RV Tires and More Yellowstone

Friday, September 4

Did I mention that after that big 10.8 mile hike I did yesterday that I couldn’t rest when I got home? Instead, I dumped tanks, stowed away all loose items in Cas, and hitched up so I could depart early this morning.

A flock of cowbirds invades the campground

A flock of cowbirds invades the campground

No, not for a weekend getaway or anything exciting like that; to get Cas’ new tires put on.

For those new to RVing, tire replacement on a RV is a bit different than on a vehicle. Usually an RV’s tires will age out before they wear out, although for an RVer who drives a lot of miles that may not be the case so do keep an eye on the tread. Depending on who you ask, most people recommend replacing the tires on a trailer or motorhome every five to seven years if they don’t wear out first.

One of many thermal areas along the Firehole River

One of many thermal areas along the Firehole River

Now, you can’t just go by when the tires were put on for that five to seven year calculation. You should go by when they were manufactured, which could be a whole different story. When I bought my Casita in 2012 I had paperwork from the previous owner saying the tires were purchased the year before, so I assumed they were one year old which would put them at four years old now.


The very deep Blue Star Spring, with bacterial colored runoff behind.

The very deep Blue Star Spring, with bacteria colored runoff behind.

All tires have a date stamp of when they were made, a four digit code that most of the time is inside an oval, it does vary from brand to brand. The first two numbers are the week the tire was made, the second two digits are the year. One of my old tires had a manufacture stamp of 2708, the 27th week of 2008 (early July). They were seven years old! Definitely time to replace.

One might wonder how a person goes about getting tires and such out in the middle of nowhere like this. Well, I ordered new tires from tirerack.com a little over a week ago and after a conversation with my employer had them shipped to the Yellowstone Association warehouse up in Gardiner, MT (much easier than getting them shipped inside the park proper). Then the tires were put on the shipment with the sales goods bound for the Old Faithful store on the next regular delivery day, much to the confusion of the staff unloading the truck that day (I’d forgotten to warn them, oops).

Old Faithful Visitor Center, otherwise known as my current place of employment

Old Faithful visitor center, otherwise known as my current place of employment

And yes, I did check the date stamp on the new ones (late October 2014) as soon as they came in. No way was I making the mistake of paying a premium for three year old tires.

I’d already spoken with the Yellowstone Park Service Station folks (they run the gas stations in the park, but a lot of their locations also do vehicle and RV repair) and confirmed that they could put the tires on. Once I made sure the manufacture dates were acceptable, I called and set up an appointment which happened to be at 8 am this morning, so in Cas went.

Old Faithful Inn under cloudy skies. Loved this as a B&W

Old Faithful Inn under cloudy skies. Loved this as a B&W

Much to my chagrin, Cas’ old spare tire was a different size than the ones actually in use. How did I not realize this when I was checking age? Good thing I’d never needed it because it wouldn’t have worked very well.

The wait was only a couple hours, after which I drove the 10 minutes back to my site and unhitched, and then walked back to the geyser basin (another 2 miles to add to my total hiking) to take the photos seen in this part of the post. It was a busy day at Old Faithful being Labor Day weekend and all, the park should start quieting down after this.

Old Faithful - Labor Day Weekend

Old Faithful – Labor Day Weekend (click for larger image)

Thursday, September 10

Originally I was thinking of driving down to Jackson today, but around dusk last night my neighbor called to me from her living room window and asked if I’d like to go hike Lone Star Geyser with her.

This hike was one I’d planned to do ages ago, but my attempt was thwarted by road work in the parking lot. Today the newly paved parking lot is nearly empty when we arrive around 9:30. The trail is wide and partly paved, like the trail out to the natural bridge it use to be a road autos could drive on long ago. Now it’s open to hiking and biking only.


A much smaller Firehole River upstream of Old Faithful

We don’t see a soul on the walk out, but startle a grouse pecking along the side of the trail and are scolded by numerous chipmunks and squirrels that are busy gathering food for winter. Most of the trail is through young lodgepole pine forest which I’ll admit by this time of the season is nothing new, but it does follow the Firehole River nearly the whole way which is pretty. It’s 5 miles round trip to get to the geyser and back.

