Other than the usual interstate traffic, everything was going smoothly as we headed south in our motorhome, Pearl. Barry was driving us on I-95 on our way back to Florida from North Carolina, where we'd spent some time with my (Emily's) mother and step-father and gone to a few medical/dental appointments. We were just thirteen miles north of our campground for the night, in Eulonia, Georgia, where we expect to pull in at about 3:30 pm. Ironically I was even being silly and singing "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" when it happened.
All of a sudden, the most sickening BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG happened.
I can't even describe how loud it was, but I can still hear it in my mind's ear, if that is a thing. I knew immediately that we'd had a rear-tire blowout. There's just nothing else that sounds quite like that.
Barry did an admirable job of handling Pearl exactly the way all the websites and manuals say to when you have a blowout. Accelerate slightly, stay straight, then very gradually pull off the road and come to a safe stop. It was the inner tire of the passenger-side rear dually pair. We were very fortunate that we were in the right lane when it happened and that there was an extremely wide shoulder on that stretch of highway. In addition to the normal shoulder, there was a wide parking area to the right of the shoulder, for trucks I presume. This area gave us even more room to pull off without being so close to the eighteen wheelers flying by at 70+ mph. It was disconcerting enough even with the space we had as every one that passed us shook our coach. Poor Pearl!
Barry immediately got on the phone to our roadside assistance, and before he even finished talking to the rep, a Georgia 511 highway assistance patrol truck had pulled up behind us to see if he could help. He couldn't, since we didn't have a spare, but it was nice that he stopped.
Minutes after Barry reported the problem, a local tire service, Triple J, pulled up. That was quick! We thought they could change the tire on the side of the highway, but that was not to be. Instead, since we still had one rear wheel on that axle, they instructed us to drive Pearl with them to their shop.
We were pretty nervous driving on the one tire on such a hot day and took it slowly with hazard lights flashing. The rear passenger side is the heaviest side of our coach, where the refrigerator, the generator, and all our food and pantry supplies reside, and tire pressures get pretty high on a long drive when the day is as hot as it was -- around 100F.
We had to drive four miles south on I-95, then five miles west on a side road, to get to the shop. Right as we pulled in, we hit the high-pressure limit on our TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) on the remaining rear passenger-side tire), and triggered an alarm. But we were there.
This was not a city tire shop, that's for sure. We were in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
But they had the size tire we needed in stock and wasted no time changing it.
Here's what the old tire looked like. Completely shredded. These tires were only five years old. Most RVers replace tires at the six- or seven-year point, some go even longer.
I mentioned that it was a very hot day. We couldn't run the generator (and thus the air-conditioning) while the technician was changing the tire, as it is located in a bay right near where he was working, so it got pretty warm inside Pearl while Paisley and I were waiting. I took this photo before the inside temperature got up to 91F, which it did. But the outside temperature gauge in an outer bin shows the misery that the technician was working in.
We were on our way pretty quickly, though, and our wallet was only $400 lighter. It could have been worse, I keep saying. We sure do have bad luck in Georgia, though. That's where I had my bike accident and fractured my jaw and thumb in April 2017.
We made it to the campground at 5 pm, only 90 minutes past schedule. I was more than ready for a glass of wine!
Our second day of driving was uneventful, but we were nervous the entire time. Neither of us breathed easy until we were parked up in our spot in Winter Garden.
Unfortunately, after further inspection, there is other collateral damage from the blowout. We lost the mudguard behind that tire, and the aluminum guard that protects the outside bin right above the tire is mangled. The floor of the bin was pushed up, and our inverter, which resided in that bin, seems to be toast. Some of the circuits, including the one that powers both our televisions, were tied into the inverter, so these no longer function. Barry has an extension cord temporarily in use to plug the front TV into the closest functioning AC outlet in the coach. The bedroom TV is still out of commission.
Barry is still assessing the damage, and we'll need to decide whether to make a claim with our insurance or to DIY a fix. Will depend on our deductible and how much needs to be fixed. We may just do without an inverter if he can get the TV outlets functioning again.
In the meantime, we're very thankful that it wasn't any worse than it was. For now we're relieved that we don't have to drive anywhere anytime soon, courtesy of my orthodontia keeping us in this area. While we don't want to be here indefinitely, for the moment, it feels pretty good.
While we were enjoying our week away at Grayton Beach State Park last month, Paisley started having some problems. Mid-week, she started coughing, especially at night, and breathing harder than usual, sometimes noisily. It was worrisome, but since we were away from "home" and without a car, rushing her to a local vet would not have been easy. And she still seemed happy, was eating fine, and enjoying walks around the campground, so it didn't feel quite like an emergency.
My immediate thought was that she might have picked up Kennel Cough (which can linger in places infected dogs have visited for a day or two) or Canine Influenza, both of which cause coughing.
In the back of my mind, though, I worried that it was her heart.
Paisley had her tenth birthday this past Groundhog's Day, and she had been diagnosed with a Grade 3 heart murmur (out of six grades) at her last regular vet appointment in April 2017. Never having a dog with heart issues before, we really didn't know what the implications of that were -- or that it could progress to heart failure. The vet asked if she was coughing, and at that point, she wasn't. But just knowing that she did have a murmur made me worry. Were things progressing?
I realized that unless things changed quickly for the better I would have to find a local vet when we returned to our current home RV park in Winter Garden. Since we've been RVing, we've taken her to a vet in North Carolina, and had only had one other vet emergency in Florida when she was bitten by another dog last fall in a different RV park, suffering a puncture wound in her neck area. In that case, I called a mobile vet, who did a great job patching her up and dispensing medications, and Paisley recovered quickly. But I thought this was possibly too serious for a mobile vet to handle.
