Road Trip: The Wheels on the Trailer Go Round and Round

We have had our Micro Lite since January 2019; prior to our recently completed road trip it had less than 3,000 miles on it. In just under a month, we added almost 5,000 miles. Needless to say, this extended “shake down” revealed a few issues and we came home with a list of repairs to be made. However, the first – and biggest – issue was a major one.

Yep. We had a blowout. These tires were the original equipment and one of the main recommendations in the travel trailer groups I’m in is to replace the original tires as soon as possible for a couple of reasons. First, manufacturers by tires in bulk and they may sit in a warehouse for 2-3 years before being placed on your trailer. Second, the original tires are frequently called “China bombs” for their supposed country of origin and propensity for blowouts. We discussed replacing the tires before our road trip but that discussion was as far as it went. I was driving on I-81 near Frackville, Pennsylvania when this happened. However, when I think back on this incident, I count my blessings:

  • This section of I-81 wasn’t busy and we weren’t surrounded by semis like we had been in Virginia
  • Our Micro Lite has two axles so we still had three tires to keep us rolling (slowly)
  • I was approaching an exit where I was able to get off the interstate and pull onto the shoulder where we could inspect the damage
  • There was a whole lot of nothing at this exit but we saw signs for a Cracker Barrel and limped our way there and availed ourselves of their RV parking while we changed the tire. (We also treated ourselves to lunch. At this point we both needed and deserved a break.)
  • While we ate, I did a quick internet search and found Ken’s Tires less than two miles away in Frackville. My Kenn gave them a call and they had a tire in stock that could become our new spare. Our server gave us directions (including drawing a map) and, once we finished lunch, we made the trip to Ken’s Tires and had the new tire installed on the wheel. They had us back on the road in less than 30 minutes.

So, with one disaster averted, we began a renewed discussion on what to do with the remaining tires: try to find somewhere to have them replaced while we were on the road or wait until we got home. We decided we’d feel better if we went ahead and got the remaining tires replaced. We were flying by the seat of our pants for most of this trip – the only reservations we had made in advance were in Lubek, Maine. We couldn’t afford to get off the road in search of new tires and miss our arrival date. Lubek is a tiny town but we knew one of our next stops would be in Farmington, Maine and there were several places to buy tires in that area. Kenn settled on Tire Warehouse in Farmington and the phone calls began.😂 (Kyle and Brandi deserve some sort of award for all of the calls from Kenn that they patiently fielded over the next several days.) The GE Endurance tires that we wanted are back-ordered and wouldn’t be available until February 2022 so it was onto another brand. After much research, Kenn settled on Hankook tires and Kyle was able to get them in prior to our arrival in Farmington. When we arrived at Tire Warehouse, the staff replaced and balanced our tires and had us back on the road in about 30 minutes. Oh, and as for our decision to go ahead and replace the tires while we were on the road… the technician changing our tires sliced his hand on the exposed steel belt on one of the other tires. So, we had at least one more blowout in the making. Yikes.😬

Stay tuned for more (probably not as exciting, LOL) posts about our road trip over the next few weeks. Until next time, happy trails and check those travel trailer tires y’all!

Them’s the Breaks

We don’t have a garage. As a matter of fact, we’ve never had a garage. Our first home (less than 900 square feet) had no covering at all for vehicles. In a way this worked out for the best since Kenn’s little rattletrap truck sacrificed itself and took most of the of the damage when a huge section of the tree in our front yard fell; the poor little truck was severely dented but it kept the house from taking more damage than it did. Our second house, built in 1962, had a 60’s style carport ringed with wrought iron. The carport was just big enough for my Toyota Highlander as long as we opened the doors carefully in order to avoid hitting the wrought iron on the left side or the brick wall on the right.

Fast forward to our current house, also known as The Cabin. The Cabin has a stand-alone covered carport big enough for both vehicles – or at least it was until we bought Ruby. I think we were on the way home from the dealership when Kenn expressed concern that Ruby wouldn’t fit in the carport. I, on the other hand, was confident she would and, I was right. Ruby fit but we had to take care not to clip the side mirrors on the support posts. Then Kenn replaced the factory mirrors with ones we could extend when towing the travel trailer. These wider mirrors narrowed the room for error when parking Ruby significantly. We learned to be extremely careful both when parking and backing out and we’ve both had our share of close calls. Sadly, our luck ran out this past weekend.

Poor Ruby

Of course, we were both a little upset (especially Kenn, since he was driving). However, we both knew it was just a matter of time until this happened although it would have been nice if it had taken longer than 5 months, LOL. I told Kenn that we need to make sure the replacement mirrors fold up so we can just close them up before parking to eliminate this problem in the future. But, you want to know the worst part? The existing soon-to-be-replaced mirrors also folded up. It just never dawned on either of us to actually fold them up in order to eliminate the parking problem. It was a true facepalm moment.

We all have these moments

One of the good things about life is that we never stop learning. Sometimes the lessons we learn are hard ones, others not so much. This one is definitely in the latter category. A broken sideview mirror is an incovenience and replacing it is a bit of an expense but, in the long run, it’s no big deal. But, you can rest assured that we will be folding Ruby’s mirrors up in the future!

Until next time, happy trails and watch your mirrors!

Learning to Be Retired

I have now officially been retired for two years. Kenn retired a few months after I did so he has been retired for about a year and a half. I can honestly say that the decision to retire was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I told Kenn about my plans to retire he looked at me and said in all seriousness, “I don’t think you’re going to be very good at being retired.” Really? My response was “I am going to be awesome at being retired.” I am pleased to announce that I was correct. I have indeed been awesome at being retired.

