Thursday, June 30, 2011

York Nebraska to Beaver Dam Wisconsin

We left York about 6:40 AM to warnings on the radio that extreme heat was expected from noon until 7:00 PM. They were calling for 105 to 111 degrees and, by 8:00 AM, it was already up to 80. Passing through Omaha, we were notified by signage that the I-680, US 30 and I-29 routes were all closed near the Missouri River while flood abatement intiatives were in progress. We crossed into Iowa on I-80 without a problem.

Along the way, we saw scores of vintage cars bound for what I later found out was a major car show in Des Moines. We got pictures of a couple when we stopped for fuel at a Love's Truckstop near Newton, Iowa, where we only paid $3.32 for 89 octane. I was surprised to see that the big Ford Triton V-10 got 9.1 MPG screaming up and down the Rockies and only got 7.8 across the Nebraska/Iowa plains. Some day, I will figure this thing out.

Not long after the gas stop, the tire pressure monitor started to beep indicating the right outside dually was losing air. I did a quick check to see if it was a false alarm but it looked like the real deal. Not wishing to stop on the side of I-80, I put the four-way flashers on and slowed to 30 MPH, getting off a couple of miles down the road at Exit 197. All that was here was a closed BP station and an out of business tire place. And cornfields. I got out and could hear air rushing out of the tire. It was good the monitor worked because, otherwise, the tire would have lost all the air and, with the inner dually carrying all the weight in this heat, it would have blown and done a lot of damage. I figure this one incident has more than paid for the tire monitor system.

I called Good Sam again and they told me help would be there within an hour. I asked them to send a pair of new tires since duallys need to be matched by circumference and, because they didn't have the Michelins I used, they would be sending Goodyears. I figured to use the good inner Michelin to replace the old Firestone spare on the back. Jake from Morrison Repair in Grinnell was there in less than half an our and had the outer tire off in no time. We aired it up but couldn't find a leak until he touched the rubber valve stem. It looked like the rubber had simply deteriorated and failed. I noted in various on-line discussions that steel stems should be used and had planned to change them when I changed tires. Now I will change them sooner.

Jake found a metal valve stem that fit in his truck and, after breaking the bead on the tire using large hand tools and irons, we replaced it. Then he remounted the tire and filled it. He said, after struggling to get the tire back on the rim, that he would rather do the large semi tires rather than these 16" ones. But he got us back on the road within two hours of the alarm sounding. Thanks again to Good Sam and your network of service providers.

We stopped in Marion, Iowa at a WalMart for a trailer tire and rim. Again they had the right tire but, wonder of wonders, WalMart doesn't sell rims. Wow, what a shortcoming. Now I'll wait until I get home where I am going to scrap all the trailer tires, despite their good tread depth, because they are over five years old. And I will have steel valve stems installed.

It was too late to stop at J&P Cycles in Anamosa, Iowa. I had wanted to try on Tourmaster Solution waterproof riding boots before buying them. We'll have to keep looking. We did stop again at the BP station/Subway near Belmont, Wisconsin. This is where we ate last year on our way back from Nevada but today we got our sandwich to go. I navigated through Madison and we pushed on to Beaver Dam where I fueled and then found the local WalMart. This time, we were the only RV in the lot. It was still humid but not as warm as last night and we were able to connect to Wendy's WiFi.

Since we hit the flatlands, flies have plagued us in the RV. Not a lot, but one at a time is enough to make you nuts at times. The flyswatter is hard to use when driving and, at these temperatures, the insects move as if they are on speed. I guess I should get some flypaper for our peace of mind. We hit the sack knowing we were on track to make it home tomorrow.

Today's Photos

Iowa wind farms were a common sight

Adair Iowa happy face

Old vehicles were all headed for Des Moines....

....for a large car show

Our second tire problem in two days

The outer right drive tire went flat but didn't blow due to a warning from the monitor

Jake the repair guy places the jack

Only a bad valve stem

I help with the giant tire irons

Wrapping up

And we're back on the road again

The Mississippi River at Dubuque Iowa

A Mississippi riverboat

Crossing Ole Miss

And entering Wisconsin

The familiar cow fountain at Belmont Wisconsin

The rolling Wisconsin countryside

And pretty Wisconsin farms

Sun getting low in Beaver Dam Wisconsin

Today's Route (579 motorhome miles):

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Silt Colorado to York Nebraska

Mal and Yvette made a breakfast of English muffins, juice and coffee to send us on our way. We were rolling east on I-70 by 7:30 with a goal of covering the 1,800 miles to Sudbury in three days. The original plan had been to wander back slowly, ending up at Boomer's party in Toledo on the 8th/9th of July. However, to avoid paying extra out-of-Canada health insurance premiums (our annual plan covers 30 days at a time), and because we were tired and the weather was hot, we opted to head directly back.

