A trip to pick up that trailer from our last post, and a huge lesson in Get-there-itis

OK, wow, it’s been over a year, I’m bad at this, I should hurry up and finish it so it doesn’t take forever.

So when we left off; I had a plan for a ham radio tower, it’s 700 miles away, let’s go get it.

The Uneventful Trip North

I mean I’ve done a lot of road trips, how bad can it be?

Google Maps Route It’s uh, this is going to take all weekend.

However, the trip while long, was fairly uneventful, started out late, drove overnight,

A dusky start Starting late in day

First annoying Traffic Surely I’ll miss the traffic if I drive all night… aww crud!

On the nose of the van is a 1/4 wave antenna I have hooked up to the scanner, it’s a struggle-bus all the way to use that to listen to the truckers (lesson in reception antennas at least). However I made some contacts on my way up on 2m/70cm, and I enjoy road trips for what it’s worth.

I arrive late in the night and decide to take a nap in the van before picking up the trailer in the morning, it’s empty, lots of room, roll out the sleeping bag and get a nice block of sleep.

The Pickup

The pickup was relatively easy, it’s an construction company with a ton of equipment. We go dig it out of some bushes, condition is just as solid as I thought with one minor hitch – missing the rear panel and tower bracket, but that should be no big deal.

“So bring the trailer around and we’ll drop it on it”

I didn’t bring a trailer, I was going to tow it home! “Well what if the wheels are dry rotted?”, Walmart was down the street, I’ll just pick up new tires and swap them really quick. “Oh yeah that’s a good idea” one of the workers said, he looks at the tires “well they’re holding air, maybe you won’t need to”, the tires look a little rough, but maybe they’ll be fine – foreshadowing that things won’t really go this smoothly.

One of them asks me what in the world I’m doing with one of these. I tell him I’m turning it into a radio tower, they’re both stoked that I’m doing something cool with this old equipment.

They grab a front loader, drag it out, I pull the van around, hook it up, size up some annoyances, the chains are shot and are unusable, the trailer jack is shot and will not stand up high enough to get the van under it, I have to heave-ho it onto the trailer hitch, the tank is full of Diesel and water (I don’t know this yet…), I’m strapping stuff down, one of the workers points out the diesel generator in it isn’t actually bolted in. I tell them I’ll just grab some of the extra straps I have and strap it in tight.

“Aren’t you throwing this out?” – Yeah I am, “well, we’ll go grab the front loader again and chain it up and yank it out for you” – SCORE! These guys are helping me dispose of something I honestly have no use for. The motor is toast, in pieces, maybe I could salvage it but honestly it’s a lot of work that I’m unfamiliar with, with a way overkill generator. One chain-and-yank later and I’m one motor lighter. Finish packing up, and on the road I go.

Mostly packed You can see the generator in this shot, all the parts are in the back of the van.

Get-there-itis Strikes!

So the trip is a long one, I’m trying to get back home before the weekend ends, I’m excited for my new setup.

Remember how I mentioned I could pick up new tires for this? Just a brief stop, what, 30 minutes? An hour? Yeah that’s going to bite me in the butt.

First problem strikes, what is that dirt all over the back of my rear windshield?! There is no cap on the gas tank and diesel is sloshing up onto the van, I pull into a gas station, clean off the van to prevent paint damage, and fashion a gas gap with zip ties and a bag.

Diesel mess You can see splotching on the windshield, that’s diesel mixed with water.

Things are going smoothly until a sudden violent vibration rocks the rear of the van, I pull over immediately. My driver-side tire has shredded on the freeway, wrapping around the fender. On top of that, the lack of a tower arm retainer means the tower has slowly been working its way extended, so my trailer is now an extra ~6ft longer.

I limp across a bridge I was coming up on, get onto and off-amp and start considering what is going on.

Tire loss To shreds you say; a shredded tire, tower extended, diesel all over the front of the trailer, the fender is bent to all hell.

I drop the trailer, run down to the local tractor supply, buy a new RV tire, rush back, start the annoying process of replacing the tire on an onramp. It’s dirty, the tire belt shreds can easily pierce my work gloves, getting it off of the fender it wrapped around is a pain, I’m stressing because I’m hundreds of miles away from home.

lug-nut OK, so nothing is going to go smoothly, I bust a lug-nut taking them off. Luckily this was the only one. My heart skipped a beat at the thought of them all breaking.

I get the tire replaced, I shove the tower back into its compacted position and use a tie-down strap to secure it compacted, I decide I’ll take it easier, not exceed 55, let’s not overstress stuff.

… And I get back on the road.

You’re going to do it again aren’t you?

It’s night time, it’s quiet, little traffic, I’m in the middle of nowhere, an all-too familiar (though less violet at these slower speeds) vibration develops behind me, I see the trailer arm bouncing around, yep, the other tire gave way.

Here I am, middle of nowhere, I-55, middle of the night, doing 5mph on the shoulder, any faster and the trailer develops a terrible violent vibration, we’ll just crawl to the next exit, it takes the better part of an hour.

I pull off, small town, no one is open outside of an emergency wrecker shop, they’ll come replace it for $300, nope. I’ll get another tire from a shop tomorrow. I find a quiet place in front of a business that I park at, crawl into the back of the van, and get some sleep.

It’s cramped, the back of the van is full of now a dead tire and various parts that couldn’t be secured on the trailer, I didn’t expect to have to sleep another night in the van so didn’t pack it sensibly. I sleep between the drivers seat and 1st row of seats on the ground, I can wedge in here and get some sleep, so I do.

Back On The Road

Well I can’t drag this trailer to the nearest place, so I scoot across the street near some tracks, drop the trailer, scoot to another tractor supply, one tire later, I’m back and replacing another tire. This one is much easier since it didn’t violently shred and wrap around any of the trailer. Replaced, two messes of tires in the back of the van.

2nd loss Well there are no more tires to replace, at least the fender is in good shape this time.

The rest of the trip is uneventful, just as uneventful as it would have been if I replaced the tires like the plan was if they were too suspicious, I had get-there-itis really hard. I arrived over 24 hours later than I wanted to.

But I’m home, time to do a tear-down and start working on it, but that’s for part 3…