The sun set at 5:55pm on January 12, 2020 in Naples, FL. We were standing on the side of highway 75 in the dark, getting attacked by Twig Ants. The front passenger side tire of our Ford E550 Super Duty Shuttle bus had just exploded. Vehicles were passing us going 70+ mph. As we stood there trying to figure out what we were going to do, our hearts sank. Not only did we think we just lost our home, but we could’ve lost each other.
Tire blowouts are scary. Ask my wife. She drives the bus. While she’s very good at it, a worn-down tire got the best of us. It scared her half to death and stopped us in our tracks. Our bus was going nowhere. I happened to be about a mile behind the bus when I got a text saying, “fu*k, fu*k, fu*k”. I immediately knew something was wrong. As I came around the long curve, I could see the bus with its flashers on, along with several pieces of tire debris. It looked as if someone had put our tire in a shredder and dumped it all over the highway. I couldn’t believe it. I pulled up behind the bus and put the flashers of my Honda Civic on. My wife was pacing back and forth, grasping her hair and crying.
“OMG, she’s okay,” I thought.
It took us some time to realize everything was going to be okay, but we needed to get off the highway, out of this dangerous situation. Our two dogs were nervously sitting in the Honda, glancing out the windows trying to determine what is was that we were doing. Were they going for a walk? Was it time for dinner? Was this a potty break? If so, why in the Sam-Hell did they decide to stop here?! We don’t know how they did it, but they were so patient while this all played out. You know dogs, they just keep wagging their tails.
We had three towing companies involved in our experience. The first two didn’t even have the right-sized tow truck to tow us, but they did have something in common. They all told my wife that she must be a good driver because she’s lucky she came out of this unharmed. Trust me, sharing this story doesn’t make us feel all that great about our poor decision-making, but it does make us feel better to know that we’re encouraging others not to make the same mistake.
What we failed to do, and what is now a lesson learned, was buy new tires. Our tires were eight years old. They should’ve been replaced around year five or six. We bought the bus in 2018 which means we also failed to ask the seller what condition the tires were in. They looked fine. We were so sure about the bus that we told ourselves we’d take care of the “minor stuff” later. Well, we never replaced the tires during our build. We even went six months on the road without a tire blowout. We could’ve been on a bridge or in the middle of the desert. It could’ve happened on one of the many switchbacks as we were driving up the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Aside from the obvious repair costs, we only walked away with some scars from the ant bites. Those suckers hurt!
If you’re living a wanderlust life like us, then you know that going through the ‘what ifs’ is pointless. We’re traveling for a reason, seeking out adventure and meaningful experiences. Sure, it could’ve been worse, but it wasn’t so now we move on. It can be hard to determine what sort of mindset to move forward with, but we do know that this lifestyle choice is about cultivating our best selves. That includes having the best set of wheels for our home so that we can continue our travels and adventures. Point is, take the time to inspect your rig. Make a checklist. Set a regular maintenance schedule. If you’re traveling full-time like us and your rig is your home, then home improvement is constant. You’ll have no more ‘what ifs’ and you’ll be Wander-lusting along enjoying the wheels on your bus going ‘round and ‘round, not boom, boom, boom.
Safe travels to you.
Steph + Sarah
Video Notes: My wife’s experience was very different from mine, but we both found comfort in the dash cam video as strange as that may sound. Sarah did a stellar job at controlling the bus and getting it to the side of the road. You can see by her physical reactions, where the blowout occurs. Because the bus doesn’t swerve all over the road and you see no visible blowout, we felt it went well considering. Admittedly, we managed to laugh a bit. You don’t see this in the video, but she popped some Altoids in her mouth just seconds after. They are curiously strong mints you know.