Tag Archives: spare tire

Tweaker and the Jack

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That morning The Man had found out the lady he worked for had been hit by a truck. We didn’t have all the details, but we knew she was at the large university hospital being treated for a broken leg.

It was evening now, and I was headed home into the sunset after an afternoon of working on my blog at the public library. I was about seven miles from home, on the stretch of state highway where tourists often stopped to observe bighorn sheep living their wild lives.

8 bighorn sheep stand in the sage grazing
Bighorn sheep living their wild lives

About a quarter mile ahead I saw two cars, one parked on the eastbound side of the of the road, the other on the westbound side. Two women were crossing the highway. One woman was plump and wore a loose earth tone shirt over loose earth tone pants. Her dark, frizzy hair hung to her shoulders. The other woman had strawberry blond hair pulled back in a severe bun. She work black denim cutoffs and a tank top that barely concealed her black bra and barely contained her large, pale breasts.

Stupid tourists, I muttered to myself as I slowed the truck way down.

As I got closer to the women, a medium-sized dog jumped out of the open window of the car parked on the right. It bounded across the highway after its people. I brought the truck to a complete stop.

The woman with dark hair stopped in the middle of the highway, turned around, and spoke to the dog. The dog turned around, bounded back to the car, and jumped through the window it had come out of.

The woman with the bun made an elaborate arm gesture to me, the kind a fellow pretending to be a fancy gentleman might make to indicate, After you, madam.

I drove slowly past the women, wondering if the dog was going to dart out in front of me again or if one of the women was going to change her mind and try to scoot across the highway. After I passed the two parked cars, I pulled off on the barely-there narrow shoulder of the road.

To add to my questions (Who were these women?  Why were they stopped on the side of the road? Where were the bighorn sheep I thought they’d stopped to see?), while I was stopped I’d realized a friend of mine was parked on the opposite side of the road. She was on the shoulder of the eastbound lane, near the other parked car, but the front of her truck was facing west. As I drove slowly past I looked over to the driver’s side of the truck and confirmed, yep, that was my friend.

I only pulled off out of concern for my friend. As for as I could tell, the two women and the dog weren’t experiencing any distress, but I didn’t know what my friend might be dealing with.

My friend must have recognized my vehicle because by the time I got out of my truck, she’d pulled hers around and was parked behind me.

I was very cautious when I got out of my truck and walked on the narrow shoulder over to my friend’s Toyota. As soon as I could I got away from the highway and walked over to her passenger side. I was definitely thinking of The Man’s employer and her recent accident. No way did I want to get hit by a vehicle going 55 (or faster) on a state highway.

Are you ok? Are you ok? I asked my friend as I approached her vehicle.

She said she was fine. It’s her, she said pointing to the woman with the bun and short shorts who was now running across the road to our side. She needs a jack.

I need a jack, the woman echoed.

Oh, boy, I thought. I was torn between wanting to help and wanting to get home. I really didn’t want to hang out so close to the highway, but I knew I should help people in need.

I’ll get my jack, I told the woman with the bun.

I went back to my truck. I knew the jack was screwed down under the rear seat on the driver’s side. To get to the rear seat, I had to open the back door.  To open the back door, I had to open the front door. I couldn’t open either door very much because doing so would put the doors in danger of being smashed by someone driving too close to the shoulder.

I stood against the truck, the two doors resting against my body while I tried to lift the back seat to get to the jack. Suddenly the back door opened and the woman with the bun was standing next to me.

I told her I was getting the jack and would meet her at her vehicle. She didn’t budge.

I told her again that I was getting the jack and said she should go wait for me over there while pointing toward my friend’s vehicle. She still didn’t budge.

It was at that moment I began to suspect all was not right with this woman. First of all, no reasonable person would stand as close to the highway as she was standing if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Secondly, no person with any concept of the distance Americans like to keep between themselves and strangers would have put herself so close to me. Also, no one with an understanding of privacy would have put herself all up in my business inside my truck. Finally, I’d told her twice that she should step away from my vehicle. Of course, I’d been trying to be polite and hadn’t literally said step away from my vehicle, but I think most people would realize meet you at your car and wait for me over there meant the same thing.

