This road danced between state borders, skirted Civil War battlefields, wound along canyons and between farms. It delivered us, late and weary, from northern Georgia to Branson, MO, but not without also providing the frightening disintegration of a trailer tire, the second such problem of the trip. Disheartening at first, the circumstances that led to its repair were nearly miraculous. More on that in a bit.
Many US highways (not interstates) in the east, particularly the southeast, almost flaunt their use of space. The opposite-direction roadway is to your left across a huge grassy median, in the next county it would seem. These highways say yes, I am something of a big deal. North Carolina in particular pays attention to what their highways say about them, or they have more budget for this anyway: Flower beds and mown grass give a genteel look. Ads for tobacco, guns or porn, visible on other states’ roads, are not seen.
The first of two road days to Branson gave us some more Smokies, and then the charming views of Chattanooga, with a trip to Lookout Mountain battlefield which, though locked by our government’s shutdown, still allowed us to imagine the fighting there. Through more open fields of Alabama to Huntsville, sporting rockets and aerospace industry, we had our sights set on an overnight in Corinth, MS, when the awful sound of something isn’t right came from the right side of the trailer.
A quick pull-over. We were running on the rim and the tread had come apart from the walls and was hanging like a big rubber o-ring on the axle. It added to our difficulties that we stopped next to an ant hill. Any work on the tire had me, and the AAA guy, dancing… and not for joy.
Disheartening, I said. Nothing else has tested our delight in this trip so much as this. This was a new tire, replaced in Virginia because (my bad) I had trusted the air pressure to be right per the tire guys in California. (Note to self: Trust but verify). And AAA does not cover changing tires on my trailer. And the tire size is hard to find. And I’m parked by an ant hill.
Things work out, thank God. It’s my habit to analyze all circumstances through the lenses of faith, so I’m often baffled why some things go wrong, and then the repair of those things work out nicely. Why wasn’t that kind of management of circumstances active to prevent the problem in the first place? Yes, I know…life lessons are probably the reason. I persist in needing those, I guess. I am now the proud owner of a new digital-readout tire pressure gauge.
And this worked out OK: The hotel in Corinth let us cancel, no late fee. Their sister property in Decatur, AL, just a few miles from our ant hill, had just one room left. And the only—seriously, the only (I checked!)—store with a ST180/80/D13 available the next morning was right next door to the hotel. I mean right next door. We pulled the trailer on its spare to the hotel, replaced the tire at the tire shop next door, and left for Branson by 1:30 pm. We set up camp in the dark that night at 10:30.
Branson is set in the Ozarks. The setting is a beautiful bumpy jumble of rock strata and trees. Table Rock Lake, which we could see from our camp, sported a marina and trails; the camp itself was well-managed and its culture was restful, not rowdy.
The town of Branson is in some parts a caricature. It is the old TV show Hee-Haw. It is like a smaller Las Vegas, in its attempt to use neon and shows to invite crowds, but there the comparison ends. Replace the casinos with theatres, churches and amusement parks. No partying drunks here, but there are plenty of bus tours depositing seniors at country-themed mini-malls. Take Jay-Z or Wayne Newton off the marquees and replace them with the Oak Ridge Boys or Tammy Wynette tribute shows.
The town is family-friendly. And the people are marvelous. Here, as throughout the South, we are every waitress’s darlin’. We did not get to a show, maybe next time. And maybe next time we’ll see a grandchild or two on the miniature golf course, go-kart track or one of the area’s zip-lines.
The sunset gave a show over Table Rock Lake, a fitting last memory as we prepare to journey on. With 65 psi in each tire under our mobile camp, we wheel westward.