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"Oh X#$%!"..

..Are the words that first ran through my mind. Let me explain.

I am going to jump ahead in our timeline and update you to a recent unpleasant event that happened to us recently.

About three weeks ago, we left an amazing state park in south western Texas named Seminole Canyon. It's in the western corner of Texas about three miles from the Mexican border and miles from civilization.

In fact we were so close to the border that I received this message on my phone:

The nice thing was, with the lack of lights from surrounding cities, our night sky was ablaze with stars.

After a few relaxing days, we pulled out and drove about three hours to our next campground outside of Big Bend National Park named Stillwell Ranch, Store & RV Park.

You'll notice from the above map that there is a whole lot of nothing between our last stop and our next stop. It was very strange to drive for thirty or forty minutes at a stretch and not see or pass another soul. We had the whole, flat desert to ourselves (although funny thing, we came upon a motorist that was being ticketed by a police officer. Not sure how stupid you have to be to not see a police car when visibility has to be fifty miles in all directions).

The worst stretch of road was from the tiny town of Marathon, at the upper corner of my map, down to Stillwell Ranch. Forty-five miles of long, straight two-lane road with no shoulder. Oh, I forgot to mention ABSOLUTELY NO CELL SERVICE! No way to contact the outside world.

Like I said, miles and miles of nothing --Don't get me wrong, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, but the total lack of contact with another human being was a bit disconcerting-- Growing up, there was no such thing as cell phones (except on the t.v. show Get Smart), but I didn't realized how dependent I have become on maintaining constant contact with the "Borg Collective" until now. The thought of breaking down on such a deserted stretch of road and unable to call for help, was never far from our minds. This was the first time in our travels where we encountered NO cell service for an extended period of time.

After a peaceful but lengthy drive, we arrived at the Stillwell Ranch. A rather sketchy looking RV park.

It wasn't much to look at but it was right outside of the entrance to the incredible Big Bend National Park.

After pulling into the campground, I went through the usual routine of unpacking the essential cables, cords and hoses. As we were moving about our RV, I noticed something sticking to one of our tires. Initially thinking it was only road debris, I didn't give it much attention, but on second glance a cold chill ran down my back. My gasp alerted Lorraine that something was seriously wrong.

A large piece of our tires outer tread had torn away!

Our stomachs dropped. Partly because this was something we hadn't encountered before, but also because we were in the middle of nowhere.

Many of the RV pages we subscribe to are replete with horror stories of blown tires causing near-fatal accidents, or shards of rubber flying like grenade shrapnel tearing away brake lines and causing damage to the other critical components housed beneath the rig.

We came dangerously close to becoming another horror story. And given the desolate stretch of road we had just traveled, things could have been so much worse.

After composing ourselves, I went to the front office to seek some guidance in finding a replacement tire. The lady behind the counter pulled a big, thick well-worn book from under the counter. The dust was blown from its cover. Because of a recent trip to the Smithsonian, I immediately recognized this ancient artifact as a "Phone Book", something filled with phone numbers of everybody within a hundred mile radius. It fell with a loud THUD. No Google here. They did things the old fashioned way.. A land line. She flipped the pages and found the phone number of a tire store in the "nearby" town of Alpine. And in these parts, nearby means SIXTY miles away! Now, Lorraine and I had been talking about replacing the original tires on our RV for quite sometime now. I am very careful to keep the tires properly inflated and (thanks again to Vivian for showing me this) properly torqued. I also never drive over 63 mph and we keep our rig under GV weight. Our original Westlake tires had almost 10k miles on them and still had plenty of tread. But the stories of other people's bad experiences with these tires had us concerned. I shouldn't have waited.

Asking to borrow the phone --which had this strange curled cable that was attached to a wall mount-- I dialed Oasis Tires. I was hoping to buy a complete set of Goodyear ST tires, but Oasis didn't stock these. "If you want them Goodyear tires you gotta to drive over to Midland for 'em".. A mere 209 miles away. There was nothing closer. My stomach dropped, again.

Now things weren't completely bleak. We still had a full sized spare tire we could put on the RV (which I did) but our concern was that we would need to drive to Alpine, over an hour away, over desolate roads [with lots of warning signs about Javelina and deer hazards] and, again, with no cell service.

Long story short, when we departed Stillwell, while heading to Alpine, we passed two limp bodies of large Javelins splayed on the road, a few feet up ahead was a car with serious front-end damage. We slowed way down. Fortunately, we made it to Oasis Tire with no incidents and they were great to work with.

Now that we had cell service again, we made arrangements to purchase a new set of tires in Midland.

One hundred and sixty five miles later, we were the proud owner of four sweet new Goodyear Endurance ST tires!

Having felt extremely blessed for not encountering anything truly life-threatening, we drove happily along our way into New Mexico.

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