Tag Archives: Fix-a-Flat

The Rubber Tramp Artist’s 10 Essential Items for Vandwelling

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I’ve been vandwelling since 2010. During most of those years, I lived in my van at least half the time. Even now that I have a home base for the winter, I still live in my van for at least six months in the spring, summer, and into the fall.

During my time as a vandweller, I’ve found some items I don’t want to live without. Today I’ll share my essentials for vandwelling. Please realize these are my essentials. Other van dwellers may find these items frivolous or useless. That’s ok! To each his/her own. I’m simply sharing what works for me in hopes that my ideas will help my readers find what works for them.

#1 The Rubber Tramp Artist’s first rule of van life is “Always know where your keys are.” I follow this rule by keeping my keys on a lanyard I wear around my neck. I made the lanyard myself with pretty glass beads and Stretch Magic. While you may not want to carry your keys around your neck, you should find a system that works for you so you can put your hands on your keys the moment you need them.

Dr. Bronner s Pure Castile Soap - Fair Trade and Organic - Liquid - 18 in 1 Hemp - Peppermint - 8 oz - 70%+ Organic -
#2 Dr. Bronner’s soap is biodegradable and gentle on the environment and is made by a company that does right by their employees and is fair to their suppliers. What more could I ask? Oh yeah. The peppermint (my favorite of the many varieties available) smells and feels amazing. I buy it in the big bottle (or better yet, receive the big bottle as a gift) and refill smaller bottles I put in bags and pockets throughout my van for quick and easy access. Not only is the soap good for washing hands, face, and body, I’ve used it to wash dishes and to hand-wash clothes. I’ve heard of people using it to brush their teeth, but I’ve never gone that far!

#3 Wipes are not just for the butts of babies. They work pretty well on my adult butt and on my armpits too. When I’m working in the woods, I have my privacy tent where I can take a jug shower, but early and late in the season, it’s too cold for me to bear being naked and wet. Other times when I’m on the road, I’m nowhere near a shower, or I want to freshen up between showers. During all those times, I use wipes. I discovered Pure ‘n Gentle at Wal-Mart. Not only were they the least expensive wipes on the shelf, they are fragrance free, hypoallergenic, and alcohol-free. Score!

#4 While I don’t worry too much about how I look (I’ve had one manicure in my whole life, never had a pedicure, and haven’t worn makeup  consistently since the 90s), I am vain about my hair. What can I say? I like some fluff, and when I’ve gone too long between washes, dry shampoo ups my hair’s fluff factor. I’ve written an entire blog post about how I love dry shampoo, but I’ll say here it too: dry shampoo can really perk up hair that hasn’t had a washing in a while. Some folks whip up their own dry shampoo, which I’ve never tried, but I do like the DIY aspect of homemade beauty products. You can find recipes for dry shampoo suitable for light or dark hair at the Wellness Mama website.

VolksRose Portable 12 Eggs Slots Holder Shockproof Storage Box for Camping Hiking - Green
#5 I got tired of eggs breaking in my ice chest, so I picked up an egg suitcase from the camping department at Wal-Mart. It turned out to be a great investment. I hardly ever have to deal with an egg that breaks in the suitcase. Eggs in the suitcase only break if I drop the suitcase really hard while I’m rummaging around in the cooler. I save money and have fewer messes by keeping eggs in their special container.

#6 I deliberated for quite a while before I bought my stainless steel camping cup, but I’ve never regretted the purchase. My cup cost around $5 from the camping department of Wal-Mart, but there are many different brands and designs available from a variety of manufacturers.

I like being able to put the cup directly on the open flame of my stove. No longer do I have to drag out a cooking pot to heat water for tea or instant soup. I keep the cup hanging in the food area of my van for quick access, but the folding handles allow me to put it in my backpack more easily if I need to carry it with me. I can eat cereal or soup out of it and drink tea, coffee, or Emergen-C from it. It’s versatile, easy to clean, and truly makes my life easier. If I were living simply, without a bowl or a pot, I would make room in my life for this cup.

MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 - Inflatable Solar Light, Clear Finish, Adjustable Strap
#7 I’ve never put solar panels on my van, but I do love my solar powered Luci lights. They require no expensive, quickly drained disposable batteries, and I never have to plug them in. All they need is the power of the sun. I have a couple that are still providing me with light despite the fact they no longer inflate. (The plastic of one was chewed up by a forest rodent, and a hole developed at the plastic’s seam of another one.) A few hours in the sun gives me several hours of light. They provide enough light to read or write by, which is crucial to me. I don’t know what I’d do at night without a Luci light.

#8 I bought my Mr. Buddy heater (more accurately called the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy) on a whim at my first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) A guy had a brand new one he wanted to sell because he’d found something he liked better. I paid his asking price, not even sure I would ever use the thing. I’ll tell you what, in the last 3+ years that heater has kept me warm on many occasions. It heats my van fast and is ideal when I want to warm up before I crawl into bed at night or before I get out of bed to get dressed in the morning. I never sleep with the heater on, and I always crack a window when I’m using it, so I feel perfectly safe.

#9 Since my welcome-to-2018 tire disaster, I keep a large can of Fix-a-Flat in my van. I’ve not had to use my emergency can, but I did give one away to some folks on the side of the road having tire problems of their own.

For about ten bucks, I at least have the chance of pumping up a flat tire and getting myself to a tire repair shop, thus saving myself the ordeal of a tow.

EPAuto 4 Gauge x 20 Ft 500A Heavy Duty Booster Jumper Cables with Travel Bag and Safety Gloves (4 AWG x 20 Feet)
#10 Another way I stay prepared to handle my own emergencies is by keeping a pair of jumper cables in my van. It seems like every time I go through a daytime headlight area, I forget to turn my headlights off when I come out the other side, and my battery drains while the van is sitting in a parking lot. I’d be a fool to count on finding another jumper cable-owning driver willing to give my battery a jump, so I provide my own tools for the job. Also, as the owner of jumper cables, I get to be the hero when someone with a dead battery and no tools asks me for help. No matter who has the dead battery, with jumper cables in my van, I’m the winner!

Don’t know how to jump start a car? The Dummies website can help you out.

Of course, you don’t need any products in order to live in a van. To start your vanlife, all you need is a van and yourself! I started my vanlife in an old G-20 with no bed of any kind. They guy who was my boyfriend and I slept on blankets on the floor. We started out with nothing. In my next van, I placed my sleeping bag (a gift from a kind fellow I’d just met) on the back seat that folded out into a bed and called it good. You don’t have to wait until you can afford a bunch of things to start living in your van. If you want to be a vandweller, move into your van today! However, perhaps getting some of my essentials for vandwelling can help you live a little more comfortably.

Note: I’m endorsing these products because I like them. No one asked me to endorse them. No one paid me to endorse them or gave them to me for free to review. The pictures you see in this post are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of those links, you will zip over to Amazon. Anything you put in your cart and buy after clicking on my affiliate link will earn me a small advertising fee at no cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Hand

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I’m not telling you this story so you’ll think I’m cool. I don’t think what I did was really so special. I’m telling you this story to inspire you to help someone who might need a hand.

I think we had just turned down Indian Route 15.

The Lady of the House and I were on our epic road trip through Arizona and Utah. We’d just left Winslow, where yes, we stood on the corner. Now we were on a long leg of the trip to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. We’d left the I-40 just east of Winslow, and were currently in the Navajo Nation.

I think we had just turned down Indian Route 15 when we saw the man and the woman standing next to a dusty SUV pulled off on the shoulder of the road. I don’t remember how we determined they were having trouble. They weren’t waving their arms or otherwise trying to signal drivers to stop, but trouble was the only reason I could imagine for pulling off the road there.

We should see if we can help them, I said to The Lady as I passed the people and their vehicle, then slowed down to pull off on the shoulder ahead of them.

You jump out and ask if they need anything, I said to The Lady. She’s the more outgoing of the two of us, so I figured she’d be better at approaching strangers.

She did jump out and was back quite soon. The people had a flat tire, she reported. They had phone service and water, so they didn’t need our help with those things. The woman wanted to know if we could give her a ride just down the road to a supermarket so she could buy a can of Fix-a-Flat.

