It was Monday and we woke to another bight sunny morning at the Boron rest area on hwy. 58. We all slept fairly well considering our overnight spot was not far from the freeway and a railway ½ mile in the opposite direction.
We had our morning coffee sitting in camp chairs between the rigs as was usual on our overnight stops. It was a cool morning in the high desert, with nothing but wispy creosote bushes sparsely dotting the flat desert as far as one could see.
The sun rose quickly and along with it the thermometer and before long the temperature was pleasant enough to discard our jackets. We were anticipating an easy ½ day drive to our next destination at Cahuilla Lake county park.
Lynda and I had been there 3 years before with my brother and his wife, a pretty spot, for the desert, with well placed trees, wash rooms and showers. Although the lake was actually a reservoir the design helped it appear more of a natural setting than many reservoirs in the dry states. The mountain back drop added to the ambiance.
We headed out and after only a few miles stopped for fuel at a Pilot truck stop at the intersection of hwy 58 & hwy 395. ‘R’ , ‘H’ and I had been comparing fuel consumption and although my truck was much older than the others my consumption seemed lower so far. ‘H’ seemed to be using a few gallons more between fills which was understandable being that his 5th wheel weight is about a ton more that ‘R’s smaller 5th wheel and my travel trailer.
After filling our diesel tanks we turned south on hwy 395 toward hwy I-15, I-215 and finally I-10 that would take us east to Palm Springs and La Quinta.
It was like a roller coaster ride along this straight but dippy road. After an hour a head wind picked up causing our engines to work harder as if climbing even though the road was fairly flat. Along with the wind came the dust as often happens in the high desert. I always have a fear of no visibility when I spot dust clouds along the highway while driving in the desert.
A strong cross wind can cause problems with larger rigs, swaying from strong gusts can be unnerving, although if you stay alert usually the wind is more of a nuisance that a problem. Sometimes, however, semi-trailers with a light load can be forced off the highway and even flipped on their side.
It just so happened that those high winds often cause problems for high profile vehicles on our route this day through Palm Springs, and with the wind picking up I hoped this would not be the case today.
We continued on past Victorville and then onto the freeway I-15 that took us down from the high desert into Riverside County to I-10 and then east toward Palm Springs. The wind was persistent, but once we turned east it became a tailwind that helped us along.
Just as we hit the interchange onto I-10 I noticed a faint noise coming from one of my wheels, at the time I was not sure if it was a wheel or the rough California highway. We had traveled this route several times before and the road surface always seems rough.
The sound seemed intermittent for an hour or so. I should have stopped and checked it out because just outside Palm Springs at the intersection of highway 111 and I-10 we were startled by a deafening bang and a terrible grinding noise as my left rear wheel tore off my pickup and the hub dug into the pavement spewing broken pavement and gravel into the air….. what a shock.
The truck swerved violently to the left as I struggled to keep it under control, I immediately saw our wheel careening down the freeway heading for the median separating the east and west lanes.
I glanced in the side mirror to see rocks and debris spewing from my rear hub that was violently chewing up the pavement. I hit the brakes and managed to straiten our rig and inch it toward the right shoulder gradually grinding to a stop.
Wow…. what a terrifying experience, the few seconds of this bizarre pandemonium seemed to last far too long. I had visions of Lynda, Buddy and I being thrown about like crash test dummies while our truck and trailer rolled along the highway and into the ditch.
Thankfully no one was hurt either from my swerving rig or my wheel careening down the highway. It must have been traveling at 60 miles per hour and could have easily jumped the median and caused major problems to oncoming traffic.
I was leading the group as usual and as I came to a stop on the shoulder the other rigs pulled in behind. The rest of the group quickly ran along the shoulder to our rig as we climbed from our pickup.
The concern on their faces was evident as they asked if we were alright and not hurt.
We gathered on the side of the road and took a moment for a collective sigh of relief, at what could have been a major accident with injuries or worse.
I gathered my thoughts that seemed to be stuck replaying the events of the last couple of minutes. As I took stock of what had just happened, I thanked the almighty for not taking us this day, I was able to start the inevitable process of dealing with this disaster.
During this process I began to realize this section of highway was all too familiar.
Three years previous Lynda and I had just driven for 3 days in order to meet my brother and his wife in Palm Springs and Cahuilla Lake. It was their first major trip after retirement, my brother was in Palm Springs for an old timer’s soccer tournament. This would give us a chance to spend some time together.
We were traveling along highway I-10 at almost the exact spot as today when a loud bang came from the engine compartment of our class ‘A’ motor home. The engine began to shake violently causing the rig to do the same.
We limped to the rest area just ahead. I opened the engine compartment and quickly realized what had happened. A spark plug from one of the engine cylinders had been blown out of the engine block. The motorhome had to be towed to a repair facility. The repair was $1000 …….ouch!
Back to the Future
I managed to calm myself and continue with the task at hand… getting this disaster dealt with so we can get back on the road.
I called Good Sam Road Side Assistance, the person on the other end was sympathetic and quickly took my information and in the end said he would call back to confirm the time a tow truck would be arriving.
I insisted on the group carry on the last 50 miles to our destination, Cahuilla Lake, while I waited with our rig. Lynda and Buddy left with the rest of the group.
It took a couple of hours before I was on my way in the cab of the tow truck with our trailer in tow. My disabled truck was being towed to a Chevy dealer (Jessup) in Cathedral City directly adjacent to Palm Springs.
I paid extra to have our trailer and myself delivered to our camping destination at Cahuilla Lake in La Quinta. The disaster had struck just before noon, and by the time I arrived at the lake and my family and the group it was 5 ish, happy hour was well underway by the time I arrived.
I immediately was handed a beverage which I downed in short order, trying to soften the thoughts of the day.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and it helps with traveling ideas, Watch for my next article on our trip.
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