Ron and Hazel's 'Travels with Nuggie' travel blog

Sugar Loaf in Winona, Minnesota

Ron and Nuggie get onboard

The "Self-Serve" RV Park in Lincoln, Illinois

Those new gas prices are not a problem for this man.

March 19, 2011: Hazel and I had a great first week on the road, and too busy to update this blog on a daily basis, but I have firm resolve to improve on that.

We left Princeton, Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon, temperature in the 30's with talk of more snow coming. Heading South, we took the less traveled and historic 2-lane highway 61, following the Mississippi River to Winona. A beautiful trip, and the coach ran perfectly. Our dog Nuggie rode the shotgun position, and Hazel commanded the sofa, a perfect place to work crossword puzzles.

Our first night was spent at the luxurious Walmart parking lot in Winona. It was dark when we arrived, fired-up the generator, pulled the curtains and settled in to watch some television before retiring. The next morning, I was up early to shop for some forgotten items in the store, amazingly busy at 6 AM, and when the sun came up, there was "Sugar Loaf" a rock formation high above the store (see photo).

Wednesday was a routine travel day, heading East and South through Wisconsin and on into Illinois, with a small park in Lincoln, Illinois our intended destination for the night. The trip went smoothly, we stopped for lunch at a truck stop proclaiming a great luncheon buffet, but maybe we won't do that much anymore. The place was obviously popular with the truck drivers, who seemed to enjoy the quantity and quality of the food, especially one fellow with bib-overalls who weighed maybe four bills, and I remember thinking that if I ate this much every lunch, he and I would start to look alike.

Traffic on Interstate 55 heading South in Illinois was interesting, here I was in the right lane going 55 to save fuel, and a thousand 18 wheelers were blowing by me at 75. Then, about 4 in the afternoon it happened, front left tire right under me exploded and I was suddenly gripping the steering wheel and steering to the shoulder.

When my mechanic changed the oil and checked everything out before we started, he cautioned me about the tires. "They only have 21,000 miles on them, the tread is great, but you have some weathering on the sidewalls", he said, "and, if you do have a blow-out, you'd better be prepared to buy all new tires, because the others will be ready to go as well." The mechanic was right, my motorhome only had 21,000 miles on it, but it is 19 years old, and these are the original Michelins. I was hoping that tire rules wouldn't apply to me, just to other people, but here I was, along the side of a busy interstate with one smoking tire and a missing wheel cover.

Thank God for the "Good Sam Roadside Assistance", I dialed the 800 number and reported my situation to the operator. While we waited for help to arrive, I walked back down the highway and found my wheel cover about a block behind us. An hour later, the truck arrived, and our rescuer quickly installed the spare with the help of a compressor, hydraulic jack, and impact wrench.

As we headed for the RV park a few miles away, I realized I needed to do something first thing in the morning about the tires, and it was going to be expensive. We found the park just off the interstate, a "self-service" operation with only a handful of motorhomes and 5th wheelers, most seemed to be there rather permanently. But, it was neat and clean, with all hookups, and the 1/2 price of $15 using my "Passport America" membership made it a good ending to a bit of a hectic day.

Thursday, March 17th, Happy St. Patrick's Day! I got on the internet and on the phone, and I learned a few things: Sam's Club, Walmart, Discount Tire, and every local tire dealer I called, didn't handle 19.5" tires for a Class A motorhome. These are truck tires, and even the truck tire places I called said it would be a "special order". While Discount Tire couldn't help me, they didn't sell anything larger than 16.5" tires, I hit paydirt when he looked-up my Michelin tires on his computer and gave me the Goodyear equivalent tire information. I knew that "Camping World" sold only Goodyear tires, so armed with this new information, I started to call CW locations that would be on our way to Charleston, South Carolina. I struck-out at a couple of them, but when I called the store in Knoxville, Tennessee, they had the tires I wanted. And, I had the nearly $400 per tire installed price they wanted.

About noon or so, we headed for Knoxville. After our tough experience on the busy Illinois freeway, and now traveling without a spare, I selected the "avoid freeways" option on my GPS, and it did a great job of it, taking us through rural farmland areas on narrow winding roads, up and down hills, and we saw views you can't get going down the four-lane. Towards evening, we arrived in Bloomington, Indiana and promptly checked-in to the "Cracker Barrel" parking lot. These accomodating folks had even marked off some long parking spaces for "RV", but I suspect the fellow that engineered that project didn't own one, but it only took a few of our yellow plastic leveling blocks to raise the front tires off the ground sufficiently high to level the floor inside the motorhome. Feeling slightly guilty, Hazel and I headed across the street to possibly get some good irish food at a place called "O'Charlies", but it was just the name that attempted to be Irish, they did have good fish and chips, but I passed on the green beer special.

Friday the 18th: After a great Southern breakfast with our hosts at "Cracker Barrel", we headed-off for Knoxville, again taking the back roads. All the up and down and around and braking and accelerating cost me a bit on mileage, when I filled up, I was only in the "high 8 mpg range", something my old Class C camper could only do with a flat highway and a tailwind, but I still hoped for that "10 mpg" that the other owners bragged about in the RV parks. (One of the requirements of being a motorhomer is that you have to lie about your mileage.)

Another day on the backroads, seeing some great scenery, and we arrived at the "Volunteer Park Family Campground", about 20 miles North of Knoxville. This was a busy and well-laid out park with lots of trees and campers happy they'd made it to the weekend. The man in the office greeted me with a smile and happily honored my "Passport America" half-price membership card, most camps don't do that on weekends, saving me $20 bucks.

Saturday the 19th: Up early this morning and getting ready to head into town for our 8 AM appointment to get these six new shoes installed. It was a great feeling to get here last night, after driving several hundred miles on six 19 year old tires with no spare. Other than starting to cry, I'm not sure what I would have done if we'd had a second blow-out.

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