We awoke on Sunday, August 12, Day 5 of our 2007 Alaska trip, to find that Harvey's outside tire on the right rear was totally without air. We had a spare with us, stored on Harvey's roof; but we just didn't feel confident enough in our ability to deal with the situation ourselves, especially since we didn't know what had caused the flat in the first place. Besides, isn't that why we have Triple A and Good Sam's roadside service?
Our campground was located in Reed Point, Montana, a tiny little town with no tire service and no pay phone and no reliable cell phone service. We tried several times to reach Good Sam's or AAA on our TracFone, but we always lost service before we could speak to anyone. A man in the neighboring RV let us use his cell phone, saying that he had free weekend minutes and that we might have better luck with his Verizon service. Using his phone, we were able to get through to Good Sam's and put in our request for help, but we weren't able to get their return call on our TracFone.
On top of that, another RV pulled in about one o'clock that afternoon, having a reservation for our spot. Fortunately the RV park had an extra spot in front of the office, where we could have electricity. So we paid for another night, parked Harvey in front of the office, and just spent the afternoon reading.
Sometime during the afternoon, we borrowed a cordless phone from an employee of the RV park to try to reach Good Sam's again and find out what was happening. After holding for 20 minutes, I reached someone who said he would transfer me to the person who was handling our request, and he put me on hold again! After holding for another 20 minutes, I was finally connected to a person; but the phone cut out before we could get anywhere. I didn't know whether the battery had died or what had happened.
Late in the afternoon, the man who had first loaned us his Verizon cell phone came over and asked how we were doing. When we told him, he insisted that we use his phone again to call Good Sam's. We again had the 20-minute holding time before speaking to anyone. This time I told the person who answered what we had already been through that day and begged him not to put me on hold again. While I was waiting, they located someone from 90 miles west of Reed Point who was willing to come to our aid.
During the afternoon and evening, as we waited for help to arrive, we were watching a huge smoke cloud which eventually covered the area and began dropping ash on us. It was from a wildfire near Livingston, Montana. The owners of the RV park said they didn't have to worry this year because everything burnable in the area had been burned in a wildfire last year. Sure enough, you could look across the highway and see that all the trees, right down to the edge of the highway, were blackened from a previous fire.
Our help arrived about eight o'clock that night, in the form of a young guy and his wife or girlfriend. He determined that the problem with the tire was a cracked valve stem, and he didn't have a suitable replacement with him. He went up on top of Harvey to get the spare down and put that on in place of the flat tire. Then he took the tire with the bad valve stem with him to his shop near Bozeman, where we would stop to pick it up when we came through there the next day.
This delay was unplanned and was an inconvenience, to be sure. But there were blessings, too. For one, it gave us a day off from driving, which was good for us but which we wouldn't have done voluntarily. Also, we were in a lovely and peaceful setting, with electricity to run Harvey's air conditioner, rather than out on the highway somewhere. Yes, ash was falling from the sky; but the smoke cloud had it's own beauty, too. And we were protected by a natural fire break created by last year's fire.
But maybe the best blessing was that we experienced the kindness and camaraderie of other campers. All along our way, we found our fellow campers to be friendly and willing to help in any difficult situation.