From Hell, to Hell and Back

OR HOW THIEVES RUINED OUR SUMMER VACATION

Last week I posted a picture of the high temperature in Palm Springs, which was 120F. Having moved to the desert in 1977 working and hiking outdoors, so I am used to these kinds of temperatures (if one can truly get used to it). I spent Saturday getting reading for our trip. Usual preparation includes inspections and periodic maintenance and cleaning.

We were not mentally prepared for what would happen.

Prior to any trip I always torque the wheel lugs and closely inspect the tires. Checking the tires I found all the tread depths at 7/32 inches, and the rubber in excellent condition. The DOT manufacture date showed the tires were less than 5 years old. I considered replacing the tires, but they were in excellent shape all around. I checked all tire pressures and set them to 60 PSI. I did make a mental note that to replace the tires before the end of the year, based on age. Any tire over 6 years old should be replaced. Normally I replace trailer tires every 3 years, but these looked too good. Plus I never travel above 60 mph.

THE TRIP PLAN

Every summer we take our camper to the Sierras, near the Western Divide. We have several favorite camp spots that are infrequently used by other campers so there is never a concern of not finding a great place to camp without dealing with crowds or people – even on holiday weekends.

ANTICIPATION

We were really looking forward to this vacation. It has been hotter than normal in Palm Springs and the cool temperatures would be a welcomed relief for us and an escape from the hellish heat. We packed our food, clothes, telescope, and maps. Several day hikes were planned along with nighttime sky gazing.

TIRE FAILURES

Almost to our destination and traveling up the two lane mountain road, our curbside tire went flat. We had no choice but to travel about ½ mile on the road until we found a safe turn-out to pull off the road. This driving ruined the tire. I got out to put on the spare tire. Somehow, when I was removing the spare tire from the carrier the valve stem cracked and started leaking. Don’t know if it was cracked from age or I bent it too far. Either way, it didn’t matter, the spare was now flat. I carry spare valve stems in the tool box, but was unable to separate the tire bead from the wheel and install a new valve. So we left the camper in the turn-out and headed to the first small town. It was Sunday afternoon and all repair and tire shops were closed.

At this point we decided to drive to Bakersfield and spend the night in a hotel. In the morning we would buy new tires and return to the camper to install them. We drove back to the camper, made sure everything was locked, secured and safe.

I was concerned that we would have difficulty locating new camper tires (ST225/75R15 Load Range D), but my first call to Discount Tire was successful. They had the tires in stock (but were the more robust Load Range E. By 9 am we had our new tires and were headed back to our camper.

HELL #2

Pulling up to the camper we were shocked to find it have been broken into and heavily damaged. Not something you expect to find in mountain resort areas. This is what we found:

  • The solar panels and mounting racks had been ripped off the roof. The roof is damaged beyond repair.
  • The battery bank (which had been secured by heavy bolts and padlocks had been pried off. All the electrical wiring had been cut.
  • The propane tanks, which had been secured by a lock, had been pried off.
  • The front storage compartment door had been pried open. All our tools and other personal items gone. We needed these tools to replace the tires and hook-up the camper.
  • The main door had been slashed and ripped open. The lock had been too much of an obstacle for the thieves, but they ripped out the sheet metal and frame. More stuff missing from this area.
  • The rear sheet metal above the wheel well had been ripped out.
  • It looked like the scum bags started to rip out the sheet metal on the street side of the camper, probably trying to steal the water heater. I suspect they did not continue, because their activities could be spotted by passer-byes.

There was no cell phone coverage at the scene, so we had to drive nearly an hour to get a signal, where we contacted our insurance company. The insurance company directed us to take it to a RV Collision shop, the closest probably being in Bakersfield. Unable to find anyone who could do the needed repairs – which are going to be substantial – we spent 3 hours back at the camper making it road worthy. We did have to buy several items in Bakersfield, since the scum bags had stolen so much. We even had to buy a new trailer safety chain. Using bungee cords and duct tape, we were able to secure the sheet metal for freeway speeds.

BACK HOME

We made it back home without incident. It is now 50 hours and 636 miles later. Waiting for the insurance adjuster to come by. I am not hopeful. Fleetwood no longer makes these campers and replacement parts like the roof, door and sheet metal are non-existent. The upgrades we have made are substantial and I doubt we can get it back to its previous condition and I don’t have high hopes for the insurance company making things right.

BEFORE PICTURES

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AFTER

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