The Colorado River was still flowing heavily through Glenwood Canyon and Sandy got some good photos. I have to wonder if this rush of water is ever going to slow down. Then we started to cross the Rockies, first climbing to over 10,600 feet through Vail Pass (where they were repaving at the summit) and then to over 11,000 through the Eisenhower Tunnel under Loveland Pass. The motorhome spent a lot of time in lower gears both climbing and descending. Then it was down to Denver where we caught I-76 east and I hoped that life would get a little less interesting for a while.

But it didn't. About 30 miles out of Denver on rough I-76 in significant heat, an SUV pulled up beside us pointing frantically down, a sure fire sign to an RVer that something has gone wrong. I pulled off on the paved shoulder and we could immediately smell burnt rubber. The right side trailer tire had blown to the extent that the outer sidewall was gone. Luckily, the inner sidewall held together but only due to the warning from the other vehicle. There was no alarm from the tire pressure sensor but then there was no tire pressure sensor, either. Or valve stem. I believe the rubber stem failed and flew off taking the sensor with it before it could send a message to the monitor. Lucky for us it didn't happen in the mountains where options to pull over are very limited.

We had a spare tire and my plan was to use the rear stabilizing jacks and the front crank jack to get the tire off the ground just like I do for bearing greasing. Unfortunately, my plan didn't take into account that, with the wheel down on the rim, there was no way the rear stabilizer leg could be lowered. I got out my Good Sam Roadside Assistance card and phoned the toll free number, giving a whole lot of information to the man on the other end. He put me on hold for a minute and then got back informing me that help would be there withing 55 minutes. In fact, Jeff from C&J was there within 15. He got his jack and changed the tire, also noting that it looked like we had a leaking inner wheel bearing seal from the build-up of grease on inside of the rim. Tire changed, we were on our way within an hour of the blowout. Thanks Good Sam and Jeff for reducing what seemed like a real problem to a minor inconvenience.

I-76 was choppy all the way to Nebraska and I-80, although they were working on the last section of the road. Hitting I-80, the wind was gusting out of the south again denying me the coveted tailwind. There was also a severe storm being tracked heading east over Oshkosh, Nebraska. It was behind us so we decided to run as far as we could today to stay ahead of it.

There was, as usual, not much interesting to see across Nebraska on I-80 but that is the way I like it in the RV. We got the obligatory photo of the Great Platte River Road Archway near Kearney and fueled at Grand Island before finding the WalMart in York for the night. This lot was jam packed with motorhomes, trailers and fifth wheels. I talked to a man from Iowa in a Class A gasser who had blown a dually tire the week before. The flailing rubber had taken out the drive shaft and several underneath parts of his RV, an expensive proposition.

WalMart had the exact 15" Goodyear tire we needed but we also required a new rim and the department was closed for the night. We decided to stop at another tomorrow further down the road and see about getting a replacement. I moved the RV out of the lee of a large Featherlite unit to allow a breeze to flow through the windows, which helped combat the oppressive heat and humidity. We had the interior battery powered fan going and managed to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Today's Photos

A rainbow to see us on our way

Our smiling hosts Mal and Yvette

The low mountains look as if they were carved by a knife

Glenwood Canyon

The raging Colorado River

The tunnel looks surreal

Note the river almost up to the rail bed

Look closely for the parasail

The water is calmer here but still high

We need to cross the Colorado Rockies one more time

The ski hills of Vail

Looks like a glacial basin up there

Paving at the summit of Vail Pass

10,513 feet according to the Garmin

And then what goes up must come down

And back up again

Way up

The tree line and the snow line meet

Approaching the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel

Colorado takes drunk drivers seriously

Even construction inside the tunnel

And back down for the last time

An old gold mine

Rafters on the fast flowing Eagle  River

Denver motor officer on a BMW

First tire problem was a doozie

No warning from the monitor probably because the stem and sensor were nowhere to be found

The new emergency triangles worked well

Reading the tire pressure monitor manual again

Jeff the repair guy was fast and efficient

We broke down right beside the BNSF tracks

Out of the mountains and into the plains

Cloud shadows in the air

The grazing lands of eastern Colorado

Road construction on I-76 near Julesberg

Welcome to Nebraska

New state but  same old orange barrels

The Gateway Arch - mid point of I-80 near Kearney Nebraska

York Nebraska's artistic water tower

Someone solved to Toad/Motorcycle problem - WalMart in York Nebraska

Today's Route (610 motorhome miles):

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