Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wild Ride

Had an interesting adventure last Thursday...
Last week we came to the conclusion that we would need a big pile of raw steel angles, channels, square tube, etc. for fabricating supports for the bulkheads and frames as they went up. When the longitudinal stringers go in, they will tie the frame structure together nicely while the hull is plated. Until then, the frames and bulkheads will be sitting on top of the keel, unsupported in the winds (which have been consistently blowing just about every afternoon at the build site).  So where to find a pile of steel stock in good shape for not a lot of money?
Craigslist came to the rescue. A steel construction company in Sacramento was closing out a warehouse and needed to get rid of a large lot of uncut steel in the dimensions we were looking for. Made the trip up on Thursday last week with Jesus and his truck, towing a 14' trailer.
Jesse, whose family runs Titan Steel Construction, helped us back the trailer into the shop next to the pile. Jesus and I then hand loaded (no forklift!?) all the steel (about 6000lbs) onto the trailer and with Jesse's help, secured everything with chain binders and straps.
After we found our way back to I-80 heading back to Vallejo, things started getting interesting. Somewhere north of Fairfield, the road started getting really bad. Then it got really, really bad.
Then it got worse. I'm not sure what CalTrans is up to these days, but they are certainly not working on the truck lane on I-80 north of Fairfield. As our truck and trailer bounced over the huge bumps and gaps in the road surface (all the asphalt had been stripped off) with alarming regularity, we began to feel an ominous motion in the trailer behind us. The regular bumps in the road had set off some kind of oscillation in our trailer that was compounded by the heavy weight of the load of steel. Soon the trailer was swinging from side to side like a pendulum and this motion was increasing. Now the weight of the trailer was starting to pull the back of the truck from side to side. Jesus was only doing about 50mph but he had to fight the wild swinging of the trailer in order to slow down enough to pull over. Just as I was sure we were going to jack-knife across the two right lanes and spill our steel all over I-80, Jesus managed to find the shoulder and stop the truck, burying his right rear wheel in the dirt in the process. The outside right tire was slowly going flat and the trailer was still sticking out into the truck lane, so we decided we better get out of there. We crawled along the shoulder to the next exit and assessed the situation. The load had shifted enough, that we thought it best to take everything apart, repack, and resecure. Then after a hearty lunch of potato chips and gatorade from the gas station, we found a Big O tire shop down the street that was able to fix the tire. We had forced about 2 cups of gravel and dirt under the wheel rim and into the tire when we went into the shoulder, and this had caused the tire to go flat- good thing the truck had dual rear wheels. Back on the road, we made our way (slowly, with great care, and much concern over repeating our prior highway acrobatics) down to the first Vallejo exit and took city streets back to Mare Island. Unloaded and went home for a stiff drink...

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