Thursday, December 26, 2019

Roswell, NM to South Texas

As if the incidents getting to Roswell weren't enough (see the previous post), the biggest incident and challenge were yet to come!

We left Roswell, and went farther south, to Artesia, first, and stayed at the Walmart there for three days. Sharon had ordered something from Walmart online and had it delivered to that store. It wasn't a bad place to stay, and we were able to park on the perimeter, with a huge vacant lot just on the other side of a fence. There was a future driveway already laid out with a vehicle barricade across the entrance, but we could easily walk around it for Angel to take care of his business.

From there we went on down to the Carlsbad Walmart for a couple more days. Carlsbad was extremely busy in general, and the Walmart was no different. We parked as far back as we could go and still stay out of the loading bays. There was a large dry retaining pond with mowed grass to our right, so Angel enjoyed some running there (within the limits of his leash, of course).

The weather was still remaining quite chilly, so we weighed our options as to which way to go from there, while taking into account our traveling expenses, and how the trailer wheel expense had already impacted them.

Also, we had already gone through our fifth 20# can of propane to that point, or roughly $80 in heating fuel. That was for a little over a month. If we stayed in that climate the rest of the winter, another four months, we knew we could figure on about $320 to stay warm!

Of course, if we had a Wave 3 heater, instead of a Buddy, we wouldn't have to use 4000 btus on low, and could have used 1600 btus, which would have made our fuel last 2-1/2 times longer! They really are worth the extra money!

We had originally figured on the possibility of going clear over to Quartzsite/Ehrenberg again, and also going through Mesa and up to Payson at some point before heading back east in the spring. But mileage costs money, and the trailer wheel incident had already put a dent in our traveling kitty. It appeared more prudent to stay east of where we already were, but yet we needed to get farther south to find warmer weather.

We knew we probably would be going back through Texarkana from wherever we went, so that was our "crossover" point. From there to South Texas and back to there would only cost us about $280 in gas. And by staying in warm weather, we would need very little propane to stay warm. After the sun comes up, the trailer stays as much as 20° above outside temperature if we close the vents, so a can of propane "could" last all winter! It became clear that we needed to head for South Texas!

The shortest route was to Pecos, TX first, and then down to Fort Stockton. But as much as I am knowledgeable of such things, I forgot to check road conditions! After all, the roads so far had been nearly excellent, and in an area where they don't get freezing and thawing, why would I expect that to change? But it did!

The first half of Hwy 285 to Pecos was as good as the rest...but...we noticed that we were entering oil and gas country. With that came a much higher percentage of big trucks. We all know what they do to the roads!

Beyond the halfway point, the road started getting rougher, but still passable...except that there was hardly any space long enough to pass anybody!

The road was in the process of being widened to a four lane highway, and bridges were being worked on. At least four different times, we were delayed by nearly a half hour each time, for long one lane passages.

We had left plenty early enough for a normal drive, but now it was getting dark, and the road kept getting progressively worse! My night vision isn't the best right now, and I hate driving after dark...anywhere! Our speed had slowed to 45 mph because of dodging all the potholes...when I could even see them!

Suddenly, we hit three large ones in a row before I could even maneuver away from them, and both right hand wheels on the van bottomed out with a hard, metal to metal sounding bang!

The front wheel survived, maybe partly due to the trailer tongue weight on the back taking some of the weight off the front end. But the back wheels carried the 500# weight of the trailer tongue, and the suspension had far less distance to travel. The sharp edge of the pothole bent the inside edge of the van wheel in about two inches, while at the same time cutting the tire sidewall all the way through in several places!

I got the van slowed down to a crawl and tried to pull over to the side as far as I could, but there was no burm to speak of, and the dropoff at the edge of the main pavement was steep. I heard something scrape and crash, but couldn't stop to check it out. I could also hear the hitch dragging, so I pulled back on the road as far as I could, and kept rolling slow, with my flashers on, for another few hundred feet.

Finally, I saw a wider pulloff area, and was able to get off the road. It wasn't real level, but I knew that if we had to park there for the night that I could still pull the right trailer wheel up on some wood blocks if necessary.

It was chilly that night, and I didn't really want to change a tire with a trailer attached to the van, so I Googled tire repair places in Pecos, TX. The first place didn't have anyone available, but recommended a second place. That one took my information, but couldn't say how long it would take to get to me.

