to make sure that everything looked OK. Brakes plugged in. Safety chains on. Hitch closed tight. Everything seemed to be great.

Why does he bring this up? Think of this as Checkhov’s Trailer Hitch. That was a long digression at that wiki.

Joey and I headed out of town ahead of Katie, Dana, and Kurt in the Sonata, with Katie driving. We headed up the pass, then just as we were going through Baring I hit a bump – and the trailer jumped off the hitch.

Dana was texting me when it happened because one of my lights wasn’t working. All of a sudden there are sparks flying and smoke rising and flames shooting out I’m moving over to the side. Katie thought I’d blown a tire, Dana thought the axle had come off, and Kurt thought the trailer bunks had given out and the keel was rubbing.

Fortunately, the safety chains held and the whole works came to a stop when the truck did. And also, fortunately, there was a shoulder where we were for me to pull over on. Later on we passed an RV that had lost a wheel – they were in a spot with no shoulder and were blocking traffic.

Anyway, back to the shoulder of the road in Baring. We all stopped. Katie and I were shaking a bit – me because I’d almost lost the boat and Katie because she’d been driving behind a boat spitting flames and sparks.

After walking off a bit of the shakes, I checked the trailer. There is a little triangular foot on the bottom of the hitch, that had rubbed almost off – that’s where the sparks came from.

The smoke came from the spare tire. It was on the road and helped support the trailer after it came off the hitch. There was  long streak of rubber back up the highway.

The flames – well the flames came from the handle on the jack. For whatever reason the plastic handle ended up on the road, and the plastic caught fire while it dragged. Once we stopped, the fire went out.

Putting the trailer back on the hitch was straight forward. I had the kids hang on the back of the boat and Dana and I picked up the tongue and set it back on the hitch. After I secured the lock, I put my head underneath and made sure it was locked.

As far as I can tell, one of the wires on the light cable was under the lock plate, and that kept the hitch from locking fully. The reason why the light wasn’t working was because there was a short between the frame and wire under the hitch plate. When I hit the bump it through the tongue up and off we went.

Back on the road we were only a mile or so along when we came across the RV that I mentioned earlier. An I thought I was having a bad day. When we got to Skykomish I stopped to make sure everything was still working (it was), so we kept on keeping on. We didn’t have any more problems on the trip. Well, besides trying to get into and out of a parking lot that was too small, and almost going through a speed trap too fast. Normal things.



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