I didn’t mind giving her a ride. While my van only has two passenger seats with seatbelts, there was room for her to perch on the edge of the bed. I could drive slowly so she wouldn’t feel her life was endangered without a seat belt.

Too bad I didn’t have the 12-volt air compressor I’d bought earlier in the year after a tire disaster on BLM land. I’d purchased the compressor along with a can of Fix-a-Flat in preparation for future tire disasters. Unfortunately for the people with the flat, I’d left the compressor with The Man who was rolling on three used tires and more likely to need it. If I’d had the compressor with me, I would have used it to try to pump up their tire. Maybe the tire would have held air long enough to get them to a tire repair shop. Since I didn’t have the compressor, all I could do was give the woman a ride so she could buy herself a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Oh wait! I had a can of Fix-a-Flat. I could just give her my can of Fix-a-Flat which would save us both time and save her money too.

I jumped out of the drivers seat and went around to the back of the van. After opening the doors, I had to move bags of food and a large plastic tote so I could rummage around in a small tub, but I finally put my hands on the can of Fix-a-Flat.

Is this what you were going to get? I asked the woman who had come closer to the van when The Lady beckoned her. When she said yes, I handed the can to her and told her she could have it.

She thanked us, and The Lady and I jumped back in the van. I don’t know what else we could have done to help.

The supermarket the woman had said was just down the road turned out to be about six miles away. I wouldn’t have minded driving that far, I told The Lady, but it was father than I’d expected.

When she asked for a ride, I asked her how she was going to get back, The Lady told me. She said she would walk. That would have been a long walk!

I would have waited for her, I told The Lady. I would have given her a ride back to her truck.

However, since we still had a long way to go to get to the campground where we planned to stay that night, I was happy I was able to simply hand over what she was planning to buy anyway.

I replaced the can of Fix-a-Flat a couple of days later while we were in civilization. When we got back to Babylon, The Lady gave me her family’s old air compressor that no longer works when plugged it into a regular electrical outlet but does still work when I plug it into my van’s 12-volt outlet. Now The Man and I are both prepared for tire disasters.

I hope the people on Indian Route 15 were back on the road in no time.

This photo is on the side of a laundromat in Kayenta, AZ.

I took the photos in this post.

 

 

10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters

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You probably read about how I started off 2018 with a tire disaster. (Even one flat can be a huge inconvenience, but I’m going to call three flats on two vans and no usable spare a disaster.)

Today I’m going to share what I learned from my tire woes in hopes of helping my readers possibly avoid and at least prepare for their next flat. I wish a true tire disaster on no one, but if it happens, you can be ready.

#1 Run on tires that are in good condition. It’s easy to ignore tires when they’re doing a good job rolling you down the road. It’s impossible to ignore a tire that’s gone flat and left you stranded. While purchasing good tires may seem like an extravagance (it often has to me), you’re less likely to have a flat if your tires are strong and in good condition. Make sure your tread depth is within acceptable limits. Check for cracks in the tread or sidewall. If you can see the metal wires in the tire, you are in imminent danger of a blowout. If you’re buying a used vehicle, determine the age of the tires even if they look new. According to Car and Driver,

most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years and should be absolutely be swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.

#2 Don’t count on roadside assistance. It’s great to have roadside assistance, either through your insurance or AAA or the Good Sam Club. (Roadside assistance from my Progressive insurance has saved my butt on several occasions, as has AAA.) However, what roadside assistance offers may be limited. AAA can’t help you if you’re off the pavement. Roadside assistance is great if you’re on the road, but if you’re a few miles out boondocking on public land, you’re going to have to depend on yourself (or possibly the kindness of strangers).

#3 Know how to take off a flat tire and put on the spare and PRACTICE the procedure. This is a tip I need to take to heart. I know in theory how to change a tire, but theory will be mostly useless if I’m stuck somewhere without help. If you don’t have someone to teach you how to get the flat tire off and the spare tire on, watch a tutorial online, then get out there and put your knowledge to the test.

#4 Check your spare. Is it in good condition? Is it properly inflated? Can you remove it from its holder? A spare that’s flat or inaccessible is worthless.

