The drive from Whitehorse to Beaver Creek on the Alaska Highway was not as smooth as some of our other drives, but not as bad as we expected.
There were a couple of stretches of gravel road where they were rebuilding sections of the road, and many rough patches of filled pot holes and frost heaves. They try to mark the worst of these with red flags on the shoulders.
The last six miles or so are actually pretty smooth. That is where the accident happened.
Craig was driving under the speed limit because we were approaching some red flags when for some reason the right front tire of the Alfa slipped over the edge of the pavement onto the shoulder.
The picture at the right shows the rut as our tire left the pavement. How quickly it sunk!
This section of shoulder had recently been renewed with a base of extremely soft mud and gravel and large mounds of rocks and dirt. The shoulder also had a serious slant away from the pavement, and was all the same color gray as the pavement with no white line to show the edge.
Once the tire was over the edge it was impossible to correct and the rig slid over the edge as well. It all happened so fast. All I really remember is seeing books and things falling from the overhead cabinets and sliding toward the right side of the coach. We ended up at a precarious angle that felt like we could tip and roll at any moment.
What saved us from that was that we ended up with the passenger side smashed up against a large pile of dirt and rock.
At first we did not know this and although on the outside I think I was pretty calm, I was afraid to move about the rig, or try to get out the door since it was on the down side. I was afraid that my weight would cause the Alfa to tip over. You know, like the images of a car halfway over a cliff, just balancing there!
When the dust settled and we realized nothing was on fire and neither of us was hurt, I found my purse and located our CoachNet card. Fortunately our cell phone worked, and I was able to contact them. This has got to be one of our best services as RVers. Their representative got our information, verified our account number, and located a tow truck for us very quickly. In fact the tow truck guys were there within 15 minutes, in a pickup, to assess our condition and figure out which trucks to send. She also contacted the police for us, and a Canadian officer showed up quite quickly. This may have been because we were only a few miles from Beaver Creek where both the station house and the tow yard were.
By the time they came, Craig had climbed out through the drivers side window. I did not. I waited until they had cables attached to the Alfa and they told me I should get out. Once out I could see that we were smushed up against a pile of dirt and could not have tipped. But I really didn't know this until I was out.
|I felt like she could tip over at any moment|
|Pull, Pull, Pull|
|And she is OUT!|
This is the most visible damage:
The right front is really torn up. The entire right side is a bit broken, with the locks on the bay door damaged so it won't open, and sections of trim torn away.
The front tire was flat. Our new tire! But as it turned out Craig and the tow guys were able get it re-inflated so we could drive into town.
Some of the damage we couldn't see included the total destruction of our step, and the distortion of the metal tray that holds three of our big "house" batteries.
The Jeep did not completely detach from the Alfa, but the tow bar was totaled.
The Jeep ended up on top of one of the gravel and dirt piles, and seemed to be OK.
Traffic seemed sparse on the Alaska Highway, but as we waited for help to arrive, many other RVs and pick up truck drivers stopped to ask if we were OK and if we needed help. Mary and Doug stopped, another Alfa couple we had met at the park in Whitehorse. Later, when they saw us coming into the tow service yard, they came over and offered to save a space for us at the RV park. We had not made any reservations, and were glad for the help. That night the park was totally full!
That evening, Doug also helped Craig take things out of the bay from the driver's side and get to the lock on the big passenger-side bay from the inside. When they determined the lock was broken, they reorganized things so important items, like tools, were more accessible from the driver's side.
Many of the other RVers who were at this park had seen us on the side of the road and stopped by to tell us they were very glad we were OK. Accidents bring out the best in people.
The next morning we spoke to the insurance adjuster and verified that it was OK for us to move on to Tok. So far at least, the insurance company has been very responsive.
Because we totaled the tow bar we could not tow the Jeep. Craig drove the Alfa and I followed in the Jeep and everything seemed to be going fine for about fifty miles.
All at once the Jeep came to a sudden unexpected stop. It wouldn't go forward nor backward. I quickly grabbed the walkie-talkie and called Craig before he was out of range. When I told him what had happened, he slowly backed up the Alfa for about a quarter of a mile to get back to me. Good thing there was no traffic!
We were both baffled for awhile until Craig noted that the Air Force One emergency brake connection was missing. When they are connected with the tow bar, the Air Force One connects the Jeep brakes to the Alfa brakes. There is a wire that attaches in such a way, that if the Jeep were to separate from the Alfa while being towed, the wire would pull a loop that would cause the Jeep brakes to lock, thereby preventing a run-away Jeep.
Craig looked at it, but wasn't sure how to disable it. He did not want to start disconnecting wires without knowing what he was doing. Unfortunately, we had no cell service. Verizon let us down in an emergency! But my AT&T flip phone was no help either.
So, I stayed with the Jeep while he drove off in the Alfa looking for a cell signal. After a pretty long time I turned on the engine to see what time it was, and just for the heck of it I tried to move forward. Magically, the brake was unlocked. (It seems there was something to do with built up air pressure, and that goes away when the engine is off.) Off I went: with my hazard lights flashing I crept along the shoulder for a while. Once I felt comfortable, I just drove carefully being prepared in case my brake should lock again. It didn't.
It turned out that Craig had driven almost all the way to Tok, about 50 miles, got a signal, talked to the service rep, and was on the way back to me when we met up about 15 miles out of town.
He got turned around again, and we made it into town and into our campground for the night.
Two pretty long days! Friday we will be heading to Anchorage for the first of the repairs. Looks like the Alfa will have a broken nose for a few months. We don't expect to get the body work done until we get back to Southern California in fall. That seems to be fine with the insurance company, as long as we document the damage now which we did with lots of pictures.
This too shall pass. It will all become another chapter in "Merikay's Dream".