Sunday, January 4, 2015

He Yelled "TOPE" - Too Late

During the fourteen years I have driven a trailer, it has always crossed my mind what would happen if the trailer became unhitched from the SUV.  Well today we found out.   As we came into the city of Durango (in Mexico), we ran into a detour.   I somehow got confused and we ended up on a major boulevard.  No problem with that as it was Sunday and around 9:30 in the morning.  There was very little traffic and as we were approaching another major intersection I heard, “TOPE” (speed bump).  It was way too late.  The street was recently paved and the tope appeared black as the asphalt and very unnoticeable with the shade of the houses.  

As I hit the brakes and we flew over the tope, the trailer lifted up, came off the ball, and came down with a bang, bouncing and hitting the ground twice before sliding into the back of the SUV.  I literally saw the trailer lift up and I was sure it was coming through the back window.  We skidded to a screeching stop and jumped out.  Panic was the first word and it took about five minutes to assess the damage. 

As most of you know, the bathroom and kitchen are in the front of the trailer.  That means the sewage valves and the water tanks are too.  We are very hitch heavy.   My first concern was the damage to the trailer.  No visible signs of any kind.  I guess the trailer sits high enough and the hitch is long enough that nothing underneath was damaged.  The SUV had a small two inch indentation from where the hitch slammed into it.  Pictures later on that. 

Panic passed, my major concern was that the rats (transito) would come out of the wood work.  Having Mexican plates and being a Sunday I thought we were screwed.  The trailer hitch dug into the pavement for about 15 feet not including the two initial hits.  That’s a big winner for the city as they would consider that damage and would have to be paid via insurance or in person. 

We both hunkered down and went to work.  The hitch crank handle had been bent hitting the hitch ball and wouldn't budge.  We used a hammer at first and no luck.  BTW, the weight distribution bars had both popped off and were hanging from the hitch.  We got those off and Juan used one to give one big heave ho and got the crank working.  Limited use but it helped get us started.  Then we got out the wood and the jack from the SUV and started raising it up from the side.  I had to move the SUV because one of the tow chains was stretched to the max and we couldn’t get it off.

Trailer raised, we backed up barely getting the ball under the hitch with Juan standing on it and bouncing a bit.  We got it hooked up and got back on the road.   We pulled over and did an inspection and it appeared all was good.   We stopped for gas, checked again and headed to Torreon.  We were very lucky with the trailer.  The only thing I need to check and possibly fix is the crank on the trailer hitch.  Whew, that was something but teamwork pulled it all off in about 20 minutes and we were on our way. 

As for yesterday, we took the oh so dangerous Espinazo del Diablo (Devil’s Backbone) from Mazatlan towards Durango.  We will always use this highway when we come back to the coast.  This is one of the most scenic drives we have ever been on.  The views are incredible, the highway one of the best paved of any toll or libre, and there was literally no traffic whatsoever.  We passed three semis and two buses.

We found a small park between El Salto and Durango yesterday afternoon and we paid fifty pesos to park on the basketball court.  You can’t get any more level than that.  But guess what, we woke up this morning and it was -9C.   Everything covered in heavy frost.  It took the car 40 minutes to warm up.  Thank you Mr. Heater for keeping us nice and warm.   We watched a fantastic movie last night, Source Code, had a wonderful dinner and drinks.  We are now parked back at the truck stop at Leon Guzman just on the East side of Torreon.  After our adventure this morning I wasn’t feeling up to going any further or searching for a new spot.  I am posting this from the convenience store across from the libre on the lousy Torreon – Durango autopista.  More pics to come this week of a great trip home.


  1. Yikes! So, you made it all the way on that dangerous highway, and then you have a problem in Durango. Go figure! Sorry we missed you here.

  2. thank goodness you are both Ok and the damage not so bad...good luck and safe journey home best wishes les

  3. My husband Eric wonders how the heck the trailer came off the ball. Was the latch not pinned down or was the ball too small. Definitely a catastrophic failure. Good luck on the rest of you journey. Drive safe.

  4. We drove over a tope today.. sign said "Speed Brake Ahead"...... we've seen Speed Hump, and a few other descriptive signs.... but this was a first. Glad you came through this one relatively unscathed.

  5. No wayyyyyyy! That's crazy! So, so so glad all turned out ok and you could carry on. Ahhh topes…… Source Code is a good movie…. Enjoy your evening! Brrrrrr…….

  6. We have all hit those damn things! Luckily you got away with relatively little damage. Don't be in too big a hurry to get home, it is cold!

  7. Thank goodness you are a great team and got it all put together again. When I wished you exciting adventures for 2015 I did not mean that kind. Topes can be real heart stoppers. As Croft said some of us have had a major story to tell after an unfortunate confrontation with a tope but the pain does fade. Vodka helps :)

  8. Glad everything worked out guys. Once you hit a tope you are always looking for them. Even shadows look like topes. We hit a bad one once in Oaxaca and we will never forget it. Luckily there was a handy man RV'er in the campground with a welder and put us back together. Thought the camper was going to fly off the truck. Paula has saved our buns more than once. She is a great copilot!!!