So much has happened since we left Gillette a week and a half ago, I haven’t really known where to start with an update. We finished our contract and said our goodbyes on Saturday and headed west towards Thermopolis. The plan was to park the fifth wheeler and then head on to Washington to visit family for a bit in between contracts. After a couple miles on I90 though, it was obvious something was off with the trailer. Erich pulled over and moved some heavy items toward the front and we hit the road again, but as I followed in our second vehicle, the swerving and fishtailing were obvious. And scary. It was a super windy Wyoming day so we thought it was just the wind, blowing us around. I was so nervous though that I asked him to pull off at the closest rest stop so we could move the two kids that were in the truck with him into my car. We then agreed to continue, but to go as slowly as he felt necessary to stay safe. I won’t lie, it was a stressful drive and there’s no doubt the trailer was close to flipping more than once. We stopped in Billings, Montana and Erich was ready to trade the thing in for something else, anything else. We agreed to park it at a campground until we decided what to do and continued on to Washington. Erich had some theories about why the fifth wheeler had become so unstable; the wind, the hitch level, the truck height, the weight of the generator. He had just experienced a close call and was not ready to have a repeat. I had spent four hours following him, praying and cringing, and was in agreement that something needed to change. We ran through the options: upgrade to a motor coach or switch to apartment living and get a smaller toy hauler for our explorcations. We do a lot of tent camping and a lot of it is at 9,500 feet or so, which translates to brrrrrrr. Keeping a two year old in a sleeping bag when the temp is in the low 30’s is an all night task, which translates to no sleep for me. So we also played with the idea of getting a pull behind trailer so that we could have a camper on the back of the truck at the same time, something warmer than a tent to explore in. But every time Erich looked to me for my opinion, I was like a deer in headlights, no idea which way to go. Nothing felt just right. This was our home we were talking about. I’m not super sentimental, at all really, but we had put 9 months into making it our home. It was perfect, I loved it. I love how everywhere we go, we are still home. I suggested calling the dealer just to make sure there wasn’t something we were missing, hoping they might have a suggestion that would fix our problem. Erich did call them and it turns out fifth wheelers DON’T fishtail. That’s why people buy fifth wheelers. They called the manufacturer who also insisted that they had never had any of their units handle the way Erich was describing. They referred us to the maker of the axle thinking it was an axle issue. Erich flew back to Billings and delivered the trailer to an alignment shop before heading to Thermopolis to begin his new contract. The kids and I stayed in Washington to hang out with family a bit longer while we sorted our living situation out. The alignment shop called Erich last night with a diagnosis. I’ve got to be honest, I was totally expecting them to say it was an axle issue and that it would be fixed in a couple weeks. We would be safe to travel AND have our home back! I was floored when they said the trailer was totally built wrong. The coach (or the body) was 11,000 pounds (empty) and sitting on an axle rated for only 9,000 pounds. He said the frame was basically S shaped at this point, it was so messed up. It felt like a kick in the gut. Don’t get me wrong, I love change more than the average person who loves change enjoys change. But I REALLY loved our new life and our home and the way things were rolling (well, figuratively, not literally). Now what?! A motor coach doesn’t accommodate a family of six as well and also costs way more. Changing apartments every three months doesn’t offer the kids the same consistency that bringing your home everywhere you go does. Getting another fifth wheeler or a pull behind meets our needs, but requires us starting from scratch again; building bunks and tables and storage solutions. Needless to say, I go round and round in my head. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, most of you know I’m married to another human. Wait, what?! Yeah, that’s right, and while “two become one”, we’re still two individuals. Sometimes we want the same thing and sometimes, we have different wants and/or needs. I’m sure none of you can relate, I’m talking jibberish right? I have always enjoyed turning a place into a home and now I love taking it with me and the consistency it offers the kids. Erich loves to play and would LOVE to have an ATV for our family’s exploring trips. Ideally, he would prefer apartment living with adventuring on the side, so a smaller toy hauler with a toy to haul. There is nothing wrong with either picture, but where do they meet in the middle? And since the two of us procreated and now have 4 mini versions of ourselves to think about, what’s best for them? There is almost always a middle ground somewhere, so where is it? And at this point, what are our options for real? Honestly, we don’t even know yet! Erich will be speaking with the manufacturer and the axle maker tomorrow morning to discuss options. I think knowing our options and maybe even settling on one, will help ease this feeling of displacement we are all struggling with. Especially for the girls, they are struggling the most with the loss and I am looking forward to giving them an answer as to where they will be living a month from now. It feels silly to feel homeless when hundreds of families have lost their homes and all their belongings to the wildfires in California. We have so much to be thankful for. So, tonight I am grateful for: safe passage, the crazy human I call my other half, and the adventure waiting for us and our littles no matter what happens tomorrow.
So sorry to hear about your home. I will be praying for wisdom in your decisions, and peace in your displacement for the whole family.
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Oh my, my heart sinks reading this!! And on your birthday!!!! There’s a future….still full of hope!!
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Kjersti, I’m curious, what are your options with the manufacturer/dealer? It seems like the onus is on them to replace/repair your rig, since it was spec’d with the incorrect weight rating from the factory (from what I read in your blog post). Is there some recourse if you were to seek legal advice if you chose to pursue that route?
On another note, I’ve enjoyed your blog and read them whenever I see that you’ve posted a new entry.
We will be praying for your family on this matter.
– doug and sue layton
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Yes, it is under warranty and Forest River seems motivated to make it right, being such a safety hazard and all. We are hoping to hear options tomorrow…
And thank you so much!