Monday was great weather for our trip from Rutland to Burlington, VT. No matter, at the risk of insulting those ever-so-accurate meteorologists, I even what it was supposed to be like for the entire week, just to make sure. Sure enough, the forecast didn’t imply even the slightest insinuation of moisture in the air. Score one for the Weather Team.
It was a two-hour ride coupled with two appointments that would each be would be a few hours apart. In between, a restaurant and a trip to the University Mall helped us satisfy the three-hour holdover. Overall, the trip was as uneventful as any other we had taken to Burlington. However, we hadn’t headed home yet.
If you’re anything like I am, you’re in tune with how your car is supposed to behave on a normal basis. You know the sounds, the smells, and the sensations you would expect from it. When you detect the slightest wiggle, you get hypersensitive until you realize it was just your daughter in the back seat jamming to 1D.
I felt one of those wiggles. Actually, it was more like a squishy slop coming from the back of the van. When we would turn a corner, the car would more glide around than follow the rest of the machine. I first looked in the rearview mirror; Kaleigh didn’t so much as have an ear bud in, and her lips weren’t syncing “…that’s what makes you beautiful.” Therefore, I did a quick “left/right” shift of the steering wheel just to make sure.
There it was, that sensation I was very familiar with. I pulled over in the hopes of proving myself wrong. I was not — the passenger-side rear tire was flat — mostly on the bottom, but flat nonetheless. Then, the accuracy of even the most imprecise weatherperson came to bear.
It started raining. Right then, right there, the sky opened up just in time to lend a hand in changing the tire. The scenario reminded me of a young Bill Bixby changing his tire in a similar situation — I prayed the lug wrench wouldn’t snap and make me very angry. I wouldn’t have liked that.
After loosening the bolts a little, raising the car and loosening the lugs a little more, I realized I had no idea the condition of the “doughnut” spare tire. Our car is eleven years old, spending most of its life in locales accustomed to using salt in combating snow and ice. Unfortunately, road salt is pretty darn good at combating cheap grades of steel, too.
I lowered the mini spare and my suspicions proved to be true. The years of road salt, rainwater, and abrasive debris under the back of the van did more than just chew into the tire rim. They had gotten their oxidizing little paws on the hangar holding the wheel, too. In doing so, the steel of the hangar and that of the wheel had become one, and (in the rain, don’t forget) I had to gently coax the two pieces apart. Dad smash!
The wheel did finally separate from the hangar, my clothing didn’t tear and my skin maintained its pasty blanched glow. I got the tire mounted, remembered to put everything back, and I was lowering the car in a little under 20 minutes…onto an eleven-year-old compact spare. It was hungry for air. Oh, and it was still raining.
No worries. The car would be dry and we were moments from Route 7. I would top the spare off in a matter of minutes and we could be on our worry-free way back home. Oh, if that were only true.
In five minutes, we had reached the convenience store. I got out of the van, into the rain, and — of course — found the compressor out of order. That was frustrating, but this was Route 7, one of Vermont’s main North/South highways. There would be another air compressor a couple miles down the road. Oh, if that were only true.
Well, there was another compressor down the road only a couple of miles. At least this one was good enough to post a sign that it was out of order. I could feel the gamma radiation working on my skin tone. We held on to the hope that the next compressor couldn’t possibly be out of order.
When we reached the next air service in about ten minutes, a lady was filling her front tire. Eureka! The rainbow-colored hose at this service station seemed to be doing its job. While I waited to use the machine, Lori and Kaleigh went inside to get snacks. In the meantime, the woman approached my window.
“Are you waiting to use the air pump?” she asked. I assured her I was, but that I was in no hurry.
“Would you mind helping me? I’ve used these things before, but I must be doing something wrong. It doesn’t seem to be filling up.” I got out to help her, and went right into Hero mode. This lass was so distraught, it would take my manly expertise to fill this poor damsel’s tire. Oh, if that were only true.
It didn’t take long to notice the rainbow cover of the compressor hose was nothing more than fancy duct tape. It was not doing its job. The only air coming out of this thing was escaping under the tape. Of course.
The next convenience store/gas station was brand new, and had been decidedly built without the frustration of an annoying air compressor. After that, we found another “OUT OF ORDER” sign. We traveled over forty miles before we found a compressor that was working; we had apparently been traveling on a mini-spare tire that was only one-third full.
We turned left out of the parking lot to travel home without worry. It had finally stopped raining.