Tuesday, September 26, 2023


RVer Safety: Mountains, flat tires and rest stops

By Mike Sherman

Being flexible is a part of RVing. We set out on our journey with plenty of fuel, food, first aid kit, water on board, fully charged cell phone, maps, weather reports, traffic reports and perhaps reservations at your favorite campground. You will perhaps travel across a desert, climb mountains and elect to stay in rest stops while you proceed to your final destination. But what if … your engine starts to overheat, you get a flat tire, you start to feel nauseated for some reason? As luck would have it, there is no cell service. Let’s take a look at what you can do to help ensure your safety and security.

Nothing is more frustrating than to encounter problems on the road. Fortunately, you seldom have a problem. Preventive maintenance and planning ahead pays good dividends. But like I said, we have to be flexible. Stuff happens. If you can make it to a rest area, that beats parking on the side of the road. But if that is your only option, place some safety devices out and remain inside your vehicle. Sooner or later someone will stop to offer assistance.

Try to make a note of the numbers on the nearest paddle marker – mile markers tell the authorities and tow companies exactly where you are located. Unfortunately, there are people out there with one purpose – to take advantage of your situation. But the odds are very slim; the odds are in your favor. By keeping the door locked and communicating through a window, you ensure a certain level of safety for you and your family. You would not want to open the door unless the person is wearing a uniform. You will be able to see any tow truck, police car and other evidence of relief that rolls up. Therein lies your clue that you will be fine.

I have heard horror stories about rest areas and some of the ugly things that can happen there. On the one hand, they offer rest rooms, vending machines (in some areas), areas to walk the dog, lighting, and safety from perhaps getting rear-ended by a drunk driver out on the roadway. I have even seen pay phones at rest stops. They look like antiques and I’ve never checked one to see if they actually work. Perhaps they remain in place for the exclusive use of Superman!

At any rate, the concentrated gathering of people coming and going at all hours at a rest stop does offer a level of comfort and the horror stories are few and far between, just as with campground crimes. So, exactly how do you proceed? You need help – a tow truck perhaps, or a call to a nearby friend to respond. We always assume we can be a pretty good judge of character, but these days it can be more difficult. At some point you are going to have to do something you are not used to doing – ask a total stranger for help. You will probably have options – truck drivers, commuters, cars, pick ups, males, females, young people, old people. You scan the crowd and make your decision. I vote you contact a fellow RVer – for obvious reasons.

I believe in the goodness of mankind until they convince me otherwise. Sometimes your wits can guide you in such matters. Let us hope you never find yourself in such a position, but if you do, a fellow RVer is probably your best bet to connect with someone who can relate.

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 


  1. Way back in college, I had a tire blow out in a low-traffic rural area, and an older gentleman stopped and made sure I had the spare, wrenches, and knowledge I needed. Other than being roadside, I was doing fine, but this was long before cellphones so his stopping was appreciated. Over the years, I’ve stopped — a lot — for other people, to return that favor. These days, most just wave me on with a cellphone in hand, but the same kindness applies in my mind. Pragmatically, they are probably calling a pay-service where I’d change a tire or jumpstart them free. I’ve occasionally winched people out of the snowbank, and they don’t owe me more than a smile.

    • (cont…) 20 years ago, I gave a family a ride up the road. I’ve been camping and “hosted” an entire boyscout troup for a night when they had gotten in way over their head canoeing in a storm (they were not remotely “always prepared”, LOL).

      Now, sadly, I increasingly meet people more afraid of a stranger helping them than being truly stuck. I ask if they need help roadside or a call from the next cell-service area, but still see more distrust than relief. It’s not an imposition if I offer. I realize I’m a larger guy, but I *think* I’m more marshmallow than wrestler in appearance. I pointedly introduce myself (sometimes flashing ID), let them read my plates, but the change is sad.

      • I agree Mr. Wolfe..the change in society IS a sad state if affairs. I think women are more afraid today than ever, as we recall the horrid recreations of someone broken down on the highway and a serial murderer, looking clean cute and “normal” offers to help, only ending up taking a precious life. As an RVer often on the road, we do all we can to prepare ourselves to NOT breakdown- those extra little time-consuming things that could make the difference between landing at a Park or being stranded.
        I love the fact you still offered comfort, compassion and assistance, assuring them there are still kind people out there willing to help your fellow RVer!


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