“You’re Living the Dream!” Yeah, Right!

Yeah, right!  That’s what I’ve felt like saying this week to that statement.  After camping locally at home for 2 weeks prior to this, all was going well.  Then, we got on the road for the first long term trip.  We had 2 days of travel lined up to Smith Mountain Lake and Pigeon Forge, TN.  Should have been about 8 hours over both days.  Instead we ended up being on the road, most of it stranded, for 22 hours total.  That was because of these 3 tire blowouts.

The first happened on Rt. 29 in VA.  Luckily, some very nice men were travelling behind us and stopped as we pulled over.  He just so happened to have a large floor jack that we needed to jack up the trailer to change the tire.  I thought that was extremely lucky and exceptionally nice of them.  They wouldn’t even take cash for the help.  We put a good spare on and wiped our brow thinking that was a lucky situation.  BUT, sure enough, about an hour later, we pulled in for gas and the same spare we just put on was shredded.  Now we were out of options immediately.  Had to call for roadside assistance.  It took some time, but a helpful service provider came and took us to Goodyear and we stocked up on two new tires.  We think the sheet metal fender from the initial damage had bent in such a way as to make a sharp point and then the first bump we hit it punctured the new tire.

Finally we pulled in late to our campground, visited a relative, went to sleep and we were back on the road first thing in the morning.  We had another 4 hour drive planned or so.  We were making good time and stopped for gas.  About a mile after leaving the gas station, boom, another blowout on the other side.  That makes 3!  This time it was on I-81 South.  We were stuck on the side of the interstate for quite some time.  But, got assistance again to change the spare, which by now was an actual new tire.  We decided not to risk it any more and went ahead and bought 3 new tires to make a total of replacing all 5.  The trouble was though that Walmart, where we bought the tires, didn’t have a working jack so they couldn’t put them on.  So we bought the tires there, but had to take them over to a Travel Centers of America (TA) station to have them put on.

They did relatively cheaply and it cost us a little more time.  Again, we finally got back on the road and rolled in late again to the destination after an 11 hour day that should have been 4.  The entire weekend and drive was white knuckle the whole way.  We were wondering if it was us.  Were we doing something wrong?  Too heavy?  I was starting to think this is just my luck.  This is a vehicle, isn’t it?  It is supposed to drive on the road, correct?  But, we were on such a ridiculous schedule of blowing a tire for every hour of driving it was hard not to think that way.

Below are some of the pics of the damage.

trailer tire 4   Blowout #3: Split tire damages electrical and underneath valve handles   Blowout #2: Shredded tire and metal fender damage from first blowout

I spent the next day with a mobile RV repair man to fix all the damage from the force of the blowouts.  It really tore out some of our grounding wires that were running in a conduit underneath our slide and above the wheel well.  We spent that night with no AC and no power for fear of starting a fire with electrical on and exposed wiring.  The last pic there you’ll see is the repaired, finished product.  I used my tin snips to trim up some of the sheet metal fender that was bent.  I even filed it down so it wasn’t a sharp edge.  The plastic fender was ripped off several of the screws.  I used a soldering iron to plastic weld the screw holes back together.  I gathered all the screws and put each one back in with a dollop of silicone adhesive just like it was.  I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove all of the scuff marks from where the tread hit the siding and that worked very well.  Now, you can’t tell anything even happened unless you look up under the wheel well.  I went to the local RV shop and picked up some smaller parts like handles and valves on the drains that were knocked off from the blowouts too.  I replaced all of those with little trouble.  One critical piece the shop didn’t have was some quarter inch rod stock.  I needed that to go into the RV grey tank release valve and to screw back into the T-handle.  No hardware store in town either.  So, at Walmart I picked up some quarter inch machine screws.  The screw goes in easily on one end, but still has a head on it that won’t go into the T-handle.  Without having all of my tools, or the proper tools, for the job, a bush fix is in order.  I took my bolt cutters trimmed off the head of the screw.  That got it off, but it also bends the threads in the process.  It won’t just screw into that handle that way.  So I had to file it down to clean up the edges some more and bend a couple of the threads back into position with the edge of a different file so that it could catch on the threads to go into the handle smoothly.  I put a dab of epoxy on the end of the modified screw and screwed it into the T-handle.  Then screwed the handle into the rod on the RV leading to the release valve.  Now it works and that was, thankfully, the last fix.

Trailer tire

Today was our first full day without having to make repairs just to get back to normal.  That felt good.  It cost about a total of $2000 with all of that, but there may be some insurance reimbursements to soften the blow.  We also anticipated this so considered some of this a “start up fund” for this project getting us into a new lifestyle.

My Dad keeps texting me, “Are you having fun yet?”  I’m sure we will very soon, but for the time being, it’s been anything, but a dream.  It’s been downright one of the most stressful few days of my life.  I would think many people would have just given up and gone home.

The lesson here is be persistent, keep calm, keep your equipment in as good a working order as you can, and anticipate these events initially with a cash cushion.

Read Gram Weenie’s account: First Trip: 22 Hours and $1900

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