I didn’t smell alcohol emanating from the woman’s pores or breath, and she wasn’t swaying or acting tipsy in any way. I figured she was maybe a bit socially awkward, but probably on meth. She had that swagger, that self-assurance. Someone on meth would be prone to think I needed her right there to hold the back door open for me and help me get the jack from under the seat. She likely thought she was the center of the whole damn universe and needed to be involved in every aspect of every single thing that was happening.

Look, I said to her.  Someone I know got hit by a car today. I don’t want you (or me, I thought to myself) getting hit by a car, so you go stand over there (I pointed in the direction of my friend’s truck again)  while I get the jack.

She still didn’t move. I don’t want you to get hit by a car either, she simpered.

At that point I should have just left, but the woman was still right next to me and not moving. I would have had to attempted to physically move her if I were going to leave. Besides, my friend was still out there. I didn’t want to leave her alone in this mess. Perhaps if I let the woman with the bun use my jack, we could all go home.

My irritation must have finally registered in the brain of the woman with the bun because she started in with Never mind. I don’t have a four way anyway. I won’t be able to change the tire anyway. Never mind. She sounded like a little kid who’s decided the world doesn’t love her because she’s not being allowed to have her way.

Oh no! I thought. I’m in this now. You’re going to use this jack! (My stubborn nature will probably be my downfall.)

Something (I have no idea what) caused the woman to (finally) step away from my truck and head back to her car, still calling out, Never mind. I don’t have a four way. Never mind.

With the jack finally I my hand, I left my truck. As I passed my friend’s truck, I shook my head and muttered uncharitably, Fucking tweaker.

Oh, I know! my friend said. She’s as high as a kite. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the woman’s unusual behavior.

I carefully crossed the highway with the jack and all its accessories in my arms. You can bet I looked both ways before I walked across. When I got to the bun woman’s car, she’d flipped a bunch of tool into the storage area of her hatchback and pulled her spare tire from some compartment. She was still moaning about not having a four way, but I was pretty sure I saw a red four way half covered by a floor mat (or something) there in the back among the piles of stuff.

Ummm…isn’t that a four way right there? I asked pointing.

She rummaged around and pulled out the red four way. I was the best! I was the greatest she exclaimed. (She could have been the best and the greatest too, had she only looked a little more carefully.)

I handed her my jack, and she took it and her four way to the passenger side of her Subaru. As I stepped as far away from the highway as I could, I finally saw the source of the problem I was now involved in. The rear tire on the back passenger side was not just flat; it was shredded. Poor gal’s tire had blown out on her way to town.

My friend had turned her small truck around again and was now parked behind the Subaru. She got out of her truck and walked over to me. We stood in the dry grass on the shoulder of the road and watched as the woman with the bun lift her car off the shredded tire.

How did you get involved in this?  I asked my friend.

The woman with the bun had showed up at the outdoor market where my friend was vending and said she needed a jack. My friend didn’t have a jack but thought she might be able to help in some way, so she drove her truck over to meet the Subaru. Now she felt as if she needed to stay until the situation was resolved.

The woman with the frizzy hair was not pleased with the situation. She didn’t think my jack was big enough. I figured if it was big enough to lift my giant truck, it would do ok with a Subaru station wagon, but I kept my thoughts to myself. The woman with the frizzy hair was also concerned that the shoulder where the Subaru was parked slanted down and then dropped away into a grassy area. She was afraid the car was going to topple over onto her friend while she changed the tire.

It was getting colder as the sun sank lower. The wind was blowing pretty hard too. I was chilly in my long skirt and short sleeved blouse. The woman with the bun was wearing a lot less clothing than I was, but she had physical activity and (probably) drugs coursing through her veins to keep her warm.

The woman with the frizzy hair made a phone call. She needs help, she said to the person on the other end of the line. She’s cold. She doesn’t have a jacket. She was obviously talking about her friend dealing with the blown out tire.

She needs a jack, the woman with the frizzy hair continued. Don’t you have a jack? she asked, then begged, Can’t you come and help?

The guy must have said he’d come over because the woman with the frizzy hair got off the phone.

