Join Date: Mar 2010
Trip from Heck - happy ending
Couple years ago we dragged a Mutt and an aircraft tug on a tipper trailer behind my recently acquired 1994 Sea Breeze. Our trailer buddy assured us the trailer was in good condition and everything worked, and that the capacity was adequate for the load, especially with the new tires he had installed on it the season prior.
Glad we started this project about a week early. We had the pleasure of rewiring the brakes and lights on our buddy's trailer before leaving. Installing a brake controller in the motor home was fun, too.
We departed from home, keeping a close eye on the trailer and it's cargo. From Central Indiana through the toll roads around Chicago at the end of June, we were happily motoring along. The NRV with the Ford motor pulls like a freight train and we had everything nicely balanced. I wasn't used to the bit of banging that the trailer made at the hitch, but my veteran trailer pilot assured me it was "normal". Fine.
My buddy was driving along fat, dumb and happy. We're rolling along toward Oshkosh Wisconsin for the big air show they have every year. We're getting excited because we're going up a few days early to volunteer on the ramp. And this year, we're bringing my 1942 Clark aircraft towing tractor to put to work repositioning Warbird aircraft.
Yes, we're in moderately heavy traffic on the interstate a little ways inside Wisconsin. My buddy checks his mirror and get's on the shoulder with ease. He knows what it is. I jump out and confirm the right rear trailer tire is blown. Back in the MH, Bill is already talking at his iPhone, saying "TIRE STORE". We have no spare and no tire tools. His iPhone finds the nearest store and they confirm they have what we need.
At the risk of ruining the rim (and blowing another tire), we crawl a few hundred feet to the exit ramp and creep into Kenosha. The tire store crew is already waiting for us when we get there and points us into a bay, ready to fix us and get us back on the road to "the show".
The incline into the shop is a little unusual and we got the trailer hung up. Bill backs up and REALLY races to get up the steep driveway. Sparks fly, but the trailer begrudgingly gets passed the low spot and with considerable effort, he rolls "the bus" into the tire bay. They jump on the trailer, which is dangling way out in their parking lot. The tech uses two hand jacks and they have the tire replaced in a matter of 15 minutes. We pay for the tire and we're ready to get back on the road!
"Uh, there's something red running out from under your motor home."
The owner comes into the bay. Swings under the front end. "Transmission" is all he says. I'm sure the look on our faces was priceless. "Let me make a call for you." As he does, Bill runs across the street and buys two pints of transmission fluid. "The transmission shop is about 1 mile back toward the interstate."
We left a nice pink trail on the road all the way to the tranny shop. In the parking lot, the owner is standing waiting for us. He says "Hi, don't worry about the mess, we're used to it." Swings under and looks. He said the seal was blown and it could be a simple repair. But with the age of the transmission, and the way we (and the previous owner) had used it, it was likely to need a rebuild. WHAT?
"You guys working "the show"? Well, I can drop the transmission and check it. If it's simple, it's going to be about $1200. If it's a rebuild, more like $3200. And if I were you, while I'm in there, you might as well get everything done." Ouch.
"I can get started on this right now, but I don't know if I can finish the job before the weekend. We can try. I haven't even seen one of these transmissions for about 5 or 6 years. Parts are still available, though, and I can get them from Chicago very quickly. What do you want to do?"
The owner calls his favorite rental car dealer and hands us the phone. The last rental car is a maxi van. It's the only thing still available between The Show and Chicago. "You want HOW MUCH?!?!?" Hand the phone back to the shop owner. He asks, "What's MY discount?... that's better." So we get a van for like $85 a day and leave the motor home, trailer, tug and borrowed jeep behind.
At AirVenture the Thursday before the show begins, there's already a lot to do. We arrive late in the afternoon and immediately start working the ramps. When we aren't flying, we like marshaling and tugging aircraft at different venues. That's why I bought this old National out of a bankruptcy. Perfect old beast for towing and "camping".
Bills phone rings. It's the trans shop owner. There's a snag, sorta. "I have the transmission out and apart already. I could probably put it back together and get you down the road, but it doesn't look good. You might make it to Oshkosh and you might not." He didn't say anything about making it home. "I'd recommend a rebuild. And I was wrong about the price. And I think you should let me put newer, heavy duty parts in. $3800." OUCH. "I think I can get it done by the end of the day tomorrow, but it depends somewhat on when the parts arrive." Fine, go ahead... call me.
The next morning we're really humping it with airplane arrivals. We're having a ball, working planes and greeting old friends, making new friends. I had almost forgotten about the bus in Kenosha.
Bill's phone rings a bit later. "I want to change one of the parts to a SUPER DUTY part." Whatever. Go ahead. I'm starting to really feel scammed... Back to the Show. We get to work some cool stuff and meet some great folks.
3 PM. Bill's phone rings. He just hands it to me. I shake my head. I don't want to talk to the guy any more. "He says he'll have it done by between 5 and 6 today". Sigh. Back in the van, back down the interstate 90 miles. Through some construction (was that Milwaukee?). Back in Kenosha roll into the transmission shop. The owner is under my National. He had just got back from a test drive. The engine cover was still off and it was a zillion degrees inside. It was about 93 outside.
"You're going to love this transmission. It's better than new. All the latest upgrades. It will pull anything you put behind it. I'll warranty it for two years or 24000 miles, just make sure you do a fluid change at 12 months. In fact, bring it back to me on your way to the show next year, we'll change it while you have lunch." Sure. Fine. Thanks. Here's my CC. What about the van? They'll come and get it? Fine.
We hook up the trailer and we're on our way. Man, you can tell the transmission is different. It's buttery smooth, shifts better and I begin to feel like I made a good investment. Heading back out onto the interstate, wow, it really does feel different and better!!
You're KIDDING? Can't be?! Yep, the other right side tire went. We're now two exits out of Kenosha. Back limping on the shoulder, creeping along on a shredded tire. "Tire Store" Bill says into his iPhone.
There's a Farm and Fleet near the next exit. Still open (it's about 6:30 PM). "We don't sell trailer tires." What? "We can't put truck tires on a trailer, either." WHAT?!? "Yes, we have the exact tire that you already have, but it's against the law in Wisconsin to put them on a trailer." You freakin kidding me? Look we need to get to the air show. "Oh, you guys are going to "the show"?" No, we are WORKING the show. We need to get our equipment up there. "Well, we can't do it." Look, we're in dire straights here. Put the tire on, we understand your state law, and take full responsibility. "Ok, but It's AGAINST THE LAW." The guy said the last part very loudly so all the other customers could hear. They have 6 guys selling tires, every bay filled and every chair in the waiting room was full. Friday night Kenosha... woohoo.
Outside on the parking lot/drive way, the tech changes the tire (while we are blocking 8 bays with motor home and trailer). He comes and gets us in the waiting area. "Your other tires are over inflated and there's bad checking on the sidewall. They aren't going to last very long.
" Just CHANGE THEM ALL! "
Well, we put three heavy duty truck tires on the trailer, paid the bill, and headed up the interstate. Our wallets were considerably lighter, but we got to the air show and had a terrific week. And a big story to tell. No harm was done to the equipment, nobody got hurt. Hard to believe I could get 4 trailer tires and a transmission rebuilt in a day and a half and not realize any down time. Turned out to be quite expensive to "volunteer" at the show that year, but I imagine the transmission expense was looming anyway. I'll be stopping in Kenosha for a fluid change this year.