Travels With Belle, Part 3

Travels With Belle, Part 3

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By Robert Scott

One of the many lessons I learned from my dad was to keep a tire pressure gauge in your car. With today’s new cars, there is an alarm and a readout on the dashboard if the pressure in any tire drops below a set level, and there is even a display of each tire and its current pressure. But if the alarm displays and you end up needing to pump up the pressure in a tire, those filling station air pumps are notoriously inaccurate in their built-in pressure settings, if they even have a built-in pressure setting. Hence the need for your own tire pressure gauge. The point is to get the tire up to speed to enable you to drive to the place where they can find and fix the problem in your tire.

That happened to Belle and me, on the morning of day two of our month-long cross-country trip. After loading the car (not a simple matter when travelling with a 65-pound barking dog) and starting it in the Knoxville, Tennessee, motel parking lot, there was that alarm. My left rear tire was 10 pounds low. This type of event usually happens on a weekend, when everything is closed; but I was lucky, it was early on a Thursday morning. I found a service station with a working air pump on my third try, used that pressure gauge, and headed out. My car and its tires are new enough to be fully under warranty, so we stopped at the Toyota dealership in Clinton, TN, where we happened to be when business hours started. After a one-hour wait and a 15-minute repair, we were back on the road. There was a nail in the tire (who knows from where), extracted, and fixed.

Travelling across Appalachia is always beautiful, slightly less so when one is skirting the last showers from tropical storm Ida,but beautiful, nonetheless. I-40 through North Carolina (was that where I picked up that nail?) is windy and has lots of trucks, although not as many as in the past, in pre-COVID times. And the Appalachian scenery from Tennessee through southeastern Kentucky is a verdant paradise, when late summer and altitude have brought a break from the heat. Belle and I didn’t even mind the tire-repair wait, as we had an opportunity to take a longish walk through the morning air: clean and clear following the previous day’s rains, and altogether enjoyable. 

After a night in Louisville, Kentucky, we headed west and out of The South. Fifteen minutes after leaving our motel on day three, we entered Indiana, followed by Illinois and Missouri. The rolling foothills gradually gave way to prairie, and I could envision early settlers heading along the same paths we were travelling. We saw the Arch in downtown St. Louis as we drove along the interstate and realized that we would now be paralleling the Louis and Clark Expedition as they worked their way up the Missouri River, across the Rockies, and downstream to the Pacific Northwest, just as we would be doing. 

Arriving at our next “pet friendly” motel in a suburb of Kansas City, Belle and I enjoyed another walk. Have you ever heard of “Indoor Skydiving”? Well, you can do that, next door to our motel in Overland Park, Kansas. Belle didn’t seem too interested, other than the large grassy area adjacent to the skydiving tower. Me, I was just glad to stop for the night – and checked thefour tire air pressures, all good.