Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Blast from the Past

New Roof and ready to go.
Last night in the Chat room somebody mentioned that the wind was almost blowing their roof off. Well odd as it sounds that is a real possibility when you are travelling and Brenda and I are here to attest to it. I thought I would reach back into our pre-blog travels and relate what is now just a legend and a funny tale.
We were off on our first trip south for the winter and left home on October 31, 2007. Before we got the first ten miles we had a couple of crises', lights not working on the tow vehicle, and water not working in the Winnebago. Followed shortly by a cow moose who narrowly missed committing suicide on the front of our home.

Wow what a start but from then on the day went fine and we spent our first night on the road in this new life in the Walmart parking lot in Great Falls, Montana. We paid for our parking spot with almost $300.00 of purchases including a phone for 12 bucks that we are still using when we are south of the medicine line.
The next morning we fueled up at a Sinclair station for somewhere around $3.13 a gallon and headed down the road with all intention of hitting the Costco in Billings before heading on south to Sheridan, Wyoming for the night. We were running south to get shed of the cool weather that was already starting to take over for the winter.

The day was going great, full of fuel and a great tail wind hurrying us along the way. We ran south through the Judith Gap till we made the turn to head east just out of Harlowtown. Now that great tailwind turned into a crosswind of some consequence but the bus seemed to be handling it pretty good till all of a sudden there was a mighty roar. The first thing in my mind was that our awning had come unrolled and although I couldn’t see it in the mirror we got pulled over with visions of having to cut it off running through my mind.

I wish, that would have been a much simpler issue than what we were to find. Once we got out and filled our pockets with rocks so we wouldn’t blow away we discovered that our roof was ripped loose all along the drivers side of the coach and rearing up in the wind with the air-conditioning unit and a couple of other things protruding through the roof all that was holding the whole thing from leaving for Idaho. Double WOW now things are getting exciting. I tried to scramble up on the roof to hold the thing down but was almost blown off the ladder. We quickly unhooked the Jeep and spun the bus around right on the highway to take the pressure off the roof. After some time on the side of the road pondering the situation we limped back towards Harlowtown to find a spot out of the wind to better assess the problem.

We found an old abandoned hotel right in the centre of town where we could huddle out of the wind and get up on the roof and figure out what our next steps were. It was pretty obvious that unless we wanted to spend our winter in the middle of Montana we had to do something to allow us to get to Billings to get this thing repaired. I figured with a mile or so of straps and some ratchet tighteners I could hold it down long enough to get somewhere to get it fixed. Now somebody must have known we were coming cause the small town hardware store just across the street had pretty near a mile of strapping and enough ratchets to make eight straps across the roof. Took a couple of hours but I finally got it all held down, hopefully well enough to make the 92 mile trip through a gale force wind to Billings, I let out a big sigh of relief when we made the turn 40 odd miles out that put the wind back on our tail again.

We did get our trip to Costco in, but our hope to get things fixed up was not to come to fruition. We hit all the RV places in town and they either said it couldn’t be fixed or they had a 2-3 week wait till they would have time to have a look at it. Hmmm, what now, Billings isn’t that much warmer than Harlowtown.

I got on the phone and started down the line heading towards Denver calling RV Repair shops and the first place that could LOOK at us right away was at Longmont, Colorado just a mere 524 miles away. So we retightened our strapping and headed south. Once we got on the highway we found there were a few other issues. Firstly our strapping was adequate but pretty colourful with bright blue and yellow straps stretching across the roof and down the sides to hook on the frame. If we could have just found one of Al’s Cracker Barrels and got a rockin’ chair for the roof the picture would have been complete. Next time I’m getting one!

The second issue was as we picked up speed the straps picked up a symphony of vibrations and they were twanging against the side of the bus and probably would rub the paint right off unless we stayed below 35 miles an hour. Well 524 miles is a long way, and even longer at 35 miles per hour. I came up with a solution though. It was just a matter of getting the straps dampened and like any string instrument they had to be tuned up. The perfect dampeners turned out to be my socks tied around the straps and after a few starts and stops we got all eight straps in tune so we could move along at 60-65 miles an hour without any symphony.
It took us all day but we made it just before closing time to the Camping World in Longmont. They told us they would have a look at it in the morning. We pulled into the parking lot and alongside some other folks that were in for repairs. The guy who ran the place told us that once they were closed for the day we could move up next to the building and plug in for the night. To make a pretty long story short they spent the next couple of days reworking the roof and much to their surprise managed to refasten the old roof back in place.

Makes for a pretty good story around the campfire and we left Longmont with some new friends, Idell and Donna Jacobs, who we have run into along the road since.

Great way to start this lifestyle but it has been pretty good ever since.

Brenda reminds me that for days afterward folks would ask if we were the motor home with the straps holding it together.


  1. jB forgot to mention the we ran into people that asked us are we the ones that had all the tarpt staps around your MH. it was very funny but not at the time.


  2. Sounds like you really 'socked' it to that roof problem John. I've heard of people comining unhinged before but never a motorhome roof. Doesn't say a lot for Winnebago's quality control does it!! Coach must have been made on a Friday. That was quite a memorable start to your RV life. It's not everybody who gets to drive down the highway with their rig wrapped in nice pretty strapping you know:))

  3. Golly! JB, you and Brenda sure had an adventure!
    Talk about packing down an RV! You packed it UP like a parcel!
    Happy Trails, Penny, TX

  4. Wow! What a story. I just read it to my husband. He's wondering what you did afterwards with all that strapping! Glad you stuck with "the life."

  5. Wow JB... last night in chat, you said that would be quite a story! I am almost afraid to show it to my friends with a new Winnebago. They just found out their whole edge where the awning was attached somehow all the screws are ripping loose and tearing away. Sounds about the same kinda problem?

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  6. As for the web straps if anyone needs any we carry almost a mile with us now? Amazing how handy it comes in for other things than holding the roof on. lol Karen I wouldn't worry your friends with the Winnebago our roof was glue along the edge and was ten years old when it let go, we sure loved that outfit and had it been a little bigger we would still be driving it. After all what more exciting thing could happen to it.

  7. Did you find out why it broke loose like that? Was it faulty roof nails or something?

    I really hope that never happens to me!

    Now you can laugh about it but I bet at the time you weren't thinking it was so funny.

    Were the straps pretty colors anyway?
    Too bad you didn't take photos!

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