Bumpy Roads and Silver Linings
What began as a 6-hour trip from Dallas to south Texas turned into a bumpy three-day adventure. What’s that saying? “Someday we’ll look back and laugh about this…”
The reason for this trip: Because of city codes, we knew we would be unable keep Lucille in our driveway until our departure. In addition to the city restrictions, our driveway is extremely slanted (which wasn’t the best for heavy work in the RV) so we knew we had to find an alternate place to do our renovation. My parents have several acres in south Texas and were gracious enough to let us crash their pad for a month. Their house has been the perfect place to get Lucille road worthy and also catch up on some much needed family time.
Day 1: Packing the whole family for a two-week, turned month-long trip, took longer than expected. We finally pulled away from Dallas around the time we hoped to arrive at our destination. Not the best start for our first trip, but everyone was in good spirits and thrilled to be on the road. It was our first glimpse into what the future holds.
We knew when we bought Lucille that her tires weren’t in the best condition. We thought since we were only traveling a few hundred miles, they should get us there with no problem. About an hour south of Dallas, our trip took a turn.
We had our first blowout.
RV Tip #1 – If you think your tires might need to be replaced…you probably should go ahead and replace them.
There’s an underlying theme for this post (and life): Even in the midst of a crummy situation, there is always a silver lining.
As we were coming up on an exit, Matt realized the tire was starting to go. This wasn’t just any exit. For one, we were in a rural area so there were very few cars exiting. Secondly, there appeared to be some road work happening, so we had an entire protected lane to pull over in, safely and out of the path of any traffic.
During his college years, Matt was a tech at a Walmart Tire & Lube Center. This means he can change a tire faster than anyone I know. Not a skill you want to have to use on a regular basis, but when the need arises, it comes in handy! Unfortunately, it wasn’t a quick tire changing experience. Since this was our first trip with Lucille, we hadn’t exactly planned for this to happen and didn’t do a proper inventory of our tools. We did have a great emergency jack and most of the tire changing tools, but we were missing one very important piece of the puzzle — the little stick used to lower the spare tire.
RV Tip #2 – Before heading for the road, make sure you have all the tools needed for a tire change.
We were probably on the side of the road for about 45 minutes before succeeding at lowering the spare to the ground. It was only during a last-ditch effort that we managed to get it loose. After successfully retrieving the spare, Speedy Gonzales and his tire iron went to work, and we were ready to roll.
It was during our time on the side of the road that I discovered a nest of baby birds in the bumper. Whoops…
Because it was so late in the day, we decided to stop at the nearest camp ground and call it a night. We only had to travel a couple of exits south before coming upon our first real RV park! We plan to rate and review RV parks as we travel, so it was pretty exciting to stay in our first one. It was a short 12-hour stop, but I give our first experience an A+! The staff was extremely friendly, and the park had some really great amenities.
On our way to the RV park, we stopped at the closest gas station and picked up fried chicken and beer for the first official meal in our new home. Since we hadn’t planned on camping, the only furnishings we had brought along were a twin-size air mattress and an automotive stool. We ended up just sitting on the floor, talking about our plans and dreaming about the future.
Our unexpected camping trip also gave us the opportunity to try out a few things we hadn’t used before, like the shower, fridge, and air-conditioner. Everything worked great, and the only problem we had was waking up during the night to a horrible smell. We found out later that our battery was over-charging and spreading horrible fumes/gasses into Lucille. Thankfully, no one was harmed, and we were now aware of a problem that needed to be fixed.
Day 2: The next morning we awoke to a beautiful campsite and had a nice walk with the dogs.
A little while later we were all packed up and ready to hit the road again, excited to be only a few hours away from our destination.
We continued south down I-35 while I read aloud an e-book about full-time RV living. There was even a whole section in the book dedicated to tire maintenance and preparing for an inevitable blowout. This made us feel a little better about the previous day’s events and less like first-timers.
