It was a snowy 2 week trip to South Dakota for some shows at Saloon #10, the guys and I were a bit nervous about being on the roads since they were snow-packed and icy. It was dangerous for a regular vehicle, let alone a Ford Expedition and a 24’ trailer. We were driving super careful and thought we would be just fine as long as we took it easy. We finished all of our shows and headed back to Nashville on one of the worst driving days ever. I did all the driving back then and had fallen into the driving trance…all stretch out and rolling at a comfortable pace. I remember making it a habit to look at signs and billboards as we drove past them in case something ever happened because you knew what was nearby that way. Well….something happened.
Right around the middle of freaking nowhere, we hear BLAM! A tire completely exploded! Even though we had a tandem axle, I knew there was too much weight on there to go very far, very fast. I pulled over on what seemed like the safest place to be and got out to check the damage. The boys stayed in the truck to keep warm. It was so stupid cold and that wind was cutting through my skin like I wasn’t even wearing a coat. When I checked the tire, it was completely shredded and done. I opened the side door to get the jack and spare out of the trailer and had my first oh shit moment realizing we left both of those things in one of the guys truck bed when we left Nashville. Oh man. This was a real problem. I scanned around the snowy road for anything I could drive up on to get the wheel enough space to get off and found a block of wood. Perfect. I drove up on it and it gave me the space I needed to take off the lugs and lift the wheel off the axle, but…..that gave us an entirely new problem. The axles were torsion, which means when one goes up, the other side goes down to counteract the “slamming” inside of the trailer and makes for a smoother ride for the gear. The only problem with that is that when you’re missing a tire on one side, well…that axle just kinda drags on the ground. I decided the best thing to do was to put the wheel back on, drop the trailer where it was, and drive to the nearest tire store and get a new wheel and tire. The boys were staying nice and toasty inside the running vehicle while I was cranking up the trailer hitch. Everything seemed to be going just fine and then I heard a terrible sound of ball bearings falling to the bare concrete beneath my feet. That was my next oh shit moment. Are you serious right now? I’m completely stuck to a 3 wheeled, 24’ box of gear that is basically a huge anchor. I ran and jumped into the truck to warm my frozen hands and face and told the guys what had happened. Jim piped up in the back seat and said, “What are you gonna do”? I had to come up with a plan fast. It was 5pm on a Sunday (of course) and I searched my memory to recall the signs I had seen just before this happened and remembered an RV place about a mile up the road. We had just passed the sign, so I had to be within walking distance to get there. I shoved my wallet in my pocket and like a trapper from the Lewis & Clark expedition days, I walked across the interstate to the ditch and dove chest deep into the snow to get across the median. They boys just shook their heads as they watched me inch my way across the snow and then run across the opposite side of the interstate.
I knew I had to run if I was going to stay warm enough to make it anywhere, so I pulled my bandana up over my mouth and nose and started jogging awkwardly down a service road. I guess the fear of freezing to death and failing overtook me and gave me the adrenaline I needed to make it 1 mile down the road. Seeing that RV billboard sign ahead was like the most welcoming feeling I had in quite some time. I launched myself over the barbed wire fence and made my way through the semi-plowed rows between the RV’s for sale towards the front office. I reached the front doors and for the first time tasted victory, but it was short lived as I noticed the store hours listed on the window stating they closed an hour ago. Dammit! I screamed it out loud I know and then as basically just a pissed off reaction, I yanked on the front door expecting it to be locked, but much to my surprise, it flew open and I landed on my ass in the snow. A glimmer of hope came over me as I picked my ass out of the snow and tiptoed into the building.
I got to the main show room and there was a small radio playing in the corner. I noticed a purse on a desk, which let me know someone was near, but the entire place was completely quiet. I waited in erie silence hoping that someone would walk out of the restroom or a door would open, but there was nothing. No noise. No movement. I called out several times, “Hello, is anybody here?”. There was no answer. Suddenly, I had this “what if” panic moment. What if I wandered into a murder and was the first person to discover the dead body? What if they weren’t totally dead yet and I had to try and save them? What if the murder was still in the building and now they have to kill me too because I’m a witness? Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. My head was racing with ideas. I turned around and saw a shadow move from behind 2 swinging doors leading to the shop. I ducked down quick. I don’t want the murderer to know I’m there. But he probably already knows I’m there because I was yelling out “Hello” every few minutes. I decided to get closer to see if I could see anything. Just when I didn’t think things could get any weirder, I crack open the swinging doors and see a little boy walk by. Is this a ghost? Obviously they can’t hear me. But before I could say anything, the door next to me swings open and a man is standing there looking about as freaked out as I was. We both stood up straight and looked at each other and he asked “Can I help you with something”?
I explained what had happened and wondered if he could sell me a new tire and rim. He looked confused and asked how I got in. I told him the front door was open and I walked in. He shook his head and walked over to a stack of mounted tires were piled on top of each other. He had a match! I was overjoyed! I asked if he had a jack as well since I need to get this one mounted when I get back to the trailer. They didn’t sell jacks, but they did sell this plastic device that you can drive up on and take the other wheel off and put a new one on. He felt positive that would fix my problem. I didn’t even care what it cost, I was just so happy to have a solution on the horizon. He charged my credit card and I stuffed my wallet back in my coat. I thought for sure he would offer to at least drive me back to the rig a mile down. I grabbed my tire in one arm and my plastic ramp in the other arm and stood there staring at him. All he said was, “Okay, well…good luck out there”. What? Seriously? I was so pissed! I couldn’t believe this douchebag expected me to run another mile back down the interstate carrying a wheel and a ramp! It made me so mad, I turned around and with blood boiling, I started running. Every awkward step made me more furious that bastard didn’t offer to give me a ride. Sure, I could’ve asked him to give me a ride, but I shouldn’t have had to. I mean…he knew I had to run a mile in freezing temperatures to get there in the first place. He saw my frozen face. He knew and didn’t offer. I ran faster.
