Be careful what you wish for. We had planned to head to Albuquerque from Branson, Missouri, for two reasons: to shorten the remaining distance to our planned stops in Arizona and to get to higher elevation for cooler weather.
Wanting to make the 868-mile drive in two days, we hit the road. Near the Oklahoma-Texas border, we started searching for an overnight stop near Amarillo and made a reservation. The warm weather prevented us from our original aim of spending the night at a rest area. We needed an electric hookup to run our air conditioner.
A few minutes later, our invaluable tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) started beeping, alerting us to a fast leak on one of the trailer tires — our fourth such instance this year. Not near any freeway exits, Bob safely pulled us to the side of Interstate 40. Fortunately, the leak was on the passenger side, and we had gotten really good at changing tires.
Vehicles whizzed by, shaking the trailer side to side. The faulty tire gave no clear evidence of the leak source. It didn’t appear to be the stem, and no obvious screw or nail caught our eyes. We secured the flat under the trailer where the spare normally goes and continued on our way.
This happened on a Saturday after 5 p.m. A quick Google search revealed the nearest Discount Tire shop — still hours away in Amarillo — closed at 6 and wouldn’t reopen until Monday morning. Bob called some truck stops to see if any of them could patch a tire. A gal at one said we could get in line, and they might get to it at midnight.
We kept driving and saw a billboard announcing another truck stop with a tire shop. Taking our chances, we found the shop open. A worker checked the tire to determine the location of the leak. As with the flat a month and a half earlier, this tire had started to come apart. Little wires from the steel belts protruded next to a small hole, too close to the edge of the tire for a patch job.
Because we had bought the tire at Discount Tire and paid for a warranty, we knew waiting until Monday would be our best and least expensive option for replacing it. But we had to find somewhere to stay until then. More research led us to an oasis in the prairie: Bobcat Creek RV Park in Sayre, Oklahoma.
After a peaceful, relaxing night there, we considered staying until we got the tire fixed, but that would mean a three-hour round trip for Bob to get to Amarillo and back. And the website for the closest Discount Tire store showed the tire we needed out of stock and unavailable until Thursday. We decided to move closer to Amarillo and found a private lot in Groom, Texas, with one of its four campsites available.
Camping with the Windmills
Having spent most of the summer in the East, we had forgotten about wind. Camping in Oklahoma included wind, and Bob’s allergies started acting up. Texas didn’t offer any relief. Navigating to the campsite felt like we were in the “Castaway” movie when Tom Hanks finds himself at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. The only difference was windmills surrounded us in all directions.
We settled into our spot in the shadow of a windmill. The next day, Bob drove about 50 miles to Amarillo to get the tire taken care of. The shop said it could get a replacement by late the next day. We wouldn’t have to wait until Thursday after all. We paid the campsite owner for another couple of nights and hunkered down.
The time in Groom gave us an opportunity to visit a homey little cafe on old Route 66 for breakfast one morning. It also made it possible for us to explore the Groom Cross — a 19-story steel structure you can see for miles in either direction on I-40. The land surrounding it features stations of the cross that tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and a gift shop showcases related souvenirs and decorations. It was worth the stop.
Bob drove back to Amarillo to pick up the new tire, and we replaced it successfully. Because of my work schedule, we decided to wait until later the next day to move on to Albuquerque. On the way, we watched our TPMS like hawks as the heat of the day and the friction of the road made the tires’ temperatures rise. Thankfully, we made it without incident.
This whole experience reminded us of Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Although our plans didn’t work out the way we had hoped, the flat turned out to be a blessing. It helped us realize that, rather than driving on these tires for another year of travel, we should upgrade them to ensure our safety. We’ll see if that new plan pans out.
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This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.