Camping With Friends from Tucson and Albuquerque, 29 Sep - 3 Oct 2011 - Slideshow Below Text

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After our wonderful marathon trip with Andy & Jason to Lake Mead, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon the latter part of August, we had a dry September until a trip planned with another gathering of friends at Fool Hollow Lake State Recreation Area in Show Low, AZ. This time it was with our Tucson friends, Deb & Loretta and our mutual friends, Barbara & Janis from Albuquerque. It’s about 100 miles further for the ABQ contingency (via I-40) to get to Fool Hollow in Show Low than it is for us Tucsonans, but it’s a trip well worth if for them. Fool Hollow is a great place. We’d gone to Fool Hollow with Deb & Loretta and Barbara & Janis the year before, in May on 2010.

On Thursday, 29 September we were up early to get the final packing done and to be ready by the time Deb & Loretta arrived at our house to hit the road. They got to our place a little after 10:00 AM, which was perfect timing.  We selected the route that goes north from Tucson on Oracle Road to Route 79 through Florence, AZ and on north to pic up Route 60 to head east to Globe. We stopped in Globe to gas up and then continued north from Globe on 60. About 15 miles or so north of Globe we rounded a corner on a slight two-lane downgrade section of the road … and all of a sudden we were surprised with a loud “Boom!” … and the street side of the Bambi dropped to the pavement. The tire pressure monitor immediately started screaming, of course, but it was too late. We’d had a blowout — the dreaded travel event that everyone towing a single-axle rig lives in fear of. We can’t fault the tire pressure monitoring system … it will detect a gradual loss of tire pressure in time to give one time to get off the road and deal with it (as it had done once in the past), but a catastrophic blowout is quite another story. One second the air pressure is fine … and the next second, there is zero air pressure. There is no warning.

Deb and Loretta were a ways behind us, but they rounded the curve just in time to see the side of the Bambi suddenly drop. We pulled off to the side of the road as far as we could and as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there was a guardrail on the right side of the road and only about 4 or 5 feet of shoulder between the guardrail and the traffic lane. Deb & Loretta stopped behind us, and put on their hazard flashers, as did we. We got out to survey the situation to discover that we had lost the tread from the street side tire, and what remained was a shredded, mangled mess. We were running on the rim. The lost tread was no where in sight.

Everyone sprang into action right away. We do have roadside assistance, but we knew we’d be sitting there a long time before anyone arrived to help, so we decided quickly to go ahead and change the tire ourselves. The first order of business was to warn on-coming traffic that there was a situation. Terry opened the tonneau cover on the truck bed and dug out the hazard triangles we hauled as part of our emergency kit. Deb & Loretta went back up the road behind us and placed the triangles to guide oncoming traffic around us. It was necessary for us to be in the actual traffic lane to change the tire, so it was important to get that traffic away from us and to create a safety zone. The situation was made slightly more hazardous because we were just coming off a curve when the blowout occurred, so no one could see us until they rounded that curve. Loretta stayed behind their rig and waved traffic to slow down and pass us by.

The next order of business was to get to the actual changing of the tire. We decided to use the truck’s bottle jack to lift the Bambi and the additional bottle jack in our emergency kit to help stabilize it. (We later bought a small floor jack that we now carry.) Unfortunately the truck’s jack is stored under the back seat of the truck where Abbey & Sadie ride, so we had to get them out of the truck, lift their travel bed and the seat to access the jack. We didn’t need the dogs darting around near traffic, so Deb took them down an embankment to keep them entertained and away from the action. We were so close to the guardrail that we could barely open the truck door to get into the passenger side to get the dogs and the jack out.

Next was to get the spare tire out of its carrying rack under the front end of the Bambi just behind the tongue. It’s not a particularly easy task, but Terry had practiced lowering the rack and removing the spare, so he knew what he had to do if/when the time came. We got the spare out and Greg & Terry began loosening the lug bolts on the blown wheel and jacking up the Bambi while the cars and trucks whizzed by. They seemed very close to us, but we had no choice.

Did we mention that it was pretty warm outside? September in the high desert is no picnic in terms of heat. And the stress of the situation didn’t help. Terry was sweating pretty heavily and somehow he had knocked his head on something as he was digging out the hazard triangles so he had a little blood trickling down the side of his head. A little blood always adds to the drama.

