Thursday, September 1, 2011

A day from Hell....

Hotel, Birmingham, AL

... in all ways. First the weather -- low temperature this morning was above 80* and the afternoon high was reported at 104*. We spent most of the day outside.

Today was a day of overwhelming stupidity on my part. Education is expensive. Today I learned a lot and paid a high price for it.

Our Good Samaritan showed up bright and early and we hooked up the Cougar to his truck. The hookup was difficult and that should have been my first clue. We finally succeeded enough to declare the hookup secure. After pulling out of our campsite, we had to travel to the end of the park to turn around. As we made the turn, I heard a loud crunching, but it was NOT the Cougar contacting his truck cab, so I dismissed the noise as a problem with his 5th wheel hitch. Second clue ignored.

Our twenty mile drive to Bessemer was uneventful except for loud noises at every sharp turn -- second clue screaming at me!

I don't want to turn this into an engineering lecture but some technical talk is necessary to explain. My Dodge Ram 1500 is a short bed truck. Pulling a 5th wheel with a short bed truck requires a hitch that moves back and forth during a turn. Without this capability, the front of the 5th wheel will crash into the cab of the truck during a turn. There are hitches manufactured to do this and that is what I have in my truck. Part of this hitch is a "Capture Plate" mounted on the King Pin Box of the 5th wheel.

We arrived in Bessemer and parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot near the Dodge dealer where our truck was being worked on. Disconnecting the Cougar from the truck revealed a badly damaged Capture Plate and I had an "Aw S__t" moment. I realized the source of the noise and the mistake I made. To hook my 5th wheel to a regular hitch in a full size truck bed requires removal of the Capture Plate. That's where I screwed up big time. I failed to remove the Capture Plate. The loud noise I was hearing was the sound of my Capture Plate being destroyed.

We offered our Good Samaritan $100 for his assistance. He accepted and we bid him farewell. I don't know if his hitch sustained any damage.

Although very angry at myself and unsure how I was going to deal with this problem, I turned my attention to our truck and we drove the rental car to the Dodge dealer. There we got good news. The oil line and the recall parts had arrived and the truck will be ready tomorrow.

Back to the Capture Plate. I telephoned the manufacturer of my hitch, Pullrite, for technical advice and to purchase a new Capture Plate. They gave me some advice which included -- "Do not try to drive with the damaged Capture Plate". However, they cannot sell me a Capture Plate because they only sell through their retail dealers. They gave me the name, address, and phone number of their dealer in Birmingham. I explained my situation, noted the fact that we were approaching the Labor Day weekend, and pleaded for them to sell me a Capture Plate directly if their dealer could not provide one quickly. They agreed.

I telephoned the Pullrite dealer in Birmingham. They did not have the part but would search for one and let me know if they could find it and have it delivered tomorrow. A call back a short time later had good news and bad news. Good news -- he located a Capture Plate in Atlanta and can have it here by tomorrow afternoon. Bad news -- part cost $169 and overnight shipping cost $150. Ouch!! Go for it.

With a temperature of 104*, we had no intention of boondocking in the Wal-Mart parking lot. So we checked into a nearby hotel. I spent the night worrying about our Cougar being broken into.

My anger with myself and my situation was exacerbated by the heat. Late in the evening after a shower, a good dinner, and the comfort of an air conditioned hotel room, I reflected on the events of the day and realized that I had it pretty good. I got into a mess because of my own stupidity. I got out of the mess because of modern technology and business practices that probably do not exist anywhere else in the world. With my cell phone I was able to contact a manufacturer half way across the nation from a parking lot without having to have any cash. That manufacturer was able to put me in touch with a local source, who in turn was able to locate a specific part number somewhere in the southeastern US and arrange to have it shipped overnight. I paid for all of it over the phone with a credit card. All of this in less than an hour from an open space in a parking lot with no cash. Maybe, instead of being angry and frustrated, I should be grateful for what I have, and thankful that I am able to take this trip at all.

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