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I was navigating a fairly tight bend in the road when the tire blew. My car had a mind of its own, then, deciding that the woods was much more enticing than the pavement. I don’t know what I hit exactly, but when I hit the the foliage, I was suddenly airborne. In those scant, silent moments as the car left the ground, I didn’t bellow the “Yeehaw!” I always suspected I would in such a case. I just tensed, thoughtless and quiet as I awaited the impact.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t much of a jump (though it felt like it at the time), but i still grit my teeth at the thunderous shuddering sound the Grand LeMans made as it hit the ground and came to a grinding stop. I sat for few minutes in the brush car recovering, my hand still viced around the steering wheel and heart thudding in my ears.
After I collected myself, I exited the car and took in the night air. There could have been a whole myriad of problems with the car with my impromptu stunt. But it was dark and I wouldn’t be able to see much. So, I popped the trunk, snagged my backpack and hiked into the hills for the night.
In the light of day, I was able to see the repercussions, and from what i could tell, there was only one: another one of the tires was flat. A total of two flats and only one spare didn’t leave a lot of room for options, so I removed one of the tires, hefted it on my shoulder and started walking. Having no clue which way the closest town would be, I just picked a direction.
I had only walked five minutes or so before a yellow dump truck rolled to a stop in front of me. The man offered me a lift in his slow, country drawl and I accepted it with gratitude. He dropped me at a gas station on the outskirts of some small town. I thanked him and as I was dragging my tire out of his truck, he said “I’m gonna be headed back this way in an hour or so. You want me to give you a ride back to your car?”
I was a bit flabbergasted, but accepted his generous offer. And sure enough, an hour later, the station had fixed my tire and that yellow dump truck came rolling in to take me back to my car.
I replaced the two flat tires, but one of them was a donut, and I knew I couldn’t drive the distance I wanted on that. So I took the other flat to the gas station to be repaired. But it was too far gone, I was told. The landing had bent the rim beyond repair. So, the mechanic pointed me to the nearest junkyard, and off I went.
At the junkyard I was greeted by another man who had the same laid back matter-of-factness the dump truck driver had. After I told him I needed a tire, he guided me through the yard in search of the same model. We scoured the place, but couldn’t find one.
“Well,” he told me, “we’ll just have to find a tire that will fit ya.”
So, he and I set into the yard, tire irons in hand. We tried tire after tire, trying to find a wheel that would fit and that looked to be in decent shape. After a couple of hours, we finally did find one. Ironically, we pulled it off an old Nova (see The Junker Junkie). And as the tire squared perfectly with the lug bolts, we both, exhausted, stared at it.
“Ten dollars,” he said.
“Really?” I replied. I had just taken up three hours of the man’s time and only had to flip a ten dollar bill for it.
* * *
It’s amazing how a small smattering of generosity can change your view on people in general. They weren’t so bad, I decided. And as I continued my journey, I still had my gatorade and beef jerky, but I lost my need for isolation. I kept my stick for a while (it finding an honored place in the corner of my trunk), but once again drove under the guidance of my road atlas. I still had a couple of days left. And there were a couple of friends of mine who were going to school in Columbus. It would be nice to see them, I thought.