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On the Road Again: Safety and Summer Adventures

When COVID brought the world to its knees, America’s answer to avoiding sick people was to roam the great outdoors. In my case, we were well on our way with regular RV trips in our motor home. I remember standing at a gas pump during the pandemic when I realized that other than my husband, I hadn’t been in close proximity to another human being for three days. Rolling with our bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen permitted exploration without exposing ourselves to scary pathogens.

But there’s a flip side to carrying your home with you. The wear and tear on your vehicle and home is brutal. In addition, we had decided to tow a small car that could be detached for local travels when we anchored down for several days. Every year, there was something major and many minor things to repair as the vehicles were jiggled and wheeled across the country. We learned by trial and error just how many mechanical things escaped our watchful eyes.

I’m a preventative kind of woman. Okay, I’m a prepper at heart. I believe staying on top of trouble is safer and smarter than waiting for something to go wrong. In this case, it was pure ignorance. And by God’s grace our angels were on duty the afternoon our motor home blew a tire going 70 miles an hour. If our guardians had been asleep at the wheel, I might not be writing this today. I hope to share with you some of the things I learned that long afternoon. These are safety issues sure to be engrained in my memory.

What was left of our tire.

Earlier that morning, there had been a tremendous “clunk” that we chose to brush off as a rock hitting the wheel well. Yeah, right. My friend had recently shared the story of blowing her motor home tire last fall, seriously damaging her vehicle which was still undergoing repairs. Despite her frightening tale, I believed that couldn’t happen to me. I had never blown a tire. I bought new tires well before the tread was worn. Years earlier, I witnessed a blowout that rolled a four-wheel-drive vehicle on Interstate 10. The family escaped serious injury and Ms. Safety here promised herself no way that would happen to her family.

When the tire exploded, we were in the right lane. Fortunately there were no other vehicles around us, and I was not driving. In seconds, Joe skillfully maneuvered the motorhome to the shoulder. This required muscle and calm. If I had been driving, recovery would have gotten ugly. At worst, my role at this moment was to wonder if I had to go change my underwear.

Frankly, I thought the tow car fell off the dolly. But as it turned out, the front passenger-side tire split, or as the mechanic described it, “the cap came off.” That meant if we could find a tire it could be changed on the road. If it had been the highway side, it would have to be towed. Now the hunt began for a tire.

Why didn’t we carry a spare? Why carry one at all? We couldn’t jack up this beast of a vehicle by ourselves. Surely, someone nearby would have a tire and be able to help. We were 11 miles from a town named Beaver, Utah. Good Sam Vehicle Insurance took our call and starting looking for a tire. Two hours would pass before they found someone with the right tire.

In the meantime, I tried to continue my safety practices. Standing near or around a stalled vehicle is a dumb thing to do as more than one person has been injured or killed when another driver plows into them. We got out the lounge chairs and shade umbrellas. My husband, dog, and I sat along the roadside awaiting our fate. We had a lovely picnic with the traffic and the cows that grazed nearby. Again, luck would have it that it was not a hot afternoon, and it was easy for us to stay hydrated. We set up orange cones that we carry, reminding drivers we were not capable of moving out of their way.

Fifteen calls later (I’m not exaggerating) they tried to pinpoint our location. “What mile marker are you near?”

“No mile marker,” I shouted to my husband over the highway traffic. “Just cows. Tell them to look for a large, angry woman dressed in a bright orange shirt, waving an umbrella.” Oddly enough, when I put that shirt on that morning I remember thinking, well if someone needs to find me, this should help. Weird.

The mechanic took our tire off the rim in pieces. “I knew exactly where you were,” he mentioned. “I go hunting around here.” Again, my lucky day.

We limped into Beaver, Utah, to the tire center and gas station where he worked. It was a nice family operation and they let me write on my laptop in their cool office while the motorhome was inspected for damage. They made a huge effort to get us back on the road quickly, but as luck would have it, they found bubbles on the back tire! Then there were two bubbled tires! Those tires had to be replaced and that meant the other two on the left had to be replaced to balance our clunky vehicle. But wait, it gets better.

“See these cracks?” our rescuer asked us. He pointed to our dolly tires marked with many fine cracks and lines on the side of the tire. “Tires that drive at high speeds and high temperatures for long distances can dry out and crack. At some point a tire like this will blow even though it has ample tread.” We ended up with 6 new tires that afternoon.

I won’t even go into why we had to get new shocks.

All's well that ends well.

Five hours later, we were back on the road wheeling our way to our next RV experience. Here's my safety summary and what I learned about tires and blowouts:

1. Tires on a motor home take increased abuse and wear differently from tires on a car.

2. During storage, shield the tires from sun damage.

3. Shield yourself and pets from sun damage. Drink water and stay in the shade.

4. When traveling long distances, stop every couple of hours to let the rubber cool.

5. Adequate tread does not necessarily mean the tire is good. Inspect for bubbles and cracks.

6. Don’t ignore loud, sudden noises.

7. While waiting for help, get out and away from the vehicle.

8. Carry a spare even if you are not capable of changing the tire.

9. Even with a spare, a blowout adjacent to the highway side may require a tow into town.

Finally arriving at camp.

Happy and safe travels this summer!

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