During the time I lived in Oklahoma, a good friend of mine from Michigan moved to Texas. Even though she was about 6 hours away, it was still the closest we’d been geographically in a few years, and we decided to take the opportunity to meet up. I loved a good road trip, so I volunteered to make the drive after I got out of work on a Friday afternoon.
I had a full tank of gas, perfect weather, and an audiobook ready to go in the CD player. I was excited for the weekend and couldn’t imagine that anything could go wrong.
About an hour into my trip, I blew a tire on the highway. I admit, I’ve been lazy about learning to change my own tire, and I tend to rely heavily on roadside assistance with an “I’m paying for it, I might as well use it” attitude. While that’s good in theory, I should have realized that even roadside assistance has its downfalls.
In this case, it took them two hours to get to me. It’s a little daunting to sit on the side of the Texas highway while vehicles speed past you on the left and the land stretches out to the right of you like something from a horror movie. By the time they finally got there, it was already getting dark.
Another downfall of roadside assistance is that a towing company can help put a donut or a spare on your car, but they’re not likely to have a replacement tire. All they could do in this case was replace the blown tire with my donut tire. While helpful in the short term, I still had four hours to go doing the speed limit. There was no way I was going to make it doing 40 miles per hour on a donut.
I managed to keep calm as I made my way to the closest town, crossing my fingers that I’d find some place that could mount a new tire for me that night. All the automotive shops were closed except for one late night shop that catered to truckers. After calling, I was told that they closed at 10 and I’d have to bring my own tire.
By the time I found the local Wal-Mart, bought my tire (which took $70 out of my travel budget), and tried to find the automotive shop that seemed to be hidden, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the shop by 10. The man had indicated he’d stay open a few extra minutes for me, but by that time it was past “a few extra minutes.”
I’d like to say that I remained calm and collected when I called him up to tell him I couldn’t make it on time, but I wasn’t. I was tired and stressed. I knew if I had to stay the night in a hotel room I wouldn’t be able to make it see my friend. In hindsight, I know I could have just tried to reschedule the road trip, but I was determined.
Instead of maintaining my composure, I lost it and started crying.
The tire guy told me to calm down and promised he’d stay open until I got there. He gave me directions, and I eventually found the shop. He was nice enough not only to mount my tire on the wheel and put it on my car, he only charged me $10. Considering he waited an hour for me and then spent another half hour helping me, he could have charged a lot more — or he could have hung up on me and said “Tough luck” in the first place.
The rest of the drive went better. I didn’t get to my friend’s house until sometime in the early morning hours. While it was good to see her, I have to confess that the extra tire expense and the stressful experience didn’t put me in the best frame of mind for a visit, and I’m lucky my friend is still my friend today.
In hindsight, though, I was actually very lucky. I found someone willing to go above and beyond to help me and there were parts of my trip where I had no cell reception. Had I blown a tire in one of those areas, I would have been in for a long, scary night sleeping on the side of the road.
For better or worse, it was an experience I survived and still stands as one of my most memorable travel stories.