We have talked about heading up to Alaska again since we took a cruise/tour up there in 2008 (with Mom and Dad2). After we bought Penelope, our previous travel trailer, the discussion increased. Then, just about the time we started to get serious, Covid shut down the Canadian border and put the kibosh on the entire show…temporarily. Based on the reports of previous travelers, the Alaskan roads are not for the faint of heart. With that in mind and a bit of extra time on his hands, Mr. Wonderful (MW) mapped out a transplant. After approximately 24,000 miles of bouncing down back roads (and a few interstates) all over the country, Petunia received a total suspension overhaul. I’m talking full leg transplants!

BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING: Petunia came equipped with 4,400 lb Dexter axles, springs connecting the two axles with an equalizer, and Westlake 15″ tires on 6-lug wheel hubs. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know that we had a blowout (read here) in June of 2020, and the original tires were replaced with Goodyear Endurance tires then.

NEW BODY PARTS: The first order of business was deciding on appropriate replacement materials, including measuring to make sure it would all fit. Enter Dexter 5,200 lb axles, beefed up springs with a slipper spring system which makes them work independently, new wheels with 6-lug wheel hubs, 16″ Goodyear Endurance tires with better sidewalls (to hopefully help avoid blowouts), and SHOCK ABSORBERS!

The process was not without its glitches, though. First, the axles took forever to get here. We’d originally set up to have them delivered to our neighbor’s (Jerry Lee) place in case we weren’t here. After a couple of months of waiting, it was a really good thing that we were in town AND that the driver called before attempting delivery. Our little county road is not what most people expect when they visit; one lane with a few wide spots. We come in and out with our 31′ fifth wheel, and despite having done it many times, there is one narrow spot with a little stone wall right along the edge of the road that still makes me pucker! This guy was in a MUCH longer semi truck! MW told him to consult his map, after which he agreed that it wasn’t a good idea. They decided to meet at “the wide spot”…a large, gravel area off the side of TN33 at the edge of Sneedville (yes, everyone calls it that.) Jerry Lee was moving cattle that day, so with the help of our friend Jason Delph, the mighty replacement legs were offloaded to Brutus.

The next issue wasn’t discovered until a few days later. The now unwrapped axles were laying in the floor of the barn alongside the old ones when MW realized that they sent the wrong ones. OMGosh…seriously??!! Now I had no clue about this, but apparently the axles can be designed to be above the springs or below the springs. Our system is designed for them to be below the springs, but the setup on the new axles was for above. If it took 2 months to get them in the first place, how long would it take for the return/replace process?! MW was mulling this over, when he came up with an alternative solution…someone could just weld what we need onto the other side of the axle. Well, it just so happens that our friend Clayton Ramsey, better known as the mighty mover of earth and rocks, is a welder. He took the axles to his shop and returned them a few days later with the correct configuration. Problem solved! MW jumped on transplanting all of the various parts to get our girl off of jack stands and back on her own four feet.

THE RESULTS: Just like that we were able to roll, so we took her for a little test run around Sneedville. Good news! NOTHING FELL OFF! We followed up with a good wash and wax, and we are ready to hit the road again. Finally! Just a few things to take care of in town, and we are outta here!!

Next up…progress at the barndominium. See you on the path!


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