Thank goodness Deb & Loretta were there to assist. They were great. Without them to help manage traffic and the Girls, it would have been a lot worse. It actually took longer to get all the “stuff” out of the truck, set up the triangles and get the Bambi jacked up than it did to change the tire. It went pretty smoothly once we had the Bambi jacked up. The tire came off easily and went into the spare tire carrier for the rest of the trip. And the spare went on easily enough. We were done and ready to roll again with maybe 45 minutes from the time of the blowout to having the tire changed. Terry took a pressure reading and of course, the spare was a bit low, but we didn’t want to spend any longer on the side of the road than we had to because it was dangerous. People were not very understanding and a few came dangerously close to us. We knew a place further up the road that we could stop to add air to the spare. So we packed up everything and were on the road again. What an experience! But we handled it well.

Several miles further up the road, we pulled off into a national forest campground to top off the spare tire. We were soon on our way again. We had lost maybe and hour or so of travel time all told. Thankfully, we had not reached the Salt River Canyon yet when we had the blow out. It’s a very deep canyon with steep climbs both in and out on unforgiving switchbacks … so it’s not the place you want to have a blowout (like we have a choice).

We had no more troubles on the trip to Show Low, other than the time we lost. Overall we considered ourselves pretty darned lucky. For an event that we have dreaded, it went pretty well. We were also quite lucky that the shredded tire didn’t damage the exterior skin of the Bambi. The outer skin was basically unscathed, and that’s the most costly aspect of potential blowout damage. There was damage to the wheel well, the “banana wrap” (the curved piece found at the bottom of the sides), and a bit of the lower trim piece. The grey and black tank valves directly behind the wheel also got knocked pretty hard by the flying tread and needed to be “adjusted”, but fortunately, they did not leak during our stay at Fool Hollow.

After the unexpected delay we finally arrived safely at Fool Hollow about 4:00 PM. We checked in and got set up.  We shared the #16 & #17, “buddy sites” in Redhead Loop with Deb & Loretta and Barbara & Janis were to take the next site, #18.  Barbara & Janis arrived a little after 5:00 PM safe and sound. While Barbara & Janis set up, the rest of us prepared snacks and beverages so we could all sit a spell and catch up. That evening everyone brought what they wanted to grill and we had chicken, kielbasa and Indian food. It had been a long day for all of us, so we were all ready to call it a day by 9:30 PM.

Friday morning we got up and joined Deb & Loretta at Janis & Barbara’s rig for coffee and chat. We dragged the blown tire out of the rack to show it off to Barbara & Janis, and they were appropriately shocked at the “remains”. Later that morning Terry & Greg headed to town to look into getting new tires before the trip home.  We checked out a few places but there was a “Big O Tire Center” in town, which has the advantage of being a national chain, so we decided to return there on the coming Monday morning after leaving the park for home to get new tires on the Bambi. We had wanted Maxxi tires to replace the Goodyear Marathons, which, despite their common use on RVs, don’t have the best reputation … our Marathons only had 14K+ miles on them and yet we had a tread separation. Not good. But no one in town had Maxxis and they all recommended the TowMax brand. So that’s what we decided on, checked to make sure they had the right size, and told the service manager we’d be back Monday morning to get them.

Back at the park with a plan to replace the tires in place, we could enjoy the rest of the weekend with easy minds. We visited more with the ladies and Greg took off with Barbara to walk along the lake with their dogs, Carly & Meg, and Abbey. Terry stayed back at the camp with Sadie, who wasn’t able to make that long of a walk. Near the end of their walk it began to pour rain. It was heavy but only lasted about 10 minutes. They were able to get out of the rain in the fish-cleaning station by the boat launch ramp, so at least they stayed dry! The rain did a nice job of freshening up the mountain air.

That evening Greg cleaned shrimp for the BBQ and Terry & Deb got salmon ready in tinfoil packets to throw on the grill. Barbara & Janis made a pasta dish for dinner. And what a feast it was! After dinner we sat around the campfire and enjoyed both conversation and elk calls in the distance. Fool Hollow is very close to town, but you’d never know civilization is so nearby … especially when you hear such sounds of nature. Greg brought out servings of the tofu mousse with whipped cream … made with the recipe that Andy had given us on our trip with them. It was a winner! Everyone was so surprised it was made with tofu! (Thanks again, Andy!)

