Nuts And Bolts Of RV Living # 3 – Attack Of The Tree Branch


OH, My Aching Roof!

It’s been quite a while since we’ve posted a “Nuts and Bolts” column, about the everyday stuff in RV living, but it’s time for another. 

Anyone who claims to be an RVer can tell you (and if they can’t, they are probably being less than truthful) about an incident of hitting something with their trailer.  It happened to us once, with our old trailer before we were full-timers, at a private park out in Colorado I think it was, when I pulled into a wrong site by mistake.  As I was pulling out of it to get into our correct site, I was distracted by something, and didn’t make quite enough of a wide turn.  The back of my trailer hit a picnic table and dragged it up against a tree, destroying it in the process.  It was kind of hard to pretend that nothing had happened since one of the neighbors was standing there laughing at me.  The owner was understanding, and also laughed as he accepted my payment for a new table.

Well, it happened again.  Not with a picnic table this time, but with a tree.  When we planned on going to the Bar Harbor area, Chari had made reservations at a private park.  At the time, several months ago, we hadn’t “dry-camped” anyplace, and she wasn’t sure about using a local state park that didn’t have any services.  But, as the time for going there got closer, and having “dry-camped” this spring down at Assoteague, we gave it a re-think.  Our generator worked well, and the public parks are certainly a lot cheaper than the private parks, and generally a lot nicer as well. 

So, Chari checked, and yes, Lamoine State Park had one site open that would fit us.  We changed our reservations.

As we pulled into Lamoine, we saw we had made a good decision.  A very attractive and nice park.  The site we had was certainly big enough for our thirty-five foot trailer.  But, when I tried backing in to it, I realized we had a problem.  The road was narrow, with a post on the left hand side I was trying to back into, and a ditch on the right.  The only way I could get into the site was to back in with a wide swing to avoid the post, but the ditch wouldn’t allow me to make a swing quite wide enough.  I wound up in the site, but too far over to one side.

No problem,  thought I.  I’ll just pull back and forth a bit and inch my way over.  It may take ten or twelve times, but eventually I’ll get over.  The trouble was, with the ditch on the other side, I didn’t have quite enough room to get the truck and trailer straight between attempts.  I was inching my way over, but in the wrong direction, getting closer and closer to a tree on the side. 

I saw the tree, and was watching it in my mirror.  I was still trying to work my way over, getting somewhat frustrated, when I felt myself hit some sort of an obstruction.  I was watching the tree, and I was still a foot and a half away from it.  What could that be?  I got out of the truck, and happened to look up.

Guess what?  The tree had a branch!  For about eighteen inches, the branch had scraped along my roof as I was backing up.  The roof is made with a rubber fabric, and this section of it was now perforated with holes.

I managed to pull out again, into the road, without hitting anything.  It looked as if I could probably back into the site if I could do it from the opposite direction.  So, I drove around the loop and found a place where I could turn the rig around, and began backing down the road toward the site.  The camp host saw me, and came out to ask if I was having a problem.  He suggested maybe we could get a different site.  He went over to talk to the park rangers, and they checked and found out that there was another site available, a big grassy area where I could just pull in off the road. 

We changed sites, and I got in with no problem, but didn’t unhook from the truck.  We had a gash in our roof, it was already drizzling, and we had heavy rains in the forecast.  We got on the horn to our insurance company.  We’re covered, but there is a $500 deductible. 

Chari went on-line to try to find a repair place.  Looked like the nearest one would be in Bangor, an hour and a half away.  I called, and asked if we could take the trailer there to get it fixed?  He could do it, he told me, but not for a while, he was booked up with work.  What could I do, I asked…  I’ve got a bad roof with heavy rains coming.  He gave me the phone number of a guy in Ellsworth, only about ten miles away who might be able to help.

So, I called, and the feller there told me he could take it in the morning, but the roof would have to be perfectly dry for him to do anything.  He didn’t have an inside garage, he would have to work on it outside.  Would nine o’clock tomorrow be OK?  You betcha, sez I.  We’ll be there.

So, up on the roof I go with a towel to dry it, and a tarp to cover the gash.  I held the tarp down with some pieces of firewood, but then realized that I would have to remove it before driving off in the morning.  If it was raining then, it would all get wet.  So, I ran some ropes under the trailer to tie the tarp down in place.  Hopefully, it would stay down as I drove to Ellsworth in the morning.

Ever see a cartoon of someone with a toothache, with a bandage holding an icepack against his face?  That’s what we looked like.

Turned out that the heavy rain held off, and it only drizzled all night.  We headed out the next morning, and the guy at the shop looked at the gash.  Yes, he said, it’s all perfectly dry.  He had to go out on a job, but would call a friend, someone he works with all the time, to come over and patch it up. The patch would be as good as new, and would last as long as the rest of the roof. But, he told me, most of the time the insurance companies in a case like this would require the entire roof be replaced.  It would probably cost a few thousand dollars, and would take some time to get the materials.  Then, it would be a couple of day’s work.  The rain would be here this afternoon. 

So, back on the phone to the insurance company.  The gal at the other end of the line heard the story and went to get her supervisor.  He told me that if I would be happy with the patch, which would cost $125…  less than the deductible, they would close the case.  But, just in case a problem developed, they would allow me to reopen it at any time in the next three years and have the roof replaced. 

Needless to say, Chari and I were very happy with that decision.  We had the roof patched, and are confident it will last the lifetime of the original roof. 

It cost us $125, but we learned a valuable lesson.  LOOK UP!

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