Our first trip in the travel trailer was from Northern Virginia to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. On a normal weekend, that’s a 498 mile, 8 h 48 min journey. This was no normal weekend however.
We packed up and hooked up our tow vehicle on Friday night so we could get an easy start the next morning. Early the next day we set off towards our half way stopover point, Smith Mountain Lake, where we’d also visit Gram Weenie’s grandmother.
About an hour into the trip, we stopped for breakfast. After eating, we followed a road we assumed would take us back out to the highway only to discover a dead end. We were stuck. We tried to turn around but the anti-sway bars between our truck hitch and trailer don’t handle sharp angles well. We ended up breaking off a small piece the hitch and throwing one of the anti-sway bars into the grass. If an observer hadn’t alerted us to it, we might not have noticed the sway bar was off! We reconnected it and instead, had to back up, all the way down the road, until we could make a less restrictive turn.
Lesson Learned: Never take a road without knowing where it leads. Since this experience, one of us always gets out of the truck and walks the road, to make sure it’s wide enough and navigable.
We were both pretty shook up from our dead end mistake, but we got back on the highway and headed for our destination of the day. About an hour later, we experienced a trailer tire blowout. This was my first blowout ever and it sounded like an explosion! I looked out the window and I could see half the plastic fender was torn off and flailing in the wind. The metal fender under it was bent and damaged too. We had a spare tire but no suitable jack for the weight of the trailer. Immediately, a good Samaritan stopped and helped us change the tire. We removed the remaining screws from the plastic fender and put it in the back of the truck for later repair and assessment. We attached the damaged tire to the back of the trailer and got back on the road.
About an hour after we stopped for gas. I looked out my window and saw the spare tire we had recently put on was totally shredded! We believe the sharp fender metal, damaged from the first blowout, punctured this tire. We called our roadside assistance provider and waited for about 40 mins while they tried to locate an open area RV service center and tow truck that could handle the trailer. There was none to be found mid-day on a Saturday. Instead, someone was going to help us get the tire off, get to a tire replacement store, and get a new tire back on. An hour and a half after that, help arrived.
Help showed up in a sedan with a much smaller jack than we needed. Luckily, we were able to utilize the trailer’s stabilizer jacks to assist the main jack. The tire was removed and the technician drove me, the shredded tire, and the split spare to a tire shop. After another hour at the tire shop, we drove back to the trailer and the technician put a new tire on the axle and one on the spare rack.
Fun Fact: The tires had very little mileage on them, passed inspection with flying colors, and showed no outward sign of damage or danger. I even asked the technician if he thought the other tires were alright. He examined all of them and said yes and he “would drive on them.”
Our 4 hour first leg of the trip turned into an 11 hour ordeal. We were very tired, but we picked up groceries for my grandmother, parked in our overnight campground, and walked down the road to grandmother’s house for a visit.
The next morning, we set out on the final leg of the trip, down Interstate 81. Two hours later: guess what? Another blowout! This time we lost a tire on the other side and sustained additional underneath damage. Wires of unknown origin were visible, split, and hanging down. Luckily, we were able to pull off the highway behind a State Trooper making a traffic stop. We once again called roadside assistance, but they were having trouble pinpointing our rural location. The Trooper located a local wrecker service to come out and put on the spare. He also gave us camping tips and checked on us periodically between duties.
As soon as we were mobile again, we immediately replaced the remaining 3 original tires. The needed trailer tires are hard to find but the local Walmart had them in stock. Unfortunately, Walmart’s jack was broken, so we loaded them into the bed of the truck and headed to a different service center for installation.
After a long and stressful journey, we finally arrived at our Tennessee location. We didn’t want to plug in with electrical wires exposed, so we spent the night in the heat, with the windows open and a battery operated fan. (Sure glad I packed that fan!) The next morning, we called the closest RV service center and they were able to come to us later that afternoon. By the end of the day, all the electrical problems were fixed. By the end of the next day, Chris was able to fix the cosmetic damage and replace the broken valve handles and pieces.
All in all, the 8 hour journey took 22 hours and cost $2000 in tow and repair charges! Maybe we’ll get to relax when we reach our next destination.
Read Kayak Chris’ account: “You’re Living the Dream!” Yeah, Right!