The Incident

We took a one-week vacation, and it changed everything.

It’s been five months since we moved the truck camper into the RV Park. The rig hadn’t really left our site until we drove it to Idaho for a weekend in mid-May and then took a week off just before Memorial Day. We had a great time exploring Astoria and the Olympic Peninsula with my family, who were visiting from Hawaii and had rented a Class C RV for our first ever camping trip together. Then, it happened – an unfortunate event followed by a series of fortunate events. I’ll try to spare the drama, but this incident completely changed our feelings about our truck and camper setup.

We were on our way to the final campground to spend the last night of our trip together. We were traveling in three separate rigs: my family in their Class C, followed by me in the truck camper, and J taking up the rear in her Jeep. My family had a bit of a head start on J and I, so there was quite a distance between us by the time the incident happened.

I remember taking it easy down the highway at 55 mph. I may as well have been sitting still considering how fast everyone else was zipping around me. In a split second, I heard an explosive sound as the truck lurched, followed by a series of rapid, destructive impacts. I thought maybe the rear differential had exploded because it didn’t feel like I had lost a tire. I immediately let off the gas, put on my flashers, and gently brought the truck to a stop on the shoulder.

J pulled over behind me and exclaimed, “Holy ****! You blew a tire!” This didn’t make sense to me because it felt like the truck had still been rolling on all four tires. We walked to the rear passenger tire, where I was shocked by the visible damage. The tire tread rubber was gone and the tire was still inflated with the steel belts completely exposed. As it parted ways from the rest of the tire, the tread rubber had made a mess of the rear passenger quarter of the truck. I knew our spare tire was the wrong size and was afraid to drive the truck due to not knowing if there was hidden mechanical damage. I remembered we had “roadside assistance” as part of our auto insurance and decided to give it a try.

To make a long story short, I spent an hour on the phone with the “roadside assistance” group, only to be told suddenly and bluntly by a towing company that we were completely on our own due to the height and condition of our rig. This whole time, J and I had been sitting ducks on the side of a busy highway with vehicles of all shapes and sizes blowing past our rigs on a shoulder barely wide enough to get the truck camper out of the travel lane. I would have rather been told immediately that we were on our own, instead of being exposed to traffic for an hour. I was in the middle of processing this rejection when my mom called and asked where we were. My family turned their Class C around and started making their way back to J and I.

Luckily, J noticed on her map app that there was an off-ramp maybe only a half-mile down the highway.

I was nervous about driving on the damaged tire, but with J’s help, we drove on the shoulder until we ran out of shoulder. J then spotted for me as we ducked out into traffic for the home stretch to get to the off-ramp. We pulled into a park-and-ride near the off-ramp to figure out the next step.

Luckily (again), there was a Les Schwab tire shop within two miles of the park-and-ride. Luckily (again again), they were still open, but were closing in an hour. I called and verified that they indeed had four all-terrain tires of the necessary size and load range in stock (when will our luck end?!?!?). I had all four BFG All-terrain KO tires replaced, even though the three intact tires still had plenty of tread left. If this happened to one tire, it could happen to the remaining three. In my mind, we had taken full advantage of our luck that day and I wanted nothing more left to chance. My family reunited with J and I at the Les Schwab shop and provided moral support as we tried to understand what had just happened.

There was no damage to the camper, but we were left with one significantly bentTorklift fastgun turnbuckle and another turnbuckle with minor damage. I called a mobile auto repair guy to verify we had no mechanical damage on the truck, and he verified that the damage was indeed limited to the truck’s body panels. We made a field fix to the bent turnbuckle and drove the truck slowly back to the RV park, skipping the final campground.

 

In hindsight, there was one warning sign. I had noticed over the past couple days of driving that there was something slightly out of the ordinary whenever the truck was moving at very low speeds. There was a slight bump that I could correlate roughly to tire revolutions. I thought maybe it was a rock in the tire, or something slightly out of balance. I’m guessing that this bump was the starting point of the tread delamination.

So, there’s the story of what happened. In the days since the incident, J and I have carefully considered our truck and camper setup and whether or not changes should be made. I’ll share these thoughts in another post.