Back on the Road, Blowing a Tire, Camping Among the Saguaros

Greetings, everyone, from our gorgeous, free campsite on BLM land just north of Tucson, Arizona! We arrived here on Thursday, February 3, and while everything is peaceful and serene now, it was quite an adventure getting here.

Camping in the Cactus Garden near Marana, Arizona

Some of you may remember that on our last trip (Mississippi for Thanksgiving), the rig had developed an extreme shimmy that became very pronounced when driving over about 55 MPH. While we were in Mississippi, we took the rig to a local shop and had the front end aligned. They told Andy that the tires still might need to be replaced. Since the problem didn’t seem to be completely resolved judging by the way the rig handled on the way back to New Mexico, we decided to go ahead and have both front tires replaced in January.

This particular rig did not come with a spare tire, which had always worried us a little since we like to boondock in some off-road locations. So when Andy took the rig to Tinley Tee Tire in Deming to have the front tires replaced, he had the shop guys mount the better of the two old front tires onto a used wheel that they happened to have available, and he brought it home to use as a spare.

Andy ordered a spare tire mount from ETrailers.com, installed it on the back bumper, and mounted the spare tire. He had also ordered a cover from ETrailers, but it turned out to be too small, so we wound up buying another one from Auto Zone in Deming.

We finally have a spare tire on the rig!

We held off on our departure date until all our 2021 tax documents arrived and we got our returns filed. Our plan was to head to Arizona, but there was no real itinerary. We just planned to follow the weather for 4-6 weeks, mostly boondocking on BLM or National Forest land. I got the taxes done on February 1, made arrangements with our neighbor to pick up our mail, and we left Deming around 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 3. As usual, Andy drove the rig, Lizzy 3, and I followed behind him in Pepper, our red Prius.

We were no more than about 30 minutes out of Deming, heading west on I-10, when things started to go south. I had just finished talking to my Mom, letting her know our plans, when I saw some debris being slung into the air from the right rear tires of the rig. The largest piece was about 18 inches square and flat, and my first thought was that Andy had run over a roofing shingle in the road. Didn’t think much about it.

But about 30 seconds later Andy radioed back to me and said, “Did I hit something back there?”

I radioed back and told him what I had seen, but by then I had figured out that it was probably the mud flap that had been hanging in front of the right rear tires. We knew that it was already starting to fall apart, so I thought it had finally broken loose from its fastenings. At that point, I was a little concerned that it might have damaged the body of the rig.

Andy waited for traffic to clear a little bit and then pulled into the left lane, so that I could pull up beside him on the right and visually check for damage–and that’s when I saw it. The inside dually was obviously shredding, I could even hear it from inside my car. I radioed Andy and told him what I saw and we started trying to figure out what to do.

Inside right rear dually shredding, only 30 minutes into our travels

He slowed the rig down to about 45-50 MPH, and I checked my I-Exit app on my phone to see how far we were from the next exit, which turned out to be about 2 miles down the highway. We made it to the exit, which was out in the middle of nowhere, turned left to cross over the freeway, and found a large, flat gravel lot at the base of the exit ramp. Perfect!!

Since we were only about 30 miles from Deming, we considered trying to limp back there to have the tire replaced, but then decided it would be better to not move the rig. So we called our Good Sam Roadside Assistance, and man, did they deliver! The representative, Stephany, took all our information, made sure we were safe and secure, and then said she would get someone out to us as quickly as possible. We let her know that we had an inflated spare available (woo-hoo!!!). About ten minutes later, I got a phone call from Tinley Tee Tire in Deming (the same shop where we bought our new front tires), and they said they were sending someone out to change out the damaged tire and put on our spare.

Mike from Tinley Tee showed up about 45 minutes later, and I swear, this guy must have worked for NASCAR at some time. It was about 27° and very windy, but he removed both right rear tires, removed the spare from the bracket, mounted the spare and the good tire back on the rig, and then put the blown tire on the spare tire bracket, all in about twenty minutes. He was totally professional, even making sure to inspect the “good” tire that was alongside the blown tire, pointing out that it was starting to show signs of separation. Although we didn’t have to pay for the service, we did give him a good tip to show our appreciation, and then we headed on our way westward.

Mike from Tinley Tee Tire making quick work of changing our flat tire

After stopping for lunch at the San Simon rest stop, we made it to Tucson, going directly to the closest Discount Tire store where we had them replace both tires on the right rear. We kept the “good” tire as a spare. I really wanted to get the two left tires replaced as well, but it was already getting late, and we needed to get to our camping spot before dark, if possible, so we decided to leave the left tires for another day.

Another 45 minutes, and we arrived at the Cactus Garden BLM camping area where we planned to stay for the night. The last time we were here was in December 2018, and we fell in love with it. However, this time we found that it was pretty much filled up, at least as far down the dirt road as I could get in the Prius. Andy parked the rig at the entrance while I scouted around, and I finally found a spot where we could squeeze in, even though it was a little bit closer to another rig than I would have liked. However, we didn’t really have a choice, so we parked there for the night.