Lone Star has an impressively large sinter cone that must have took hundreds of years to build up. Its nearest major geyser neighbor (Old Faithful) is about three miles away as the crow flies, hence where the name comes from. Eruptions happen about every three hours although it’s not as regular as some geysers and there are distinctive phases.

During the first phase usually lasting about an hour and a half, the geyser is quiet with only an occasional trickle of steam.

Is it alive?

Is it alive?

During the next hour, Lone Star slowly comes to life. A rumble becomes audible, the steam becomes heavier, then the flashes start. These mini eruptions become more frequent as the major eruption approaches.

It is alive!

It is alive!

The next half hour or so is the eruption proper. During the first half jets of water spurt from the cone at heights of 35-45 feet, emerging at an angle. Because of where the viewing area is in relation to the sun, this is a good geyser for getting rainbow pictures during eruptions. My neighbor and I didn’t stick around long enough to see Lone Star in true eruption.

The water phase transitions into a steam phase in the second half of the eruption, where large volumes of noisy steam are expelled. The steam slowly tapers off near the end of the eruption, until the geyser lies quiet again.

After getting back from Lone Star I take a drive north to Madison, which I drive past every week when I go into West Yellowstone for groceries, but have not seen yet.

It’s small, as far as Yellowstone villages go. The visitor center and Yellowstone Association park store are tiny, and aside from a building near the parking lot with vending machines and bathrooms there are no other amenities here.

Adorable little Madison visitor center

Adorable little Madison visitor center, very different from Old Faithful

There is an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Madison River though where ranger programs are held every evening during the warmer months. During peak the program starts at 9 pm, but starting today that time has been moved up to 8 pm, because the days are getting shorter I imagine. I might try to get down here to see one because I bet seeing the presentation on that large outdoor screen would be pretty fun.

One of those mountains to the north is Purple Mountain, which I hiked earlier in the season

One of those mountains to the north is Purple Mountain, which I hiked earlier in the season

Most of the people who come to see the evening program here are going to be campers.

Madison Campground is one of the reservation campgrounds run by Xanterra. It’s got one of the longest run times, opening at the beginning of May and staying open until mid October. It’s $21.50 a night before taxes, there are 278 sites, and it’s at an elevation of 6,800 feet. There are flush toilets and dump stations but no showers, generators are allowed between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.

Example of a pull-through site

Example of a pull-through site

There are pull-through and back-in sites available, all look to be paved but some are quite unlevel. The pull-throughs are those curved kind that might be hard for some larger rigs to get into although there is no official max RV length at this campground, most of the back-ins would be too short for me to keep Bertha and Cas hooked up together. I’d definitely go for a site on the outside of the campground if you value privacy, the campground is well forested but there’s very little undergrowth so it’s easy to see your neighbors.

Example of a back-in site

Example of a back-in site

None of the sites are on the river and if any of them have a water view it would be minimal. The river is within walking distance for the whole campground though, and the ones on the south side of the campground wouldn’t have far to go at all. This part of the river is open to fly fishing, which would make Madison Campground a good choice if you like fishing. The cliffs and mountains to the north and south of the campground mean there is no cell signal here (at least for Verizon), but they sure are pretty to look at.

Walkway from the campground to the river. That's National Park Mountain to the south.

Walkway from the campground to the river. That’s National Park Mountain to the south.

Almost there!

Almost there!

* * *

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Up next: the exciting off-trail adventure that completes my 100 miles!

Up next: the exciting off-trail adventure that completes my 100 miles!

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  1. Terri on September 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    You are SOOOOO close to that 100 mile mark!!!! Wow!

    I thought of you yesterday when I was at Zion National Park. A thunderstorm came in and it was one of the most amazing and beautiful sights I have ever seen. Didn’t even mind being hit by hail! I’m planning on trying to do Angels Landing at some point – not the whole way beause of my fear of heights, but at least parts of it. Pushing those boundaries of the comfort zones, you know?

    I love having all these reviews by you of the various campsites, helps to plan my visits when I go there! (Because, eventually, some day I will.)
    Terri recently posted..Have You Ever?My Profile

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Yes Terri, so close!

      That part of Utah doesn’t get rain very often, but when it does it’s usually pretty spectacular. Twice last summer they had to close the park when torrential rain caused mud slides that blocked the road or flooded the river to the point where washouts became a concern. Glad you had a great time and yes, Angel’s Landing is wonderful! All but the last half mile more or less regular trail (only the part on the fin at the end has the crazy chains) so I should think you’d be able to get pretty far. Good luck!