I decided to go ahead and start on it, and if they got there, fine, and if they didn't, we could still get on the road again. The first thing I had to do was put blocks under the tongue jack, as high as possible. Then, with the trailer attached, I lifted the tongue AND the back of the van together. Then I got the scissors jack for the van, read the directions for proper placement, and started jacking the van up.

Keep in mind, we also had roughly 500# of weight in the van yet! But I jacked on the van awhile, then raised the trailer tongue some more, then back to the van...repeating this at least three more times before the van tire cleared the ground.

Meanwhile, a good Samaritan by the name of Jamie pulled up next to us and offered some help. By then, I already had the spare out from under the van, and noticed that the protective cover was all freshly torn to shreds...obviously, the result of getting high centered on the edge of the road.

About that time, the service truck from the place I had called also pulled up behind us. But they could see I had things under control, and left again. Jamie stayed, and it was a good thing he did. After I got the "donut" spare on the van and let the jack down, I realized that the donut was nearly flat, too! After all, with being up under the middle of the van, who is going to get under there to check air pressure? It probably hadn't been checked since it was first installed several years ago!

I put my trucker's gauge on it, and it wouldn't even register on the gauge! But thank God for Jamie, he had a small compressor in his truck, with a good dial gauge inline, and it only registered 15# on the gauge! It was supposed to be 60#! Within five minutes, his compressor had us aired up properly. I finished putting all the "parts" away, and then Jamie offered to follow us the rest of the 5.6 miles into Pecos to the Walmart Store. We made it without incident.

The next task was to find a new fancy mag wheel for the Chrysler and a tire to fit. The place that I had called the night before only works on big trucks. But they recommended another place on the service road that deals in all kinds of tires. That place took my information and said they could get the tire there by the next afternoon, but that the wheel might take longer. It was a dealer item, and if the dealer didn't have one in stock, it may have to come from a warehouse.

We remained stuck at the Pecos Walmart for ten nights. The wheel finally arrived on the Friday before Christmas, and they got it installed that same a cost of $427 for the wheel, another $110+ for the tire, plus mounting, balancing, etc.  Ouch!

In reality, that is the going price. They didn't gouge me, and handled everything very professionally, even taking the time to call me in between to check on me. I couldn't expect more.

But there went even more of our traveling funds than it cost us earlier for the trailer wheel and tire. So it was good that we were already on our way south to warmer weather.

We went from Pecos to Fort Stockton, but rather than take Hwy 285 again, we went east on I-20 to Monahans, and then south on Hwy 18. It was a little longer, but far safer.

The Fort Stockton Walmart had no less than nine other RVers there that night. It was a good stay. The next day, we headed east on I-10, not sure if we would stop at a rest stop for the night, but we were rolling along good and had plenty of daylight left, so we drove on down to Uvalde before dark, where we stayed two nights.

We did splurge for one more thing, while there, that I have wanted for a long time and had put off buying. We purchased a reasonably good (actually the best Walmart had) 12-volt air compressor. I know there are "professional grade" compressors that sell for much more, but this one will keep us out of trouble.

I don't remember what law of the universe it is anymore, but I know there's one that says that if you purchase something like this, that you will likely never need it! I'm hoping that's true! We've had enough tire and wheel problems on this trip!

From Uvalde, we drove farther south and east to Alice, TX for one night, and then continued to South Texas. There are so many Walmarts in this area now, that I doubt if there are ten miles between them! We can rotate among them all winter and never have to wear out our tires!

We knew that the front tires on the van would need replacing by the time we got back up north this spring. But now, I've noticed that the van is pulling slightly to the right since hitting that pothole. But with adding limited mileage this winter, I'm hoping to hold out until we pass through Arkansas again. I can get the new tires at Walmart there, and then go right around the corner to our favorite mechanic of over thirty-five years, and have him check over the entire suspension and align the wheels.

Until then, we're content to enjoy warm winter weather, and not put any more miles on the van than necessary. Between us and Walmarts, we have everything we need!

There may not be much exciting happening this winter, but I'll post again when I have something to mention. We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and are looking forward to a Happy and prosperous New Year!