The Gravity Boom – 1999

Hello there.  I have been neglecting this blog for long enough.  Time to make amends and get reacquainted with you all.

My truck driving days are over.  I went out the first of this month (November 2014) and it was a total disaster.  My body and kidneys rebelled against this idea.

In trying to figure out what I would do to contribute to this blog, without totally abandoning it altogether, I have given Joe the task of taking photos of the trucks he’s  now moving by himself.  So, while I await him following instructions I will fill the time with telling you the “history” of the trailer Joe uses in his work.

Way, way back.  March 1999 to be exact.  Joe designed and built a “Gravity Boom”.  This boom was carried on special ramps and rigging on the back of our old red pickup truck.  At that time the pickup was already over 12 years old.

Gravity Boom on the red truck

Gravity Boom on the red truck

The “Stinger” piece rode on the left side of the pickup bed on a ramp all its own.  Joe engineered these two pieces to roll down their ramps for ease of installation and removal.  This Gravity Boom, and the support structure,  weighs well over 1,000 pounds.

The “Stinger” is the first to come off the racks.  It is mounted to the 5th wheel of the truck to be towed.

Stinger piece

Stinger piece

Once the Stinger is released from the track and free of the pickup, the guide bar is centered on the rear frame member.

Stinger installed

Stinger installed

The pickup is then moved to the back of the truck that will be driven and the Gravity Boom will be attached to that truck’s 5th wheel.

Extending the Gravity Boom

Extending the Gravity Boom.

With the aid of a hand cranked winch system, the boom is lowered to the rear frame member of the truck as the pickup is driven slowly forward.  The winch keeps the boom from slamming down on the truck’s frame and damaging it.  It also keeps the pickup from being shot forward or damaged as the boom could squirt it out like a watermelon seed.

The winch also keeps the heavy piece of steel from being a lethal weapon before it is stubbed into the 5th wheel and secured.  Yes, it has happened and it is one terrifying sight to behold.  Getting that monster piece of steel off the ground and where it needs to be entails a forklift to do the work that mere mortals are not able to do.

The boom portion of the Gravity Boom

The boom portion of the Gravity Boom

Getting the two trucks connected was fairly simple.  The truck Joe would drive would be backed up to the towed truck.  A bottle jack would be holding the boom up off the rear frame member.  Once the trucks were positioned correctly the jack would be lowered and the boom would rest on the stinger.  Backing up the front truck and locking the two pieces together would raise the rear tires of the back truck off the ground.

Gravity Boom loaded

Gravity Boom loaded

Delivering the trucks was easy.  Once Joe was in the designated area to unload he removed a holding steel pin from the boom,  then back in the driving truck he would back up then slam on the brakes.  The back truck would be released to run willy nilly until the rear wheels met the ground.  The rear brakes kept the truck from going further than about 10 feet.  The Gravity Boom would slide apart and the truck would be on the ground and in a position to get the boom pieces back on their racks on the pickup.

Joe has a story to tell about some well meaning person had disengaged the rear axle air brakes by pushing in the knob.  When Joe delivered to a brand new dealership – his two trucks were the very first vehicles on the whole entire lot.  When the rear truck was shoved free of the Gravity Boom that truck just kept right on going.  Heading directly to the fancy new dealership building.  It, safely, came to rest just about six feet from the front door of the building.  You want to talk about terror – that was a day Joe will remember for many, many years.

Personally, without any bias, I think Joe is amazing.  His engineering skills are astounding, and the products he makes last longer than any of our vehicles do.

The pickup was then attached to the front of the back truck and was drug around by the nose all across this country.

Pickup  hitch

Pickup hitch

Joe designed and built several different hitches for all the different trucks he would be moving.  None of them were the same.  Different truck, different hitch system.  He had one for Peterbilts, Kenworths, Macks, Freightliners, and Volvos.  The steel pieces for the hitches went with him everywhere and were stored in the bed of the pickup.

Sometime in May of 1999 this poor old red truck suffered the indignity of a blown engine.  That truck had two previous engine replacements throughout the years that Joe had it.  He worked that truck pretty hard and it did everything it could to keep up with him.

Sadly, that old truck was replaced with a newer model.  The newer truck was only “New” to Joe.  This pickup truck already had close to 10 years on it.  A 1989 Ford F-150.  I’m not sure what the year and model is of the old red truck.

The newer pickup to do the job

The newer pickup to do the job

For several years we traveled the country with “Gracie” and the Gravity Boom.  I can’t even hazard a guess at how many trucks were moved during those years.  It is feasible that Joe and Gracie put in 1,000,000 miles together.

Gracie was willful at times.  She came loose from her hitch a couple times while Joe was driving on one road or another.  She got loose on I-35 north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and nearly killed him.  Joe nearly had a heart attack as he watched that rebellious girl come free and do some sight seeing on her own.  Gracie wound up in the median ditch, thankfully nothing and no one was harmed in that fiasco.  Poor Joe, he was at the breaking point with that willful old girl.

It would be another couple of years – 2002 to be exact – before the very first RapidHook Trailer would be built.

I’ll save that story for another blog post.


p.s.  Joe is delivering a couple of “problem children” to Las Alamitos, California.  They were purchased at auction.  One truck is festooned with documents of repair and service work done on it.  He will deliver these trucks later this afternoon.

IMG_9588 IMG_9590

About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

4 responses to “The Gravity Boom – 1999

  • Jann Gray

    Good to see you back!!!! And I love the idea of you keeping it up with “photos by Joe!” Glad you are taking care of yourself! That is super important! Love you girl!

    • Message In A Fold

      Thank you, Jann, for your loving support. I appreciate you very much, my friend. I hope you and Royce are doing well. I’m so impressed with your new found drawing and painting talents you put on your InstaGram. I’ll be checking out your blog later today, I see you have a new post Woo Hoo!
      Love you – Leslie

  • voxpanther

    Hello. This is one of two blogs I read. I know almost nothing of trucking but Google offered it to me when I was trying to figure out what those wide single tires were. Super singles, your blog told me. I like your writing a great deal, and I enjoy the posts. I’m glad you’re feeling well enough now to write again.


    • Message In A Fold

      Thank you, Peter. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and leaving a comment. I also appreciate you letting me know that I have been of help in answering one of your questions regarding the trucking industry. Thank you for your kind words regarding my recent health issues. If you have a question about trucking, I would enjoy trying to answer it for you. Most of the time I don’t know what to write that would be helpful information to those not in the truck driving industry.

      Once again, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog.


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