#5 Have a jack that’s strong enough to lift your rig. The scissor jack that works to lift The Man’s minivan might not be able to handle the weight of my conversion van. Make sure your jack is what you need before you need it. Don’t have a jack? Get one.

Slime 40032 12-Volt Tire Inflator with Gauge and Light
#6 Invest in a portable air compressor that runs off your vehicle’s battery. I have a Slime brand portable air compressor and I’m quite happy with it. A hitchhiker The Man and I picked up warned me that the air compressor would drain a vehicle’s battery, but neither The Man nor I have had that experience. (That hitchhiker was a real naysayer on just about every topic.) If your tire has a slow leak, you can use the air compressor to pump it up enough to drive to a tire repair shop.

#7 Carry a can of tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator in your rig. This product (made by Fix-a-Flat and Slime, among others) costs under $10 (if you buy it in civilization and not at some rip-off gas station in the middle of nowhere), and will help get your rig to a shop where the tire can be repaired or replaced. I have a big van with big tires, so I carry a big can of Fix-a-Flat with me.

The DealNews website has a good article on the pros and cons of using tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator. I would not use my can of Fix-a-Flat before first trying to inflate the tire using my air compressor. If the tire wouldn’t hold air from the compressor, I would then take off the flat tire and put on my spare. I would only use the Fix-a-Flat if I had no other option. Also, tire sealant is not going to work on a gash, slash, or blowout, so its usefulness will depend on the type of damage the tire has suffered.

#8 Once you use sealant/aerosol inflator in the tire, get the tire to a repair shop as soon as possible. My understanding is that sealant/aerosol tire inflators (like Slime or Fix-a-Flat) are for temporary, emergency use only. You have to get to a tire shop as soon as you can to get a proper repair.

Fix-A-Flat S60269 Aerosol Tire Inflator with Eco-friendly Formula, 24 oz.

#9 Get the warranty when you buy new tires. I think I paid $20 per tire for my warranties, which felt like an extravagance at the time. However, the $20 I paid got a tire that cost over $100 replaced for free. The money I spent on the warranty seems like a bargain now.

#10 Choose your boondocking site carefully. If you’re boondocking on public land, think carefully about the spot you choose. Lots of folks like to be as far away from the main road and other campers as possible, but think about how far you’ll have to walk to get help if you have a flat or mechanical problem. If you can’t solve your own problems, you may want to park closer to the main road.

Also consider the road to the boondocking area. Can your tires handle ruts and pointy rocks that may be present? You don’t want to damage your tires while trying to get closer to nature. Get out and access the situation before you blissfully head out into the wild blue yonder.

Don’t let my story of tire disaster scare you. Use what I’ve learned so you can prepare for and hopefully avoid what I went through. However, please know that these tips are just suggestions. I am not responsible for your safety and wellbeing. Only YOU are responsible for your safety and wellbeing.

Also, feel free to share you stories of tire disasters in the comments section below.

Tire Disaster (Part 2)

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Hitchhiking Hand Sign2018 started out with a bang! The Man and I got back together and decided to go camping on BLM land. We ended up getting three flat tires (two on his minivan and one on my van) in less than 24 hours. Today our saga picks up with us hitchhiking back to our vans after purshasing a $17 can of Fix-a-Flat in the nearest town.

The vehicle that did stop was a pickup truck. The driver said he was just going a mile or so down the road, but we were welcome to hop in the back. When we tried to hop in, we found the truck’s bed full of stuff, mostly cabinet doors. There was no room to sit anywhere but on the doors, and I didn’t want to damage anything. I ended up perched on the top edge of the truck’s bed. The Man got the dog on top of a door lying in the bed and held him there while he perched on top of the closed tailgate. The driver pulled the truck back on the road before I felt safely situated, and I hung on for dear life. I knew what we were doing was dangerous, especially as the truck picked up speed, but it seemed too late to change our minds. It took a long time to go that mile or two, and I reverted to my Catholic ways and said a few Hail Marys to take my mind off the danger we were in. christianity, jesus, maria

I was grateful and a little woozy when we were dropped off, but we still had miles to go before we got back to camp. We kept walking until a truck hauling an open cargo trailer stopped ahead of us. We rushed over to find a man and a boy in the truck. The Man explained where we wanted to go, and the boy (probably no older than nine) translated for his father. They were going our way, so we climbed into the second seat of the extended cab. The driver offered us a beer, and our polite refusal did not keep him from sipping on the can he already had open.

