The spot where we stayed overnight was well recommended and was perfect for us. We didn’t get to see much of it in the darkness but in the morning it all became clear. We had had a very peaceful night and it was no surprise why, and we awoke refreshed after the previous days events.
However the tyre ‘issue’ was not done with us yet. When Irene took Rosie the Jack Russell for her morning constitutional she came back and reported that the spare tyre had gone flat! Oh dear here we go again. Ever the optimist after having breakfast I decided I would re-inflate the tyre and it should hold long enough to get to Dingwall Tyres about 6 miles away. The Bannermans driver had informed us yesterday that they would be the most likely place to get a new tyre and would probably have one in stock. I looked them up on t’internet and gave them a call and explained our predicament. The gentleman checked his records and confirmed they had the correct tyre in stock, adding that his record showed they have five. This was to be prophetic as I’ll explain.
We finished breakfast, a nice bowl of warming porridge, packed the dogs in the Granny next to the burst tyre, and got the van ready for the off as soon as the tyre was pumped up, hoping the tyre would stay inflated long enough to get us to Dingwall. I then inflated the tyre fully and off we set. Within about 1/2 a mile I realised the tyre was going down faster than I had hoped just by the feel of the handling, but I plodded on as far as I could but realised we were not going to make it. Within another 1/4 mile I had to give in and so I pulled over. By now we were just over 5.5 miles from Dingwall, so close and yet so far. I toyed with the idea of re-inflating the tyre once more but when I checked the tyre I could see and hear that air was escaping from the valve itself and then noticed that the valve rubber had perished. It was a miracle it had inflated at all, so once again we had to resort to calling on our recovery service. I was concerned that this incident might be linked as part of yesterdays ‘rescue’ but none of us could have known when we put the spare wheel on what the outcome would be. The recovery call handler clearly understood our predicament, which made a change from yesterday, and checked with his supervisor that this could be regarded as a separate ‘rescue’ so to speak. This was confirmed but now we had to wait for a ‘low loader’ to come and get us as we had no more ‘spare wheels’ to use. (Yes, the call handler DID ask that question). By now it was 10.35am and we were given the usual ‘within an hour’ estimate of the recovery’s arrival. Whilst waiting for the rescue I rang Dingwall to inform them of our delay and that we would probably need two new tyres at least. As Irene and I discussed the prospect of continuing on our travels with 3 tyres that were almost certainly the same age as the tyre that ‘blew’, we decided that we couldn’t risk another tyre failure so informed Dingwall we would need 5 new tyres!!! Ouch.
The rescue vehicle arrived sooner than expected and we commenced loading Bessie onto the back of the low loader. Bessie has a large protruding chassis member at the rear with the tow ball attached and on a few occasions when driving into steep turnings or driveways, this chassis can come into contact with the road surface. With the offside tyre flat there was a very strong possibility that this would happen when driving her up the now sloping bed of the lorry. I offered to drive Bessie up the slope whilst the rescue driver gave directions and had the foresight to put wooden blocks under the rear wheels in an effort to keep the chassis member from making contact with the road. This was largely successful and we managed to get Bessie up onto the bed of the truck with only a few minor scrapes and a bent socket plate. Now firmly strapped to the back of the lorry the driver instructed us to make our way to Dingwall’s and he would meet us there as, now that Bessie was on his lorry, he wouldn’t fit under the bridge a few miles down the road and would have to take a different route! We watched as our Bessie, looking so forlorn on the back of the lorry, disappeared down a side road whilst we set off as directed and soon arrived at Dingwall Tyres which was a hive of activity to say the least. We went into reception where they informed us they were ready for us as soon as Bessie was unloaded from the recovery lorry. The lorry duly arrived about ten minutes later and, after another nerve wracking period of trying not to scrape the chassis too much, Bessie was off and parked in front of the unit.
Whilst waiting for Bessie to arrive Irene had got chatting to a lady having her tyres changed and she informed us of a nearby cafe where we could get a cup of tea and some lunch too if we wanted. The ‘boys’ started work on the van informing us it would take at least 45 minutes to do all 5 tyres, which would have new valves and be balanced too, so it was that we visited a lovely little cafe that was part of a nearby Garden Centre. The big surprise was that they catered for Gluten Free customers and even asked Irene to taste a new gluten free cake they had made, as they were unsure it was ‘sweet’ enough as they couldn’t tell. After enjoying a nice bowl of home made soup with gluten free bread Irene gave the thumbs up for the cake. What a little gem of a cafe with reasonable prices, so well worth recommending.
We returned to the van to find Bessie was almost finished but before I went in to pay I asked that they examine the burst tyre to determine its age, as it still had plenty of tread on it and there seemed no reason for the failure. They came back to tell me that the tyre was just over 10 (yes ten) years old, and so was the spare that had also gone flat. It was obvious that the remaining 3 tyres were of a similar vintage and we had been right to change them all, especially when you consider that the Caravan Club, Camping & Caravanning Club and the Motor Caravanners club all recommend that Motorhome tyres should be replaced every 5 years, irrespective of mileage. We had been fortunate that this incident had not happened sooner and I dread to think what would have happened if we had been pulling our little Toyota Aygo and it had been a front tyre that failed at 60mph on the Motorway. The potential consequences don’t bear thinking about. A lesson learned methinks!
I went into the office to pay and the bill came to £425 all in which included tyres, new valves, balancing, fitting and VAT; not bad at all your for 5 new tyres!
Soon after this we were on the road again making our way to John and Helens at West Shinness near Lairg. John had kindly texted me detailed route instructions via the A9 and Bonar Bridge, however the Sat Nav thought differently and sent us up the B9176. Ever mindful that Sat Navs can be a bit fickle, I stopped after a short while to check we were on the right route. A gentleman farmer came by walking his dog and he kindly confirmed we were heading in the right direction, coincidentally telling us his last name was Bonar!. He even advised us of a couple of ‘viewing points’ en route that were well worth a look. He was indeed correct and we stopped at one of these viewpoints to allow the dogs to stretch their legs.
Afte this comfort break we were soon on our way again the route taking us over a couple of single track stone bridges that were very picturesque. We arrived in Ardgay around 2pm and took the opportunity to ring ahead and tell John of our progress. Indeed we were not far away now and would soon be with them.
Now we knew our friends lived in a relatively remote part of the Highlands as we had looked up their cottage on Google Earth. However what we didn’t bargain for was that the road passing their cottage, designated the A838, was actually a single track road with passing places! Apparently it’s the main fishermans route, hence the designation, plus it is gritted and kept clear during the winter.
As we approached their cottage Helen was waving to us and we drove straight into their driveway and parked up. We arrived at 2.45pm and I am happy to say that, even though we hadn’t seen our friends in person for over 13 years, it was just like old times and felt as if we had seen them only yesterday.
We had a very pleasant evening with our friends, catching up on the events in our lives. Helen had kindly cooked us a lovely meal and we chatted away for ages, finally discussing where we would go next. We went to bed in the Moho tired, well fed and happy! The difficulties of the last 24/36 hours had faded away!