I wore this “retiree” costume for my last Halloween in the office pre-retirement

Awesomeness aside, retirement does come with some adjustments. We were used to getting paid every two weeks. We now get paid once a month so that took some adjusting, but it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. Full-time retirement was a bit too much for Kenn so he got a part-time job with the local branch of the US Department of Agriculture. It’s pretty much the perfect retirement job. He works two or three days a week and gets to drive tractors and other heavy equipment. (Insert Tim Allen Home Improvement noises here.) The best thing about his job is that it’s flexible. If we want to hit the road for a few weeks with our travel trailer, we can.

This past weekend, I had an epiphany. Our normal method of travel has been to get in the car/truck and get where we need to go with little to no dawdling/side trips. When we were working this was a necessity; we needed to reach our destination to make the most of the time that we had. However, now that we’re retired, we still travel the same way. What’s up with that? We talk about side trips but don’t take them. Why not? We just haven’t changed that long ingrained mindset yet. Last weekend, we had a short visit with our grandson and then hit the road on Monday to take him back home to South Carolina. The trip followed our “normal” routine; the only stops were brief ones for snacks or restroom breaks. (Honestly, being able to help out with our grandson is one of the main reasons I wanted to retire. I was a happy Grammie to be able to make this trip and make things easier for our kids.) We stayed in SC overnight and returned home on Tuesday.

We got up Tuesday morning, checked out of the hotel, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed home. Instead of our usual stop at a convenience store or truck stop, Kenn pulled in at a small nursery and we spent a pleasant 30-45 minutes looking at plants and visiting with the cat and the elderly man relaxing in rocking chairs on the porch. When we got back in the truck (with several new plants) I was absolutely blown away at how relaxing that simple stop was. We made another stop in one of the small towns we always say we’re going to visit. None of the antique-y stores were open since they are only open on weekends but we did a little sightseeing and agreed to make a return visit sometime soon. Hats off to Kenn for breaking us out of our routine and helping us start what I hope will become our “new normal’. I’m looking forward to seeing what this new way of thinking about travel brings.

Until next time, happy trails!

Here We Go A Fossiling

Given a choice between the mountains and the beach I’ll choose the mountains every time. There’s just something about the mountains that makes my heart happy and fills my soul with peace. I love the scenery, the wildlife and, even during the hottest times of the year, the mountains usually bring at least a slight relief from the heat. (Summer in the South is frequently like living in a sauna.) However, the beach is Kenn’s happy place. He and his family spent a week at the beach every summer and the memories of those times still hold a special place in his heart. Over the years we’ve each learned to appreciate the other’s favorite.

I’ll admit, it took me a while to learn how to enjoy the beach. The two biggest hurdles for me were 1) I can’t swim and 2) I’m a redhead; I practically burst into flames in the sun. (We won’t get into my irrational fear of sharks.) For years, most of our trips to the beach consisted of me coating myself in sunscreen and sitting in the shade watching Kenn and our boys cavort in the surf while I silently counted the days and hours until we could leave. Eventually, I learned that even a non-swimmer can have fun wave-surfing on a boogie board. (Aside from one trip to the ER when a rogue wave slammed my foot into the ground. Fortunately, my toe wasn’t broken; I just had a lovely purple toe/foot for a few days.)

But, the thing that truly taught me to appreciate the beach are fossils. I love getting out and scouring the shoreline for shark’s teeth and other fossils. Over the years I’ve found hundreds of shark’s teeth and met another fossil hunter who helped me identity other items as fossilized sting ray barbs and puffer fish mouth plates. When the time comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil my boys will have to decide what to do with all of the baggies filled with my beach finds. (I hope they’ll do more than just toss them in the trash.) Fossil hunting in the Peace River in Florida is on my bucket list.

The fossil finds from our latest beach trip

Now I just need to figure out how to spend more than three days at the beach without being ready to lose my mind from boredom. (Not even fossil hunting has been enough to change that.)

Until next time, happy trails!

The Electronic Tattletale

Prior to our purchase of Ruby the Big Red Truck, my research focused on things such as tow capacity, reliability, and longevity. While I know all of those things will serve us well, it’s the little previously unknown/unexpected features that I enjoy. I love the big, bulky interior door handles and the loud clicking of the turn indicator. However, far and away my favorite feature on the whole truck is the “lane assist” which beeps to let you know when you drift too far to one side or the other of your lane; we call this feature the electronic tattletale.

Image from Depositphotos.com

Kenn has always had a tendency to “wander” when he drives so he’s not as big a fan of the electronic tattletale as I am since he is the one she most often tattles on. Early on, he turned the lane assist off but I insisted that it stay on. (My truck, my rules.) Prior to Ruby and her electronic lane assist, that function belonged to me. A common complaint was that I missed a lot of the scenery in our travels because I was watching the road – even when I wasn’t the one driving.

During our trip to Amicalola Falls State Park, Kenn stumbled across another feature of the electronic tattletale. We were traveling along a curvy mountain road with Kenn behind the wheel and Ruby beeping on a regular basis. Suddenly, Kenn laughed. Apparently his “wandering” passed some threshold; he said a picture of a coffee cup popped up on the control panel with a note that it was time to take a break. Well played, Ruby! (Ruby’s dashboard/control panel are like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in comparison to our older Toyotas.) I have to say, I’m enjoying my new found freedom in the passenger’s seat. It’s nice to be able to relax and watch the world go by instead of always being focused on the road.

What are your favorite features on your vehicle? (Heated seats are a close second to the electronic tattletale for me.)

Until next time, happy trails!