Or at least my world is.
So there we were, driving home from Williston yesterday afternoon. It was a calm day and the temperature was in the teens. Carjo was blissing out in her seat, enjoying the sun. NPR’s World Cafe on the radio. We rounded the corner where we lose Hwy 85 and were traveling east when underneath the car an unholy racket began. We both figured that it was a flat but it was a damn noisy one. I was just glad it didn’t make me lose control of the Mercury Land Yacht. So I eased over to the far side of the shoulder and got out to take a look.
The whole passenger rear tire was shredded and had broken away from the rim. There was the smell of burnt rubber and that corner of the car was resting on the wheel. Now, changing a tire on the Mercury Land Yacht is not an easy task. Last time I did this was in our driveway and it was one roadblock after another to getting the thing off. The wheel covers are beyond stubborn, the lug nuts are on TIGHT, and the tire iron is ineffectual. Instead of being in the shape of a cross, it’s just a single length ratchet wrench with little means of getting enough torque to snap the grip the pneumatic factory wrench put on the lugs. So I had my doubts of being able to pull this one off. But it wasn’t like we had any options. There wasn’t a garage in our town with a tow truck and I wasn’t going to even attempt to track one down from Williston. So it was time to put my man pants on and at least try.
I tried popping the cap over the lugs and the wheel cover off nicely but neither were cooperating. So I just dug in with the end of the tire iron and broke the cheap plastic wheel cover, which finally loosened plastic cap over the lugs. Then I struggled to get the plastic tops off of the lug nuts, which serve absolutely no purpose other than irritation. But I got all the plastic off the wheel and dumped the shreds of it in the trunk. I’m a good North Dakotan. I don’t litter.
The jack that comes with the Mercury Land Yacht is a little folding piece of cheap steel that takes approximately 15,000 turns to lift the car. By now the knees of my pants were soaked with mud and snow, my insulated gloves looked like I was making mudballs, and I was wondering when my back was going to start to give out. As expected, I couldn’t get any sufficient torque to loosen the lugs with just my arms. So I positioned the iron so it was horizontal and stood on it. That broke the seal. So I did that the remaining four and then lifted the car enough to pull the smoldering mess off of the axle. I put what remained of the tire in the backseat because I wasn’t going to strain my back trying to maneuver it into a place above our trove of groceries and hardware. So the hard part was done.
Now keep in mind, US Highway 2 is a four lane. Despite this, all those oil-bidness semis have no idea that you should get in the passing lane when going by a downed vehicle. Nope, they just roar by at 75 mph, shaking the car and blowing my coat up around my ears. Professional drivers my fat ass.
I got out the dinky spare and got it on, dropped the jack down, and tightened it up. Hustled into the car, caught my breath, and glanced at the clock. I had done it in under a half hour. With a more cooperative car I could have done it in 15 but that’s not the Mercury Land Yacht. I put it into gear and pulled out on the highway, which made the lights for the traction control, ABS, and parking brake go bright. I figured the sensors were thrown off by the little tire. I kept it at 60 all the way and it got us home.
There is no moral or lesson here. We’re just glad one of those maniacs in a semi didn’t rear end us or that the tire blowing didn’t throw us out of control. I’ll have to take the car to a local Farmers Union station to get four new tires one of these days. There is no way I am driving to Minot on that little spare. But we’re home safe for the long New Years weekend and that’s all that matters. There’s a cat lying a few feet from me and the dog is with Carjo. And now I’ll get back to writing for real.