About two hours into our drive, I informed Matt that I needed to stop for a bathroom break. This is worth mentioning because I do not make unnecessary pit stops while traveling. On this occasion, I probably could have waited until our next planned stop, but for some reason, I decided to go with my first instinct. We took the very next exit, and Matt dropped me off at the entrance to the travel center. As I turned back to watch Matt drive away, I had this nostalgic feeling watching our new home roll away. While I was affectionately looking at our rig, I noticed something was very wrong:
LUCILLE WAS MISSING A WHEEL!
I suddenly lost any need to use the restroom and took off running toward the truck. As I ran around to the window and told Matt what I had seen, he stared at me dumbfounded, not being able to comprehend what had happened. Once the initial shock wore off, he was able to piece together that while he was changing the tire, it had been difficult to loosen the lug nuts. In hindsight, he realized that whoever had changed the tire last had most likely over-tightened the bolts, which caused them to shear right off. The bolts had been under stress for some time and were likely compromised from the blowout and tire change. The craziest part is that we have no idea when or where the wheel escaped, and if it wouldn’t have been for my unexpected bathroom break, we would have continued on our way with three wheels.
The rest of the day was filled with phone calls and trips around town, trying to get Lucille all fixed up. It wasn’t a standard repair, so we had to find a specialty RV mechanic. We were lucky we made our little discovery in New Braunfels, which had several RV shops nearby for us to choose from.
Since we had some time to kill between stops to have the blowout fixed and the RV mechanic to have bolts replaced, we swung by Home Depot and picked up supplies for the renovation. It was during this trip Scout decided that the clean concrete floor inside of Home Depot would be the perfect place to take a massive dump, right as we entered the front of the store. She must have enjoyed it so much, she decided a second one was necessary further back in the store. Thanks Scout. We’re lucky we didn’t get kicked out.
This stinky trip to Home Depot got even crappier, when we found out the wheel lugs were not a standard size and would need to be special ordered. We had no choice but to leave Lucille at the mechanic shop overnight and head 60 miles south to our destination.
And…if you’re still wondering about the baby birds…may their spirits live on with Lucille forever. I found a rescue in San Antonio that was willing to take them in and raise them, but after losing the wheel, we weren’t able to make it there in time. Rest in peace, little birdies.
Day 3: After a great night’s sleep, we started the day with a renewed sense of hope. We got up, had coffee, and spent time outside with the pups. Our peace was short lived however, when out of the blue, a scuffle ensued between Maverik and Lennard. It all happened so fast and resulted in Lennard having surgery to get all stitched up.
This is why you’ll see Lennard in a cone during most of the renovation. It was definitely the lowest point of the trip, but we were grateful to be within a few miles of an amazing veterinarian who took wonderful care of Lennard. As of today’s post, he has only a small pink spot on his nose, and we’re so thankful he didn’t suffer more serious injuries.
While Lennard was undergoing surgery, we drove to New Braunfels to await Lucille’s release. We passed the time at Starbucks by doing a little work. There we encountered a patron who felt the need to show us that he was wearing dentures…by removing them…twice. We were later informed that during this time, Lennard felt the need to show his teeth to the vet too.
While Lucille was in the shop, the power converter stopped working completely and had to be replaced. This tacked on more to the bill than we had budgeted for, but the nice people at Evergreen RV were fantastic and did everything they could to get us back up and running as quickly as possible.
Due to the additional repair time, Matt had to drive me south to San Antonio so I could catch a ride to rescue the vet from Lennard, who was another thirty miles south. Matt headed back alone in rush hour traffic, barely reaching the shop before closing time. I got back to my parents’ with a very drowsy Lennard and anxiously awaited Matt’s arrival.
I was so relieved and excited to see Matt pull through the gate. After three days of trying to make it to the south Texas prairie, Lucille was finally here! Even though our first journey was far from perfect, we can now laugh at the ridiculous amount of things that went wrong in what was supposed to be a 6-hour trip.
As we gear up for life on the road, we know there will be more bumps along the way…but thankfully there will also be silver linings.