The Pinbox Repair story of the Cowboy Biker... the Jayco Trailer... and the Welder who Wasn't!
... OK... it wasn't ALL my fault.
'twas a sunny early fall day in Yellowstone when... CRACK!
I was unhitching the rig in Madison Campground in Yellowstone National Park on a Wednesday afternoon. As is my habit, I scanned around the rig as I went about my routine and spotted two small hairline cracks where the back of the pinbox was welded to the cross member.
Damn! Those pinbox cracks didn't look too bad... but they sure didn't look good either. Just a little bracing and careful welding of a decent pinbox repair and it should be good as new!
So... I hauled out my handy dandy smart phone... which of course... don't work in the park :) No problem, drive back up the road toward West Yellowstone a few miles to get signal. In short order I had an appointment with a welder in West, to do our emergency Pinbox Repair on Saturday...
That gave me a couple of days to get on with our visit to the park... OK... All Good... right?
uh... Not so much...
We think... OK... we'll just go sight seeing for a few days, chill out, get the pinbox repair done Saturday, and all will be well... With that in mind we climbed into the truck and no sooner pull away from the broken rig and; "What's that smell?" ... Uh... THAT smell... is the burning wires smell of a cooking Alternator.
So... Thursday was spent running back and forth twixt West Yellowstone and Madison Campground on the Raider... hauling parts and wrenching on the truck.
Finally got the thing running and managed to take a "Cooling" run or two...
heading I was hoping... for a simple pinbox repair...
We were just making the turn off of the Yellowstone road onto the main road in West, maybe a half mile from our destination.
... Heidi says... "Come on Old Rig, just a little farther... you've come too far to fail now!"
Her words were still hanging in the air as I was making the turn... very gingerly... When... BANG!!!
...half way through the intersection the Fiver... STOPPED. I mean one minute were moving slowly, maybe 10 mph through the intersection and the next instant; BOOM! We're goin' No Where! That sudden change in what's goin' on creates a problem... Though the trailer had, without the indecisiveness that sometimes afflicts me... STOPPED! ...
...the 9500 lb truck connected to it... had little inclination to do any such thing.
A genuine "Cowboy Biker gets a lesson on the effects of immovable objects meeting irresistible forces in Montana" sort of a situation.
Pinbox Repair on Steroids... oooofffff
The cable that operates the Breakaway Brake safety system had for the first time ever, in I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of miles I've hauled a dozen different trailers of every sort, snagged on something as the truck swung through the turn, jerked the plunger out of the case... and LOCKED the trailer brakes.
The truck was under power, which means at least for an instant, it was dragging that Brake LOCKED trailer, until I could react and jerked my foot off the accelerator. Now, I was going maybe ten mph. Amazing the power in just 10 MPH.
So... the truck keeps moving forward... the Trailer ain't goin' anywhere... and yup... that's right... a cracked pinbox right there in the middle.
Can you imagine a worse possible moment for THAT freak action to occur?
But... the damage was done, and now the pinbox repair turned into something a bit more.
Those two small cracks in the lower part of the pinbox mount, that I'd spotted as we unhitched... were now a severed main cross member tube and multiple cracked/popped welds across the frame of the fifth wheel section of the trailer. arrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh!
It took me a minute or two to get the Breakaway brake back together... as all the Oh so patient vacationing drivers honked and cursed me for blocking the intersection... and get the breaks released.
To be honest, I only heard about them later from Heidi. Luckily for him, I was so wired by the "Event" and admittedly a bit Freaked... that I was focused on getting the brake system functioning so I could move the rig, and honestly didn't hear the "main guy" cursing at me... or this story would have a "Part III"!!
Now... with a catastrophically damaged hitch... I REALLY limped through town to the welders shop.... With a nauseous lump swelling in my belly. This Pinbox Repair was turning from an inconvenience... into one of those horror stories you hear about now and again.
Well... he looked at it, making a few exclamations you don't want to hear a repairman make... and promised he'd do the pinbox repair just fine, and get it back together...
I thought; "Good. I've got an RVIA certified tech who's been in business here for thirty years or so... It'll be expensive... but It'll come out OK."
Ever hear of counting your chickens 'fore they hatch? Uh Huh... I counted too early... I'd not count on Association Certifications to mean much... or how long a "Technician" has been around doing pinbox repair...
It may just mean, like in this case, he's the only show in town. He's kept alive 'cause folks with pinbox repairs needed before they can move, have little other option... and since some of these clowns are "Certified", your tow service is likely to refuse to take your rig farther to a "REAL" repair shop.
Anyhoo... To try and save money I stripped the dis-mountable section of the pinbox, the skin and some of the insulation under the nose to make open access for the pinbox repair while the "Tech" did other work on what he constantly grumbled was supposed to be his day off... makes a customer who's about to drop a few hundred dollars in his pocket feel pretty good!
He also commented once or twice to Heidi that we'd be "Financing his retirement"... pretty arrogant... considering what we were about to endure from the guy...
This is a sample of the damage before The West Yellowstone Repair Shop's Talented Welding got put in place...
I was caught 'tween that proverbial rock and hard place. This guy was the only game in town... but watching him "work" was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Listening to a guy "Stick" his rod, over and over and curse it... and then "Stick" it again... Knowing what kind of "Welding" that was producing... was making for a day best left forgotten.
I knew his work was Gawd Awful... but what was I to do... there were no other welders that could get to me... for several weeks... I couldn't afford to stay in town that long... I was cornered.
There's lot's of names for such as this... Welding is not one of 'em. "Peanut Butter" is about as kind as a thing as you could call it ...
So... Nauseous at the thought of it... I let him finish as I had no welding option available. My hope was that his abomination of a welding job would hold up long enough to find a real welder.
We pulled it to a lot across the street where we overnighted, and put the skin back on. The next morning we got up early and started limping across Wyoming... at 45 mph... cringing every time the rig crossed so much as a paint stripe... expecting to see the trailer fading into the distance behind me as it separated from the truck. An average one day trip took two... loooong days.
Wyoming is a long damn state, NW corner to SE corner... at 45 mph.
I was running for my Home ground in Colorado... where I knew a Welder... a real, genuine, fabricate things that don't fail, x-ray it to prove it... Whiz Bang WELDER!
I pulled in to our friends place in Nunn, got the rig parked and immediately stripped the skin back off, pulled the remains of the fiberglass insulation and dumpstered that, and got things ready for James to perform his Pinbox Repair; The Sequel.
Don't you just hate it when sequels are worse than the First? This was one of those rare occasions... and Thankfully so... That the Sequel was so far ahead of the original... that they don't seem to have any connection...
The REAL Welder's work looks juuuuuust a mite different!
First he re-welded the gawd awful weld on the severed frame member and re-enforced that with several plates.
He added a pair of supplementary beams to disperse the stress and keep that main beam from twisting.
... and added several solid gussets to re-enforce the structure.
I replaced the fiberglass insulation with a couple inches of rigid and replaced the skin.
So... we've hauled a thousand miles now from our pinbox repair, back down to our wintering ground in Arizona.
We've "moved on" from the turrible trials and tribulations :) of our "Welders Fall" in Wyoming and Colorado and are boondocked in the sun... knowing that all those trials are worth it... to be Free on the Earth... just Gypsy RV Boondocking Wanderers.
Jeb Taylor Western Series