Paul is back to share a couple more silver-lining stories. Finding the good in the bad can be a lifesaver or in Paul’s case, a trip saver! You can follow Paul’s Tiny Trailer Trip Adventures on Facebook (Tiny-Trailer-Trip-2015).
I recently took a huge meandering trip around the US & Eastern Canada…solo. Sleeping in a tiny trailer (literally a twin bed in a 5×8′ box) in truck stops, rest areas and sometimes at Facebook friends’ houses!
I had two events that could easily been trip and good-attitude ending events, but through silver lining attitudes they were actually good.
Silver Lining #1
I bought my tiny trailer from the guy who made it atop a Northern Tools utility trailer. His idea was good. His execution was flawed. In a heavy rainstorm unless underway or parked on an upgrade, it leaks.
I was in the middle of Nebraska or maybe South Dakota. I went to bed behind a small truck stop around 9. It started raining at 10, but I didn’t get out and find a sheltered or uphill place to park. Oops. Around 11 I was in the midst of the heaviest thunderstorm I had been in since the mid 1980s. 10 minutes later the wind shifted and a leak started, but not just a drip. I was in an ice-cold shower. In bed. No raincoat, that was in my car. To prevent the mattress and all the rest from permanent damage I left the trailer. I was instantly soaked to the skin through my light shirt and cargo shorts, got in the car and started driving, dripping like I was.
I drove for hours to prevent further rainwater from pouring into my trailer. Eventually I found a temporary overhang, but could not stay there too long. To pass the time, I cruised the internet. I ended up chatting with people who it turns out were a half hour away. They offered to let me take a shower and dry off.
TO A STRANGER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!!!
I took them up on it. By then the rain had finally slowed to a drizzle. When I arrived at their home, it was very small, dirty, run down, in a bad area of town. They said, “come in”, at my knock. The person I had chatted with was very large, disabled, looked like they could not arise from the chair without help. In other chairs, obviously where they slept, were adult children and a grandchild. All greeted me warmly and pointed me to their bathroom and shower, which I had trouble reaching as they were also hoarders, with piles of who knows what everywhere. These folks were as close to being homeless as one can be. Yet they shared what they had with a complete stranger without hesitation or request for payment.
As I left I pressed $40 into her hand saying it was for breakfast. I suspect it would go to a mortgage, rent, or groceries. So what could have been a trip ending disaster instead was revealing a silver lining…proof that not everyone is out for what they can get.
People sometimes share. Sometimes, those who can share the least.
I’m just sad I didn’t give them more…but wanted to leave them with their dignity intact. I should have given them $100…that’s what a motel might have cost had I been able to find one open in the wee hours.
Silver Lining #2
My trailer came with small wheels and tires rated safe at no more than 55mph. That’s fine as long as I’m in CA, where the state speed limit for cars with trailers is also 55. I had driven at 65, and would check temps now and then when I stopped to ensure neither tires nor bearings were overheating. All seemed fine.
But on my 14,300-mile trip, speed limits were generally 70, 75, or sometimes-even 80mph. And in time, I routinely was running those speeds. All seemed well. Temps were always within reasonable ranges. But I probably did 10,000 of those 14,300 miles at well above 55mph. I knew I would need new tires after the trip, by that time I would have put 20,000 or more miles on the trailer since I bought it a year ago.
On my 49th day, wanting to make my trip an even 50 days, I detoured to 395 along the eastern side of the Sierra. Drove up a 20 mile narrow with big drop-offs road to 10,100 feet up White Mountain, home of Bristlecone Pine forests. One pine is over 7000 years old, the oldest known tree in existence.
Then 20 miles down the twisty road back to highway 395. Within 10 minutes at 65mph, I had a catastrophic failure, a blowout, in one trailer tire, a tread losing blowout. A fender-wrecking blowout.
But I was on a straight wide road with a large firm shoulder. I limped to the side and examined my situation. Around 5pm, I was 20 or 30 miles south of Bishop CA, largest town for a hundred or more miles. I have AAA. I had cell coverage. I could have called and they would have changed my tire no charge. But as I weighed alternatives, I considered two things.
1. Changing it myself, essentially one-handed, would be a big boost toward my proving my independence, stroke notwithstanding.
2. Would probably be faster than waiting. Also, as the sun was getting lower, the flat tire was all in the trailer’s shade…easy working conditions.
I should point out in the 1990s I was a hard-core desert rat. Going off-road on old mining trails in the Mojave Desert for 7 to 9 days at a time, in a Suzuki Samurai I had heavily modified myself. Sometimes completely alone, but usually with other off-roaders. And I spent hours in sand on my back, doing emergency field repairs like swapping U-joints or a defective alternator. So changing a tire BEFORE my stroke was nothing.
So I went for it. Got out my IKEA stool to sit on, some cardboard for the ground, my bottle jack, and went to work. A fifteen-minute job in years past took an hour and a half.
As I was putting things away a CHP (California Highway Patrol) officer came along and stopped…started to ask why I was there then he saw the wrecked tire, and said “Oh a Blowout!” He checked how old the tires were…they were manufactured in 2012, well within an expected lifespan. He wondered aloud why it had failed prematurely, as there was still good-looking tread on it. And suggested I contact wherever I purchased them.
I knew to myself exactly why it failed, but neglected to clue him. As he got ready to leave, seeing I work essentially one-handed, he complimented me on the change.
So where are those silver linings? EVERYWHERE! A few:
1. The tire didn’t blow on a twisty mountain road. I don’t think I would have plummeted over the side…the blowout tracked straight when it happened. But I would have blocked the road for over an hour while I changed the tire.
2. It happened with a wide shoulder road, and I was working on the side away from traffic while changing it.
3. I was 20 or 30 miles from a town that had tow trucks and service stations. Had I been unable to break the nuts loose, I could have easily summoned help.
4. The CHP had no cause to give me a summons. I think had they been very old tires he may have had cause.
5. I gave myself a huge ego boost! I had completed the first emergency repair since my stroke entirely by myself! So maybe I WAS justified telling everyone no big deal when I announced the crazy trip to friends and family.
And my biggest silver lining of all?
I knew if one tire blew the other probably wasn’t far behind. I held speed below 55mph the 250-300 miles home. And the 30 miles to my son’s when new larger tires arrived to be put on.
When he jacked up the original tire that had not blown, and he spun it, we could hear all sorts of stuff rolling around INSIDE THE TIRE! The interior of the tire was de-laminating and falling apart. I might have had only a matter of a mile or two before it met the same fate!
And now? Instead of the 12″ wheels and tiny tires, I have 14″ wheels with 215mm wide radial tires, both rated safe up to 81mph. and each tire can carry more than the weight of the entire trailer. So next year if I follow through with plans for a trip along the Alaskan Highway to Alaska, at least the wheels and tires should be up to the job!