Monday, July 27, 2015

Angel Riding Shotgun

I make frequent trips to the Kootenays. When I lived in the Kootenays, I routinely traveled to the lower mainland. In the twenty-two years I've zipped between the two regions, I've never had car trouble. Until yesterday.

I took the long way home yesterday via Hwy 6 to Hwy 1, because I had to meet Hubs in Revelstoke to collect Youngest. The men of the family spent the weekend in Golden white-water river rafting for Eldest's stag, while the womenfolk partook in Daughter-in-Law-to-be's Bridal Shower. That was Saturday. Sunday I was on the road by 6:30 a.m. fully convinced I'd retrieve Youngest child before noon, and be home by 5 or 6. My Angel had other plans.

As I hurtled along the narrow winding highway, I alternated between local radio stations and one of two CDs in the car (don't laugh. I still have a Blackberry), sipping a Vanilla Soy Latte and singing along with Sugarland. Up and down steep grades, mountainous terrain on my right, drop off to Slocan Lake, and then Arrow Lake on my left, the occasional car going the opposite's a beautiful day for  a drive. I'm in the groove, belting out Why Don't You Stay, when all of a sudden---thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-and weird vibration. I punch the stereo off and...the thwapping sound does not go away. Nor does the vibration. Crap.

I whip into a rest stop just meters away, hop out of the car, and sure enough, the rear tire on passenger side is FLAT. Check my phone. No cell service. Um...

Whew. A huge motor coach with an SUV hooked on behind is parked in the pull out, which I belatedly realize is a rest stop. And it's paved. Thank goodness. Much easier to jack up a car on level pavement than sloped gravel, which lines 99% of Hwy 6. But, my car-jacker-upper/tire changer is nowhere around. And I can't call him. And I'm wearing shorts. And flip flops. And I haven't changed a tire in...thirty-something years? Okay then.

Pop trunk, haul out suitcases, flip up spare tire cover, dismantle Styrofoam packed jack/tire iron ensemble, and  yank out dinky spare tire. Now what? Hmmm....well, lets get that little plastic cover off the tire and expose the lug nuts. Yep, slim angled end of iron works well for that. All right. Five nuts; one is a locking nut. Perfect. Um...okay. This socket here must be meant to unlock the locking nut. Fit it on, shove on the tire iron, won't budge. I pull, I push...nothing. The friggin' nut won't budge. What is it, glued on? I look around.

It's kinda lonely out here. Quiet. Just me and the silent motor coach. But there's a little step stool on the ground out front the door, which means the occupants are probably elderly. Or short. Either way I suspect I can out run them. Even in flip flops. And maybe, just maybe, they'll be of a mind to help should I not figure out a way to get this $%^&* nut off. Okay. Deep breath...

I stand on the tire iron, use two hands to grip the car's back window flare, and HAUL on the car, while at the same time pressing down with my legs. Grrrrrrrrrrrr..............After what seems an eternity, but before I herniate, "squeeeeeeak" and the tire iron shifts, and I almost fall flat on the pavement. (See what I did there?) Ha. Ha. Any way, I regain my footing, and experience momentary joy. I loosened the first nut. Yay, me!

Now, remove the funky locking socket, and follow up same procedure with just the tire iron for the remaining lug nuts. Four more grimacing, grunting episodes with me perched on the tire iron like a penguin on a twig, and Voila! I have the nuts off. Go me. I set nuts and iron aside--nicely organized--and grip the tire. I pull. I heave. I shove. I jerk the $%^&* thing back and forth. Nothing. It will not budge. I crank the jack and lift the car higher. Maybe the tire's catching on the pavement. But no, there is daylight under the rubber. So, I push, pull, and wiggle again. Nothing. What the--

Tears threatening, I draw a breath and dart a look at the motor coach. Still motionless and silent. The road remains quiet. The cell phone is good only for taking pictures. And who knows when a bear will amble out of the trees, or a serial killer pull into the lot in his windowless van? #$%^&* tire! I kick it. And it pops off. Wheeee!

Ten minutes later, dinky tire cranked on and belongings returned to the trunk, I drive off. I'm still wobbly when I pull into Halcyon Hot Springs a few minutes later and ask to use the phone. I call Hubs, tell him I'll be late. Lady behind the counter eavesdrops on my conversation, expresses awe and admiration that I changed the tire myself. I'm too shaky to feel much more than glad to be rolling again.

Two hours later, I finally meet up with Hubs and Youngest. There is not a single tire store open in Revelstoke. Hubs heads south, Youngest and I turn west. Sicamous businesses are shut up too, but a very nice proprietor (Sicamous Auto Service) has his bay open to help a different couple who had hit something with their SUV; he agrees to look at my flat tire. It has a split sidewall. Not repairable, and he has nothing in his shop to fit my car. On to Salmon Arm, still toddling at max 80 km/hr as that is all the donut, as the dinky spare is called, is rated for. Hallelujah, good old Canadian Tire is open. But they don't have my size tires. Erg.

Tootle along to Kamloops. It's now 330 pm. I got the flat at 930 am. It takes me thirty minutes to determine that, as with all the other towns I've passed through, that on Sunday the tire shops are closed up tighter than Scrooge's wallet; only two locations that sell tires are open, Costco and Canadian Tire. Costco does not have my size tire. Canadian Tire is understaffed and over-worked and not taking walk-ins. I walk in.

Dan, Canadian Tire Service man, listens to my tale of woe. When he hears how long I've been driving on the donut and how far I've yet to go, he, very kindly, if reluctantly, fits me in; he sells me two new tires to replace the filleted one and tells me he'll have the car on the road ASAP. An hour later, donut safely in its proper hole, Youngest and I humbly thank Dan the Canadian Tire Service man and the technician that helped get us, safely, back on the road, and dash off to Starbucks for food. We get gas. We're ready to make up lost time. We hit the highway, and FULL STOP.

A major storm cell blew through a few hours earlier packing sheeting rain and hail and turned the highway to a skating rink. Three separate multi-vehicle accidents resulting in thirteen people being transported to hospital, one in critical condition, have the highway shut down. Youngest and I look at each other, the long, double line of motionless traffic ahead of us and the steady stream of vehicles filling up the hwy behind us, and shrug. We're there for the duration, whatever it may be, but we have a cooler of food, suitcases of clothes, cell service and the company of hundreds of other stranded motorists. We're good. And then it hits me.

If I my tire had not split a seam, or it had been a week day and I'd been able to repair/replace said tire sooner, Youngest and I would very likely have wound up smack in the middle of the vehicular mess that now has us parked and listening to a book. More, my tire went flat on one of the rare level stretches of Highway 6, just before a nicely paved rest stop where tired, and not early-riser tourists, had chosen to spend the night in their motor coach. And it was a rear tire that split, which is significant because you can't drive a front-wheel drive car with a regular tire and donut on the front. Had a front tire split, and I survived the sudden loss of steering unscathed, I would have had to move a rear tire to the front and put the donut on the back. I tell Youngest as much. He nods. "Lucky," he says.


I smile, glance up, and offer a silent, Thank You, because as with other times in my life when a major inconvenience turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, I don't think Luck played a hand. I believe it was my Angel, riding shotgun.

Traffic filling up behind us.
Photo: Deborah Anderson, 2015

When nothing is sure, everything is possible. ~Margaret Drabble


Linda G. said...

Even with your angel riding shotgun, that's still quite an ordeal. I applaud your attitude. :)

Deborah said...

Thanks Linda. It was. An interesting day, for sure. :)