Gear loaded, early in the morning, fueled up and on the way, wives in the rear view mirror. We headed west out of Georgia, through Alabama and Mississippi, crossing the river at Memphis, Tenn. Our mileage was better than I figured; we got almost 10 mpg on flat ground at 70 mph. Not bad for a big Cummins diesel in that size rig. Across Missouri and Oklahoma, into Colorado was a breeze. Stopped at Ft. Collins to visit a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. He lived in a fairly tight subdivision that didn’t look conducive to Greyhound bus-sized vehicles. We got it in, but street parking was a no-no, so I squeezed it into his side yard. Glad I had lots of practice spotting rigs. Had a nice supper and set up for the night.
The next day, we made the run up to Casper, Wyo. The elevation was a little higher, but the big Cummins didn’t even breathe hard. Somewhere above Cheyenne, we stopped at a rest area to stretch. My buddy Glenn asked, “What’s this?” Snow. This is supposed to be spring, late May, etc. This is supposed to be over. Not! As we pulled into Bar Nunn, Wyo., to visit a friend it was snowing pretty good. We decided it would be a good idea to shut down for the night, and I’m glad we did. It snowed 4 inches that night. Passes were icy, and roads were slick, but by the next morning things were looking pretty good, so north we went, into Montana. The drive was beautiful and the weather was finally clear when we pulled into Watford City, N.D.
My friends were glad to see me, and I saw some folks I hadn’t seen in a while. My camper was ready, and we made the hook-up. Wow, that thing is long. I paced it off, and then got a tape and measured — 83 feet overall. I could tell we were not going to go through small towns and tight areas with that rig-up. Everything looked pretty good, except I was worried about the trailer tires. They had good tread, and not many miles, but they had sat for a couple years in less than ideal conditions. We weren’t too worried though, we had a good spare. Little did I know.
Got a late start the next day, with intentions of making a direct route home, and avoiding as many big cities as possible. Running 65 mph, we made 250 miles before the first tire blew. We stopped and looked at it and looked for the jack and tools. It seems that camper trailers don’t need jacks and lug wrenches while parked, and somehow all that equipment had disappeared. Got on the GPS, and various computers we had, and found a place that would change a tire about 12 miles ahead. We limped along the shoulder at 25 mph, stopping every couple miles to survey the damage. When we got to the exit, there was nothing there but farms and ranches. I pulled into a big ranch yard to figure out what to do next. The rancher was mowing his yard and came over to see what was what. We explained the problem. He got a jack and an impact wrench, and changed the tire for us. We were on our way again within minutes. Good folks live in fly-over country!
That was the first tire. As soon as we got to a decent sized town, I bought another tire to replace the spare. Good thing I did too; the next tire blew about 50 miles later. This time a kid that looked like Gomer changed it in a gas station. The next one was changed by Goober a couple hundred miles later. By the time we crossed the Mississippi river at St. Louis, we had blown all four trailer tires, plus one new one that was not heavy enough for the rig. Five so far, but now we had a complete new set of 10-ply radials on and our worries were over … so we thought.
We got into northern Kentucky pretty late one night, and were looking for a place big enough to shut down. Pulled into a weigh station that was closed for the night to take a nap. I usually avoid those places, but being closed and all it looked OK. We made coffee at dawn and were just about to get rolling when the first of the weigh masters pulled in to open the scales. He stopped right across from us and just stared at our rig-up, probably figuring the length in his head. I got the engine running, and ready to go. As soon as he went inside to turn on the lights, and open the scales, I stood in the throttle. We were about 200 yards past the scales and down the ramp when the lights came on and the scales opened. The early bird gets the worm … or doesn’t get the ticket, whichever.
With the lights of home almost within sight we were feeling pretty good just north of Atlanta when one of the big duals on the motor home blew out. That was a surprise! We limped in to a place where Gomer’s cousin Goober eventually put on the spare for an exorbitant amount. OK now we’ve got it, onward to home. Downtown Atlanta, worst possible place, holiday weekend. The spare we had put on 100 miles north let loose! Parked under an overpass on an eight-lane road with another flat! Eventually another service guy, this one I named Bubba, brought a tire and changed it on the side of the freeway. Hairy deal!
Eventually we drifted in to south Georgia just after midnight. We clocked 9.12 miles per gallon and 300 miles per tire overall. A good time was had by all.
For more Wayne Nash columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/wayne.