If you’re on the road enough, it is bound to happen. For us, we were cruising down westbound I-80 with our Airstream in tow. The RAM’s speedometer read 70 MPH. Not more than 35 miles from our stopping point around Wendover Utah, things were smooth sailing.
Until we heard what sounded like a gunshot.
It began with a loud, sharp “Boom!”, followed by a wicked vibration. Shit. The wife’s all but screaming “Pull over!”. I released the gas peddle and coasted over to the side of the road, glancing in my side mirror.
“Our truck’s rear tire blew“.
And boy, did it ever “blow”. That tire was thoroughly destroyed. The tire’s tread was ruthlessly ripped off, exposing rubber and other support fragments. It honestly looked as though the tire exploded. And in a way, it did.
With 53′ semi-tractor trailers barreling passed us at a velocity that felt like a freight train, we fished around in our glove compartment for our USAA insurance card and called the roadside assistance number. About an hour later, a service dude helped us put our spare tire on and we limped our way into Wendover.
We found a nice comfy spot at the Wendover Kampgrounds of America (KOA) – a spot that we called “home” for longer than we thought.
Funny thing is…we had planned to get the tires replaced on our truck this fall when we return back to Tucson for a few months. The tires were aging, but still had what I considered to be usable life left.
Guess I overestimated a bit. Lesson learned. Never assume that your tires are okay, especially when they are showing signs of wear. Be proactive. Tires be importante!
But that’s not all…
As the rubber whipped around the tire as I coasted to a stop, the fuel intake line got severed and the tank’s neck was completely busted. More or less, this equates to an inability to fill up the truck with more diesel. We needed a new fuel hose and tank before we left.
An extended stay in beautiful West Wendover
The plan was to boondock near the salt flats just east of Wendover, Utah. After the tire “issue”, we decided to call Wendover’s local KOA home for a few days until we got our tire situation squared away. Could be worse. It was cloudy and cold for the majority of the days, but we also had 30 amp electric and water the entire time. It wasn’t cheap, but whatevs.
Wendover is your typical small town that straddles the Nevada / Utah border. The best I can tell, it’s “Wendover, Utah” and “West Wendover, Nevada”. We are in West Wendover.
It’s not quite a dust town, but definitely one of the smaller established towns that we’ve seen since we began living on the road. A couple large casinos primarily support the town. There’s a Smith’s grocery store and what looked like an abandoned HR Block building. The rest is primarily mom-and-pop type stuff and a pretty new looking City Hall building. As of 2014, the population of West Wendover was just over 4,400 folks.
This instance reiterated a few things for me:
This is not a vacation – Shit happens. It happened to us on I-80. That’s life, and we need to understand that although we’re living the life we chose for ourselves, bad things can and do happen.
We need to be flexible and roll with the punches – We didn’t plan on paying for a KOA campsite and sitting without much of a view for
nearly more than a week. Then again, we also didn’t plan to blow a tire at 70 MPH, either. But it happened, and we are making the best of our days here in West Wendover with campground showers and services until we set sail once again.
This is what emergency funds are for – All told, this set us back around $2,000 including the cost of campground fees as we sat in the KOA waiting for the fuel tank to arrive. It sucks, but hey, that’s why we have a reserve at the ready. For situations like this.
Also, tires are important. Whatever you do today, make it a point to check the condition of your tires. Not only the PSI (air pressure), but also the tread. Look for wear marks or scratches around the tire wall.
When in doubt, change ’em out. Because if they do blow, you aren’t just paying for new tires. You are also paying for any other damage that occurred during the blowout. Towing and service call fees. Not to mention the inconvenience of dealing with it all.
Pro tip: If you do need to change a tire, consider changing ALL the tires. If one of your tires is close to the end, chances are your other tires are right behind it. Do yourself (and your vehicle) a favor by giving it brand new feet all around.
We thought that we were being proactive by changing our tires this year. Turns out we weren’t proactive enough.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.