Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Speaking Of Spare Tires

Driving home from South Texas last week, I had a blowout.

Not a low-key puncture, accompanied by a nice polite hissing -- a slow, steady air leak – which results in a gentle depressurization that leads to the rhythmic thump-thump-thump of a normal flat tire.

Nor was it a muffled firecracker-sounding ‘pop’ that accompanies a more rapid flattening of the tire, causing one to sit up and pay attention.

No, this was a full-fledged blowout: a howitzer-sounding explosion that was audible even over the blaring of the Charlie Daniels Band on the car stereo (which, coincidentally, was playing “Uneasy Rider”).

It was so loud it almost caused me to drop my beer (kidding … just kidding…).

The speed limit for that particular stretch of highway is 75 MPH. I usually cruise along at 80, which means only about 25% of the traffic passes me.

Anyway, after the sonic-boom sized “BANG” (Russian meteor? HAH! That was for wimps.) large chunks of rubber began spraying out from under my right rear fender. Don’t for a moment believe that tire rubber is soft. Those pieces did a thorough job of mangling the quarter panel.

That was a blessing in disguise, though, because it encouraged the vehicles around me to back off and give me some room as I swerved across the highway. Keep in mind that I was on a four-lane interstate at the time. Slabs of rubber large enough to make sandals for VC trekking down the Ho Chi Minh trail flew through the air. In a twinkling I went from driving at 80 MPH to careening wildly from shoulder to shoulder on three tires and a rim.

I never knew that one could ejaculate adrenalin. At least, I assume that’s what I ejaculated…

Anyway, after I wrestled the truck to the side of the road it was time to change the tire.


I drive a 1995 Ford F-150. The spare is carried underneath the bed, in a cradle formed by a shaped metal arm that traps the spare tire between the arm and the truck bed. It’s held in place by a large eye-bolt that screws into the underside of the bed.

Like the ‘Be Prepared’ Boy Scout that I used to be, I periodically check the spare. The air pressure was fine.

What I failed to do, however, was periodically raise and lower the metal arm that holds the spare in place. Needless to say, the eye bolt was held in place by 18+ years of dirt, rust, and corrosion.

Fortunately, I had a piece of rebar that fit through the eye of the eye bolt. That gave me the leverage I needed to wrench free the bolt and lower the spare tire.

Unfortunately, the shoulder of the road was so sloped that I couldn’t raise the truck high enough to change the tire.

I carry a 6-ton hydraulic bottle jack for just such a situation. I also carry a piece of 2X6 lumber to slide under the jack for additional height. That still wasn’t enough.

But I also carry a folding shovel for ‘just-in-case’ situations. So I unfolded the shovel and got to work digging a trench under the flat tire. Took me back a couple of decades.


All this took place on the side of an interstate in South Texas. For those of you unfamiliar with the region, the side of the road consists of gravel, broken glass, sand burrs, and fire ants (this is South Texas – fire ants do not hibernate). So I ended up with scrapes, cuts, pricks, and bites. (If you’ve never experienced a fire ant bite, think of a mix between scorpions and ex-wives).

As an added attraction, as I lay sprawled under the truck with just my legs (clad in jeans and terminating in cowboy boots) sticking out, no fewer than three Border Patrol vehicles drove by. Once they saw that I was not Hispanic, and that there weren’t a dozen or so illegal undocumented indeterminate status aliens packed into the bed of the truck, they waved and merrily sped off on their way. 

This happened between Laredo and Pearsall (Texas). Talk about the middle of nowhere. And of course, there’s no cell phone reception anywhere around there. Thank goodness it was winter and not summer. Otherwise I’d be CenTexTim jerky lying dessicated by the side of the road.


Bag Blog said...

Things to be thankful for - that it was not 100+ degrees outside. Remind me to tell you about the time we were moving from Lubbock to San Marcos with all our worldly possessions packed in our Dodge truck. It was August so we were driving at night because our truck did not have air conditioning. We had a fender-bender with a some kids who were stoned out of their minds, driving up and down the drag in Coleman, TX. Things went from bad to worse and then worser and worsester.

Old NFO said...

Oh man, THAT is a blowout! Glad you didn't roll it over... And yes, changing a tire IS a PITA, summer/winter/anytime!

Bear said...
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Bear said...
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Bear said...

I feel your pain... one of my most butt-puckering moments came on an 85mph rear-tire blowout on the bike, just north of Charleston, WV on Rt. 77. Still not sure how I lived to tell about it, but damned if I didn't. Might have to blog that story sometime, it's a good one.

(Sorry for the deleted comments... my damn brain takes a while to engage sometimes...)

CharlieDelta said...

About 20 years ago I had to dig myself out of the sand with my plastic KC Light covers because I didn't have an e-tool with me. Cell phones weren't common then unless you were a character on Miami Vice and I was in the middle of nowhere. It took forever to free my truck and my hands were shredded and bloody by the time I was done.

Ever since that day, I've kept one of these in every vehicle I've owned and it's gotten me or someone I'm with out of similar predicaments more times than I can remember, and even more than I can't remember...

Harper said...

Glad you are okay. There really is no way to train for how to drive through a blow out, so, ejaculate of undetermined origin aside, I would say you are to be commended on your top notch reactionary driving skills.

CenTexTim said...

Bag Blog - When we were kids we had a few trips like that. We laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn't so funny.

NFO - It got my attention, that's for sure.

Bear - It was bad enough on four wheels. I can't imagine something like that on two.

CD - I've used mine to get out of snow, mud, sand, and now to change a tire. If it could cook I'd have married it years ago.

Harper - Thanks. It was a combination of luck, instinct and fear - I was too afraid to turn the wheel...