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Gone Flat

My apologies for being a tad late with my blog post–okay a day late. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to write well while buzzing down the interstate. Next week will be more timely. Thanks for stopping by.

Gone Flat

Last week’s blog post dealt with the realities, discoveries, and memories associated with human loss. With the recent death of a friend from Colorado, travel became one of those realities. Like Willie Nelson, my wife and I were On the Road Again.

During the sixteen-year period we lived in the Rocky Mountains, my wife and I had made the trek from Estes Park, Colorado to St. Louis, Missouri for family visits twice each year, sometimes more often. With our car usually packed to the gills, we ventured down the mountain side, across the wide-open plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, through the rolling hills of eastern Kansas and Missouri to arrive at our destination––then back again a week later. Although all of the road trips proved long and tiring, the majority afforded smooth travel. Journeys over the Christmas holidays, however, could be a toss-up. Windswept interstate highways in Colorado and Kansas might be ice-packed and rough as a pot-holed dirt road. Sometimes I-70 closed completely, forcing travelers to exit, find a motel, and pray for better weather. One year we preceded the snow plows and cleared a path with the fascia on our sedan. I kissed the ground once we motored onto clear, dry pavement. But through fair weather or foul, mechanical breakdowns never occurred. I guess we were overdue.

As my wife and I headed west from St. Louis this time, the sun shined brightly. Cross winds across the prairie were mild. Traffic was moderate. The roadways were clear and moisture free. The trip had progressed well. We’d made good time. Five miles from our turnoff, my wife was behind the wheel as we crossed a bridge over a dry creek bed.

THUNK!

“What was that?” she asked.

“I dunno,” I replied, and turned in my seat. Nothing lay on the highway behind us, or bounced toward the shoulder.

“Uh-oh.”

“What’s wrong?”

My wife pointed to the dashboard. The tire pressure monitor indicated the left rear tire had already lost ten psi. She slowed and eased onto the shoulder. Down another ten pounds. By the time I unbuckled and got out of the car, PHFFFFFT, the tire was down to the rim.

Anyone that drives across much of the western United States quickly learns that there is often a lot of open space, with little sign of civilization. Cell phones may allow folks to reach out for assistance, but that assistance typically resides many miles away.

“What now?” my wife inquired.

Janis Joplin’s interpretation of Bobbie McGee floated through my brain. I scanned the horizons, then shrugged. “Well, guess I get to see how that stamped-steel lug wrench works.”

The emergency flashers blinked a warning as we popped the rear hatch, unpacked our suitcases, then uncovered the necessities for repair.

There’s an old saying that states, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” With any luck at all, most people will never have to decipher the pictorial instructions that accompany their vehicle’s jack and spare tire. Though our directions featured abundant illustrations, the overall translation didn’t quite connect.

Interstate traffic buzzed by at 75 MPH––or more––as I hugged the car, lay on the concrete, and finally discovered the spot to place the scissors-jack. With that task accomplished, I stared at the lug wrench and sighed. Fortunately, it worked. About fifteen minutes later, I’d swapped tires, repacked the car, and we were ready to roll. Throughout the tentative ordeal, I kept glancing toward the assortment of oncoming traffic––compacts, SUVs, sedans, and eighteen wheelers. To my surprise, all but one driver spotted our dilemma and moved to the outside lane as they passed. THANK YOU!

As we limped down the interstate on our temporary, undersized spare, my wife called an auto dealer we’d dealt with in the past. Their service department ensured that they’d be waiting for us to arrive and either repair or replace the tire as necessary. The service team fulfilled that promise.

Although my wife and I reached our destination about two hours later than anticipated, the experience with courteous drivers and a cooperative repair facility had restored my faith in humanity.  Then we watched the evening news. OY!

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