January 28, 2006
Ill fated SLC car hauler trek

The plan: Ride along with a buddy Luke to drive to Salt Lake City UT (about 2700 miles, round-trip) to pick up a car and haul it back in his enclosed trailer. Part of the attraction in trailering the road worthy car (instead of flying out and driving it back) would be that the trailer would protect it from the abrasive winter salt and grime.

We left Rochelle IL mid to late day, rolled through the night, and were about 20 miles west of Laramie WY mid day when a large gust of wind ripped the enclosed and empty trailer from the truck as we rolled down the freeway. The near new aluminum trailer flipped onto its right side, its roof, its left side, then back onto its wheels as it departed the freeway and slid down the outside embankment. We had passed under some "info signs" miles ago but they were dark. Those info signs are specifically for "high wind" advisories.

While we waited for the police to arrive Luke made calls to the destination (will be a bit later than expected) and we did an inspection / cleanup of the trailer. No critical damage to the trailer though some undercarriage welds did pop. There wasn't a face of the trailer that didn't have some damage. Neither door fit quite right in their frame - the trailer tweaked / bent.

The safety chains were ripped from the aluminum tongue and were hanging from the back of the truck. The ball receiver hitch was still locked closed - but quite certainly not attached to the truck - that small piece of metal couldn't keep the trailer attached to the truck (and perhaps it's better that it let go).

The cold, biting wind was ferocious. There's no way we would chance re-hooking the lightweight trailer and try moving it down the road - it would be blown over again. We needed either the wind to cease or additional weight in the trailer.

The police arrived and since they couldn't confirm that the advisory sign was lit when we passed by they didn't issue any ticket (both of us remembered the sign and neither of us saw any advisory displayed). The plan was set to move the trailer farther back from the edge of the road and leave it. We'd drive on to SLC, get the car, drive the car and truck back to the trailer. Then, if the wind was still kicking we'd at least have enough weight to keep the trailer on its wheels.

With the trailer backed up to the perimeter fence and pointed directly into the high wind, we locked it up and left it at the side of the freeway. The next truck stop we stopped for a nice warm meal.

Now after dark and still 240+ miles from our destination the snow started - it's gonna be a long day. That warm dinner at least was a bright spot.

Finally into SLC the hotel hunt started - and almost ended w/o having a room. Some HUGE convention in town. We lucked out and one hotel called another and we got the last room in a hotel not too far away. In the morning we'll take delivery of the car.

Up and at it with a simple plan, version 2: take delivery, each of us drive a vehicle back to the trailer, load it up and process miles.

So the one desire, from the initial plan, too keep the car off of the paint chipping, metal rusting salty roads was exactly what it'd be rolling through while it was on the road. The freshly applied rock salt was so thick that when passing a semi I'd hold back behind the spray then make a quick pass to minimize the time that the car would bet blasted. About the time we had the car into the trailer - the roads were clear - go figure.

The trailer was awaiting us - I guess nobody wanted to steal it. While the car was loaded the fun didn't stop. The trailer lights kept blowing the trailer power supply fuse. It's getting dark and we need lights back there.

At a lonely "one building at the side of the freeway exit" combination repair garage & fuel station we pulled in and started to check out the lights. At first being conservative but then simply hacking wires to try and isolate the damaged part of the circuit. We don't need side marker lights - snip those wires. With the cold temps and blowing wind spending time outside wasn't enjoyable and fortunately the shop owner opened up his semi-truck sized garage bay for us. He was heading out / leaving for the evening and told us to "lock up" when we left. Very nice of him - even giving us a heater and lights to use.

After about 20 minutes in the garage we headed out feeling the lights would be OK - we'd be proven wrong all too quickly. No going back - the owner was long gone and a nice warm, wind free shop was out of reach. I think Laramie was the next town and at a fuel fill we isolated one final light fixture - that was it. No more blown fuses and we would have enough lights for those approaching from behind.

Only 940 miles to go for our meeting spot at Rochelle IL....

Where the trailer flipped

A whole-lotta "not much" out there...

The "excitement" will begin shortly...

Luke sent some traler photos...

Well, we should be at SLC about now - but we're still 240+ miles away. No picking up the car tonight.

Riding into the night on snow covered freeway (3 to 5" and still coming down)

Next morning. I'm in the car and Luke's following as we head out of SLC.

Cloudy, snowy, grimy

Dry, clear roadway - nice

While this trip happened in January 2006, it's now July 4, 2007 and I'm finally getting around to finishing and posting the report. The significance in this is that I'm now living in Fort Collins CO - only 90 miles southeast of where the trailer flipped. When I was first traveling through Fort Collins - deciding if I wanted to live here or not - I would pick up "info flyers" for houses that were for sale. One of the flyers, on a new construction house, had - IN THE MAIN BULLETS / FEATUERES OF THE HOUSE - listed that the house was "Rated for 100 MPH Winds". WOW.

Finally, a month back a strong low pressure storm moved through the area. The weather advisory for high winds was alarming. Enough that I recorded the announcement - here it is (2.2MB MP3 audio file).