Fires and a Flat

The next day we started off feeling excited, but a little worried about the fires.  We had been in contact with Deb and Steve  the day before and they were closer to the fires and were dealing with a lot of smoke.  Plus, a crazy storm happened the night before and there were several downed trees and road debris.  Ellen and Mario seemed OK as they were farther back like we were, but I was getting nervous about what we were getting into.  Part of our drive was HWY 2 and we knew part of it was  shut down but we weren’t sure which part and in any event the situation was constantly fluid.  Because of all that we decided to take the longer way around and stay off 2 all together.  I did want to stop and dump first though because I was worried about what would happen if we got rerouted or evacuated.  Didn’t want to drive into an unknown situation with full tanks.  Well, there are only two places in Helena that have dumps.  One is on a slight hill and you would have to pump up..weird and no not doing it.  The second one was a standard dump but someone put a second trash dumpster in the place where you make the turn and it was TIGHT.  Lee got so far and then we couldn’t make the turn without either scraping the tire against the curb, (how we got the flat the first time) or hitting the logs that were on the border on the other side.  We got out and looked and talked and Lee pushed the timber with his foot and it came loose.  One of them was removable (obviously someone else had this problem) and with gentle negotiating he made the turn and no tires scraped.  He did a really good job and we stayed very calm with each other and helped each other which was great.  Whoever designed that turn though..not cool. 

Finally we got out on the road and since 90 is a major highway we felt pretty confident we wouldn’t have to deal with closures.  What we didn’t count on was the steep grades.   Lee is a really good driver and did a great job navigating the road,  but when I saw he was using his brakes on occasion (instead of letting the engine slow us down) I knew it was really steep.   I breathed a sigh of relief when we hit flat land again, but it was short lived.  We felt a jerk (as if the trailer had come unhitched) and then looked and saw smoke coming from the back right trailer tire.  Lee pulled over immediately (always, always pull over immediately) and the tire was not only flat it was shredded.   Thankfully though he stopped in enough time that the rim was not damaged at all that we could see.   After taking a few deep breaths and saying a quick thank you to God because the flat could have happened coming down the hill, Lee pulled out the  Rapid Jack we had bought after the last flat tire.  So here’s the thing.  We rapidly found out the jack was not so much a jack. The idea is you can roll the good tire onto it and it will lift the bad tire enough to change it.  We were on a two lane highway and pulled over into the gravel, as you would be in this scenario.  He rolled the tire onto the jack and it immediately sunk 6-7 inches into the gravel.  So not enough height to put the spare on.  Lee pulled out these rubber mats we have to roll tires onto and tried it again, but again the good tire was not high enough to put the new one on. Plus the good tire was smushed alarmingly by the whole process and I started to worry we could have a second failure.   OK, so now what?  Well, we decided to call Good Sam roadside assistance.  The experience was largely the same as last time.  It took over 45 minutes to find someone to dispatch and then another 45 for them to arrive.  I think the problem here is Good Sam just doesn’t have enough people to call.  Both times we were less than 30 minutes from a major town so seriously it should not be that hard to find someone to dispatch.  Although I am grateful to have someone come, and in both cases the people who came were very proficient, when this is up for renewal I think I will change to AAA.    I also want to mention here that parts of the tire were wrapped around the brake.  He had to use a special tool to remove it and even if the jack had worked, Lee doesn’t think he would have been able to get the tire off. 

Shredded Tire

Shredded Tire

Trying to get jack to work

Trying to get jack to work

These guys stopped the train before hitting the mountain and walked over to see if we needed help...amazing

These guys stopped the train before hitting the mountain and walked over to see if we needed help…amazing

At least the view was good while we were waiting

At least the view was good while we were waiting


So I am sure your first question was “Did we have TPM or Tire Pressure Monitoring?”.  The answer is yes, and we were getting a low air warning light, but it wasn’t extremely low and this is not uncommon in the mornings before the tires heat up.  The difference this time was the all the other tires went to normal pressure but the fourth one didn’t.  We discussed checking the air and were actually talking about the next rest area when we hit the mountain pass that was unexpected.    Should we have pulled over before attempting the hill? Maybe,  but it had been a big morning with the fire smoke, route change, and dump station from hell and we had a lot on our minds.  Also I will say, I am not convinced that the low pressure is what caused the problem.  Everyone knows these E tires are absolute crap and we absolutely have to spend the money to get new ones.  It’s not just about the money though, the coordination to get them all changed is difficult and with the way our schedule has been we haven’t been any place with enough time this could be easily done.  Since we are headed to Susanville for 2 months for Lee’s work kamping job that should be the best place to do it and we will just have to bite the bullet and get 5 new tires, because seriously, we could have died.

