After leaving the Black Hills of South Dakota, we headed south toward the panhandle of Nebraska.
In our 15 months of being on the road, we have met many fellow RVers and heard stories of mechanical ills and the like that they had encountered.. Everything from broken windshields to accidents involving other vehicles to bad batteries, etc. It is a fact of the RV lifestyle that things can and will happen. Although we had not had any misfortunes since becoming full-timers, we knew that someday our time might come and we have tried to be ready and not surprised when that time comes. That time came when we were 36 miles north of Scott’s Bluff on a lonely state highway that crosses thousands and thousands of acres of farm and ranch land.
Without warning from our onboard tire pressure monitor, we had a blowout on our inside rear passenger side tire. It was as if a hand grenade went off, and the damage that was caused was similar to what a grenade will do. In addition to the total destruction of the tire, the blowout exploded a hole through the top of the wheel well, and through the sub-floor below our shower. Above the wheel well, which is nothing more than sandwich of thin aluminum, styrofoam and another layer of thin aluminum, there is a sub-floor of plywood and 2 x 6 inch joists supporting the shower with its own plywood base. Everything EXCEPT the shower and its plywood base was destroyed. The wood pieces in the photo which show screw heads were part of my repair. When I was done, everything was sealed up with thicker pieces of plywood and a thin sheet of steel and then rubberized undercoating.
There was other damage as well. The blowout exploded forward as well as to the rear. The carcass remnants that were shot forward took out the rubber isolator that was part of the tailpipe hanger. This allowed the tailpipe tip and exhaust pipe to be free swaying until the tailpipe went into the blown out tire and rim, passing under the rim, being twisting 90 degrees toward the rear of the coach, and driven into the pavement. It had to be cut off in order to proceed. Fortunately, we were able to drive the coach since the cutoff portion of the tailpipe was AFTER the muffler. Even so, it would not be until arriving in Grand Junction, Colorado where a new tailpipe and hanger were welded on.
Without at least a 10-ton bottle jack, changing out a blown tire and installing a spare tire is just about impossible on a motorhome. Although we DO have a 20-ton jack NOW, we did not at the time. Fortunately, we have road service coverage and were able to make a call to get a tow company to drive the 36 miles and install the spare. Because it was into the evening before the motorhome was drivable once again, we opted to spend the night off the highway in a rancher’s pasture. We thank the Flaretys for their hospitality.
Rex, one of our camp buddies in Wyoming, lives in Scott’s Bluff. We knew that he had also agreed to be a camp host and was not due to be back at home quite yet.
Being the pranksters that we are, we thought we would park in front of his house ( we had his address), take a photo and text it to him with the message “Guess where we are?”. It was not going to be out of our way since we were heading for Colorado anyway. Although we knew our friend was still working as a camp host up at our former campground in Wyoming, what we did not know was that he would arrive home the same day this photo was taken. It all worked out. He received the photo and then drove to the RV park where we were staying.
Ultimately, although unplanned, we got to know the Scotts Bluff area and the history that includes the bluff itself being a key landmark for pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail. We were able to tour the area in between repairs, and also had visits with our friend Rex at his home and over dinner at a great mexican restaurant. In all, we wound up spending two weeks in the area at a city-owned RV park in Gering, which is a suburb of Scotts Bluff. This allowed us to make repairs.
Through all this, we got a great education regarding date codes on RV tires. When we bought our motorhome about 18 months ago, the dealer indicated that they had put “new’ tires on. And we don’t doubt that the Goodyears that they installed were new to them. AND, we had put over 10,000 miles on them prior to the blowout. Nevertheless, when it dawned on us to check the date codes on the Goodyears, we were shocked to find that they had been manufactured in 2008. The tires were over 9 years old. When it comes to RV tires, the rule of thumb is 5-8 years. So, even though the tires had lots of tread and had good looking sidewalls, they were just too old. And in light of not knowing for sure what the cause of the blowout was, we no longer had any confidence in the Goodyears. Before we left Scotts Bluff, we had a complete new set of Cooper Roadmasters with date codes indicating they were manufactured in June of 2017.