190903–Trouble in River City. Cincinnati, OH. Nashville, IN

We could’ve died. Strap yourself in for this update!

We had a nice ride over to Cincinnati……until 5 miles from our destination. We experienced a complete failure of our towing braking system on I71. The monitor in our bus was screaming and lights were flashing. That’s the alert that our tow (Jeep) is no longer being towed; that we are experiencing a breakaway condition!

We pulled over to the shoulder while glancing at the backup camera and side mirrors to see if the Jeep was still there. It was! It took a little more time to stop as the Jeep’s brakes were not assisting. So what happened?

This requires some technical information first. If you don’t want to read the technical stuff and how we almost died, just skip down to the entry about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. If you do want to read about it, continue below.

Our Jeep is towed (called a TOAD in RV parlance) behind Buster using a tow bar. You’ve seen many such arrangements on the highways, we’re sure. When Buster brakes, the braking actuator (controller) in the towed vehicle (TOAD) receives a signal. This actuator sits under the drivers seat. Then, via a cable attached to the toad’s brake it smoothly tugs the pedal down and applies supplemental braking action. This is required for many reasons that we won’t go into here. Just know that there are many forces at work when slowing/stopping a toad at high speed.

There is also a “breakaway” switch. This is a pull switch on the toad that is connected to the bus by a wire. If for some reason the tow bar fails and the toad is a “breakaway”, the wire pulls on the switch telling the controller in the toad to brake hard.

There is also a Bluetooth monitor that signals us in the bus that the brakes are being applied properly in the toad. Under normal driving conditions an amber light will flash when the monitor detects that the brakes are being applied. In this case though, the red light was flashing along with the SCREAMING alert– a breakaway. That’s what happened. We received the signal and alarm in the bus that the toad is no longer attached and is a breakaway!

Now, we could see on the bus’ back up camera that the toad was still attached and the brakes weren’t smoking; but it wasn’t braking any longer. We pulled over as soon as we could.

Norm discovered that the air cylinder that’s responsible for tugging the toad’s brake pedal was not attached to the controller. Here’s a pic of the cylinder (silver) lying on the floor. The controller is the dark metal box also on the floor in the background.

Without being affixed to the controller, it would not be able to transfer the tugging force to the brake. Clear as mud??

We unhooked the Jeep and drove separately to our destination. We checked for local dealers/distributors/service. As it turned out there was a dealer/installer 10 minutes from our campground who by the stroke of luck also had his motor coach in our same campground. How about that!!

He came over from his shop mid day to inspect. He found the problem, which by the way, was more serious than what Norm discovered.

He agreed to return that evening to REINSTALL the braking system as it should’ve been. An answer to prayers??? You betcha! We’re now in negotiations with Roadmaster for a reimbursement.

This was a serious problem that we were able to control. Fortunately. So, we didn’t almost die. That was added for “color” as they say.

Seriously though, Breakaways are very dangerous situations that can end up causing extensive damage, injury and/or death (per the manufacturer’s installation manual). While we didn’t have an actual breakaway, we didn’t have control of our Jeep’s braking. That could have led to one!


We stayed at the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) Campground. Members get 2 free nights there. Our purpose for being here was to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Museum). We did that.

From the museum’s brochure…

In the mid 19th century, when the US was divided between free and slave states, ‘conductors’ on the Underground Railroad aided freedom seekers on their journey north, offering direction, relative safety and needed rest. The Freedom Center reveals the stories of heroes from the era….through contemporary times.

It was an awesome destination that we thoroughly enjoyed. There were 3 floors of exhibits. We were mostly moved by the “ESCAPE GALLERY”. We were able to explore and read the stories of brave men and women who resisted slavery and escaped on or were involved with the Underground Railroad. There was a model of a conductor’s home which showed the clever hiding spots in the structure. We learned some of the code words too.

We were there 3 hours. It was very moving and highly recommended!


On Thursday, 9/5, we drove over to Indiana’s Brown County Park….home to world class mountain biking.

(BTW, The toad’s brakes worked well and we’ve reestablished confidence in the system.)

Of course we are not world class and we confined ourselves to the Green Trails (the easiest-more like trail riding). Norm had to drown his pain in Motrin though. Here he is at a rest stop. He hides it….

We’ll be here for a few days. The weather is fantastic, mid 70’s in the afternoon and low 50’s at night.

Our beautiful campsite…… The forest is so dense that we wouldn’t see the sun till noon.

On Sunday 9/8, we drove to Bloomington, IN for a prearranged dinner date with Kurt and Beth Petry the current (actually 2-years now) owner of Tide Hiker our old boat. They have a farm nearby. We had a great time swapping stories and getting to know each other. We met in St Pete last year but that was a very brief visit. It’s obvious to us that they love Tide Hiker (now named “Petry’s Pet”) as much as we did. She’s in good hands. Here’s a couple pics from their visit to St Pete with “our Tide Hiker” in the background….


We might have bragged about the weather too much; so we’re going to get our comeuppance. It’s going to be 97 in Nashville, TN when we arrive there on Tuesday. That hot, sticky weather is forecast to hang in the area for several days. For that reason, and just that we’re tired, we decided to b-line it home after a two-day visit there. We’re now planning to be back in St Pete around the 17th.

We’ll be meeting up with our great nephew, Orin, while in “Country Music Town”. I don’t know…should we visit a honky tonk? Will Vicki make Norm line dance or do the two-step?

Stay tuned…

3 thoughts on “190903–Trouble in River City. Cincinnati, OH. Nashville, IN

  1. Norm,

    Well I’m sure that got your heart pounding but I don’t think you would have died.  After all, you are alive to tell the tale!

    I understand actuators and it seems odd that the cylinder would separate from the controller.  Was it not installed securely?

    Also, odd that your warning system lied as to what was wrong. Curious minds want to know and I’m sure you now know why.

    I hope you had a “Beer Night” after all of that……………..



    1. Good questions, Tim. And yes, I have the answers. 1. “We’re alive” comment: I was just adding some spice to the story and think I said something to that effect. After all, a great story-teller told me once to never let the facts get in the way of a good story! 2. Botched installation: yes, the installation was not done correctly. I had it installed at their mfg site in Vancouver, WA. They told me yesterday that they have already had 4 meetings between the installers and management to make sure it won’t happen again. Additionally, the guy in Indiana who made it right is one of their parts suppliers and a licensed installer


    2. Sorry, a blip in the program. I was saying the guy in Indiana was horrified by what he saw under the trim and carpets. He knows well and called the President of Roadmaster. The air cylinder was not installed correctly. It is now correctly fastened to the flange (in the pic I included) with a bolt, 2 lock washers and a lock nut. And the entire apparatus was shifted to prevent 90-degree cable turns. And more…3. Alarm: I’m not exactly sure. And neither is Roadmaster. 4. Beer Night: Oh yea!!!!!


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