Saturday, September 26, 2009

Changing Tires

This is the look of a destroyed tire!

The look of a man trying to deal with two shredded tires on a motor coach in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. Grim, sweaty and greasy!

Help has at last arrived in the form of a large, tatooed, long-haired man with a battered truck and a portable air compressor. The logo on the truck is "Anytime Road Service."

He wondered why I was taking photos and I assured him I was creating a documentary of our trip!

August 22nd advanced our planned leave-taking for Vermont by several days. At that, it was a date nearly a month removed from our originally scheduled trip to visit my late father.
Dad's final health crisis developed suddenly, and we hurled clothing, toiletries and food supplies, as well as our elderly Siamese cat, into the motor home, with the grim prospect of 2100+ miles between our part of Wyoming and Vermont.
Heading out, we stopped in Riverton, the next town, where J. has bought tires for his trucks and equipment for several years. While greasy men with noisy impact wrenches put new tires on the front of the motor home, others performed an oil change and "full service." We went into the cafe and had lunch, then waited around while the service was completed. It was an hour after noon by the time we were officially "on the road."
J. stopped two hours later in Casper, WY to top off the fuel tanks and true to form as a long-haul truck driver of many years, he went around the motor home "tunking" the tires to make sure all was well.
Fifty miles down the road, there was a sudden and dreadful BANG! The coach rocked, overhead cupboard doors flew open raining out cooking pots and kitchen paraphernalia. A rest area sign loomed on our right and J. steered the motor home into the parking lot, bumping and scraping as the layers of tire tread peeled off.
Investigation showed that both driver's side rear duals had blown, taking out a portion of the tail pipe. J.'s best guess was that one tire had picked up a nail either at the fuel stop or soon after, causing a slow leak. As one tire went down, all the weight was being carried by the other.
The tire company had stowed the old tires in one of the storage bays under the motor home, so we did have spares, but they were not on rims. J. phoned 911 giving our location and was given several numbers for road service providers.
I watched him as he repeated numbers, scrawling on a sheet of paper hastily torn from my notebook. [He is mildly dyslexic--under stress he is apt to transpose numbers as he writes a series.] While I hovered at the rear of the coach, trying to console our terrified cat, Raisin, and restore fallen objects to their places, J. punched at his cell phone with increasing irritation. Nearly 5 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, middle of nowwhere [which describes most of Wyoming.] I could hear his side of the conversations: "What? You're not the road service? But isn't this 265-....? Oh, sorry." Curses and vile mutterings, jabbing in another number. This time I could hear the man at the other end: "Sorry sir, this is an auto parts store, but you might try....."
J. scratched savagely at his paper, intoning imprecations on the makers of Michelin Radial Tires.
"I want to go home, " I said, childishly, during a lull. I knew we had to continue if we could sort the tire problem, but looking out at the miles of unpopulated high desert country, thinking of the hundreds of miles to be traversed toward a destination of sorrow, my courage faltered.
Glaring over his reading glasses, J. responded in a tone of mild astonishment. "What," he inquired, "would make you think we would turn around and GO HOME? This is nothing, a couple of flat tires; happens all the time."
Several retorts crossed my mind and were hastily squelched as unsuitable to the delicate situation. I opened the door of the fridge, leaping back as a number of packages and bottles jounced out. I retreived a small can of cold soda, shoved it across the dinette table in J.'s direction and exited the motor home.
I stepped over a strip planted with dry and tired yucca, and trudged across an expanse of hot-smelling tarmac to the rest area "facility." It was cool inside, with the familiar rack near the door--brochures describing area attractions. At the back of the room block printed signs directed one to "MEN" or "WOMEN." One portion of wall was taken up with a large map of Wyoming and the adjacent areas of bordering states. A red arrow pointed out "You are here" and gave an indentifying number for the rest area. Tacked beside the map, a piece of white poster board was filled with neatly hand written numbers grouped under headings: "Lodging; Food; Medical Emergency; Road Service." I rummaged a pen from my bag and a scrap of envelope, double-checked numbers. I burst back into the motor home and presented J. with my list. I retreated to the bedroom while he began again to punch numbers, muttering the while that he hoped the phone's batteries would hold.
I hauled Raisin the Cat from where she had burrowed into the bedclothes. "It will be all right, " I told her, reassuring myself. She gave me a baleful "Mer-rouw" and hunched herself back under the quilt.
J. appeared in the tiny hallway. "I've got someone coming out from Wheatland", he said. "I caught him at the end of another service call. It will take him about an hour to get here." He crumpled his Coke can and stuffed it into the garbage sack, banged the motor home door. In a moment I could hear him clanging tires and tools out of the storage bays. While he wrestled with the lengths of bent exhaust pipe, I moved from one seat to another, took out a book, finally settled at the little table and began transcribing family research notes.
Two hours after the blow out, help arrived. It was another hour before J. and the serviceman had the tires changed. "Cheap enough, " J. stated, after he had handed over $274.00 and wiped grease and sweat from his hands and face. "The man's been on the go all day following service calls. You'd think he'd be able to afford a better truck!"
He started the engine and eased onto the highway, commenting that he hoped he could find somewhere enroute to buy four more tires--Goodyear, not Michelins!
I brought my book and strapped myself into the passenger seat. Shadows of early evening crept down over the distant foot hills as the road unwound. Coal trains chugged along their tracks, too many cars to count as we passed. Riding away from the setting sun, toward the Nebraska line, we drove into the night.


  1. Hullo MM,
    Nice post. Feels like I was there too. Would have reacted similarly to J as well I think, including that ' If you take ONE MORE bloody photo of me I'll stick that camera right.......' look.

    There is a law written somewhere I'm sure that says that breakdowns like this can only happen in the back of beyond and at the last possible moment for getting any help when you absolutely need to be on your way an hour ago....

    Stories like this are best told a few weeks later over a beer or a bottle of red............or in a blog of course.


  2. Yes, Al---it takes a while before the story can be objectively told, becoming an adventure rather than a wail.
    If you've read back to some of my earlier posts you may be getting the picture that we seem not to have "normal" travels. My first journey with J's family, over 40 years ago, should have warned me. Our grand children now use the phrase coined after that eventful day in 1963--"another typical Whitehurst expedition." Come to think of it: maybe that story should be recorded for posterity.