I chose a local vet less than 1.5 miles from our RV park and gave them a call as soon as we returned from our trip. They were able to get Paisley in that morning. Since we didn't want her to have to walk that far, we took her in Barry's bike basket, and she did just great!
The vet, Dr. Valentine, couldn't have been nicer or more thorough. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was not what I wanted to hear, but what I feared: Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). This had caused fluid to build up in her lungs, thus the coughing. An x-ray revealed that Paisley's heart was enlarged, and her respiration and heart rate were elevated. On the positive side, the EKG showed no arrhythmia, and she is "only" ten years old, on the younger side for CHF in a small dog. Her complete blood work also revealed no abnormalities. This was excellent news since it means that her liver and kidneys are still in good shape at this point and thus could handle the medication load.
Dr. Valentine gave Paisley oxygen for a bit and administered a diuretic injection to help her rid her body of the excess fluid. She also sent us home with several medications and food. Paisley will need to be on a very low-sodium diet for the rest of her life to keep her blood pressure low. No more jerky treats she loves...sigh! We were to bring her back to the vet the following afternoon for a re-check.
When we got back to Pearl, she was already doing noticeably better. She had stopped coughing and was much calmer. It was obvious that her heart rate and respiration were lower. She was like a different dog at the next day's recheck, calm and yet full of energy. Seeing how she recovered so dramatically on the meds, we realized that she had been slowly declining for awhile,: sleeping more and needing more rest when we took her on walks. We just didn't realize it was her heart condition worsening versus simple aging since it was a gradual process, until our week at the beach.
We had a second vet re-check a week later, and she was doing very well. She really was like a new dog, and Dr. Valentine was pleased. The medications she'll have to be on for the rest of her life have been very successful in dogs with CHF and have bought many of them significant amounts of additional time -- from months to years.
Here are the "miracle meds" Paisley is taking daily:
For her first week, Paisley was only allowed to go outside to do her business, no longer walks or play, to allow her heart to rest. She wanted to walk a lot more than I was able to let her, though. At her one week re-check, Dr. Valentine said she could do modest exercise, nothing intense, and to be careful with heat. This works out fine as we've always done her longer walk or play time (ball fetching) after dinner because of living in warm places. And I stick to walking her in shady areas when she has to go out mid-day.
It was hard to keep her down during her week of prescribed inactivity. It was obvious that she was feeling a lot better! She was sleeping less and bringing us various toys to play with. Once we were allowed, we started taking her to the small dog park in the campground and throwing her ball for her a few times after dinner (and in the shade), as she loves to retrieve and always has. She is leading on walks again rather than lagging behind. What a wonderful change!
She has another vet re-check at the end of the month, and after that, assuming all is still well, she won't have to go to the vet as frequently.
We're so thankful for Dr. Valentine, who really knows her stuff and has taken such good care of Paisley. This was an unexpected and big expense, but Paisley is totally worth it to us. We don't know how long she'll be with us, but at least with appropriate treatment, we'll have her to entertain us for awhile longer -- and we'll treasure every day!
Here are some resources for canine Congestive Heart Failure I found useful while learning about this disease:
Here are a few more peeks into what we did while we camped in Grayton Beach State Park in April. We really did pack a lot in and make the most of our six days on Florida's Emerald Coast.
Exploring Beach Towns by Bike.
After exploring the 30a bike path (also called the Timpoochee Trail) to the west of Grayton Beach on our quest for fish tacos, the next day it was time to ride towards the east to see what that part of the trail was like. This section goes through several beach towns.
After the planned developments of Watercolor and Seaside, you'll pass through Seagrove Beach, Secrest, Alys Beach (where all the buildings are white!), and Rosemary Beach. The round trip from Grayton Beach State Park was approximately 25 miles, though we turned around maybe a mile from the eastern terminus of the trail.
Here's a basic map of the area, though not all of the towns are shown.
While the trail is fun to ride, there are many driveway and road crossings, especially in Seagrove Beach. With all the bike rentals available, I am sure it could get crazy busy during the high season, though it wasn't bad at all on a weekday in April. I was glad to be riding my mountain bike, as some sections are pretty bumpy, with broken pavement in spots. While you could ride a skinny-tired road bike, I wouldn't recommend it.
For more information on the Timpoochee Trail, here are a couple of links: Overview and Very Detailed.
Finding a Favorite Dinner Spot.
We discovered a good restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach just a short bike ride (approximately one mile) away from the campground. We liked it so much the first night that we ended up pedaling back the following night as well!
We sat on the large outdoor porch with a great pond view.
We even saved enough room to split a slice of this decadent peanut butter pie -- oh my!
Taking a Hike.
There is a nature trail in the park near the beach. It traverses dunes and lush wooded areas. We hiked it on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning, our last day in the park, and shared it only with birds and other wildlife. Perfect.
Heavy spring rain prior to our arrival in the park left a short section of the trail muddy. We both tested our balance on this log and made it across without dipping a foot in the muck. (I confess that Barry had to hold out a hand for me from the other side as I was nervous I might not make it.)
Enjoying the Beautiful Beach.
And of course, there were many beach walks. The section that is part of the state park was almost always this uncrowded. Bliss!
We encountered this sandy homage to a sea turtle....
Although the gulf waters were still too nippy for swimming (except for a few hearty souls), we both dipped our feet in.
We enjoyed walking until the sun set every evening. This is one of my favorite times of day.
We hated to put Grayton Beach in our rearview mirror, but we're so glad we discovered this magical spot.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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