Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Wheel Bearing Chronicles, Part III

After Dinosaur, I headed back over to the Point of the Mountain to kill a few days before I headed south to the Santa Cruz Flats Race, and I was happy to be able to boondock on the South Side instead of staying at the RV park. It was just as windy over at the South Side, but at least I wasn't parked right on the edge of a cliff, so it felt a little safer.  

I was even able to get a flight at the North Side - my first and only North Side flight. I was still nervous launching into so much traffic, but I had Pat and Cory backing me up and checking for traffic and there were only a couple of gliders in sight when I actually did launch.  I got a nice little flight - although I can't remember how long it was, I was up for a while and made several passes along the lower ridge.  I never did bench up, but I was proud of myself for hanging in the crowded airspace as long as I did.  After I landed, I looked up and realized there had to be 40 or 50 gliders in the air - yikes! Had I realized just how many there were, I probably wouldn't have launched.  Most of them were way above me and therefore not an issue at all, so I'm glad I was blissfully ignorant in this case. 

On Tuesday, September 8th, I left POM and began driving south - I wanted to stop in Phoenix and see my cousin Monica on my way down to Casa Grande for the Santa Cruz Flats Race.  I was a bit nervous, still reeling from what I now refer to as my "Navajo experience", and would have preferred to drive in a caravan with others but I knew that no one else planned to leave as early or drive as slowly and over multiple days the way I did.  I considered routing through Vegas in order to avoid driving through the reservation, but decided that idea was a bit ridiculous.  So, after spending all of Tuesday morning attempting to find a grease cap that would stay on my wheel hub, I eventually just headed out and hoped for the best.

Tuesday was uneventful, but Wednesday morning as I filled up my gas tank before hitting the road, some guy did point out that one of the trailer's grease caps was missing.  I told him I knew that and thank you. I did know that one was missing, I just didn't know what the hell I could do about it.  I had gone through a handful of grease caps and felt like an idiot just slapping another one in there when I knew it would be gone in a few miles.  I thanked him and got on the road.  I probably made it a couple of hours before I heard a loud bang and knew that one of my tires had blown out.  

Well, yes, one of my tires was flat, and that wheel bearing was shot as well.  This time I was, thankfully, NOT on a reservation.  So already I felt ahead of the game.  I had just enough cell service to call Good Sam, which I did immediately. I felt confident I was handling things properly this time.  Several cars passed me but no one stopped, and I was actually quite grateful to be left alone while I talked to Good Sam and then waited.  I decided to get the tire off, figuring that would speed things along just a bit, and it wasn't like I had anything else to do at the moment.  As I removed the tire, I looked into the wheel hub and thought I saw a flame.  Holy shit.  I knew those things could get hot and there was a chance it could catch fire, so I ran around to the other side of the trailer, went inside and grabbed the fire extinguisher.  I gave the hub a good spray with the fire extinguisher and then stood staring at the wheel in shock, imagining the the entire trailer with most of my worldly possessions going up in flames.  Jesus fucking Christ. I just got really lucky.  

Good Sam sent a mobile mechanic to do the repair on the roadside and get me on my way.  This sounded like a good idea at the time, but I was about an hour north of Kanab, UT, so it was almost 2 hours before he arrived.  He got to work right away, but soon found out that he didn't have the right parts and he had to go back to the shop in Kanab.  I opted to wait where I was.  A couple more hours later, he returned with bad news.  The problem was not that he didn't have the right parts - it was that the wheel hub was so old and deformed that no parts would fit.  He would have to put the wheel back together so I could drive the trailer to Kanab, and they would replace the hub at the shop there.  OK, fine.  

The mechanic followed me to MD Auto in Kanab, and then I made a break for some food.  By the time I got back to the auto shop, it was dusk and they were just finishing up.  More bad news, though - they weren't able to find a replacement hub that would fit.  The axle manufacturer is out of business, so I would have to take the trailer to a shop in a city and either hope they could find replacement hubs or just replace both axles altogether.  They did replace all 4 sets of bearings though, and they taped up a couple of the grease caps.  The others seemed to be on there pretty good, so they were not taped.  By the time I had settled up (for what may as well have been a million dollars - 6 hours of labor), it was fully dark. The owner of the shop asked me where I was headed that night, and I told him I wasn't sure.  I asked him if he thought I could make it to Page and whether I could get there without going through a reservation.  He said I could definitely make it there, but that it was on a reservation.  In that case, I told him, I would be staying in town and leaving in the morning.  He recommended a nearby RV park managed by "a nice Dutch couple" and we swapped scary reservation stories.  From him I learned that there is a lot of gang activity on the reservation, and his Navajo friend has admonished him against driving through the reservation at night.  None of this has made me any more comfortable with the idea of setting foot on the reservation ever again.  

The next morning, I set out bright and early with plans of having dinner with Monica that evening.   I knew I would be holding my breath the entire time I was on the reservation, and I also knew there was no guarantee the grease caps would hold through that drive.  About 50 miles into the drive, I checked the grease caps and the same troublemaker was already gone.  I had an extra grease cap in the car, so I slammed that into the hub. I checked again after another 50 miles, and the grease cap was gone.  I happened to have one last Bearing Buddy in the car, so I jammed it in and continued driving.  After another few miles, I stopped for gas on the reservation, and the Bearing Buddy was gone.  Fuck me.  I didn't know what to do.  I was out of parts, but I knew I couldn't leave that wheel without a grease cap.  In the middle of nowhere on the reservation, I doubted I would be able to find another cap within 100 miles, and I also knew that it wouldn't stay in there anyway.  I just needed to cover it up so that the grease would be unable to spray out as I was driving.  I had a roll of Gorilla Tape in the truck, and I decided to MacGyver up a grease cap out of Gorilla Tape.  I figured the worst that could happen would be that it would blow off as I drove, which would be no worse than the metal grease caps disappearing.  

200 miles later, the Gorilla Tape was still holding strong.  I was dumbfounded.  All the time and money I had spent, running in and out of auto parts stores, and all this time all I'd needed was Gorilla Tape?!?!  WTF?!?!

Just call me "MacGyver"
I made it to Phoenix without any further issues and brought the trailer straight to an RV repair shop.  I left it there overnight, hoping they would find replacement hubs, but knowing that I might just have to pony up for new axles.  Then I went and had a nice dinner with Monica at 32 Shea.  The next day, I got my hair did while I waited for news of the trailer.

The repair shop was not able to find any replacement hubs or replacement axles.  They thought they could have someone locally fabricate new axles for a few hundred bucks each, which would come complete with brand new hubs...but they would need to remove the axles from the trailer and bring them to the fabricator.  So this would have to wait until after the Santa Cruz Flats Race, since I needed to stay in the trailer during the comp.  The guys put everything back together and replaced any missing grease caps. This time I only had an hour's drive, but when I got to Casa Grande I was missing two grease caps.  Out came the Gorilla Tape once again - honey badger don't need no stinking grease caps!

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