Soon we were zipping down the road at 75 miles an hour (in a 55mph zone! while pulling a trailer!), and it didn’t’ take long to get us back to our camp. We said our thanks and felt gratitude not only for the ride but for the fact we’d made it back to our vehicles safely.

The Man had to take apart his van’s set up to get to the spare tire stored in a compartment in the floor. When he pulled the tire out, he found it was somewhat flat, but put it on his vehicle anyway to keep as much weight as possible off the rim. After he loaded the hopefully salvageable flat tire into my van, we added the Fix-a-Flat to my tire. It didn’t pump up the tire very much, but we had no choice but to drive very slowly to the tire repair shop in town.

The worker at the tire shop pumped up my flat and said while the Fix-a-Flat had ruined the tire for long-term use, it would probably make it the 25 miles to Discount Tire. He looked at The Man’s flat tire and said since the puncture was in the sidewall, the best he could do was put in a plug. After he repaired the tire, I paid him an additional ten bucks to grind off the bolt holding my spare tire to its rack, then replace it with a bolt that could be removed.

It was early afternoon when we arrived at the very busy Discount Tire shop. When it was our turn at the counter, the very nice worker was sympathetic to my plight, especially the part where another worker at another Discount Tire location had cross threaded the bolt holding on my spare, thus making it impossible to remove. He confirmed the Fix-a-Flat had basically destroyed my tire, but because I’d purchased the warranty on it, he was able to replace it for free.

Once the new tire was on my van, we went directly to Wal-Mart where I purchased a large can of Fix-a-Flat and a Slime brand portable air compressor that runs off 12 volt. I was not going to be caught unprepared again.

It was after dark when we returned to the road down which The Man’s van was parked. I dubbed it Three Flat Tire Road, and I didn’t go far down it in hopes of decreasing the risk of another busted tire. I pulled off the road into the first flat spot my van would fit in.

In the morning, The Man removed the spare from his minivan and put on the repaired tire. Then he removed the second flat tire and put the spare in that spot. We drove 25 miles to a used tire shop that had a tire to fit The Man’s van. Once back at camp, he replaced the spare with the good used tire and put all of his belongings back in their places. The next day we left the area, fearful of getting another flat.

My new tire is working great! I appreciate the customer service I received at Discount Tire, and I’m glad I splurged on warrantees for all of my tires.

The good new tire The Man bought is working fine too, but the brand new tire with the plug had to be replaced. Apparently, damage in a sidewall is just about impossible to repair. The plug never set well; every couple of days the tire was flat, and we had to use our new 12 volt air compressor to pump it up. The Man was going to buy a plug repair kit at an auto parts store, but when he took it up to the counter and asked the worker about it, the guy told him not to waste his money. The worker also warned him that the tire would likely blow out at 65 miles an hour on the interstate. Since then, The Man’s replaced the plugged new tire with a good used tire. It was sad to see the new tire go to waste, but there was nothing else to be done.

One flat is an unfortunate inconvenience. Three flats on two vans and no usable spare surely qualifies as a disaster. Wednesday’s post will be about things folks can do to prepare for and/or avoid tire disasters.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/hitchhiking-hand-sign-889086/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/maria-mery-sant-51524/.

Tire Disaster (Part 1)

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2018, celebration, colorfulThe Man wanted to get back together. I was skeptical, but I agreed to meet him when my dog sitting gig was over on New Year’s Day. It was good to see him. We talked, then decided to camp on nearby BLM land.

I’d brought black-eyed peas and kale so we could eat for luck and money in the new year.

The tire on my van wasn’t entirely flat when I took this photo, but it wasn’t in any condition to roll down the road.

While I was preparing dinner, The Man looked over at my van and asked, Is your tire flat?

