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Chapter 7

Moby Ramp 1988

     The next project was the main event, the reason we needed such a big shop, riverboat mechanic, truck driver, master welder and the varied skills of James, Ves and myself. We were to build the mobile ramp halfpipe for the 1988 summer tour. It was originally dubbed "Rad One," though I never heard anybody call it that.

     I learned a lot from this project; skills and technologies that I had little or no former experience with; metal working, hydraulics, vacuum bag clamping, forklift driving, driving a team of horses, etc. Joel would go on and on with stories about his experiences on working barges and riverboats on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, where these enormous masses of floating steel tethered together with cables and huge pieces of hardware, turnbuckles and pulleys, would literally explode when being wrenched apart by the forces of a large body of moving water. Seeing that happen enough times, he had developed a sense of just how much stress and strain steel could take before bending and how much bending before breaking. With Joel, Mike Frazier and Peter on the project, engineering drawings were just the broad outlines, the "funny papers" they were obliged to start with, but departed from, and improved on, from day one.

     A basic gooseneck fifth wheel trailer of a specific size was ordered from a local fabricator, and a brand new F-250 Ford pickup was purchased to pull it. From the first moment that trailer was backed into the yard behind the Horton Building, it was judged to be way too flimsy to survive the uses it was to be put to, the weight of what was going to be built on it, and the miles it would be driven around the country. Mike Frazier got busy upgrading or redoing all the substandard welding that it had come with, adding big steel gussets where necessary, the mountings for the heavy duty hydraulics and enormous hinges that would open and close it. Peter and Joel assigned various minor tasks to James, Moose, Ves, and me, including the creation of the compartment that would hold batteries for the hydraulic pump and trailer brakes, and after several weeks of this retrofitting, Ves gave it several coats of primer and finish coat of white paint. It was driven off to Carpinteria.

     A custom boat builder in Carp had been hired to build the flatbottom and transitions; the skating surfaces. After about a week, the trailer was returned to the Horton Building with the flatbottom attached and our crew went to work on it again, installing the hydraulic cylinders and heavy pitman arms that would lower the transitions into skating position and lift them back up for travel. Back in the Carpinteria boat shop, a mold had been built, a "gel-coat" surface and many laminated ribs over the top of that, with vacuum bag clamping over the entire surface of laminations. The entire Facilities crew started showing up at the boat yard each day in Carpinteria. We were fortified by the R&D Department: Chris Iverson and George Totten. A newcomer, Sledge, had signed on specifically to be a roadie for the summer tour. The scheduled beginning of the tour was less than two months away, and there were many long days that ended well after dark. Being right there in Carpinteria, Moose and I had a short commute, and JW could bring a few of his pals by to see the spectacle after school.

     The wings, the riding transitions, were very heavy, and it was necessary to rent a crane to hang them in position and suspend them there long enough to attach them to the trailer. Then, so the whole thing wouldn't be too tall to go under all the bridges we would encounter going across the country and back, the top sections of the transitions were hinged. All these different parts had to be assembled with as much precision as possible, cranes and fork lifts, and all hands doing something, drilling and tapping the huge pitman arm hinges, and the smaller continuous hinges for the top sections. Finally, one night, it all was together, and it could open and close by its own hydraulics. We were never sure the whole thing would work and when it finally did, nobody was more relieved than Joel. He deserves most of the credit for pulling it off. We did the best we could; he coordinated it all and earned our cooperation. I remember how happy he was when the wings were attached and the hydraulics were able to open and close them.     Still, the thing was together, but not quite skateable. There were no rollout platforms at the top, and the smooth gel coat surface was too slick to skate, and when it got a little dewfall on it, it was like grease. You couldn't stand up on it: it was as slick as ice if it had any moisture on it at all. By the time we cleared out of the boat yard and got it back to Santa Barbara, most of us had taken at least one slam just trying to walk across the flatbottom.

     Back in Santa Barbara, fixing that was the first priority. We set it up in the parking lot of the Ver-Cal building and hired a local sand blaster to make the surface grippy enough to skate. That evening as the sun was going down, Chris Iverson, George Totten and JW gave it its first test. Time was growing short and summer was fast approaching. Mike Frazier was using a TIGG welder to create the tubular aluminum structure that would support the rollouts and complete the structure.

     Still, we had to assemble the welded aluminum structure of the rollouts and railings, and attach coping, and figure out how it could be quickly set up and knocked down by two roadies.

     Finally the day came when we were ready to go. The plan was to pick me up on the way through Carpinteria. I stood out there in front of our apartment building with my suitcase at the appointed time. The Rig didn't arrive. An hour went by. A while later someone showed up with the news. The ramp had made it less than three miles. Someone had neglected to torque down the lug nuts on one of the wheels of the mobile ramp, and it flew off on the freeway coming through Montecito. Joel had managed to keep the fishtailing trailer from crashing, and brought it to a stop on the shoulder, but the tire had been shredded. The tire was an odd size, having come with the trailer. It took way too much time to find a replacement, and began to look like we wouldn't make it to our first demo in El Paso, Texas. Finally we were on our way, with Todd Hastings driving the silver gray team van for our professional team riders. I wonder who picked the color of the van.

man on crane

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