Made it to camp right at sundown

As it turned out, the other rig wasn’t occupied that night, so we didn’t have to worry. We were planning to move on the next morning anyway, so it worked out. The next morning, after we had breakfast, we decided to take one more look around to see if a spot had opened up. If so, we would stay, and if not, we would move on toward Yuma. Once again, Andy parked the rig at the entrance while I scouted down the road in the car. And as luck would have it, I came upon a couple who were in the process of hooking up their travel trailer to their truck in preparation to leave, and the site they were leaving was a prime location.

I hopped out of the car and chatted with them, and even though they weren’t planning to pull out for another hour, they were gracious enough to let us pull our rig and our car into the large site alongside them so that we could just chill out until they left. That’s one of the things we love about RVing, most of the folks on the road out here are happy to help one another out!

Temporarily sharing a prime spot with some nice folks who were on their way out

By the end of the day we had everything set up, but by then Andy had had an epiphany. He realized that he had forgotten to bring all the cables that we use to connect our three solar panels together so that we can keep our batteries charged. With the few cables we had on hand, we were only able to connect one panel, and that would not be enough to give us full power. Of course, we could always run the generator if we needed to, but why use gasoline when the sun is free?

All settled in

After taking stock of the situation, we found that we had two spare connectors on board which we could use to build one new cable, but we still needed the electrical wire. So we took a drive to Home Depot in Oro Valley (60 miles round trip) to get the wire, and then I ordered some additional connectors from Amazon so Andy can build the second cable. The connectors are being sent to an Amazon locker at a Circle K in Tucson, and are due to arrive tomorrow. In the meantime, Andy got one cable built, and we now have two solar panels working just fine to keep us charged.

So, we’ve spent three nights here at the Cactus Garden, and it looks like we’re going to stay awhile longer. The weather is perfect (well, maybe a little breezy), and scenery is beautiful, it’s quiet and peaceful, and we’re happy. And that’s the important thing. There’s a 14-day limit here, so we’ll have to leave eventually, but not sure at this point how soon that will be.

The saguaro are huge out here!

Thanks for taking time to read our blog! Feel free to share it with family and friends who might be interested in the RV lifestyle. If you want to keep up with our adventures, please subscribe. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/Suzanne.Hight if you want to keep up with us between blog posts. And we do occasionally post videos to YouTube–if you would like to subscribe to our channel, check it out here.

8 thoughts on “Back on the Road, Blowing a Tire, Camping Among the Saguaros

  1. Hi … We keep up with you (sort of) through your FB posts, but it’s always nice to get more detail via the blog. In this case, they lead to a couple of questions. (1) Mud flap in FRONT of the rear dualies? I thought mud flaps went BEHIND them to keep you from throwing rocks and mud at cars behind you. Hmmm. (2) Were these rear tires retreads? In my limited experience and knowledge, tread separations seem to be more common with retreads than with new tires. Whatever the case, I’m glad you got good service along the way.

    Your reported 27 degrees don’t sound a whole lot better than here in Noblesville — depending on the specific day and time of day, of course. Today we were supposed to hit 27 (but I don’t think we made it) and by 4 tomorrow morning the temp should be down around 6 degrees. This has been a pretty cold February and the nine inches (at least) of snow we got last Thursday highlighted the fact that winter has truly arrived. I sold my large, gas-powered snowblower before we left Bedford because I wouldn’t have room for it here and didn’t really want to store gasoline in the garage (I always kept it in the unattached garage there). I ordered a 40-V battery-powered snowblower for here and it came just two days before the big snow. It worked well. The deep snow made the machine work kinda hard and drained the battery in about 45 minutes, but it was enough to clear the driveway and was MUCH better than inviting a heart attack by shoveling. Kathy shot a video of me working, if you haven’t seen it yet on her FB page.

    Enjoy your time in the desert!

    Steve

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    • 1) The mud flap in front of the rear wheels is also known as an air dam, typically used to reduce air flow against the rear wheels and the wheel well for better aerodynamics (I had to look it up). (2) The tires were not retreads as far as we know.

      The morning we left Deming was the day that extreme cold front came through. There was a 20° difference between Deming and Tucson that morning. But early morning temps in Deming have been running between 23° and 30° for all of January, but it warms up quickly during the day.

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  2. We have been unable to find Cactus Garden BLM Campground or the Cactus Forest and would appreciate your describing the location. We are thinking of hitting it on our way east from Quartsite AZ this spring. Thank you.

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    • Here are the GPS coordinates: (32.6123990, -111.2096490)

      It’s just south of the intersection of S Cattle Tank Road and E Park Link Drive. The entrance is not marked but you’ll see a gravel entryway on both sides of the road. The primary area is on the west side of Cattle Tank Road. The road on the east side also has campsites but not as many. If you have a larger rig you should probably try to scout ahead by foot or bike if you go more than about a half mile back to make sure you’re comfortable with the road. Vans, trucks, small Class C’s, travel trailers usually navigate the road with no problem. Let me know if you need more info!! You’ll love it here!! 😁

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