Friday, April 21, 2006


Oh, no, not again.... Tuesday (was it Tuesday? I think it was Tuesday...) it looked like trouble right from the start.

This means us.....

But it turned out that the wind was not to be the problem. Well, it did complicate the issue later on, or at least make it more unpleasant. We were headed from Denver to Oakley, KS, where we'd make our first of 3 overnight stops crossing Kansas. We had the awning tied to avoid repeating the wind-spawned trouble we had the other day. We were within 30 miles of our overnight stopping-place when Steve, uncharacteristically, pulled off into a rest area. Now, this is unusual. Normally he'd just wait till we got there, that close. But, whatever. Anyway, I came out of the rest room (I was glad not to have to wait another 30 miles, had been fighting it for a while but hadn't wanted to say anything with just 30 miles to go.) Steve was back in the truck and said, "We got trouble. This is as far as we go." Apparently, a wheel had been loose, and its wobbling, over time, had caused the rim to shear off ALL the lug bolts. There was not one left. The wheel was being held on by the weight of the axle right on the rim, by gravity, and by grace.

Here's the wheel. Wish I'd shot it while it was still on the hub.

Here's the hub with the sheared-off bolts. Some had broken off way inside, and had to be hammered out with an awl and sledge.

Here's the wheel again, off the tire. Can you believe it?

The wind was blowing about 35mph steady, gusting harder, which made it hard to get out of the truck (couldn't open the doors) and blew dirt into our eyes as we jacked up the trailer and lifted the wheel off.

Steve called the Good Sam Road Service number, and, thankfully, the town of Colby, KS was just 5 miles away and had a participating mobile mechanic service. But what we did was just take the wheel off, throw it into the truck, leave the trailer at the rest area, and go into Colby, which had a Goodyear store (which also sold Maytag appliances, small town) with a tire-service department. The guys came out to see what we had. A red-haired kid, maybe 20 years old, looked at it and his eyes popped open, his jaw dropped, his chin and neck jutted forward, and with his jaw still agape he grinned and said, "ROCK ON!!!!"

They made a trip to another place for a new wheel, and to a different one for a new hub. But the hub place didn't have what we needed, and what they did have wasn't going to work on our wheel. The Goodyear guys decided to put ours on a grinder wheel to smooth down the grooves the cut-up wheel rim had made in it. This was going to take a long time. Wouldn't be able to finish till the next day (it was already 6pm.)

As luck (?) would have it, there was nice little RV campground not a mile from the Goodyear place. Steve and I decided to go get the trailer, drag it somehow to the campground, and spend the night there. We chained the axle up to some of the trailer framework to keep it from dragging on the road. Like this.

We drove 15mph with our flashers on, down the shoulder of the road 5 miles to Colby. A police car sped by us with lights and siren. Guess we were small potatoes. Couple minutes later, back he comes, does a U-ie across the median. We thought he was going to stop for us. Nope, pulled over a car ahead of us. Great, now we have to go around him and his pullover into the traffic lane at 15mph with our flashers on. Few minutes later, up he comes behind us again with his lights on. Good, he's going to talk to us and maybe escort us. Nope, he pulls over another vehicle. And the one he had when we drove around him before, is behind him, and pulls over behind him. This is weird. What did he say to the first one, "You're arrested, follow me while I pick off the next one?" Anyway, we drove around him again into the traffic lane at 15mph with our flashers on. That was the last we saw him.

So we parked at the campground and registered. The office was in a building that used to be a train depot, and now, besides being the campground office, was also a restaurant. The sign said, "Just like eating at Granny's house," and it was.... Granny was the only staff. She took care of registration for the campground, restaurant seating, taking orders, cooking, serving, and entertainment. The restaurant was wonderful, all folksy and old-timey with trestle tables (of course, in a train depot), a handmade quilt on the wall that we could buy for $1,150, all kinds of old memorabilia and portraits of someone's great-great grandfather like in Cracker Barrel, and she put on a CD of a classic-rock guitarist, just for us. The woman was an attractive 60-something; from our table we could see her in the kitchen, pouring our wine, preparing our food. Just like at Granny's house. She had made up a menu listing a modest selection of recipes of her own, all served with mesclun salad with her own herb dressing (mmmm...), her own homemade whole-wheat bread, green beans, and "chef's potato of the day" (scalloped red potatoes with peels on, with herbs and garlic. Mmmmm. We both ordered Pecan Brandy Chicken --chicken breast marinated in pecan brandy, sauteed and served with her own pecan-butter-brandy sauce. It kicked ass. While we ate (we were her only customers), she pulled up a chair and sat down at the next table. She had a box of CD cases and asked, "Do you know how to open these things?" She talked about her sons, who both played in folk-rock- Christian bands. We all talked about our grandkids. We talked about traveling. We talked about getting older. She was great. I would have liked to be friends. I had a kick-ass Kaluah Cake with Chantilly Cream. Steve ate half of it.

In the morning we went back to the tire place. They had finished grinding the hub surface flat. While they put everything back together, we sat inside (out of the wind) and shot the bull with Rhonda Kay, the desk clerk, who was as chummy and down-home as they come, really neat gal. Finally they were done and we gritted out teeth as the manager totalled up our bill. For two trips to other establishments for the wheel and hub (well, three, they took back the hub that didn't fit), the price of the wheel, a new seal (I kept thinking about the joke about the penguin who blew a seal), putting a new stem on our flat spare (oh, yeah, forgot to tell you, the spare tire was flat), 4 lugs and 4 lug nuts, grinding the hub down flat, and labor.....


That was all. We were blown away. Not by wind.

It was so unusual that Steve would pull off at a rest area just then. I think God intervened. Gave him an elbow in the ribs... hey, Steve, there's a rest area. Steve says, "Naw, we're almost where we're going." God: Uh, you gotta stop. You gotta go to the bathroom, yeah, that's the ticket, you gotta go to the bathroom, right? Steve: "Well, now that you mention it...." God: And while you're stopped, take a little walk-around and make sure everything's secure on your trailer. Steve walking around: "Holy $h*t!!" God: Thank God you found it. You guys were about to have something nasty happen, and you wouldn't have gotten 30 more miles. Now, to make up for your trouble, I'm going to find you a great tire place where they'll treat you right, with a campground a mile away, and a restaurant you won't believe. Just, from now on, check your lug nuts before you drive, deal?


bunnygirl said...

Wow, what a close call! But to have it turn out so pleasantly... well, that's not just good luck, but great luck!

E-Speed said...

wow, glad you guys are okay!

Downhillnut said...

THERE's a deal I'd shake on. I'm so glad you have a blog, Ellie. I love reading about your life.

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Holy Cow! Glad you are all right.

runr53 said...

That story made my skin crawl! God was definitely on your side that day, stay safe!

Geek Girl said...

Holy cow, what an adventure. I love your spirit, though - making the best out of, and seeing the humor in, adverse situations. "Rock on!"

Vickie said...

What a story! And to think, you're making your way across country, west to east, instead of the other way around like when the west was settled. Apparently the best people stayed right there in the Midwest.