By the time all this was done we were seriously behind schedule and we still had to travel Route 93, which although it’s only 112 miles takes a good 3 hours to traverse.  There was lots to look at though as we went through several small towns and it gave us some time to settle down before getting to Whitefish Lake State Park.   We even took a few moments and stopped to look at Flathead Lake which is a huge lake that is very popular in Montana.  Have to say though that after spending a month at Lake Kabetogama we weren’t that blown away. 

The views helped with the stress

The view helped with the stress

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake was beautiful


By the time we got to the campground we were pretty beat.  A 4 hour travel day had turned into an 8 hour travel day, but thankfully Steve and Deb made dinner for us.  Plus, when we pulled into our site I saw she and Ellen had decorated it for my birthday.  So, so nice especially after such a day and I almost started crying.  They were so thoughtful and I was so glad to be where we were supposed to be… it was a great feeling and how wonderful to have such nice friends.  We had dinner and then I got some awesome presents (everything does two things) and then we had cupcakes for dessert.  They both went all out and you can see from the smiles on my face what it meant to me.

Mario, Ellen, deb, Steve, and Lee

Mario, Ellen, deb, Steve, and Lee

Dinner was yummy

Dinner was yummy

Cupcake for desert

Cupcake for desert

A Camper photo album!!

A Camper photo frame!!

They bought me sunflowers and Ellen pt them in this cool teapot she found in a thrift store

They bought me sunflowers and Ellen put them in this cool teapot she found in a thrift store

I loved that Deb wrote on this rock for thoughtful since she knows I love rocks

I loved that Deb wrote on this rock for me…so thoughtful since she knows I love rocks


Plus a big rock with a tiara

Plus a big rock with a tiara

Hurley, deb's dog. not such a fan of the tiara lol

Hurley, deb’s dog. not such a fan of the tiara lol

Deb Mario and Lee

Deb Mario and Steve

So so nice

So so nice

Tomorrow we are all going to Glacier and I am so so excited.  Hope the smoke doesn’t ruin the experience, but I choose to think positively and believe I wouldn’t travel all this way and not get to see the thing I have been looking forward to.


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11 thoughts on “Fires and a Flat

  1. One flat tire sucks, two? Double suck! Glad it turned out ok and you made it here safely! (I have a confession, it was Ellen’s wonderful penmanship on the rocks!) You forgot to mention Lee’s dual purpose present 😉 It’s so GREAT to have us all together again. Missing the rest but it looks like most of us will be in AZ this winter!

  2. All I can say is “Wow!” So glad you guys are safe. As you know, we’ve been there too (with the hills and blowouts). I’m really proud of your attitude, though! As always, an inspiration to me!

  3. have been .following your travels since you stayed at St. Croix Reginal Park, Hastings, Mn. We are still at the house on St. Croix Trl., anyway, you are safe and sound after your tire ordeal.
    Life is still wonderful full timing!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Life on the road does have a few bumps;o(( Just so happy you got things fixed and managed to get to your destination for a lovely birthday dinner!! One of the most important lessons we have learned since we started full-timing is that stuff happens and the only thing you can control is how you choose to react to it. You both did a great job several times yesterday. I believe you two are getting the hang of this wonderful lifestyle:o))

  5. You won’t regret the upgrade to H grade tires, it is one of the first things we did. Hurley looks non too happy about having the birthday hat on! Glad everything worked out and you had a good evening.

  6. You have 8 lug wheels, Tracy…I’ll bet those are capable of handling higher pressure tires (check first). Did you get your rig weighed at any point? Howard and Linda weighed each wheel on ours last fall. We purposely came to the rally fully loaded for fulltiming (bikes, kayaks, food, clothes, etc), and the wheel-by-wheel weighing gave us a roadmap on how to load the rig. Stay safe! 🙂


    • We were weighed at the reunion rally and we were fine. The tires are some cheap knockoff from China …they don’t even make them anymore. We met another Open Range owner and he had two blow outs as well. Lesson learned since I ordered my rig I would demand better tires from the outset

  7. Pingback: Eight Year – By The Numbers – Camper Chronicles

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