Each trip becomes easier, in terms of putting up and taking down Half Moon—until today. My tasks take longer and seem difficult. Then, I try 10 times to get the van backed up just right, so I can hitch up the camper. Then, I have to fiddle with the hitch clamp.
With everything ready to go and no people around to laugh at me, I decide to take advantage of the open meadow and practice backing up maneuvers. Somehow, I jackknife, and the camper hitch pops off the ball. Hmmmm, that seems odd to me, but I get everything reconnected and soon head out. I drive over “almost 4-wheel drive” roads (deep center rut, have to straddle) to get out. I notice that the camper stays hitched up, even as it wiggles back and forth over the dirt roads. I am relieved.
I pull onto I-25 and drive about 40 miles when I see a rest stop. As I turn into the rest area, I cross an old cattle guard without slowing down, and thud, scrape, stinky smell. I stop right there and see that the camper has popped off the ball again. A guy behind me jumps out of his car and takes over fixing the problem without me asking. He starts cranking up the front end of the hitch, but we cannot get the wheel on the metal tube that cranks up, so it grinds into the pavement. Eventually, the cranking gets the camper high enough to get it hitched again. However, the heavy metal tube (bar?) that holds up the camper trailer in front is all bent up from being ground into the pavement. The wheel no longer fits and I am sad about damaging Half Moon.
Then the man showed me the hole where I can put a bolt or padlock, which will keep things held together better. I find a general store in the small town of Kaycee where I am and buy a padlock. The hasp fits into the hole but won’t lock. However, since it seems snug and unlikely to come out, I leave the unlocked padlock in place. My next plan is to drive carefully to Casper, another 100+ miles south. I get off the Interstate and check the camper 3 or 4 times while driving, and the lock stays snug.
Finally, in Casper, I find a padlock with a long hasp, and lock it into place on the hitch clamp. I get home (another 120 miles) without incidence but I do drive with caution. At home, I have to unhitch onto some wood, which does not work all that great.
As I relate this story to some local friends, they express surprise about the camper coming un-hitched. Several suggest that the ball may be too small, but the camper dealer installed it for me, and I imagine he would install the right one. I have not had a previous problem either. Then again, this is the first time I pulled it on rutted dirt roads. Anyway, I will make an appointment and get down to the dealer in a few weeks for an inspection. I feel so bad that Half Moon is now damaged and worse, maybe the hitch clamp is broken.
Once home and settled in, I turn on the news and realize the decision to avoid RMNP was a good one. Weather people talk about heavy rain and flooding in Estes Park, my original destination. The Bighorns were cloudy and at times menacing, yet spared us any rain.
This will most likely be my last trip into the Bighorns this year. I will look for changing trees closer to home in the next few weeks. In October, I may head up to the Black Hills (SD) after I get the hitch checked out!