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Monday, October 1, 2018

NO MOTORHOME BRAKES - Camp Hosting At High Cliff State Park, WI

We are scheduled for camphosting
at High Cliff State Park, 
located in Sherwood, WI near Appleton. 

Oh my... I won't hold you in suspense until the end of the blog.....  
I will tell you now:  

We are thanking God tonight 
for looking over Steve.  
Our motorhome brakes went out. 
Pedal right to the floor!  

Luckily it was while Steve was backing into our camp host site... So we are safe.

He just drove 15 miles from home, and he went down a very steep hill (the escarpment ledge along the shore of Lake Winnebago) to the propane dealer in Stockbridge to fill our tank. Then he drove to the park entrance.  Then he drove to the dump station. Then finally he drove into the family campground (112 sites). Some hills, some stop signs, some descents.  No problems.  But suddenly NO brakes~!~

We don't know yet what went out, if it was a brake line leak or the master cylinder, etc. The brakes were just fine when he left home, and while he drove through all through the park, at the dump station before moving on to the family campground area, and into the loop to the camphost site location.

Steve was backing into the site while I was guiding him (I always stand to one side so he can see me in his side mirrors and not directly behind the rig)  and he lurched funny and stopped by yanking the emergency brake.

Yup, he had no brakes and pedal was to the floor!

(P.S. on edit.... I have had a few people private message me asking if air brakes or hydrolic? We have hydrolic brakes with brake fluid lines and brakes pads. All pads recently replaced, and two of the four lines recently replaced. After the rain stops Steve will get under there to take a look)
  • I just marvel at the fact that he could have gone careening down that steep bank on the escarpment at Cty E and Hwy 55 had the brakes gone out then...                                                                  
  • Or he could have gone careening into the propane dealership and blew up a tank in a blaze of glory...                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Or he could have rammed into the big trash dumpsters or knocked over the water faucet poles at the dump station while he emptied our tanks before parking (we had done a good fresh tank and line rinsing with some bleach at home and our black tank was half full.)                                                       
  • Or he could have seriously plowed over park visitors on his way into the park, winding along the roads along the quarry and ledge...

We are thanking God for keeping the brakes operational until he reached the campsite, safe and sound!

It's pouring rain and Steve is chomping at the bit to go out and get under the rig to see what went out.  But we now are sitting in at least 3 inches of water surrounding our motorhome, so we will stay inside until morning before looking at what happened.


---Now I will go back to earlier in the day leading up to this---

Steve left the house first, driving the motorhome, to stop at the propane dealer to top off our big propane tank, then dump the black holding tank, and then he planned to meet me in the park at the camp host site.

I left in our spare vehicle, the Tracker, and stopped first at the post office, then stopped a Hilde's for pot pies and buns, and then headed to the park to wait for Steve. 

As I entered the park, look who greeted me near the entrance! ahhhh so nice to see Nature right off the bat.  There are a lot of deer in the park, and I snapped this through the windshield quick while I stopped in the middle of the road. 

It was just starting to rain when I got to the camp host site. The dogs were with me in the Tracker and I popped out to take a few pics of the camp host site.  A few years ago, while Steve still worked full time for the park, he added a lot of gravel to this site to help soak up the mud.  It's in a real low spot and tends to be a small lake after it downpours. The gravel really helps! 

A few years ago I had painted the rocks leading visitors into the campsite when we were camp hosting... I came back a few times and painted them again. Someone added a fresh coat of paint again this year, not sure who.  I think it helps invite people into the site to welcome them to come and talk and ask questions and get information. 

Here is our little shed with camp fire wood that we can sell to the campers if they arrive after the main office is closed. There is a large wood shed down there, but this small one helps if someone comes late and still wants a campfire at night.  Also here is our Polaris ATV for cleaning campsites and shovelling ashes from the firepits.  Those are our only duties, as well as being an ambassador to the visitors and handing out information.

I like that the camp host site is located in the middle of the park, with easy access to the campers.  Rather than off to an end like some parks.  We are the "eyes and ears" for the rangers and DNR wardens that patrol the entire park.  We don't have to have any personal confrontations if there is trouble, we just call the staff and they take care of it.  We have a lot of room in our campsite, and the motorhome fits with plenty of extra space for lawn chairs, toys and our awning mat.  That is good because ALL of our kids and grandkids are coming on Saturday for a special event. More on that in a later blog. 

I waited about 10 minutes as the rain increased in tempo.  Soon I saw Steve driving up to the campsite.  Of course the limit is only 10 mph, and he goes even slower because he is always thoughtful and careful.  He pulled up on the road next to me and I got out to guide him back in. 

Steve is a great "backer-upper" and really doesn't need me to guide him.  He uses his mirrors and sometimes the center backup camera.  I am just back there mostly to double check for overhanging branches, or a stray kid or clueless adult that wanders behind a backing up vehicle (yes, that happens!)   But Steve always knows where he is going and gets it in the right spot usually the first time.  Plus we have camphosted here for quite a few years, so he knows the site dimensions are right.  Not to mention he also graded gravel over the site when he worked here to absorb the muddy terrain. 

