Don’t leave home without it (a plan)

We all start things with optimism. Our expectation of the future is colored with what we wish things to be, often the “best case” scenario. But life is…well, life. It throws us lots of curve balls and sometimes a burner right down the middle. Rarely do we get that fluff pitch that begs to be hit out of the park.

Recently, I headed down to Florida for our semi-snowbird plan for the winter (I’m in-training for retirement). I decided to take our boat down hooked up behind the RV (about a 70’ caravan) with me at the wheel. What could go wrong with this scheme?

As it turns out, “plenty.”

When we bought the boat, it appeared as though the tires were in good shape (foreshadowing). One hundred miles down the road, one shredded itself. I found this out as a semi blew by blaring its horn as the driver pointed to my rear. So, I pulled over to check I’ve never seen such utter devastation. Literally about two strips of rubber around the rims and a few tattered strands flopping around uselessly.

I limped along to the nearest exit, praying that the other tire on that side would hold up to double duty. It did.

Next problem: It’s Sunday afternoon somewhere south of Spartanburg, SC. Nothing open! After several unsuccessful Google searches (where else would you start), I broke down and asked the girl behind the counter if she knew of anyone who did mobile repair. She whipped out a card and said, “I saw him at church, but he’s probably free.” Eureka!

The guy was very cordial but said it would be a while. What choice did I have? He called back after a couple of hours and said he found a wheel and rim that would fit, but that he didn’t have the cash to get it (probably didn’t trust me). So, I sent him funds via PayPal (now who’s the chump?). Thirty minutes later he arrived and in no time, I was ready to hit the road again.

Oh, did I mention that my wife suggested that I might consider turning around and just come back home to leave the boat? Nah, I got this.

One hundred and fifty miles later, another honk and gesticulation, this time from a family in a minivan. Yep, another blow-out. Thankfully, a Loves truck stop was at the next exit, and they had a tire service. Unfortunately, they only dealt with giant truck tires.

By now it is early evening and nothing to do but spend a (very sleepless) night. Thankfully, like a turtle I had brought my “home” with me. Lots of “what-ifs.” Too many rabbit holes to run down. By the time the dawn broke I was hopeless and exhausted.

Little did I know that salvation was just across the street. The “Four Holes” tire service opened at 8 am (really, who would name their business that?). Not only did they replace my tires (plural), but the owner also ran down the road to a boat dealer to pick up a couple of bearing covers. Three good tires and now a spare.

I turn down I95 and make the Georgia line before (you guessed it) another honk and another “shredded” tire (I use this term to distinguish it from a “flat” tire in which there is actually a tire left).

I pull into yet another Loves truck stop. This time all I need to do is swap out to the spare. Unfortunately, the mechanic informs me that he can’t do that. But he lends me his 3-ton jack and an impact wrench. Fifteen minutes (and a giant 32-ounce soda), I’m on my way.

I’m doing pretty well by this point, but my spare is now only a rim, so as I cross the Georgia state line i decide to stop at a Goodyear dealer. Yep, they have the tire, but it will be a long wait. I ask (with a hang-dog look) if he could possibly just replace the tire on a rim. Bingo.

It was amusing to see the tire tech trying to wrangle what amounts to a ball of rubber noodles off the rim. When it’s done, I decide to swap out the remaining “bad” tire for the new one, but don’t have the equipment. So over to the Home Depot I trudge to get a 2-ton jack, but they have no “lug removing” devices so I have to borrow another impact wrench.

Now I have four “good” tires and a crappy spare. I have a jack but no lug wrench so as I cross the Florida line, I stop at an auto parts store to buy a “four-way.”

I can make this happen (and I did). I finally pulled into the RV park…about 48 hours to make a 10-hour trip.

All of this tale of woe is said to poke fun at myself (self-proclaimed strategy-guy with no plan). But also, to witness the true wonderful nature of the human heart.

The mobile repair guy was an ex-Marine and as polite and helpful as could be. A trucker sprayed my lugs with WD40 to help break them free. The guys at the tire shop were magnificent. The owner personally took care of me when he had over-flow truck business. His guys constantly asked if there was anything else they could do. (I kid you not, one guy was wearing a jacket with a logo from the “world famous.” Daisy’s Show Bar). They were great “salt-of-the-earth…give you anything off their back-types (except Daisy’s jacket).

The guy at Loves lent me the tools at no charge. The Goodyear guys put me ahead of the locals because they knew I was in a bind (One guy even joked that he had seen me limping along on I-26 the night before – speaking of “world famous”).

Without those generous souls, I would not be sitting in Florida typing this column. I love America and I love the generous spirit of the South. God bless them all.

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