Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Riding the donut to Casper

On the west edge of Glenrock on the Old Glenrock Highway, there's a pullout with a historical marker where John Fremont's expedition camped and the pioneers wrote their names on the rock. It's just past the HOME OF THE HERDERS sign -- quite possibly the least intimidating high school mascot ever.

I was driving Etta, short for Henrietta, the hail-damaged Taurus. Yes, I name my cars so they'll know they're wanted and will last longer. Like many irrational humans, I believe I am the car whisperer (link NSFW).

I stopped, took a picture, then heard a sound ... hissing.

Denial is always my first plan of attack. No, that can't be what I think it is. The car always makes a few creaks and pops and noises when I stop, right? But it's pretty clearly continuing and pretty clearly coming from the right rear tire. I call the husband who directs me to the tire pump with a gauge in the trunk. Oh, that's low. Definitely low. It keeps hissing. Etta has an owie in her foot. I feel around the tire for a nail or something, but come up with nothing.

It's 8 a.m. on a Sunday and I'm in Glenrock, Wyoming, population 2,576 per the highway sign on the edge of town I'm next to. Something tells me there's no 24-hour tire store a block down the road. Thank goodness I bought AAA. I am a 45-year-old woman with poor mechanical skills and questionable upper body strength. I've never changed a tire in my life, and I don't intend to start now. The last time this happened I relied on the kindness of a stranger. This morning, I call for a tow truck.

The call center people are extraordinarily helpful and what really impresses me is the very first question they ask is "Are you in a safe place?" Am I safe? I'm pulled well off the road on the edge of a small town right next to a church. I'm as safe as anyone ever is in this universe.

An hour and two poems jotted in my notebook later, one sleepy young tow truck driver arrives to put the spare on. By the time he arrives the tire is FLAT, flat. Mushed all the way to the ground flat. He takes off the tire and puts on that goofy little spare they provide. I've never driven on one, and I know you can't drive on it forever. I ask him where I can get it fixed and he says back in Casper at Sam's Club. He reassures me I'll be fine driving the 24 miles on it: "I've seen people drive on those things for a week."

The driver's manual says to not exceed 50 MPH, so I set the cruise at 45, turn on the blinkers and head back. Once one thing goes wrong, it's hard for me to quell the anxiety that something else will. I keep imagining a wheel will fall off.

The tire is unfixable. Of all things, it has a razor blade in it. A razor blade? My first thought is "Who hates me that much?" But I certainly couldn't have driven this thing from Cheyenne this way. Plus it's jammed in sideways. I ask the man at the service counter how this might have happened.

"Were you anywhere with a lot of construction trucks?" he says.

"I think so. I was out on the Old Glenrock Highway."

"That could be it," he says. "I see all sorts of people out on that road with flats."

So the verdict is it probably came off a truck and I kicked it up. As they say in NASCAR, I cut a tire down on the straightaway on some debris. Lesson learned: don't drive that road.

One new tire and five hours since the first time I left Casper, I leave Casper. I would have liked to have gotten better acquainted with Glenrock, but there will be no dawdling now, just a straight shot home on I-25. I make one stop in Glendo at the little store with the brightly painted tables and get the poor man's frou-frou coffee -- half vending machine French vanilla cappucino and half coffee.

About 30 miles out, I watch the mile markers and count down every mile. Twenty-nine miles, 28 miles. It's an uneventful rest of the trip, and when I walk through the door I am grateful beyond grateful to be home.


  1. Thanks, gal. :)
    More than OK, really. Was just coming back from a poetry conference so I took the time waiting for the tow truck to write a little bit in my journal. AAA was so helpful on the phone and both the tow truck driver and the tire guy at Sam's Club were incredibly nice. So definitely not the worst day I've ever had!


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