When the motorhome made a funny lurch and jerk, I knew something wasn't right!  That is just not like him.  He opened the window, looked so serious and said something is wrong with the brakes!  Hmmmm???   Then he set up some planks by the driver's rear wheels and tried to drive up on them, and overshot the planks and drove right over them!  He then looked very worried and said the brakes are totally GONE!  He had to pull up the emergency brake and shift the electronic gear pad out of drive and into neutral to stop.  

The rain was starting to pour down, so we just pulled out the cord to plug into power, and went inside to make supper.  He is frustrated and irritated that he can't go out and crawl underneath to see what is what. He is "fretting".  

Since we are already staying here until early next week, he has plenty of time to diagnose and work on it. He carries a full array of tools on board, even air tools and has a big compressor in a storage compartment.  Plus he can access anything additional from the maintenance shop in the park, where he used to work for years before retiring. We can get parts shipped here or we can pick them up, since we have our extra vehicle here too.  So I think it will be resolved toot-sweet. 

Earlier I said I had stopped at Hilde's in Chilton before coming out to the park. https://www.hildesdeliandbakery.com/  She makes the BEST homemade chicken pot pies!  We buy them frozen unbaked and take them to go.  I grabbed a couple along with fresh bakery kaiser rolls and brat buns.  Hilde laughed and laughed when she brought this pot pie out of the freezer. It looks like a funny old man. (I think it looks like perplexed Steveio stressing over his big brake quandary)  She wanted a pic of it after I baked it in the oven. 

It's now evening. The rains have been pouring down for hours.  Steve went outside and found himself WADING in 2-3 inches deep of water surrounding the motorhome. He wanted to get something from a storage compartment.  I don't think the dogs will want to get out to do their business, they will have to swim???  I think we will have to put on boots and wade through it carrying the dogs to high ground to do their business before bedtime.  LOL 

The cell signal is low and intermittent on and off, probably due to the weather. I am tethering my laptop to the cell phone to type this.  It kept cutting out so now I took out our Wilson antenna booster signal amplifier. 

Here is the antenna, with a magnetic base. It needs a "ground plane" but our rig is aluminum. Sticking it to this steel dessert tray works!  I set it on the dash near the windshield to get a good signal. 

This is the conductor unit that runs either on AC or DC. When the light is green, it means it found a cell tower. If it's red, well, sorry, you are out of luck. It will amplify a signal if there is one.  If there isn't, it can't help.  You just set your phone or tablet close to it, and watch the bars go up.  If the phone only has 1 bar or on 1X or CDMA, this will boost it up to 2 or 3 or even find 3G when otherwise you were 1X.  This is an old one, I think about 10 years ago.  But it works great for cases like this. 

Well, the rig is warmed up nicely from the oven baking our pot pies, and we are using our propane Wave 8 catalytic heater. Because our camp host site has power, we are not boondocking. We have electric mattress pad heaters on our bed. Cuddled up tonight on the loveseat, we are watching tv and reading blogs.

The dogs are curled up between us on the loveseat 
and said they wanted a "selfie" too! 

I don't think they are too thrilled 
with knowing we have to wade through water 
for them to do their nightly business.

I hope it stops raining by then 
and some of this can soak into the ground. 


  1. Replies
    1. Hahahhaaa ya and Fred Flintstone just dragged his feet underneath!

  2. I'm glad you both are ok and that nothing bad happened as a result of the failed brakes. This is why I always use the exhaust brake on the big hills. I may not stop if the brakes fail, but at least the exhaust brake keeps you from having a runaway coach.
    Yes, God is looking out for us...

    95 Safari Serengeti 38'
    300 Cummins 8.3CTA
    6Spd Allison

    1. Yup..we use the exhaust brake too a lot... but of course, not in the park in the middle of the campground. He yanked the emergency brake, which as you know clamps around the driveshaft on our type of rigs. It really JERKED to a halt!

  3. Air Brakes are a lot more sensitive then Hydraulic. Hoping that it's not a broken bracket so Steve can make can make a quick repair.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. Fortunately we are hydraulic on our rig, not air. I better clear that up in my blog on edit and in tomorrow's blog. Thanks for reminding me that I didn't specify! (glad we aren't air, that is much more complicated to repair)

  4. I sure hope your brake problem is quickly resolved. I recently went to Colorado and was only 140 miles from home when I lost power climbing a small hill and saw the temp gauge buried in the hot zone. Turned out the heater hose had burst. I fixed that and added antifreeze and thought that I could continue home. Upon restarting the engine it just didn’t sound good and was running rough. A friend in our group said I should drive it sounding like that so I towed it all the way home. Now I’m waiting for the mechanic to give me a diagnosis. I love my Safari Trek and am hoping I didn’t destroy the engine.

    1. Oh Jeff! We know how much you love your Safari Trek! I sure hope it is an easy repair and that your engine is good to go soon.


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