It was just a matter of time before it happened. It was inevitable. How could one plan on driving 20,000 miles around the country and not expect it. Which is why when it happened I (Josh) was neither surprised nor worried.
We left Florida yesterday (Yes, after two beautiful warm months, we had to say good-bye). We traveled along I-10. Our plan was to drive from Tallahassee, Florida through Alabama and Mississippi and finally to make it to Louisiana, in one day. That might sound like a long distance, but it is only a 5 1/2 hour drive. OK, so very doable. As we drove down the interstate, we were in awe of the spectacle of damage that had taken place due to Hurricane Michael back in October. Like broken toothpicks standing straight up in forests on both sides of the road, most every tree was snapped in half, 10 to 15 ft from its trunk. The power of the hurricane’s force was obvious, even months after it was gone.
Teams of road workers, we imagined, spent weeks cleaning up all the debris lay strewn across the interstate making it impassable for days after the mighty storm. As we imagined what the trees must have looked like, bending and snapping against the force of the menacing weather, we heard a startling loud BANG from the back side of our RV followed by a fast, repetitive DU-DU-DU-DU-DU noise coming from the right rear of the vehicle. I quickly slowed down from 75 mph as I pulled over to the right shoulder and came to a stop.
“What was that?” the kids all screamed. “Did the propane explode?” one of them asked. “Did the bikes fall off the back?” said another. “Settle down,” I said. “Let’s go outside to check out what happened.”
We all dashed out of the right side door and examined the surroundings. No explosions on the side of the RV, bikes-still there. Then I stuck my head under the motor home and discovered the problem. A blown tire.
And of a magnitude I have never experienced in my life. This wasn’t just a limp flat- not a half deflated, need to fill up air problem. No this was a full on explosion of a tire. This was hurricane force kind of damage; with 360 degrees of the bottom tire tread completely missing and a hole large enough for me to stick my entire fist through. Metal wire making up the inter-strength of the tire was exposed (I didn’t even know tires had metal in the treads).
Like I said, I wasn’t surprised. I had expected, at some point, I would need to deal with a major tire issue on this trip. We were now at 14,000 miles of road travel on this trip and the inevitable had finally happened. I was actually a bit excited. It was part of the adventure of a great road trip to deal with a flat tire. I have actually created a motto for myself this trip that I try reading every morning when I wake up “Life is a great adventure that I choose to enthusiastically enjoy every moment of.” I think it helps and it had prepared me for this moment.
Going back inside the motor home, I collected my thoughts and began to think about what to do next. Lydia suddenly burst into tears, terrified that “Advi” (the name for our motor home), was permanently ruined. After praying together as a family and reassuring her that everything would be alright, we looked at our GPS to find out where we were. 3 miles away from the nearest city. With the traffic light and a generously sized shoulder on the right side of the road, we reasoned that our second right rear tire would be strong enough to get us into town.
Driving at 10 mph on the shoulder of I-10 we slowly “limped” along until we were able to turn off, onto the city exit. We stopped at the nearest parking lot, took a deep breath, and sighed in temporary relief- we had made it off the interstate, away from the dangers of the other cars racing past us.
Next we called tire companies in town and discovered one about 2 miles away that had the tire we needed in stock. Not only relief this time, but happiness and excitement came alive inside us all. This might not be that bad after all.
And it wasn’t. Driving once again at 10 mph, we crept through town, on our way to our salvation. National Tire Broker in DeFuniak Springs saved the day. With fast, friendly service, they are the kind of people that give the name to southern hospitality. Small town, family owned- just what we needed. They quickly assessed the problem, took off the old tire, put on the new, and got us back on the road in no time.
With very little lost (what’s a few hours on a 10 month trip) we were back on our path. The road side tire insurance we purchased with the motor home even covered the cost of the replacement tire in full. We continued on with our plan, driving though Alabama, Mississippi, and landed in Louisiana where we sleep last night.
Today we are camped at a state park, just outside of New Orleans.
Nothing lost, but so much gained. The thrill of the adventure. The ever increasing faith that God is good and He is with us. The life lessons that our children can learn only through experience. Knowing that no matter what happens, even if our recovery is not so swift next time, we are together and we have each other. That, I feel, is what it is all about. That was what was gained yesterday.