I was really “tire-d”

Last Thursday was a wild day on the home front.

The girls left at 9:45 to help Tess at the SAC before their SALT session at noon.

I drove alone to Forsyth for a haircut at 12:30.

At 1:15, I left with Josiah to take him to the SAC for AIM.  I told Andrew I’d be back in 30 minutes, which I was.  He was fine to stay home alone with doors locked and instructions to answer the phone for no one but me.

At 4:40, Andrew and I left to take him to gymnastics.  I would then go by the SAC and pick up Josiah, because the girls were staying for Mrs. Lilly’s baby shower.  Either they (hopefully!) or I would pick up Andrew at the YMCA at 7:00 PM.   I was happy.  I had a plan.

So Andrew and I were on Hwy 65 heading for the Y.  I was in the left lane, doing a steady 65, and shortly before I got to the reduced speed sign before the Branson Hills exit, the van started feeling funny.  Something was rough, maybe a problem in the steering.  There was a semi beside me in the right lane.  Things got rougher and I smelled burning rubber.  The van was getting a bit hard to control, and I realized I had a flat.

I knew I had to get out of the traffic fast, but the shoulder on the left lane there is too narrow to pull over, and there’s a lane wall there.  I threw on my right turn signal to try to get over into the right lane, but the semi would NOT speed up or slow down.  I finally had to brake hard in the left lane (with cars behind me) to let the semi pass and then I shot over onto the right shoulder and stopped as soon as I could.

I was actually not too shook up, but Andrew was beginning to cry.  I had managed to park well; as far to the right as possible.  I got out and looked at the driver’s side back tire, which is the one I assumed was flat, but it was fine.  Then I turned and saw the smoke.  It was the driver’s front tire and it was completely shot.  The tread was completely ripped in big circles, and it was smoking.  I had burned rubber, literally.

By the time I had gotten the van stopped, it had felt like I was maybe just driving on the rim of the wheel.  Maybe I had been.  Not a good thing.

I got back in the van, prayed with Andrew, and calmed him down.  Then I called Katie.  No answer.  I called Jessica and was very glad when she answered.  By now it was just a few minutes till 5:00, and the girls were about to start the baby shower.

I explained our situation and asked if she could come and take Andrew on to gymnastics.  I also asked her to bring Josiah . . . or maybe Jorge (one of the AIM staffers).  I knew I might need help in changing the tire.  I explained that since I was slightly south of the Branson Hills exit, she’d have to go up to F and come back.  She said she’d handle it.

I took Andrew behind the van and showed him how to get out the jack.  I unscrewed the gizmo to release the spare, but it was still attached to the van by a wire, and I couldn’t figure out what to do about that.  I showed Andrew the picture of where the jack should go under the van and we tried to figure out the right spot.  I tried to loosen the lug nuts, but they wouldn’t budge for me.

We got back in the van to wait.  In about ten minutes, here came Jessica and Jorge.  As they pulled up, so did another man, but Jorge said he could handle it.  He jacked it partway up and loosened the lug nuts easily.  We were all standing in front of the van and he was at the tire.  As he pulled it off, the van lurched forward and crunched down off the jack into the pavement with a sound that you are glad you didn’t hear.  I hollered at Jessica to get out of the way, which she did, just in time.  Like an idiot, although the van was in park, I had not set the parking brake.  (duh!)  Jorge just looked at me, I felt stupid, and Andrew started to cry again.  I comforted him, reminding him how thankful we were to God that everyone was safe, and then I had Jessica crawl in and set the parking brake.  = )

A couple more people stopped to offer help, including a man in a big pick-up.  Turns out he goes to 1st Assembly in Eureka Springs.  He helped Jorge some, and they got to talking about the S.A. and how much it had helped this man’s family when there had been a fire in California.

Jorge got the mini tire on and the man checked it with his tire gauge.  It was supposed to be 60 PSI, but it was only 12.  He went to his truck and came back with a little air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter.  Way cool!  It took a long time to air up, but after a while it got up to 48 PSI and then the fuse on our cigarette lighter blew.  But we didn’t know that and thought we had blown out his air compressor.  He went back to his truck and brought out ANOTHER one!  Slightly different style.  It didn’t work, either.  We tried it in the outlet in back of the van, but no go there, either.  Obviously we had blown a fuse in the van, but there was enough air to get it to Mitchem Tire.

Jessica followed me to Mitchem, but of course, it being almost 5:45 by then, they were closed.  I locked the van and left it there, and we went back to the SAC to drop off Jessica and Jorge.  I took Andrew to gymnastics, an hour late, and got gas (11.1 gallons) because the low fuel light was on in the Toyota.

I bought some vacuum cleaner bags at Lowe’s, picked up Andrew, and went back to the SAC to get the big kids.  Then home to our crockpot of Taco Soup.

I rode in to Mitchem with our friend, LaShell, the next morning and arrived at 8:30.  I had taken along the paperwork showing we bought two tires there in August, less than 10K miles ago.  I fervently hoped that the blown tire was one of those two and would be replaced an no charge.  Alas, it was not so to be.  It was not their tire, so I had to pay.  = (    In fact, I had to pay for two tires, because instead of replacing the dead one, they replaced BOTH the front tires.  I was a little steamed at that, but I guess it is better to have the same thing across the axle.

I don’t remember hitting anything at all.  There was no big pop or explosion like you often hear when a tire blows.  It just got rougher and rougher and that was it.  Later, Katie told me that she had thought something in the van felt “rough” for about the past week, but she couldn’t really tell what it was.  Like maybe there was a spot on the tire that was sticking out or something.  I, too, had been noticing for about a month what I thought was a rough feel in the steering when  I turned slightly to the left at high speeds, but I figured it was just my imagination.  After all, it had been aligned recently.

After the fact, I thought more about this tire blow.  You know, it could have happened on the way to Forsyth – where 160 is totally curvy and has no shoulder at all – while the big kids were in the middle of their AIM practice.  This happened right as practice was ending at 5:00.

It could have happened while I was taking Josiah to the SAC; while Andrew was home alone for the first time.  Now, THAT would have been a mess!

I could EASILY have hit the concrete divider at 60 mph.  Or I could have hit another vehicle, or someone else could have hit me.

It could have happened in the dark, but it was still light at 5:00.

Besides Jorge, at least 5 other people stopped to offer help.  The man with the two air compressors saw us, but couldn’t get over fast enough to stop.  He missed the 248 exit and went on to 76, then turned around and went back up to F and came back down, just to help me.  Another lady pulled up and asked if we needed a “four-square.”  (Jorge had brought one.)  She said her husband had passed me in a FedEx truck (going south) and had called her (they live in Branson) and told her to go see if I was OK.  She, too, had had to go up to F and back.  All the folks who stopped were nice, and several were believers.  No problems with questionable characters.

It’s very obvious that God was watching out for us that day.  Thankfully, he doesn’t get “tire-d.”

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