Saturday morning we were up again for coffee and chat. A lazy day was ahead … just the simple joys of sitting about the campsites chatting and playing with the dogs. That afternoon, Terry & Greg left the Girls in Deb & Loretta’s care for a while to go and visit their Airstream friends Ken & Linda who have a lot at the Ponderosa Shadows Airstream Park in Show Low. We know a couple of other Airstream couples who have lots there, but they were not there this particular weekend. We had a nice visit with Ken & Linda. The park is quite pleasant and sits near a community lake.

Back at the campground we grilled hamburgers, turkey burgers, and Boca burgers for dinner accented with Greg’s potato salad, pasta salad, and beans. Once again we were stuffed as we settled in for an evening around the campfire. Instead of elk bugles that evening we had the pleasure of smelling an excited skunk somewhere not too far from us! Oh, boy! That prompted a great discussion of skunk experiences and de-skunking remedies from everyone. Anyone who camps has a good skunk story! We retold ours about our cocker Annie chasing a skunk into its den one night in the dark at Lake Pleasant near Phoenix. Thankfully, Annie didn’t get sprayed but she must have stuck her head and shoulders into the den … she smelled of skunk for over a week, no matter what we did to mask it ... the little stink-pot.

Sunday morning it was sprinkling when we got up. It rained steadily until about 10:00 AM, then it cleared up and the sun came out once more. For us rain is a pleasant sound on the Airstream, but for Deb & Loretta it was less fun … they discovered a leak in their pop-up’s top … they had not camped in the rain in it before! So parat of the afternoon was devoted to drying balnkets in the sun. Fun!

Unfortunately, Barbara & Janis had to leave for Albuquerque and home Sunday morning, as they had to be back home by Monday. It was sad to see them go, but we had a great time with them. We were all so glad they made it and we could camp with them for the days they were able.

After they left, we had a relaxing rest of the day… Greg worked on a sewing project he’d brought with him. Deb minded the Girls. And Terry & Loretta played with their cameras. Loretta had bought a camera like Terry’s so they exchanged information and techy camera stuff.

That evening we had another great dinner of tortillas with left over shrimp, hamburger and salmon with a salad … and what was left of the mousse for dessert… all followed by one final campfire to cap off the weekend.

Monday morning we all packed up and headed our separate ways. Deb & Loretta south to home and Terry & Greg to Show Low to get new tires put on the Bambi. It had been a great trip … a little bit of a rough start for us all, but it turned out well and we all had a great time together.

We had new tires put on both wheels. When we removed the tire that had not blown, we discovered that it was dangerously close to the tread releasing as well. It would not have lasted another 100 miles. So in retrospect, we were really quite lucky. What a mess we’d have been in if both tires had blown! (Something about “creeks and no paddles” comes to mind.) Getting the new tires went well and we had an uneventful trip back to Tucson with new “shoes” on the Bambi. After thinking about it for a bit, we decided to go back to Big O in Tucson and have a matching tire put on the spare rim. Tires need to be replaced every 4 or 5 years even if they look OK, especially in our climate … and we believed the spare was the original spare that came with the Bambi, a 2006, so it was definitely time to change it.

The day after we got home from the trip we made a claim with our insurance company (Progressive) and we arranged for necessary repairs to be made at Oasis RV in Tucson (where we had bought the Bambi). The estimate was just under $3300. The insurance company was very responsive and quick with approvals. And happily, becase we had a “disappearing deductible” on the Bambi, our deductible had completely “disappeared”  with no previous claims made ... so we didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket beyond the new tires. Once we got everything approved by the insurance, the check was cut and Oasis had us ready to roll again within a week. For such a potentially distressing experience, it was all fairly painless. And Oasis did a great job of making the repairs. You’d never know there had been an incident.

Enjoy the photos of the weekend below and be sure to visit earlier Fool Hollow trips if you’d like to see more pictures of the park, etc. You can access previous trips by clicking on the “Return to 2011 Trips List” button below or at the end of the photo section. And stay tuned for more trip entries soon!

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