It didn’t take nearly as long to get back as it did to get to the RV place. Or maybe I just lost track of time while going through the many ways this dude pissed me off, but as I came up on the rig across 2 lanes of interstate traffic, I threw that wheel so far into the ditch, I could see the shock on the boys’ faces as I was leaping like a deer through the snow. I was practically a human snowmobile flying across that median. The door opened on the van and one of the guys jumped out and yells, “Dude! She got a wheel”!
Victory was mine. I could see the finish line. I put my plastic ramp in place and pulled the trailer up on the highest spot of the ramp. I ran back there and pulled the old wheel off and tried to put the new one on, but….it wasn’t high enough. I looked for that block of wood and put it underneath the ramp and tried again, but all I got was this loud CRACK and that was the end of my plastic ramp. This was like the never-ending problem. I was starting to think even my stubborn headed self wasn’t going to make it out of this one. I had one final idea before I completely layed down and gave up. I got both boys on the back of the van and told them to jump in time. I watched as they got into a rhythm and then at the time the back of the van was at the lowest point, I put my foot in the gas and threw them both off the back, but we were free of that anchor we called a trailer. Finally!
They gave me a few choice words as they climbed back in the comfort of the heated van and off we flew down the interstate to get a jack. I’ve never been so happy to see a Walmart in all my life, but we got our jack and drove like mad men back to the bane of my existence that was known as my trailer. Like a pit crew at a NASCAR event, we threw that new wheel on the trailer and that snow-packed interstate road was the last of my worries as we barreled towards Sioux Falls.
We were starving and it was dark by the time we hit the city limit, so after had dinner and found a cheap hotel room, I decided I wasn’t leaving town without another spare tire, so we hit that Walmart the next morning and I felt confident we would make it home in about 12 hours of intense driving.
That morning showed no signs of road improvement. In fact, things looked much worse the further South we got closer to the Iowa border. The snow was blowing across the highway like a blizzard scene straight out of an episode of Game of Thrones. The interstate was down to a partial lane and cars were lined up creeping down the highway at a blistering speed of about 15 mph. I didn’t care, I just kept moving along with the pack and knew it would clear up eventually. The truckers were getting anxious while waiting for these tiny cars to move it and some of them decided to make a move and try to pass the convoy. The first few came up on us as I watched out of the corner of my eye and white knuckled it to keep it in my lane. I would let out an audible sigh as each one went by. I watched other cars inch off the side of the shoulder as they came by to give them space, but with this trailer, that just wasn’t an option I could take. The last truck was coming in a little hotter than the previous trucks and I was locked onto that steering wheel with my death grip preparing for the wind gust I was going to get off it, but what I got was so much worse. The truck drive lost control of the truck for a split second and did what he thought would be the best thing for him to do to correct it….and that was to bounce off of the back corner of my trailer. It straightened him out and he smoked passed me, but only as I started my first spin from being slammed out of my lane. It was a beautiful 360 degree spin as I flew sideways into the median filled with snow. We were buried up to the windows with snow. We couldn’t event get out of the vehicle. I called for a wrecker to come pull us out and they said it would be hours and then they might not even be able to get us out. I had no idea what kind of damage the rig had sustained or if we could even continue the trip.
Luckily the wrecker showed up faster than we expected and pulled us out without a problem. He couldn’t believe we didn’t have more damage than we did, but my heart sank when I looked at the trailer hitch that got jack-knifed around the rear bumper and was now in a weird off-centered, reversed ‘V’ attached to the back of my van. I found a truck stop nearby and decided to just get another hotel room until morning. We were in the middle of the worst blizzard ever and just couldn’t continue. I had the trailer checked out by the shop and they assured me that I could drag it back to Tennessee, but it would pull sideways somewhat. They didn’t think it would affect the tires at all. I figured I would sleep on it and see about it in the morning.
The truck stop had a little diner with one girl still there working. Everyone else hadn’t come in that day due to the blizzard. She was stuck there until her boyfriend came to pick her up after work. She got to hear all about our last 2 days and sat down to hang out with us. While we were talking to her, she got a call from her boyfriend who was getting ready to leave to come pick her up. We asked her if he could bring us a case of beer on his way out. We didn’t expect him to deliver on that, but sure as shit, he came in with a case of Bud Light. We shot him some extra gas money and beer money and hid out in the hotel room while the boys taught me how to play quarters. Turns out I’m a champion at quarters, but not a champion of much else.
We limped our dirty, mangled piece of shit rig back to Nashville at the end of a very long 12 hour drive and I’ve never been so glad to be home. They had to cut the front of the trailer off and put a new tongue on it. It’s the most expensive road trip I think I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in South Dakota on a blizzard day, take my advice and just find a hotel and get drunk on quarters. It will cost you a lot less than the alternative.