      And you’re welcome. You’ll enjoy Yellowstone when you get out here too. 🙂

  2. Jim Schmechel on September 15, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I like how your neighbor can invite you on a hike from her living room window 🙂 It sounds like you are living in a little community, which is nice. Thank you for sharing your world with us!

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Well, my neighbors are my coworkers so we know each other pretty well. 😉 You’re welcome Jim!

  3. Jim@HiTek on September 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

    It’s a little after the fact, but replacing ‘aged out’ tires is really a myth. Or at least doesn’t really apply to other than Class A RVs. What happened to cause it was years ago, RV’ers complained about the harsh ride they’d get with certain tires. The tire manufacturers developed lines of tires that had a softer composition. Turned out, they were more susceptible to UV and started getting sidewall cracks and blowouts early in their lives. Especially if the RV sat for months at a time. And even more so in sun baked climes.

    Manufacturers have pretty much solved that problem by making them a little more UV resistant. In addition, many RV’ers now carry vinyl covers for their tires when they’re parked of a length of time. These days tire manufacturers often put a ‘lifetime’ rating on their web sites for their RV tires. I can’t recall any that are only rated at 7 years.

    In any case, trailer tires are in a different category. For one, you won’t be riding back inside the trailer, so there’s no need for the tire to have a softer ride. And two, trailers are often towed somewhere and parked for years at a time so the tires are designed to withstand that as best they can.

    If a RV is driven, or towed, regularly, this prevents early tire degradation. You are one of those people who shouldn’t have to worry about the tires age but mostly should be concerned about wear.

    I wanted you & your readers to know that reaching an arbitrary date in a tire’s life, especially with trailer tires, doesn’t mean the tires must be changed. Perhaps it’ll save them some time and money.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Visit with the Family…My Profile

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      Well Jim, I’ve had tire covers for mine since the beginning and have used them religiously when parked for more than a week in a spot and I was still starting to get cracks in my sidewalls (not bad, but noticeable) so I wouldn’t have felt comfortable continuing to drive on them. Maybe it was the brand I had? Maybe it’s because these tires were right at their weight limit and were under more stress? (the ones I have now are a bit bigger with a heavier weight limit) Maybe it’s because they sat unused in a warehouse for three years before they were put on?

      Who knows. All I know is I’ve heard stories from people like Larry above who’ve had blowouts on older tires that looked perfectly normal and I’d rather play it safe than sorry.

      • Jim@HiTek on September 16, 2015 at 10:15 am

        Better safe than sorry is always a good policy.
        Jim@HiTek recently posted..Visit with the Family…My Profile

        • Becky on September 16, 2015 at 5:33 pm

          Yeah. Although if you can get more than 7 years out of your tires, more power to you. 🙂

  4. Larry on September 15, 2015 at 10:54 am

    When I bought my RV I had no idea about the 5 to 7 year age limit.
    I just looked at them and they looked like new tires. Of course on the way home with it one of the rear tires came apart and tore up the black water tank cover.
    I did some research online and discovered the date check for RV tires. The next morning when I went to buy 7 new tires the truck tire shop told me the 6 I had were fine.
    They were all 9 years old and looked new, (well except for the one that was in many pieces) but I knew they were not fine.
    I checked all 7 new tires and refused 2 of them as they were 2 years older than the others.

    6 years later, maybe 15,000 miles I had to have the same talk with the tire shop. They just didn’t want to sell me 7 tires to replace the new looking ones on my RV.

    Safe Travels

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Yeah Larry, if you’re shopping from a place that usually only sells auto tires they won’t get it because on an auto they always wear out before 5-7 years so it’s not an issue. Hope the blowout didn’t do too much damage and happy to hear you haven’t had any problems since.

  5. pamelab on September 15, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Hi, Becky – I really enjoy your posts and the great photos. It looks like you are going to make your goal of 100 miles! Great job. Yellowstone is such a beautiful place and I have not been there yet. It’s on my list. Thank you. Happy Travels.

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Yes Pamelab I hope you get the chance to visit, Yellowstone is really something else!

