As I perform my final preparations before leaving Benson to strike out for Moab, my friends remind me that they will be looking forward to reading about my next adventures. At that time, none of us expect my next adventure to occur just 40 miles east of Benson.
There I was happily traveling East...
I calmly maneuver the RV through light Friday morning traffic on eastbound I-10. Suddenly at 65 mph, my worst RVing nightmare comes true. I hear a loud pop like a gunshot. Then like a peanut in an oversize shell, I bounce violently in my seat as the RV attempts to wrest itself from my control. Suddenly I am holding on for dear life as I struggle to get this bucking beast safely off the road. In my head, voices repeat emergency driving advice (yes, I have taken and taught a few safe driving courses) from the past in my head: “Do NOT hit the brakes when a front tire fails,” I hear. “Drive the vehicle to a safe stop, do NOT lose control.”
When I finally wrestle the RV to the shoulder, I am trembling so hard that I can hardly tell I am no longer rolling. First things first, I have got to call for help! I fumble through my RV papers to find the number for Coach-Net, my main roadside assistance coverage.
Sunny's Wild Ride
Help is on the way?
First, they want to know if I am safe. Well I am broken down on the side of the interstate. Tractor trailers are zooming past me side by side inches from my RV but I guess yes, relatively safe. Where am I? I can’t see any signs indicating my location. No landmarks either in the middle of this dusty desert. When my fingers stop shaking so that I can read my GPS, I discover it has a “where am I” location information button. I am finally able to give the patient assistance person a nearby address to locate me on the interstate.
For over two hours, I fight to keep the panic down and find ways to entertain myself. To stay busy, I set out hazard triangles and reinspect the damage. Then I huddle in the RV with the generator allowing me to blast AC into the hot desert air. Tractor trailers and aimlessly wandering vehicles continue to pass so closely to the RV that I fear I will perish in a tragic parked RV accident while I am waiting for rescue. Coach-Net calls back periodically to check on me and try to give updated ETAs on the tow driver.
Finally Bill from 24/7 Emergency Towing out of San Simon pulls his tire laden vehicle in front of my rig. He remarks that I am lucky to have incurred so little damage. Sure there is some busted up fiberglass and a lot of tire marks on the paint. A light cover is missing and some of the lug nuts and the cover flew off the rim along with the tire rubber. But other than one clamp on the fuel filler line which loosened but did not come off, all appears to be well with the rig. Bill tightens the filler hose clamp and gets on with changing my tire.
If only the story ended there...
Because I am now terrified that all my tires are suspect, I decide to move up my planned purchase of new rubber all around. Bill brings two tires to replace both steering axle tires. I won’t move far until I have new rubber on both front wheels. After replacing the disintegrated tire, Bill guides me to a large empty lot where he can more safely change the driver’s side tire. For some reason Bill’s impact wrench will not remove the lug nuts on the second wheel. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I am now required to drive my rig to “the shop” some 20 miles further east. This remotely located truck yard is squeezed between a busy railroad and traffic laden I-10.
After I am abandoned there by the person who guides me onto the lot, I get no answers when I call them to find out when my tire will be replaced. As it gets dark, one of my calls is finally answered by a man who gruffly tells me that they cannot change my other front tire until the next day. Exhausted and boondocking in a dust bowl, I long for some peaceful sleep. Unfortunately that escape eludes me as the traffic, trains and uneven drone of the cooler on a refrigerated trailer parked beside me conspire to keep me awake.
Why did my tire explode? Bill tells me that I should have replaced my tires by the end of 5 years. As most RVers know, mileage and tread wear are usually not an issue for our tires, but sun, heat and rough roads definitely take a toll. Storm (my former mechanic of choice) told me to replace all tires at 6 years. My tires were built 02/2016. I was planning to replace them this fall in NC. Bill says the Arizona heat foiled my plans as rubber degrades more rapidly out here.
I have always been very careful to check my tires pressures. Trying to be sure I get that right, I receive extremely confusing advice. The tires call for 120psi and I am anal about running 110 -120psi per Charlie’s specific instructions. Everyone seems to agree that 10% less is OK out here in the heat so I believe I am doing the right thing.
But now everyone I talk to and everything I read gives different pressure parameters depending on outside air temp. It seems, I am supposed to recalculate based on outside air temps. I am not prepared to do complicated air temp/air pressure formulas every time I need to air my rig tires. Wish I could air my tires with nitrogen like we used in the airplane tires. At least that is a little more temperature stable. Maybe moving north to cooler temperatures will help for a while.
During occasional short catnaps Friday night, I restlessly dream of returning to Benson. I desperately need to calm down before attempting any more “adventures.” First up, I plan to shop for six more tires Monday and a schedule a front end alignment. An icy, tequila laden Margarita after I am safely parked wouldn’t hurt either!!