After returning from Lima we spent a little while at our house in WA catching up on business and imposing ourselves on our friend Todd who rents our house from us. Not wanting to outstay our welcome we decided that we would take our trusty Earthroamer south for the month of Feb with the goal of escaping from the rain and snow of Washington and also give Todd a break from us.
Our plans for a month on the road got off to a bad start. Our first night out we decided to stay in a rest area area on I5 just north of Tacoma, WA. This is a large rest area with dump and a parking area exclusively for RVs, a great place for a nights rest. It did not turn out that way, about 10:30pm we were awaked with a loud crash and our camper rocking violently. We jumped out in a PJs to find that a semi pulling a car-hauler trailer had hit the left rear of our camper.
As you might be able to make out from the photos the semi driver was trying to pull into the parking spot beside us but cut the turn and dragged the side of the trailer across the rear of our vehicle. We could not believe the incompetence of the driver, he did not just clip us he missed the turn into his spot by over 3 feet.
Once I was outside examining the damage it was clear that the semi driver was trying to disentangle his vehicle from ours with the intent of running off. His attempts to disengage caused further damage. So Nina and I called the WA Highway Patrol. We were pleased to see the officer noting that the semi caused the collision, that we were legally parked, and that the driver was in an area prohibited to commercial vehicles.
The damage to our vehicle was difficult to assess. There as a 10"x4" hole punched through the camper body high up on the left rear of the camper and the rear bumper had been bent. What was clear however was that the hole needed to get a temporary patch as soon as possible to ensure the interior of the camper was not flooded in the almost perpetual rain of Washington at this time of year.
Thus next morning (Friday 3rd Feb) we dropped into Wescaft RV Repairs (of Fife, WA) unannounced to see what they could do for us in the way of a temporary patch so that we could continue with our "month in the sun" - with the understanding that they would do the eventual full repair. They were great and within 10 minutes of our arrival the truck was in a repair bay having a patch applied to the hole. This will be the third time we have used Wescraft for repairs and their quick response to our problems was great and in-keeping with out previous experience.
Later in the day we were contacted by a Progressive Insurance adjuster and we arranged to meet him at Wescraft Monday morning so that he could see the damage and agree with Wescraft a quote for the repairs.
As a result of the appointment with the insurance adjuster our trip south was somewhat postponed and so we decided we would spend the weekend doing a circumnavigation of the Olympic Peninsula. The weather was terrible with lots of rain and snow as you can see from the photos below. The up side of the weather was that we almost had the Peninsula to ourselves and the snow. The snow in the forest was very pretty.
Another problem - the rain revealed that the camper's front windows (at the front of the over-cab bed) were leaking and the mattress was soaked. A conversation with Earthroamer revealed that this seems to be a known problem and requires the windows to be re-installed with a high quality sealant. We will do that at some point but a temporary fix was to cover all the seams of those front windows with water proof metal surfaced tape. Does not look great but it seems to work.
The weekend of snow made travel difficult so we made a point of being back on I5 at a Walmart Sunday afternoon to ensure we could get to Monday mornings appointment with the adjuster at Wescraft.
Monday morning the traffic on I5 was very light as it seemed like most people decided not to chance the snow. The meeting with the adjuster did not take long and we made arrangements with Wescraft to drop the vehicle at their premeses when we got back from our month in the Sun.
Turns out that the truck that hit us was also insured with Progressive and it seemed like that was going to simplify the claim process.
With the aftermath of the accident under control we started south down the Oregon coast. We spent a couple of days traveling south in heavy rain, high winds with some occasional flooded or closed roads.
We got lucky with an interlude of sunshine on the North California Coast, but the consequences of a long streak of bad weather was evident with lots of downed trees, mud slides, damaged roads and road closures.
After a road closure on CA-1 caused a major detour at Big Sur we eventually joined our friends Rick and Kath Howe of travelin-tortuga.com at the Rancho Colina RV Park in Morro Bay. We had intended that this would be a short visit, maybe two nights, but ...
A casual glance under the rear of our truck revealed a situation that looked like a major problem. The 1" grade 8 bold that forms the pivot of the single rear camper mount was hanging out of the mount. Consultation with Earthroamer came up with the theory that the bolt had been broken by the impact with the semi-trailer and that some of the thread of the bolt was still inside the mount attached to the nut that is welded to the front part of the mount. That discussion also identified that correction of the problem required a workshop as the rear fuel tank had to be removed and the back of the camper body needed to be jacked up and supported while the bolt was replaced.
Some calling around located Dyers RV shop in St Luis Obispo but they did not have an opening until the Tuesday after Presidents day, FULL 6 DAYS AWAY. So our short visit became a longer visit.
To add to the tediousness of the situation the rain returned and most of that 6 day wait was grey and wet.
The rain, and the particular pitch(slope) of our camping spot revealed yet another problem. The over-bed opening skylight started leaking. Over the course of our stay I applied a number of tapes and sealants to stop the leak but only succeeded in reducing the flow not eliminating it.
To complete this story of woe I should point out that even before that semi-trailer decided to start this string of trouble the ER was one of the walking wounded.
The camper door cannot be opened from the outside. A small plastic component that acts as a fulcrum during the use of the exterior handle on the camper door fractured and as a result the exterior handle does nothing. Discussion with Earthroamer revealed that the particular door installed in our vehicle is no longer made and unfortunately the entire door and door frame must be replaced all up cost estimated at $3000. One is tempted to remark - why would one use cheap European components in a vehicle intended for rough road or off road use. The next piece of the story at least removes the qualifier European from the remark.
The camper bodies electric step is not functioning correctly. It will not close when the door is closed. It attempts to, one can hear the electric motor operating, but the cam and level mechanism is not functioning correctly. Again, consultation with ER revealed that this is a known problem with these steps. Indeed the manufacturer issued a recall notice (but accepts no returns of previously purchased products) related to this problem. A new design is now being used for these steps. The actual problem is that when open and being used the entire load of using the step is placed on the neck of a shoulder bolt that holds a large cam-gear in place. Eventually this bolt breaks and the cam-gear cannot function correctly. The fix is a new step at $1200 + labor. The step is from a US manufacturer so I guess its not only Europe that makes crap RV components.
Maybe the more correct remark is that typical RV components are only designed for limited and light duty use and are not really suitable for vehicles intended for extended use, rough road use, or off road use.
Fortunately ER came up with another suggestion that would strengthen that shoulder bolt without (hopefully) the need to replace the step. Also, hopefully, this is a fix I can apply myself and save on the labor. I have already done a similar fix to my other motorhome .. see
... to be continued