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When will it stop??

There’s a force in the universe that is out to get us, but we aren’t going to let it win!

Today started out fine. We went to Fossil Butte National Monument, which is a fairly obscure national park outside Kemmerer. That made a good addition to our national parks Passport book. Emma really seemed to get into the cool fossils they have in the new Visitor Center.

Fossil Butte pledge.jpg
Emma takes the pledge for another Jr Ranger badge

Then we headed to downtown Kemmerer to hit the public library. I updated the blog and Eleanor and Emma read stories in the kids’ room.

Then we drove about 80 miles to Green River, WY, which is along I-80. It’s pretty lonely country, so I decided to stop in Green River for lunch around 2 pm. That gave another chance to check the lugnuts…

… and one of them twisted right off.

The stud had broken right in the middle.

Well, you can imagine my reaction to that. I’ll skip the gory details, but after about two tense hours and several phone calls, we ascertained the following:

1) Both of the wheels on the entry door side of the Airstream had been tightened by mechanics using air impact wrenches. After tightening the nuts, they followed up with a torque wrench to assure 110 ft-lbs of torque.

2) NEVER NEVER NEVER let anyone tighten the lug nuts on your Airstream with an air impact wrench unless they are using the wrench only to spin the nuts on loosely. The air impact wrench will overtighten them. Torquing them after that is utterly pointless — they’re already overtorqued.

3) All 12 of the studs and lugnuts on the two right side wheels of our Airstream need to be replaced, as a precaution.

4) Nobody in Green River, WY could possibly get us into their shop for at least a few days.

This put us in a tight spot. Driving the Airstream with a known problem like this (and one stud already failed) would be asking for another wheel separation like yesterday. But staying here to wait for service wasn’t much of an option either.

We had two basic choices:

1) Deflate the known bad tire by 10-15 lbs to lessen its load, and proceed SLOWLY to the nearest campground, about six miles away, then wait several days for service.

2) Fix it ourselves.

I got mad about the lackluster interest I received from the RV repair shop, the local tire shop, and two other repair shops I called. When I get mad, I get busy. So we towed the Airstream less than a mile to the NAPA Auto Parts and got busy.

First, I called David Tidmore again, and Brett, and got advice. Then we bought 15 replacement studs at the NAPA store and backed the Airstream into a spot next to the store. I broke out my tools and made sure I had what was needed to do the job: a hammer, a torque wrench with extension, socket for the lugnuts, some blocks to pull the Airstream up on (so I could remove the wheel), a sacrificial nut, and mental gumption.

Green River repair.jpg
Rich exercises his non-existent handyman skills

The process of removing a stud and replacing it is fairly straightforward. You bang the old stud out with the hammer, and then slip in the new one. The sacrificial nut is used to pull the stud through until it is seated properly. We pulled the emergency brake cable on the disc brake system to lock the wheels in place during this operation (that’s OK to do with disc brakes, it won’t burn out).

At 4 pm, the NAPA store owner closed up, but he came by to make sure we were OK before he left. He said we could stay overnight if we needed to, and he’d be back at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Unfortunately, I let him get away before remembering to buy the replacement lug nuts. I tried to recycle the old ones, but two of them were in terrible condition and I decided to suspend work for tonight. I’ll buy a completely new set tomorrow and finish the job.

Green River bad parts.jpg
Studs I removed. Note the broken one at top right, with the matching nut at left.

So now it is 6:40 pm and we are parked on concrete next to NAPA and a drive-through liquor store. Fortunately, the liquor store is closed too. It is not all that bad here — I’ve been in worse campgrounds — and except for the heat we are doing fine. As I’ve told people, when you have a problem in your Airstream, you’re still home with all the conveniences, so how bad can it be?

OK, there was a moment when Eleanor said, “I want a hotel room with air conditioning and a pool!” And as tempting as that is (it is 98 degrees in the trailer at this moment), I think we will resist the urge. After all, this is home, and I wouldn’t feel right abandoning my home just because it had a little problem.

So we’ve opened up the vents and windows and are cooling things down now. I’ve got a cold Jarritos Toronja (grapefruit soda), Emma is doing homeschooling (but she doesn’t know it), Eleanor is avidly reading something trashy by Eric Lustbader, and pretty soon I’ll plug in the iPod to listen to some music.

In other words, we are going to make lemonade out of this and not let this incredible streak of mishaps drive us to insanity. We’re going to fix the trailer once and for all, and get on with the business of having fun.

One other thing: thanks to my friends David, Brett, Terry, and Rich C for their support on the phone the past few days. Thanks to Carol, Marc, Terrie, and everyone else who wrote in with supportive comments. Without you guys I’d probably be a lot more stressed about this stuff. And thanks to whoever in this strip mall left their wi-fi network open, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get online tonight to post all this!

220 Responses to “When will it stop??”

  1. Rita Says:

    Thanks for documenting your problems with your tires. I’m sure the information will be helpful to a lot of people.

    The whole country seems to be in the midst of a heat wave. It was 110 in the shade today here in Glendale, CA (by Los Angeles). If your schedule allows, why not try to find somewhere you can cool off and rest for a few days.

    Kemmerer, WY has a highway cam >. Wonder if Homeland Security paid for it 🙂

  2. Terry Says:

    Rich, it looks like I can finally relinquish my Native American name of “Little Black Cloud” to you! Someday you will look back on this streak of misadventures, and laugh. Today is not that day. Maybe tomorrow.
    Remember to check those lug nuts at 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 miles, to minimize the chance of this recurring.

  3. Mom Says:

    You did good, son! Nobody got hurt because you chose the best equipment to travel with. Dad says maybe you got the wrong size studs?–is that what any of your other advisors is saying? They should stretch, not break. Keep that torque wrench handy and get to some nice place soon. You are going to be a master mechanic yet! Mom

  4. Adam&Susan Says:


    Man oh Man – – This is compelling stuff. Makes for good reading – if it was fiction!

    So glad to know you are all safe. It’s inspiring to learn how you are all dealing with this and compliments to all for not using that hammer in a less productive way.

    More soon,


  5. Jay and Cherie Guerin (Antique Pedalers) Says:

    Hi Rich,

    Hope you don’t have to stay in that KOA Just west of Rock Spgs…..the one behind that oil tank farm. That would add insult to injury!