Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cracker Barrel - Conway, Arkansas

Boom! Our tire pressure monitoring system started beeping a split second later removing any doubt as to what happened. We suffered a blowout on Rosie.

We had just passed a beautiful vintage Airstream trailer on I-40 and we were in the middle of a pack of trucks. It didn't take long for us to pull over to the side of the road and turn on the truck's emergency flasher.

Rosie suffers a blowout

We had paid for a roadside emergency service for Rosie for the past three years. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) We were about to find out how good their service was. 

We were driving in and out of AT&T's cell coverage all morning. Thankfully, the spot we stopped at was in their "working" area and our cell phones worked.

Good Sam's Roadside Assistance promised a tow truck would be at our location in 60 minutes or less. About 40 minutes later, we saw the truck pull up behind Rosie. It was from the correct company and the driver started to change the tire. In a short time, our spare was on Rosie and we were back on the road.
Rosie's tire about to be changed
Technician from Good Sam's Roadside Assistance changing the tire

We limped into Conway, Arkansas using Rosie's nine year old spare tire. In tire years, that's ancient and not trustworthy.

It was Sunday evening and there was an Airstream dealer 20 minutes down the road in Little Rock. Our plan was to call them Monday morning to see if we could schedule a "work in" appointment since there was minor damage from the blowout to Rosie's wheel well.

We stopped to eat that evening at a Cracker Barrel with six RV parking spots and ended up asking the manager if would could camp that night in his parking lot. We had heard that people sometimes camp in Cracker Barrel parking lots and, on a whim, decided to give it a try.

The manager said we were welcome to stay there that night as long as the only thing touching the asphalt was the rubber from our tires. He said that some campers in the past had damaged his parking lot using their jacks and stabilizers. We agreed and were all set to boondock in their parking lot.

Rosie in Cracker Barrel's parking lot

Boondocking at Cracker Barrel

There was a strong slope to the parking lot, probably to help with water drainage. That made staying in Rosie that night a little more challenging.

Maybe July is the wrong month to boondock in Arkansas. It was hot, but it did cool down a little after midnight.

The Cracker Barrel closed at 10 p.m. We noticed that people seemed to prefer parking in the RV spaces with their compact cars even when there were plenty of spaces closer to the restuarant's door. I'm not sure what that says about human nature.

We noticed something else about human nature that night. Pairs of cars would suddenly appear in the parking lot, one driver would get in the other car then after a while, the two would depart in their original vehicles. After noticing this pattern a couple of times, we figured that the "couple" was married, but not to each other. We had no idea that Cracker Barrel's parking lot was, as they say, the place to watch submarine races.

Another thing we discovered was that Cracker Barrel plays the music you hear both inside the store and on the porch all night and all day. The "all day" part is OK, but we grew a little tired of the "all night" serenade while trying to sleep between the visits by mystery couples in the parking lot.

We treated ourselves to a great Cracker Barrel breakfast that morning. Our plan was to call the Airstream dealer 15 minutes down the road at 8 a.m., the moment they opened. When we called, the dealer said that none of its Airstream technicians were working that Monday. Besides, their service technicians were booked solid for the next month. In other words, no dice!

Plan two was to call the Airstream dealer in Knoxville to see if they could work us in. I could not get past their service writer's questions about our insurance coverage on Rosie. It didn't matter because I got the impression they were booked until Arbor Day.

Our fall-back strategy was to call Airstream Factory service in Jackson Center, Ohio. There must be a plague going around in Airstream circles right now because they were booked solid until August. It was starting to appear to us that there is a severe shortage of Airstream service technicians.

We described the damage to the Airstream factory service manager in Ohio and he said that it sounded as if the damage was not "Airstream specific" and that any RV Repair shop could fix it.

Our waitress overheard us talking about buying tires during breakfast and suggested we call the dealer she used. After eating, we pulled Rosie to that shop.

The store did not have the specific tires we needed, but said they could order them and have them delivered no later than 3 o'clock that afternoon. We showed the service manager the damage to Rosie's wheel well and he suggested we call a collision repair shop located about a mile down the road.

The repair shop operator froze when we told him that we were talking about an Airstream trailer, but he said the shop next door worked on RVs and he would have them call us. Our phone rang in a few minutes and the shop's manager quickly drove over to the tire store to look at Rosie.

It didn't take long, but we found ourselves pulling Rosie to his shop and they quickly repaired the damaged wheel well and they charged us their minimum service fee.

Repairing Rosie's wheel well

The RV Service shop that worked on Rosie

Around 3:30 that afternoon, the tire store's administrative assistant came out to where we were parked and it was clear she was upset. It seemed that when she ordered our tires that morning, she forgot to click on the "submit" button. Our tires were not going to be delivered that day and it appeared we were about to learn more about camping out in the local Cracker Barrel's parking lot.

That was when the store owner came into our conversation. He quickly realized what happened and said he would drive to Little Rock himself to get our tires. He also said he would get two installers willing to work overtime that evening to mount our tires.

Rosie's new tires being installed after hours

The owner did return with the tires a few minutes before 5 p.m. The installers were able to get the tires mounted and balanced a little before 6 p.m. and we were on our way looking for a new place to camp for the night.

It didn't take long for us to find our next campground and we were off on another adventure with Rosie, our Airstream trailer.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry to hear about that but I am glad it was taken care of despite the obstacles. If you tow an Airstream long enough, you are bound to have a blowout. The Cracker Barrel shuffle is an interesting phenomenon. We have overnighted in some loud places before but I always take the noise in stride. I am invading someone else's turf. Safe travels.