We investigated the back tire on the passenger side. It was not entirely flat, but it was definitely too low. It was getting dark, so The Man said he’d put the spare on in the morning and we’d drive the 25 miles to the nearest Discount Tire to have it repaired. In the meantime, he used the jack to lift the van off the rim so it wouldn’t be damaged from having too much weight resting on it.

I was in the van when I heard The Man cursing outside. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he had a flat too, also on the back passenger side. What are the chances of that happening? we asked each other, then went to bed.

We discovered the flat tire on the back of The Man’s minivan first.

In the morning, we lingered in the van until the sun camp up and the temperature rose. The Man was outside first. When I came around the front of my van, I saw him standing on the passenger side of his minivan, looking down in disbelief. The front tire on the passenger side was flat too! The chance of having three flat tires on two vans in less than 24 hours has to be exceedingly low.

We discovered the flat on the front of The Man’s minivan in the morning.

While the back tire that went flat on The Man’s minivan was old and in need of replacing, my tire and the one on the front of his vehicle were both only about two months old. As we realized later, all three punctures were in the sidewalls of the tires. In one of the flat tires on The Man’s van, we found small pieces of wood protruding from the puncture. WTF? We’re still not sure what caused the flats, but we ruled out roofing nails since none of the punctures were in the treads.

At this point, we decided after breakfast the first order of business would be for The Man to take the flat tire off my van and put on the spare. However, when the time came, he couldn’t get the spare tire off its mount. Two years ago when I bought new tires and asked the folks selling them to me to save the best of my old tires for my spare, they’d put the spare on the mount attached to my backdoor. I’d had no need for the tire since then, so I didn’t know the bolt holding on the tire was cross threaded. Nothing The Man did would budge that bolt.

We put on our walking shoes and headed to the nearest town—about twelve miles away—in hope of buying a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Fix-A-Flat S60430 Aerosol Tire Inflator with Eco-friendly Formula, 20 oz.

We were on a road with very little traffic, but when vehicles approached, we stuck out our thumbs. Most of the vehicles we saw were commercial trucks, which I never expected to stop, but the infrequent passenger cars we saw just rolled on by too.

Finally a young guy in a really clean, sporty car stopped for us. The Man and the dog got in the backseat, and I sat in the front. I tried to make friendly chitchat until I realized the young guy barely spoke English. I took a careful look around the car and found it extremely clean—no dust, no fast food wrappers, no cigarette butts. I did see a beverage can in the holder between the seats. I couldn’t quite see the can’s label, but something about it whispered beer. I glanced into the back and on the floor behind the driver’s seat was a twelve pack of Modelo. Our boy was a morning beer drinker. I hoped he wouldn’t crash the car.

Thankfully, he drove us safely to the Shell station by the interstate. He went on his way, and I thought about how angels sometimes drink beer for breakfast.

I asked The Man to go into the Shell station and choose the proper product for my flat tire while I stayed outside with the dog. Once he used his mechanical expertise to pick out the best product available, I’d go in with my debit card to pay. He wasn’t gone long. He said he’d left the can on the counter by the register and told the lady working that I’d be in for it shortly.

When I went in, the can of Fix-a-Flat was indeed on the counter. I told the lady working the register I’d take it, and she rang it up. I almost passed out when she told me the total was $17 and some cents! I suspected the stuff wouldn’t be cheap, but $17 seemed excessive. But what could I do? I needed the stuff, so I paid up. (I found out later, the same can of the stuff cost under $8 at Wal-Mart.)

So now that we had our Fix-a-Flat, we started our long walk back to our vans. Every time a passenger vehicle passed, we stuck out our thumbs, but it was a long time before anyone stopped.

This post turned out to be a long one, so I’m going to make it a two-part saga. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to read the rest; the conclusion will run tomorrow. On Wednesday, I’ll share what I learned from the experience and give you 10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters.

Image of fireworks courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-lights-night-new-year-s-eve-66277/. I took the photos of the flat tires. The image of Fix-a-Flat is an Amazon associates link. If you click on that image, I’ll get paid a small advertising fee on anything you put in your cart and buy during your shopping sessession.