Travelogue #14 – Memphis and a busted bearing

I was kind of glad to have Nashville in my rearview. The drive to Memphis wasn’t too long and seemed easy.

Until I got close to the campground.

As I drove closer to the campground, I hear this weird noise. It sounded like something rubbing or dragging. Since I was so close to the campground, I figured I’d check it out when I got there. I had had a piece that covers the undercarriage come off before and it sounded similar to that so I wasn’t too concerned.

As I pulled into my spot, I got out to check how I was doing – I’m still not great at backing up – and discovered the tire on the driver’s side of the trailer was almost falling off! That was the dragging noise I had heard – it had been rubbing against the fender.

I panicked. I was still halfway into the road and needed to back up a bit further to get out of the way. I tried to back up more but was terrified that the tire would fall off as I was moving.

A man pulled up, trying to get around me. I told him what was going on and he got out of his truck to check it out.

“Oh, shit,” I think it what he said, though it may not have been.

Cesar – he told me his name – offered to back the trailer up a bit more if I would keep an eye on the tire. A few attempts with me stopping him to adjust the tire got the trailer far enough off of the road that I could pull the car in and everything would be out of the way.


Once I calmed down a bit, Cesar said he thought it was just the bearings, a simple fix. I had kind of figured that out myself but it was reassuring to have someone else verify it. He brought over a jack to help support the trailer and helped take the tire off.

Another man – Mark – who was camping nearby with his family, came over. He had worked on RVs and cars, so he and Cesar discussed options with me. I also posted a picture of the tire on my Facebook and the DIY trailer group and they also said “bearings – simple fix.”

The camp host, Robert, came by and said he had a mechanic friend who could probably help and he would have him come up in the morning to look at it. Again, bearings, simple fix.

Sure. They don’t know my life very well.

This was Monday.

Tuesday morning, Robert’s mechanic guy came by, took one look and decided he didn’t know what to do about it. I went to a couple of places, looking for the right bearings before I realized I didn’t know what size the hub of the tire was. I needed that to make sure I had the right sized bearings.

Wednesday, I took the tire to the mechanic and had him remove the hub so I could take that with me as I searched for the bearings. I took the hub to Tractor Supply Co and someone helped me find what he thought was the right bearings.

Got back to the campground. Mark took the bearings out and discovered they were not going to fit. That’s when my friend who had given me the trailer told me that the trailer had apparently been custom built and that the tires were from a 1940s tractor. That meant that standard parts wouldn’t work. She didn’t know this initially, she had assumed it was a regular trailer.

Thursday. Got the other tire off, found the numbers on the bearings, researched to see if I could find them anywhere. Found them on Amazon but they would take too long to arrive. Tracked most of them down at a variety of auto parts stores so …

Friday – drove to every god-forsaken auto parts store in a 20 mile radius trying to track down all the parts. Several would have to have them ordered from the main warehouse so I would have to come back the next day. Fine. I got what I could and went back.

Saturday – ran around, got the pieces that had to be ordered. Pouring rain. Cesar had gone for a few days, having a new grandchild to check in on. Nothing could get done until tomorrow. F**k.

Sunday. Skies had cleared up. I put down tarps for Mark to work on. He started work and I had to leave to go teach my class. I couldn’t teach at the campground because there was no cell service or wifi. I was hesitant and almost cancelled my class, worrying that something would go wrong and that I wouldn’t be there to help fix it. Mark assured me everything would be fine and that everything would probably be done by the time I got back. So I left.

I had found a lovely little coffee shop that I had been going to practically daily so I could research and hopefully fix my tires. As I got there on Sunday, they told me they closed at 3 – 1:00 LA time. I would have only started by my class by then. I had had the same waiter and he knew how much I had been struggling over the week so he brought the owner over. She was very understanding and agreed that I could work out on the patio as long as I needed to do so. That way, they could close up the cafe and I would just take care of my own trash. Very thankful to Cafe Eclectic in Memphis!

I got back to the campground, hoping to see the tires back on the trailer and be told everything was finished. Instead, I caught Mark as he was driving off. Everything was done but there was a single washer needed and nothing we had would fit. He handed me the washer off the other tire and then drove off for something he had to do. I couldn’t complain because he had spent a lot of time working on the whole thing over a few days.

Monday – Drove around for hours, trying to find a single washer, only to be told over and over again that I would never find it because it was from a 1940s tractor tire. I even went to specialty places. Finally, several of them said I didn’t really need the washer and could drive without it, at least until I got back to LA and could maybe find someone who might have it.


Get back to the campground, tell this to Mark. I had also been told to find dust covers for the tires but again, impossible because they were tires from a 1940s tractor. So – live without both. Mark got back to work. I decided, screw it, I’m going into Memphis.

I went to Graceland first, deciding it would pay $45 to tour it. After all, my mother was a huge Elvis fan. I had also produced a play called “Second Coming” which is about a self-help group of Elvis fanatics – twice. Made sense I should go.

I got to the ticket area and realized I had read the pricing wrong. $43 to tour the jets and an exhibit of his costumes. $73 to tour the mansion. Yeah, no.

I drove across the street to stare at Graceland from afar.

What was amazing was so many people had signed the wall outside of Graceland, leaving their love and a piece of them behind. Signatures were on top of old signatures on top of old signatures. That touched me. So I took a black marker and added my mother to the names. I think she would have liked that.


From there, I went up to Beale Street to wander around. Before I got there, I passed Sun Records. I stopped long enough to go inside but the next tour was over an hour away and I didn’t want to wait for it. But it was cool just to stop by.

Beale Street was pretty dead but I got the impression that things picked up in the evening. I wasn’t going to hang around for that. But I did have some incredibly delicious chicken tenders that were some of the best thing I had eaten along the way. Wandered through all the stores. Was tempted to buy a hot pink cowboy hat but better discretion prevailed.

Got back to the campground, delighted to find both tires on! Yay! I paid Mark what I could, for which he was very grateful. He and his family have been through a lot of rough times recently so even the small amount I paid him would be a help. Spent the rest of the day cleaning things up and packing up, praying to the gods that I would be able to leave the next day.

Tuesday morning came, hooked up the trailer and drove it back and forth on the camp pad a bit. Everything seemed fine. Held my breath, waved good-bye to Memphis and headed off to Jackson and then New Orleans!

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