Today was quite the day. We started out in Sun Palms, Florida, at the Tampa South RV Resort. The staff there is stellar and were amazing at helping this trailer-towing newbie. Will and Brian helped me with everything from hitching and unhitching to giving me all kinds of useful pointers on easier ways to do things. Thank you!
So I set off down the road in good cheer for Palm Harbor and the first thing I hear from the GPS are the dreaded words “Do a U-turn.” There’s no doing a U-turn when you’re towing a camper with only two lanes to U-turn it. That set me into a minor panic because the GPS kept blathering “do a U-turn” every five seconds, while I knew I had to find a street to turn on where I could do a square to get back on the highway headed in the opposite direction. I picked a road, praying it would lead to highway access, and fortunately it did. Both Miss GPS and I calmed down. Progress.
I find my road and stop to pay a toll. I fight my way back out of the toll exit as every car tries desperately to get in front of my little travel trailer, even if it means cutting me off as the merge lane runs out.
Not a Bridge, and It’s a Big One!
Forty-five minutes later my eyes bug out at the sight of a HUGE bridge looming ahead of me. It’s the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a stunning work of art over Tampa Bay. Now anyone who knows me knows that I have had an aversion to bridges (tunnels too, just ask my hubby and kids what I did once when I was driving through the mountains in Tennessee and was forced to go through one of those torturous tunnels next to a semi. Did I mention I get tunnel vertigo?) since I was four years old and I caught sight of the Mighty Mac on our family trip. The story goes that I immediately dove for the floor of the car and stayed there until we were safely off the bridge.
Well from my distance the Sunshine Skyway appeared to look to me exactly like a double-twister roller coaster, and I think I said “You’ve got to be kidding me.” My 4-year-old self reappeared and I thought of diving to the floor, but I realized that wouldn’t end too well since I was the sole occupant of said truck and camper. Instead I repeated my favorite Bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” multiple times while taking deep breaths.
As I got closer, it helped that traffic was at a near standstill (I was hoping it wasn’t because some poor soul driving a travel trailer was blown off the bridge), which gave me time to study the bridge and look over the water. Yes, there was a large incline up the bridge, but silly me, the part that looked like a double-twister roller coaster from a distance was actually the supporting, artistic structure of the bridge, and thank heavens I would not be climbing 500 feet into the air pulling my swaying camper over the top to certain doom.
I calmed down and actually enjoyed the ride over the bridge. The water was incredibly beautiful, and I even considered taking one of the rest stops at the end of the bridge until I thought about the probability that there would be a spot for me to pull over.
I was just two miles from my destination driving in some heavy traffic when I heard a funny “Bump-diddy-bump-bump-bump! noise over and over. Immediately I head Mark’s voice in my head, “Jane stay off the rumble sticks!” and I carefully steered a hair to the right, but still I heard the noise. I checked both left and right side mirrors and realized I was perfectly in the middle of my lane and not hitting any sticks. “Hmm, that noise must be coming from another car,” I thought hopefully. I put my windows down, but the now LOUDER noise was definitely coming from my vehicle. I again studied my trailer in the side mirrors and to my horror saw a piece of something fly off the trailer’s driver-side tire. My tire was disintegrating before my eyes while I was flying along at 60 mph with no shoulder for me to pull over on.
By now, cars are honking at me and signaling that I have a flat tire. I move over to the right lane, slow down, put on my hazards, and desperately look for a side street. I take the first turn only to find myself on just as busy and shoulder-less road, with more people honking at me. I look down the road and see what appears to be a
neighborhood street on the right. People are whizzing around me, and I limp to the road and turn, welcoming the sign that says “dead-end.” It’s a quiet, shady street, and I stop in front of a house to collect what’s left of my nerves and assess the damage. It’s not good. Not much is left of the tire. Wires are sticking out
everywhere and one spot is worn down to the rim. I’m hoping the rim is at least useable.
Hmm. Should We or Shouldn’t We Join? You Be the Judge
Before we left on this trip, I had the wonderful idea of joining Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance program, since I am doing all the driving and can’t fix anything, but Mark didn’t think that was necessary. Let’s just say I had a few choice thoughts about that decision then and particularly now. I call Mark but no answer. Five unanswered calls and 20 minutes later, I am researching to find any possible mobile repair shops, when Mark calls. It turns out he’s only two miles from me, and as we found out later, rode right by me a few minutes ago, but didn’t look down the road where the trailer and I are “in repose.”
He’s already biked 60 miles and is just about to turn into the RV park where we’ll be staying, but he GPS’s himself back to me. After frantically searching the camper for a jack, it’s then we learn that most travel trailers do not come part and parcel with a jack. A neighbor tells us there is a Home Depot 1/2 mile down the road, and we unhitch the truck, secure the trailer (did I mention I parked on a slight hill), and drive to the store.
Does anyone ever fix a mechanical problem with ONE trip to the store? That’s right and we didn’t either.
After an hour-long process of Mark manhandling the stubborn lug nuts to get the tire off, working with the first jack, having the trailer slide off the jack (s-c-a-r-y), and multiple other mishaps, we find that the jack is 1/2 inch short of being tall enough to change our tire, so we pack it up and head back to Home Depot to exchange it for another.
We bring the second jack back and the darn thing is too tall to fit under the trailer. At this point it’s been two hours and Mark is weighing the option of going back and repurchasing the smaller jack so that we can get it high enough to insert our taller jack or just calling a tow truck.
Enter our angel by the name of Mike.
Mike lives in the neighborhood where we are parked and walks over to take a look. He works on cars himself as a hobby and thinks he has a
jack that will work. Would we like to give it a try? Mark jumps at the chance to give it a go again. Mark sets it up and with each pump I hold my breath hoping the jack holds and is high enough for Mark to get the tire on. Glory be, it is and he does!
We spend a few minutes talking with Mike, telling him he is our “guardian angel” for the day. He got there just in the nick of time. We thank him profusely, pray with him, give him a hug and we’re on our way—two miles from our stop for the night!
The rest of the evening is uneventful—and good thing because we are too tired to deal with anything else.
We certainly kicked up some dust (and grease) today. And by the way, we are now members of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance Program.
Go kick up some dust of your own!