ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The car trunk is empty save for the wool stadium blanket which is needed in Florida, and the beach mats which, at a time of record low temperatures, may never be needed on the southern Atlantic coastline.
But weather conditions were the last of my concerns during a 24-hour nightmare that boils down to a travel tip: Be prepared for anything and budget vacation money to cover other things than the basics of food, lodging, and entertainment - like a new $231 tire.
The trunk is empty because it was necessary to burrow through the boxes to retrieve the spare tire. Whoever invented them must never have had a flat tire; either that, or he or she had a financial interest in a tire company. A flat tire is one thing, but getting to the spare is quite another. In this driver's diary, an empty trunk is so unusual and exciting that now that the trauma has subsided, I open it twice a day just to see how cavernous and neat it can be.
If it's good for us to admit our mistakes, I may as well. This story begins on highway AIA about dusk, on the way to looking for a place that serves a good bowl of soup, not an easy mission in Florida. Driving was so rough that I wondered what had been done to the road to make the car make a funny noise. When it dawned on me, finally, that it could possibly be a flat tire on my car, Irene, the new red car that is difficult to keep under 80 miles an hour, I drove about eight miles to a gas station. Sure enough, the left rear was flatter than a tortilla.
As we know, gas stations no longer offer services beyond letting you pump your own gas and selling bread, milk, doughnuts, and lottery tickets. Changing a tire was far beyond the skill of the man working behind the counter.
A call to AAA got a gracious response, but the person said it would be a three-hour wait.
Is Ms. Powell going to spend three hours in the car with her darling dog, or hang out in the station talking to the guy behind the counter? Absolutely not.
Waving a $20 bill, I asked a strapping young man who came into the station if he would like to make a quick buck changing a tire. Richard was glad for the money to supplement his income as cleanup man at a nearby horse farm. He agreed to signing a receipt so that I could get the money back from AAA.
Richard unloaded the trunk to get to the tire while I stood by apologizing for the big heavy boxes.
Of all the inventions to come down the pike in the interest of motorists, the small spare tire has to be the most ridiculous. Being dependent on the baby tire to get from point A to point B to have the tire fixed, or replaced, adds hassle and cost to the tire-changing episode. In early automobile models a full-size, ready to roll replacement tire was inside the trunk or on the side of the car.
That brings me to the tire store in this vacation drama that put a wrench in plans for an extravagant New Year's Eve celebration.
The tire on the car with 40,000 miles was beyond repair. I had driven too far on it after it was punctured by a roofing nail.
As suspected, Irene, the car that has been “fast” since day one, always wanting to go at high speed, flashing her red exterior at the state police, does not wear ordinary tires.
Dr. Tar, where are you when needed for advice? Dr. Tar is our back-home mechanic whose word is gospel. In the meantime, I could read the New Testament, which was on the magazine stand at the store while I waited for the new tire to be installed. Providing Bibles where least expected seems to be the norm in the South, according to the young man who was also waiting. It was his second time at the tire shop in a week; both times for roofing nails embedded in his tire, and each time it was $120.
Would that the lady from Michigan with her dog could get by that cheaply. Mine was $231 - a cheaper one was out of stock.
Who else besides the lady from Michigan with the dog would buy a tire that is rated to go 149 miles an hour?
Highway patrol cars are equipped with high-speed tires. No wonder Irene has always been so difficult to keep under control. Watch our dust.