Great River Road 24 - A Close Call, A Water Crossing & A Bent Spare Tire Mount

Some unclear Great River Road signage leads to a close call and our first trailer damage.

I hate playing the victim.

Everything we’re doing is by choice.

Bailing on suburbia. Living in an RV. Following the Mississippi River down to the Gulf.

No one is holding a gun to our head to do any of this.

But there are times where we feel a bit at the mercy of decisions made by other people and organizations.

The GRR

The Great River Road is a collection of existing roads, managed by a collection of the 10 states the Mississippi River touches, each state having their own ‘Great River Road’  marketing. The entire deal then gets a top-level committee and website.

The GRR is mainly anchored by backcountry two-lane highways with occasional offshoots to smaller roads. We’ve taken a number of these offshoot “loops” - usually heading down a hill as you get closer to the river, getting a view of the river for a ways, and then heading back up a steep hill back to the main route.

Cue Tense Music

So far these have all been enjoyable - until this day in Kentucky.

We’re still not sure if we were technically on the GRR - and that’s the point, really. We followed a sign off the main route which looked like one of the river-bound “loops” that we have experienced. A couple of miles in the road came to a “V” - and with no signage to the contrary we stayed on the road we were on.

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As expected the road headed down a hill and around a slight bend - but this time it started getting much narrower than in past. Signage started talking about “water over the road” and “ATV Route”.

As we neared the bottom of the hill the “water over the road” wasn’t a puddle - it was a stream crossing. The road was getting narrow, everything was looking muddy, and it just didn’t feel like a place to be with a 34’ RV on your back.

I wanted out.

Inspections

I stopped us in the middle of the road and we got out to inspect. Crissa went behind and I went forward.

Behind was a small triangular-shaped shoulder area but also lots of edges with 1’ - 2’ drop-offs. Turning around would require backing up to this point and then a lot of back and forths, each with risk of dropping tires off the edges and getting hung up.

The only other ‘behind’ option was backing the entire half-mile up the hill and around the bend to a driveway we saw.

Ahead, past the water crossing, was more room to maneuver but the road edged a farmers field that was pretty muddy. That field is where I’d have to back the trailer into.

Oh, BTW

We were low on gas. Below a quarter tank which puts me in the “need gas in 20 miles” mode.

My truck tires are marginal.

And the truck is two-wheel-drive.

Visions of Tow Bills

I was starting to have visions of tow bills. We’re in rural Kentucky - probably an hour from any decent sized town. That wouldn’t be cheap.

Ahead It Is

I decided to go forward.

If we got stuck there at least there would be room to get a tow truck involved if need be.

My main concern was my marginal tires and the mud. I knew from my Jeeping days that it’s harder to get stuck if you have some movement going. I approached the water crossing at a slightly faster pace than I would have preferred. You can see what happened there in the video below.

Backing Up

I knew backing the trailer up would probably be OK - the spot where it had to go was softer and muddier but the road where the truck would be was harder pack and drier.

Pulling Out

The transition point from backing up the trailer to pulling forward again was where I was most worried. If I applied the gas too fast and spun the truck tires in the mud we were done. The truck would dig in, the tires would be mud-caked, and with no 4WD I’d be stuck and calling a tow truck.

The second video has this part - you can see how slow I was in getting the truck moving forward again. But I didn’t spin a tire and the trailer came out of the muck OK. Videos never seem to really show the reality of the situation!

The GRR Sign in Kentucky

The GRR Sign in Kentucky

Getting across the water and up the muddy approaches.

Getting turned aound in a muddy farmer's field.

Toasted Tire Mount

I dragged the trailer spare tire and tire mount each way through the water crossing (if you haven’t played the videos yet be prepared for MsBoyink’s reaction).

The spare tire looks to be OK, but the mount got mangled. I’ll try to hammer it back into shape but it might need to be replaced. If so I’d like to get a taller one so the tire doesn’t hang down past the bumper - we’d have been fine if that were the case.

No More Sideroads

We’ll still be on the GRR, but when it wants to take these side-roads off a numbered highway we’re going to pass. This just could have sucked in so many ways and I don’t want to risk damage to my home by taking roads that are obviously not RV friendly.

We’ll also be submitting this spot to the GRR folks to let them know that either this portion of the route needs to be re-evaluated or better signage is needed.

Update: It was our mistake. We took the wrong fork in the road and got off the GRR. However since that simple mistake could prove disasterous for any vehicles bigger than us we’ve alerted the Kentucky GRR folks that an additional sign at the fork would be awesome.

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4 Comments Great River Road 24 - A Close Call, A Water Crossing & A Bent Spare Tire Mount

  1. Picture of TerranceTerranceNovember 05, 2015

    This reminded me once when we took a turn and got stuck on this reminded me once when we took a turn and that stop on your room a a dirt road and had to unhook to reposition the truck

  2. Picture of JenniJenniNovember 05, 2015

    Wow!  That’s nuts.  Not a fun day. 

    Parts of this story remind me of the day we got too far down a narrow residential road and Kevin spent 3 hours backing the whole 55 feet of us up the road to get out when we determined that there was no other option.  I can honestly say I have never seen my husband so stressed in our whole married life.

    Yes, we were once towed 126 miles from Big Bend NP all the way to Ft. Stockton.  The bill was about $500, which meant the roadside assistance plan paid for itself in one fell swoop. 

    I hope the GRR committee fixes the signage.

  3. Picture of Andrea GraceAndrea GraceNovember 06, 2015

    Wow, my stomach dropped and I went into a cold sweat just watching that. Good job getting turned around and out of that! Hoping any damage was minimal…

  4. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkNovember 06, 2015

    Yes - the spare tire cover was toast (but it was looking bad anyway), and the spare tire mount will need to be reworked or replaced. All in all much cheaper than any recovery help would have been.

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