Today we left San Francisco heading south. We’ve enjoyed our visit to the city very much and are sorry to be leaving. We headed out of town on US101 with the intention of travelling to Carmel or Monterey, ready to take a look at the 17-mile coastal drive. As the journey progressed the wind was getting stronger with occasional gusts which made driving the RV a bit hairy at times. Just a short distance from the community of Marina, Rosina noticed a banging noise from behind. I slowed right down and she got up to investigate and could see a strap fluttering above the opaque roof vent in the bathroom, and on passing the frosted glass window in the side door could see something flapping outside. I just had to pull over. When we got outside we found the side awning had unfurled itself between the side of the vehicle body and the roller on which it is attached. It was just like a large uncontrolled sail on a boat as it flapped in the wind. We were stuck; we had to sort it out, but couldn’t do so parked on the side of the busy road. We decided to make for the Wal-Mart supermarket in town, which fortunately was close by and where we could take a closer look at it.
The big problem was that we had never used the awning, I don’t like them as they increase the stress on the vehicle mounting points as well as the framework of the awning should it become windy when deployed. If we were to find ourselves needing shade during our trip I intended buying a stand-alone gazebo from Wal-Mart.
We had to figure out the mechanics of how the canopy worked, open it up and then work out how to roll it all up again and stow it. Having finally done that we couldn’t get the upright steel framework to line up completely square to secure it, so having made sure the ratchet mechanism on the awning was set to the ‘roll up’ position suggesting it could not unfurl again, we popped in to Wal-Mart to get some odd bits of shopping; satisfied there was nothing more we could do until the wind dropped.
When we returned from the store we discovered the canopy had unrolled again and had ripped the steel framework from the body. Plastic mounting brackets had been broken, steel supports were banging against the bodywork, the awning material ripped part way along the roof line – mayhem. The only way we could deal with the situation was to remove the entire awning from the vehicle. I had to go up on a pair of steps in the strong wind and unscrew very long mounting screws with a bolt head, using no more than an adjustable wrench, all rather hairy. We eventually finished up with a pile of steel and awning material in Wal-Mart’s car park.
Meanwhile without my knowledge The Chef had contacted the RV insurance company, her thinking being that the ‘roadside recovery’ element would come and take away the ‘scrap’ awning. Next thing I knew the insurance company were phoning back. I did explain to them that I held the manufacturer, Coachmen, responsible since in my view it was a mechanical fault and it was highly unlikely that I would be claiming off the insurance policy.
The staff at Wal-Mart were very helpful. We managed to establish that they couldn’t take the ‘scrap’ off me as they only had a compactor and all pieces needed to be no longer than 3 feet. I thanked them very much anyway and then purchased a hacksaw for $5.87 from the store, went out to the car park and began to ‘minimise’ the pile. Eventually it all fitted in the rear cargo hold piled above everything else we had stored in there. We then re-parked the vehicle to reduce the effect of the wind.
Instead of sitting in the RV feeling depressed and angry we went for a walk in gale force winds for about half a mile to the beach to watch the sunset. The wind was whipping the sand in to our faces so we didn’t stay too long and didn’t see the sun set completely. On the way back to the RV we called in at Denny’s for an evening meal as we just didn’t have the heart to make any effort preparing something. Before settling down to dry camp in the Wal-Mart car park I repositioned the RV so as to be out of the wind more and well away from anybody else.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Wal-Mart car park, Marina, CA (GPS: N36.694034 W121.802195)