A loud, incessant beeping from our tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) alerted us to a “fast leakage” from one of our trailer tires. The narrow, back-country roads of the South didn’t offer anywhere to easily get our 50-plus feet of truck and trailer off the road.
After turning on our emergency flashers and driving slowly, we finally found a place we could pull over to assess our situation and let the vehicles behind us pass. The faulty tire was on the driver’s side. We couldn’t change it in this spot as we were blocking a road.
We had only 3 miles to our destination for the day. Could we make it if we nursed the tire along? Although the TPMS said we had a fast leak, the air pressure wasn’t decreasing rapidly. We decided to try to make it to our stop, watching the tire pressure slowly go down along the way.
Oasis in the Forest
As we pulled onto the gravel drive leading to our stop, the tire pressure steadied at 40-something. Mind you, these are 80 psi tires. Smiles flashed across our faces as we approached the property of our Boondockers Welcome host and saw a concrete pad for us to park on.
It’s much easier to jack up our 17,000-pound fifth wheel on a flat, stable surface than it is on a grassy area off the side of the road. We know from experience.
The host greeted us and helped Bob get Tagalong into parking position, leaving enough room for us to get the flat tire off and put the spare on.
Work Must Go On
We don’t usually relocate during the work week, but we had made an exception this time. Bob got busy loosening lug nuts, and I lowered the spare tire from its stowage spot under the trailer. Leaving him to make the tire change, I set up my camping chair against a nice green background of trees to attend a Zoom meeting for work.
Fortunately, temperature and dirt don’t show through video calls. Someone in my meeting said they wanted to be where I was, based on the inviting background. Little did they know I had sweat dripping down my back from the 80-plus degree humid weather.
With the tire changed and my call ended, I helped Bob detach the trailer from the truck and try to level Tagalong. The auto-level function errored out before the job was complete. I left him to troubleshoot while I joined another call.
When that meeting concluded, I found Bob sitting on the steps inside the trailer with the air conditioning on but no slides open. The button to open the living room slide, which allows us to get to the kitchen and office, didn’t respond to being pushed. Bob suddenly remembered an app on his phone allows him to control trailer functions. He succeeded in opening the slide from the app. Whew!
The other slides opened with the buttons on the trailer control panel, and we set up our home for a five-night stay.
Leaks and God’s Providence
Google Maps showed a Goodyear tire shop about 20 minutes away. Bob called and found out they could replace a tire stem. That’s where the leak happened. That’s also where it was when we had a flat tire last year: in the stem. Both incidents must have been a result of the tire pressure monitors attached to the stem.
We headed to the Goodyear store, dropped off our tire, and went to get groceries. We returned to the shop to find our tire fixed and ready to be picked up. And the price? Only $3.47!
On the surface, this event looked like a terrible inconvenience and frustration, but it served as a reminder that God consistently watches over and provides for us. From the flat tire happening 3 miles from our destination and being able to make it to our stop, to the concrete pad, trailer slide, Goodyear shop, and amazing price, we were — and are — extremely blessed.
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Spain does a few things extremely well. It has designated bike/scooter lanes separate from where vehicles travel and pedestrians walk. It has inviting outdoor eateries down its many narrow alleys. It features amazing architecture. And workers keep it beautifully clean.
How do we know? We embarked on a transatlantic cruise from Tampa, Florida, to Barcelona, Spain, with stops in Bermuda; the Azores; Malaga, Spain; and Valencia, Spain. Here are the highlights.
Although we delight in sea days, we enjoy visiting ports of call too. After three days at sea, we disembarked in Bermuda. Rented bikes gave us wheels to tour the pink beaches, where Portuguese man o’ war in the sand deterred us from entering the water. Realizing we were no match for the narrow, hilly roads we had to share with motor vehicles — even if they were only going 25 mph — we returned the bikes to explore on foot.
Four sea days later, we fell in love with the quiet, laid-back culture of the Azores, where commercialism is kept at bay. Our tour guide, Telmo from T4W, gave us a comprehensive taste of life on Sao Miguel Island, the largest of the nine islands that make up the archipelago that belongs to Portugal.
Telmo entertained us with folklore about how the blue and green lakes came to be and how old women throwing rocks from the top of a cliff into the bay kept would-be invaders from overtaking the island. We sampled Portuguese coffee and farm-to-table delicacies from the livestock and produce on the island, including custard tarts and fresh blackberry cheesecake.
Malaga, Spain, treated us to a familiar sight and taste: Dunkin’ coffee. After caffeinating, we toured the city on rented bicycles, getting past the typical tourist traps to experience a less crowded beach, even dipping into the Mediterranean Sea up to our necks.
Having made fast friends with our assigned dinner companions on the cruise, we joined Frank and Pam to explore the city of Valencia. A bus delivered us to the heart of town, where we had a wonderful time walking the alleys, taking in the city’s beauty, and sampling local meats and cheeses.
The cruise came to an end in Barcelona the morning of Mother’s Day. It happened to be the same day as the Barcelona Marathon, so we sat and watched runners pass us by for about an hour, thrilled at the opportunity to see such an event in person rather than on TV.
Wanting to make the most of our day in the city, we navigated to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, a 14th-century cathedral built over a total of 55 years, with setbacks due to an earthquake and a fire. Today, it’s open to visitors daily.
Arriving just in time for the Sunday mass, we decided to stay. Bob used Google Translate to try to understand the message. The app got some things right, but others it didn’t, such as something about six German sisters with ducks. That gave us a good chuckle.
From there, we wandered the narrow alleys in search of lunch, stopping at a little place where we ordered mussels, a cured meat plate, and a cheese plate. But the best part was the toasted fresh bread smothered with olive oil and tomatoes. I risked a gluten-induced headache to partake. The bread melted in my mouth with explosive flavor. Delicioso! And I’m happy to report no headache ensued.
The Longest Travel Day
We spent the night in Barcelona and headed to the airport early the next morning for our required COVID-19 test before we could fly back to the United States. After getting confirmation that we both passed the test, we headed to an airport lounge for breakfast before boarding a plane to gain back the six hours we had lost traversing the Atlantic Ocean.
Arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York eight hours later, we quickly learned why three hours are needed for international flights. We had to jump through a lot of hoops: customs, a passport check, and navigating to the correct gate.
We connected through Atlanta before landing in Tampa, Florida, where a parking lot attendant whisked us to the lot where we had left Gulliver 15 days earlier. Happy to be reunited with our vehicle, we climbed aboard and drove two hours to reach Tagalong, finally arriving home at 3:30 a.m. after 28 hours of travel. What a day!
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.