The Great Roof Rack Adventure

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Nothing ever seems to go as smoothly as it should, as this story perfectly illustrates... buckle-in folks, this one's an interesting one.

We're getting ready to travel north to the great state of Wisconsin, as has been the tradition for the past 4-5 years. We load-up the Tahoe with dogs, lugage, presents, dog food, and other goodies, make the 700+ mile trek and enjoy a little holiday cheer.

Part of the pre-game warm-up includes me performing some basic maintenance on the Tahoe - standard stuff, like an oil change, a tune-up, air filter replacement, and so on. As part of my maintenance ritual, I send a small sample of my used engine oil to a laboratory in Indiana, and they do an analysis on it. The analysis tells me how the engine is wearing, and can identify any problems.

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Normally, the analysis reports come back rather dull - "Everything looks great, no worries, etc." Until this last report on the Tahoe, which said, "5% of your oil is gasoline. Check state of tune, and inspect fuel mileage for decrease. Oil is being severely broken-down by fuel. Fix ASAP."

Great... I had just replaced the sparkplugs - the previous ones looked absolutely perfect. I replaced the PCV valve, the fuel filter, the air fitler -- all of which had looked fine. I checked my fuel mileage, and sure enough - we're getting just over 11mpg, down from nearly 17mpg. DOH!

Realizing that there's little chance for me to have the Tahoe diagnosed (properly) and repaired (properly) before our trip, we decided to call the Element into the line of fire. We removed the rear seats from the Element, threw the dogs in the back, and drove around a bit -- perfect. The dogs were comfy, and we thought everything would be ok.

Until we thought about the luggage, presents, food, etc. The Tahoe has a roof rack, to which we strap a large soft-case called a "Piggy Pack." The Piggy Pack can hold 20 cubic feet of cargo, and it attaches to the roof racks on the Tahoe. The pack measures 4 feet by 4 feet... Problem #2: Element doesn't have a roof rack.

So, I raced to my internet browser, and ordered some Honda roof racks at a cost of $250 + shipping. The racks arrived on Friday of last week, and I installed them on Saturday night.

Here's the Element with its new roof racks:


We then tried to set the Piggy Pack on the roof racks and problem #3 surfaced - the Piggy Pack was about 2' too big for the racks. The Honda roof racks are only 30" apart, so there was 18"+ of "overhang" on either side of the racks.

Now what?!

Get online and look for a solution... and I stumbled across the Yakima Mega Load Warrior Cargo Basket (MLWCB). It's designed to bolt to "most factory roof racks" and can hold cargo 60"x48". So, the Piggy Pack will fit without any problems. The cost? $425.

Realizing that I don't want to pay overnight shipping on a rack that size, we spent Sunday driving around looking for someone locally who might have this Yakima MLWCB. And we found it, in stock, at a local outdoor equipment shop for $425. They installed it to my factory roof rack, and we thought all was well.

Until they asked, "How much weight are you hauling in this basket?" To which I replied, "Oh, probably 125-pounds?"

The Honda roof racks are rated for 75-pounds. And the Yakima MLWCB weighs 30-pounds. Welcome to problem #4, Steve.

The solution? Buy the Yakima "landing pads, control towers, and bars," which will allow me to carry 125-pounds, while only draining my wallet of another $400.

At this point, we seriously contemplated every other option, but each had a drawback equal-to or greater-than the roof rack cost...

So, we bit the bullet and told them to go ahead and put the Yakima base system in place. And that's when we met problem #5 - the landing pads were out of stock.

I raced home, got online, and placed a frantic order with a Yakima dealer in Austin, Texas. And $490 later (overnight shipping is a killer), I had the Yakima bars, control towers, and landing pads on the way.

Until the UPS plane had mechanical problems in Tulsa at 4:15pm yesterday.... So, I watched the UPS tracking page while sitting on pins and needles...

8:00am today: plane still in Tulsa.
9:15am today: plane leaves Tulsa for Louisville, KY.
11:30am today: plane leaves Louisville, KY for Tulsa (don't ask, because I don't know)
2:05pm today: plane arrives in Tulsa.
4:00pm today: truck arrives in Springdale.
4:55pm today: package delivered to front porch of my house


So, we unpacked the parts, took off the factory rack, and installed the Yakima parts. And I must say the Yakima parts are 100% better than the Honda stuff - no doubt about it. Here's what she looks like now:


Honda Roof Rack: $250
Yakima MLWCB: $425
Yakima parts: $490
Total Cost: $1165
Getting to Wisconsin with all the dogs and "gear": Priceless

The good news is that I'll sell the Honda rack on ebay, and will most likely recover most of that $250 cost... or at least I hope to. :-)

So... let's hope nothing else "interesting" happens in the next 24-36 hours.


Surprises suck! But, my GOD! Almost $1200 to pack up everything...But I hear your pain on UPS. I ordered some things through Amazon who split ship. USPS delivered in 2 days ( amiracle!). The UPS portion took the full time estimate and they didn't update the tracking until delivery day. How frustrating! I think I'll stick with FedEx from now on.

I'm glad you had a good Christmas. Have a Happy and safe New Year!


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