It’s amazing how an entire trip can be shaped by the shape of your tires. Really. It’s happened to our family more than once. You’d think we’d learn! And, since we’re rural folks who love to travel the remote countryside, when we have car trouble, it’s never a straightforward fix. Here’s an in-depth look at how good tires can frame your family foray in a GOOD way — which leaves more money, time, and energy for you to devote to what really matters — having fun!
A Million Miles from Home (and AAA)
We learned on more than one occasion that good tires can make or break a trip. Certainly good quality tires can equate to a better quality trip when you are taking an epic road trip. This is of paramount importance for us in the rural countryside – our nearest “city” of more than 15,000 is about two hours away while the big metro areas are nearly five hours in any direction (or more.) To get to Disney (World or Land, doesn’t matter) would take us DAYS of driving. Good tires for us are the biggest form of travel insurance you can have! Just as you look out for the safety of your children with a car seat, you can look out for the safety of your whole family (and we might as well just put it out there — the sanity too) with good tires. Here are a few of our close calls, epic fails, and the moment when the light finally came on for us — and NOT the dreaded “check engine” one! (That’s a different story!)
It’s good to have AAA when you travel. It’s even better to know that you can take care of yourself. The best scenario? Plan for the worst by preparing yourself for worst but do so expecting the best! How to do that? For us, tires seem to be a theme! While traveling home from Alaska, still on a natural high from adventures near, far, at great heights and even in caves, we hit a speed bump. A major pain-in-the-butt detour.
We got a flat tire. And, since we were on an epic road trip, we had pretty much everything we owned in our vehicle. So to get to the spare? You guessed it. We had to empty our worldly possessions on the side of the desolate Oregon highway. Of course we were in a rural area, trying to squeak in another adventure, visiting the Sherwood Forest (a USDA Forest Service recreation area with a Robin Hood-esque name seemed like a good lunch spot!)
Since we were so far from everywhere, AAA would mean several hours wait. The better option though it would mean several unhappy grunts, groans, and gestures from my husband was to simply put on the spare and drive slowly to the next town where we’d have to unpack it all AGAIN to get back to the flat tire to get it fixed. There are better ways to spend half of your day — trust me!
We learned that our tire likely had a weak spot from something like hitting a large pothole or another obstacle that we probably didn’t notice for more than a fleeting moment. Gradually, the tire weakened and was just waiting for an opportune moment to give way entirely to a sharp rock, pothole, or roadway debris in its path.
Lesson? Pack less for one. More importantly though is to maintain your tires and start out with quality in the first place! If we hadn’t gone with the “el cheapo deluxe” model, as my grandfather would have called the shoddy tires we chose with our pursestrings in mind, we’d likely have weathered the mishap better or avoided it entirely. As it was, they couldn’t patch the low-quality tire and recommended a better quality tire as a replacement. We went with Cooper Tire and Rubber Company and the rest is in the rearview mirror!
I’ve never really considered the old saying “Mad as a Wet Hen” until a recent visit to Bayfield, Wisconsin for their infamous Applefest. It was a dreary, drizzly weekend, but we’d been anticipating a trip to the orchards and all-things-apples fun fest for months. We weren’t about to cancel. So, we loaded the car (to the gills – we’re NOT light packers) and headed to the city on Lake Superiors’ shore. We picked pecks of apples — well, I think the proper terms is bushels. We ate fresh from the tree. We saw how apples are made into cider. We drank a LOT of hot cider because of the cool temperatures. Everything was GREAT!
Then we got a flat tire. In the pouring rain. In a town with an extreme lack of gas stations and tire shops because it is only inundated with people about once each year. We finally limped to a station where we could put on the “donut” tire, since there weren’t any places (to our tourist-only knowledge) on that Sunday afternoon that would be able to assist with a tire patch – or even sell a patch kit! By this time, the rain was a torrential downpour. Where was the tire? In the trunk. Under ALL of our gear.
Not wanting our toddler to get drenched, we left him in the car and proceeded to unload our gear into the empty seats of the car while my husband and I got drenched. Yes, I know where “madder than a wet hen” comes from now. I was. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t prepared better for this. Packed better? Checked the tire condition… well, about two hours in delays, two soaked adults, partially wet gear and a bored and cranky kid later…we were on the road, seven hours to drive home on a Sunday. This could have been prevented with better tires and more diligence.
For the record, Applefest is fantastic and we would love to go back and get our fill of the crisp, crunchy fruits again! Our son loved the pick-and-eat fun and we all learned the appropriate way to harvest an apple! Do YOU know how?
Good Tires, Good Times
Have you ever left home confidently knowing that you have a security system or a house sitter? Maybe a great neighborhood watch program? Having good tires gives me that confidence when I leave home too. I just know it’s one less thing I need to worry about, which makes my anxiety-prone self a tad more calm with out a prescription! I am a worrier. I fret. We chose Weather-Master WSC tires when we saw that our old ones were little more than bologna skins and the ever-so-slight incline at the end of our driveway was an actual obstacle when slippery – we’d have to “take a run at it” to get out onto the highway and avoid spinning. Not an ideal situation when your driveway leads out to a state highway. Not an ideal situation when you are road trippers in the rural reaches of the country and might want to venture onto “low maintenance” roads to reach hikes and backcountry vistas.
Cooper Tires Weather-Master WSC line are studdable (in states that allow studs) passenger tires and are the authority in traction and icy conditions.
These tires make that incline in the driveway a non-issue. Those Midwest blizzards? Yeah, we can handle those too. Road trips are back in session for this traveling family! We can worry more about our itinerary and less about the nearest repair shop!
My friends, you buy trip insurance. You use sunscreen. You probably arrange for a house sitter or some kind of home security when you’re gone. Don’t let your tire savvy go by the wayside. It can absolutely change the tale you will tell of your vacation memories. It has for us on several occasions. While we LOVE thinking back on memories and laughing in the present, at the time, we were quite crabby and not impressed with the situation at hand.
So if you want to fill your scrapbook with memories that ALWAYS include some captions like “went swimmingly” or “perfect, stress-free vacation” — heed our advice. Get good tires, tend to them, check them, and put some thought into your maintenance pre-trip! After all, you wouldn’t go to Disney without trying to maximize your experience; don’t hit the road without the right rubber!
You Can Lead A Horse to Water…
My husband now knows the value of having great tires before hitting the road…but…
Many of you have heard our family RAVE about taking a road trip to Alaska. It should be on every families’ wanderlist. We drove over 6,000 miles in roughly one month with a three year old. We’d do it again in a heartbeat. We’re absolute road trip fanatics and believe that you truly get to know your children when they are sequestered in your backseat, strapped to car seats! We had GREAT tires for that trip. The problem was our battery that time — each stop if the van was turned off and a door was open for more than three milliseconds, the battery would die and require a jump. We did this across half of the Last Frontier before my husband finally conceded to my nagging and purchased a new battery.
So maybe after all of our road trip debacles, my husband still has a hard time with the lessons learned department in planning ahead and top-notch equipment. Though he’s learned the lesson with tires, I guess we have to tackle each preventative maintenance item with a new vacation story!