It began as a small adventure Friday evening: Head to the north side of the Mule Mountains to photograph the Judd Fire. It had already burned about 4000 acres and I hoped to get a few good evening shots from High Lonesome Road.
What’s that line from Robert Burns? “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.”
I drove out as the sun was just easing behind the Huachucas. The sky burned crimson and tangerine. I bypassed photos knowing I could miss the light I’d need to get a good fire shot.
And so I continued. Twelve miles to Double Adobe Road. Left, then sharp left onto High Lonesome Road.
The pavement lasts only about half a mile, but before I even hit gravel I could see black smoke wafting up, muddying the sunset.
I breezed along at thirty-six miles an hour, the perfect speed, in my car, to avoid the noise and bucking of the washboard road. Four-and-a-half miles in, I found a good spot. Plus, the light was almost gone and I had to do it or miss it.
I grabbed a few shots, carefully turned around, and headed back out. I looked forward to getting home to watch an hour on Netflix.
But then, there on my dash, there was this light. A light no one really wants to see. The tire symbol was lit up.
Well, I’d had a few problems with a slow leak every few weeks, so I wasn’t too concerned, but for the sake of the tire, I slowed down to nineteen. I felt more bumps but thought it could be easier on the tire.
As soon as I hit Double Adobe Road, I thought I heard a noise. When I accelerated on Highway 80, yup. There it was, the whup-whup-whup of a flat tire.
I pulled over, turned on my flashers, switched my phone to flashlight mode (dark had almost fallen) and did a quick walkaround.
Right rear tire. Pancake flat. Crap.
I figured I’d already killed the tire, and since I was just about across from Grace’s Corner, I limped my fearless Prius, Lula la Roja, across the street and into the parking lot. The closed, worn bar stood boarded up and sagging. I had a brief flashback to days long ago when I used to go dancing there. 1974, I believe.
I called AAA, of course. That’s why I give them nearly $90 each year. But that was a bit complicated. The roadside assist number had disappeared from my phone. Also, I couldn’t find my card, so I called Alfredo. He had his and read me off the membership and phone numbers.
AAA had no record of me. They had no record of my account number nor a record of my phone number.
What?? I know I paid. It’s automatic. They ding my account each year. But still, I did not exist. And it was impossible to get through to an actual person. After hours, you know. What, I should plan emergencies to occur during business hours?
Out of frustration, I texted my sister. She suggested my car insurance company might help. I called, but after twenty minutes on hold, I refrained from tossing the phone and just hung up.
I called my tenant. Early to sleep, that one, and her phone went unanswered. I tried my former housemate. Straight to message.
I decided to call a friend. His number, too, had disappeared from my phone. I had to call Alfredo back and get his number.
But then I remembered. He has a few drinks in the evening. By 8:30 he might be unsafe. Ah! Another friend. Oops. Same situation.
Alfredo called me back with the number of a roadside assistance place in Douglas. I called. They didn’t serve the area.
By this time I was ready to shoot the car. Oops. No gun. Maybe that’s a good thing.
So I called my friend Debbie, also one who is early to bed. But she was still up! In her nightgown, but up. She agreed to come get me. Hallelujah!
And so I waited. Not very long, just fifteen minutes or so. It gave me time to pee, put important things in my purse, snarl a bit more, and offer up a prayer to the Goddess that Lula la Roja would be safe overnight.
Debbie came, took me home. Profound thanks were given repeatedly. I silently cursed my tenant and former housemate, though.
I went straight to my computer, and yep. My bill had been paid in full on May 25. I went online to contact AAA, put my complaint in writing. I got a return message that my questions would be answered the next business day: Monday.
The next morning during business hours, I again called the roadside service number. It took about ten minutes to negotiate the automatic system and get to an actual human who found me in the system immediately. One reason they hadn’t found me the previous night is my policy number had changed, though that didn’t at all answer why they couldn’t find me by my telephone number.
I then spent nearly twenty-five minutes negotiating the system again to get to a human who could assist. The auto system didn’t like that my car and I were in different places, so eventually I got bumped to a human who was frustrated that I didn’t have an address for the location of my car. Highway 80 under the Budweiser billboard across from the cell tower didn’t help her as she scoured her map. I kept telling her it was just west of Double Adobe Road but she trying to locate me somewhere on that road. She finally got it. I was actually on Highway 80.
I got a confirmation via text, and my tenant (wide awake) and I were off to wait with Lula.
Partway there. I got another text saying the service would be there in about 75 minutes. Glad I’d brought a book.
Lee didn’t want to abandon me in the wilds of Grace’s Corner so we cleaned out the back of my car and opened the tire area. It wasn’t flat!! Hooray! We settled in to wait.
Just after the serviceman was due, he called. He was in his big truck in case I needed a tow, and the truck inspection station was open. He said it could be an hour before he got through there.
He was pretty accurate, arriving a little over an hour late with many apologies. But big trucks can’t just slide past an inspection station.
Once Lee knew all was well, she left. The serviceman made short work of getting my bad tire off and the donut on. I was outta there less than ten minutes after he’d arrived.
In all, the simple tire change took nearly 15 hours. I now proudly (and carefully) drive on the spare, the donut, which of course ended up being a bit low on air and is causing that blasted tire light to stay on.
Monday. I’ll visit Firestone on Monday.