  6. Dawn from Camano Island on September 15, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Good morning, Becky! Thank you for the info on Madison CG. One of Jim’s dreams is to fly fish in the park–this might be the place to camp so that he can accomplish that. The last photo looks like a bi bowl of tomato soup–whee’s the cheese?! You’re so close to your 100-mile goal! ^5 on that–super cool! Enjoy your last few days–it’s been fun to see the park through your eyes. It must’ve been a busy summer there–I saw something online the other day that said Yellowstone had a record number of visitors this summer!

    Take good care & have fun!

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      You’re welcome Dawn! Yes I’d say the best part of Madison CG is that the river is so close, and what a picturesque river it is! I saw a few people out fishing when I was walking over there and one person got a bite but I couldn’t see how big the fish was.

      As of the end of August the park hit 3 million visitors which is a record for the first 8 months of the year. The previous record for a whole year is 3.5 or 3.6 million, something like that, and we’re predicted to break that by the end of December.

      As for that spring, yes it is called Tomato Soup. 🙂

  7. Angela on September 15, 2015 at 8:08 am

    So, did you get to rest at all? I would’ve been exhausted! I hiked 2 miles on Saturday in the Texas heat (and it was actually mild!) and thought I was going to die. Not all of the DFW Metroplex is flat, let me tell ya! The Cedar Ridge Preserve is not for beginners. lol. My legs still hurt. (If you get a weekend where you want to go explore, it’s not too far of a drive from where you’ll be staying for Amazon, w/ nice views overlooking Joe Pool Lake.)
    So kudos for reaching your 100 mile goal!!! I got 10 years on you and 50+ pounds, so it sounds like a big milestone to me, but it was probably easy peasy for ya. Still a wonderful accomplishment – and your readers get to reap the rewards! 🙂

    Oh, PS… I visited the Casita factory/showroom this weekend as well. Loved the 17′ Spirit!!!
    Angela recently posted..SailingMy Profile

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      A little Angela. 🙂

      I’ll keep the Cedar Ridge Preserve in mind when I get out to DFW! Hopefully your legs are feeling better now.

      Are you thinking about getting a Casita in the future or just curious? It’s a neat place for sure and I still believe I made the best decision (for me) when I chose the Spirit.

  8. PJ on September 13, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Tomato Soup Spring?

    • Becky on September 15, 2015 at 9:12 pm


  9. Teri Live Oak, Fl on September 12, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I did not know the date manufactured was on tires. I learned something new. Thanks

    • Becky on September 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

      You’re welcome Teri. It hardly matters for auto tires because those always wear out before they age out, but for RVs it’s handy to know when they were made.

  10. Andy on September 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    We were heading back after spending a week at Florida Caverns State Park, and I swear I saw your doppelganger on the way home. It looked like a young lady driving your truck hauling a Casita on I-10 in Northern Florida. I knew it couldn’t have been you… maybe a long lost sister?
    Andy recently posted..Cave Tour at Florida Caverns State ParkMy Profile

    • Becky on September 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Well, Dodge Dakotas aren’t rare and neither are Casitas. Maybe I’ll get to meet her someday Andy. 🙂

      Hope you had fun at Florida Caverns.

  11. Jodee Gravel on September 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Glad Cas got her new shoes for your next adventures! Love Blue Star Spring, easy to see how it got the name. Madison looks like a very cute little spot in the big park. Those Labor Day crowds are pretty crazy, but they sure got a beautiful day to enjoy Old Faithful. 100 miles seems like a huge accomplishment, how lucky to have such a spectacular place to take all those steps :-))))
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Solo in the CityMy Profile

    • Becky on September 13, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Yeah Jodee, it kept looking like it was going to rain while I was on the basin, but the dark clouds blew over without doing anything and it was nice after that. Other parts of the park did get scattered thunderstorms, which is how the Spruce Fire got started in the middle of the loop road.

  12. Tom Gerth on September 12, 2015 at 11:49 am

    what kind of tires did you buy, Becky? I have the exact year/model as you…l just put some Kumho’s on (14″). Was debating upgrading to 15″ but would have needed to make some modifications. Maybe next time. I enjoy your blog!

    • Becky on September 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Yep the ones I bought were Kumhos Tom, I wouldn’t be able to upgrade to 15″ either without messing with the axle.

      Glad you’re enjoying IO, thanks for reading!

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