It only seems fitting as this is our annual trailer buyer’s
guide issue that I share by trailering story from hell.
I really didn’t have a trailering nightmare story until last
winter. I always used to rely on stories about my travels with Steve Janes,
because, wow, did I have some scary trailer experiences.
Now it’s my turn.
I have to tell you, though, the trailering nightmare was
just a small part of the day that went from bad to worse as the day wore on. I
don’t have many bad days snowmobiling—I could probably count them on one had.
And it wasn’t that the day in question was a bad day snowmobiling, it was just
all the other things that happened.
All this happened last January on a ride through Yellowstone National Park. I was with a media group
touring the Park and I was excited to go along so I could get some new pictures
as well as see the Park again.
It was colder than a mother-in-law’s stare (or even colder)
that day. Pictures I took of the thermometer at Madison Arm Junction read about
5 degrees F but the wind was howling so who knows what the wind chill was. And
there were periods of snow that fell horizontally throughout the day. Sometimes
visibility was nil. It was so cold, that once we got to Old
Faithful, most of the tourists didn’t even wait for the geyser to
die down before they left looking for shelter. It was cold.
After watching Old Faithful
our group was to meet together for a luncheon. Somehow (I’m still trying to
figure that one out) I got separated from the group and spent about an hour
looking for them—in one lodge. I finally decided I’d better eat something. I
had brought a little food along with me so I went to the sled to get it and
discovered the ravens had not only cleaned me out of my food but a pair of my
brand new Klim gloves. Yes, ravens. Those scavengers know how to open the
trunk, get into backpacks and windshield bags. I knew this so I had purposely
packed my food accordingly—like right in the bottom of the trunk compartment,
under my water bottles and gloves. The water bottles were the only thing left.
By now I was getting a little agitated. I ended up buying my
own lunch and while I was sitting there eating it, my group shows up and said,
“Hey, where’d you disappear to?” My question back was, “Was anyone going to
look me and tell me where you guys were going?
Did I mention I was agitated?
(Yes, I’m going to get to the trailer nightmare. I’m
building up to it.)
The ride back to West Yellowstone
was nice. The sun came out a little and it wasn’t too bad. The wind was still
howling and all the while I’m thinking in the back of my mind, “I hope they
don’t close the highway across the flats in Island Park.”
This stretch of highway is notorious for getting wind drifts and sometimes just
has to be closed because the plows can’t keep up. It had stopped snowing by now
but the wind was creating ground blizzard conditions.
Once back to West Yellowstone, I was anxious to get on the
road and get home before they closed the highway through the northern part of Island Park.
I was hoping to get under way before dark, because that stretch of highway is
easier to navigate in daylight.
There was a little get together I needed to attend so I
decided, to save time, to change out of my riding gear and into some jeans and
my favorite SnoWest jersey for the
meeting and drive home. So I went into the men’s bathroom, picked out a stall
and commenced to change. Then I dropped my jersey in the toilet. So much for
that idea. I had to carry the wet jersey into the meeting room, where someone
promptly said, “Hey, how did your shirt get so wet?” I just muttered, “Never
By the time I finally got out of West, it was dark, the wind
was still howling and it was colder than before. I was towing our two-place
trailer (which has an aluminum cap on it) with two sleds in it and I was headed
for home. I came over the Continental Divide, dropped into Island Park
and headed south across the flats between Valley View and Island Park
I’ll admit I was probably going too fast for the
conditions—which consisted of a ground blizzard that had turned the highway
into a Zamboni-like finished sheet of ice any hockey team would be proud to
skate on. Visibility was next to nothing because of the blowing snow.
I did slow down and was doing my best to follow the white
line along the right edge of the road. I was about a mile from the trees (Island Park
Village) where I would
have been home free when I lost sight of the white line—which disappeared under
the drifting, shifting snow. I let off the gas and at that moment the truck
lost grip with the icy road and I started to spin—with the trailer in tow.
In a flash I was now pointed back north with the truck up
against the snow bank (probably 3-4 feet tall) along the edge of the road. I
collected my thoughts, figured out where I was and tried to figure out what to
do next. I figured I should check to make sure the trailer was okay and then
try to get out of the snowbank. I hopped out the passenger side of the truck,
went to the back of the truck and … no trailer.
Oh, the hitch was still hooked onto the ball and the chains
were still attached and the light plugin was still in … but no trailer. It was
about 50-75 yards down the highway still pointed south. The tongue had snapped
right off, about a foot or so past the hitch. It was a clean break, too, just
like you cut it with a knife.
My circumstances had just worsened.
I tried to get the truck out—it wasn’t even really stuck in
the snowbank, just the front driver’s side tire was in the snow, but the road
was so icy I couldn’t get any traction to get out. So I got out and dug (I had
the shovel from my avalanche pack) but to no avail. Someone stopped and offered
to go call the sheriff, who showed up and called a tow truck.
The tow truck pulled the truck out and then hooked the
trailer up to his rig (there was no way I could tow it in that condition) and
towed it the one mile to Island
where we picked it up the next day. That little escapade cost me $250. Probably
the worse part was having to call my boss later that night and tell him what
happened. Oh yea, and I was supposed to take my wife out to dinner that night.
Ugh. I didn’t even have the guts to tell her about it for two or three days.
Aside from the snapped tongue, there was no other damage to
the trailer or the sleds inside. I’m pretty lucky that some northbound vehicle
didn’t take the southbound trailer head on. That could have been real ugly.
No doubt it could have been much worse.
But it’s still my little trailer nightmare.
And no, I didn’t get any pictures.