By this time the woman with the bun had lifted her Subaru, but her friend begged her to wait for the fellow with the jack to arrive. The guy only lived a couple miles away, she said, He’d show up soon, and his jack was better anyway.

If the guy was coming with a better jack, I ventured aloud, maybe I could take my jack and be on my way.

The woman with the bun stood up from where she’d been sitting on the ground while removing the flat tire. She had ignored her friend’s pleading for her to wait for the man with the jack. It appeared she planned to get ‘er done. She walked over to the back of her car and rummaged around in the hatchback storage area again. When she stepped away from the hatchback, she was holding…a jack. It was the same size and design as the one I’d loaned her. She’d had a perfectly adequate jack the whole time. Why was I standing in the cold wind next to the highway?

Now there was a frenzy of activity. My jack was removed and her jack replaced it. I regained possession of my equipment.

I guess I’ll go, I told my friend. More than anything, I wanted to get off the side of the highway and go home, but I didn’t want to leave my friend alone in the middle of a fiasco.

My friend assured me she was fine and I could go. She said she would stay with the women until the guy arrived with the better jack. I knew I wouldn’t be any of any help even if I stayed, so I carried my jack across the road to my truck, hopped in, and headed home.

When I got home, I texted my friend to ask if the guy had arrived with the jack and if my friend was on her way home. She texted back and said she was on her way home. She said the guy with the jack had never shown up. The woman with the bun had taken off the shredded tire and put on the spare all on her own. Turns out she didn’t need anything but some moral support.

bighorn sheep looks at the camera
Bighorn sheep living its wild life in a rest area

I took the photos in this post.

10 Things to Do Before You Hit the Road

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The day has come! You’re about to hit the road. Maybe you’re about to take a weekend road trip, or it’s the first day of the rest of your life as a nomad. Maybe you’ve been sitting on public land for two weeks and now it’s time to travel to your next boondocking spot. Whatever the reason that you’re about to start driving, here’s a list of 10 things you should do, check, and take care of before you get on the road.

Brown Spoke Car Wheel in Brown Sand during Daytime

#1 Pack supplies you may need if your rig breaks down. Road disasters happen. Be prepared with roadside flares, a flashlight, jumper cables, an appropriate jack, a can of tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator (made by Fix-a-Flat and Slime, among others), a portable air compressor, and any other emergency supplies you can imagine needing. I know what it’s like to have three flat tires between two vehicles and no emergency supplies while camping on remote BLM land. I’ve encountered people with a dead battery and no jumper cables. Do everything you can to prepare for anything that might go wrong.

#2 Check your spare tire. One of the problems during the aforementioned tire disaster was that we couldn’t get my spare tire off its mount. The bolt holding the tire to the mount was cross-threaded and wouldn’t budge. It was like having no spare at all! Check your spare periodically to make sure it’s in good condition and can be removed from your mount if necessary.

#3 Stock up on supplies. Especially if you’re going to a remote location,

First Aid Case on Brown Floor Surface

have enough food and water to last you until you to return to civilization. Get ice if you’re using a cooler for refrigeration. If you take medication, make sure you won’t run out before you get to a pharmacy. Take inventory of your first aid kit and replenish anything that’s missing so you can take care of any minor emergencies. Other items you may need may include sunscreen, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, soap, toothpaste, batteries, insect repellent, propane or butane, and fire starter.

Price is another reason to stock up before you leave a heavily populated area. As I suggested in my post “How to Save Money While Visiting Tourist Attractions,” supplies are going to cost more in remote locations. Avoid paying gift shop and small-town prices if you can.

Idaho Map

#4 Consult your paper map and plan your route. As I wrote in my post “In Praise of Paper Maps,” don’t put all your trust in your GPS. Using GPS is fine, but look at your route on a paper map so you’ll know if the GPS is sending you off in the wrong direction. It’s also a good idea to have an appropriate map handy and the skills to use it in the event you lose signal or your GPS stops working in a remote location.

#5 Check the air pressure in your tires. Proper air pressure increases gas mileage and helps protect against flat tires. If the air pressure is low in your tires, use your portable air compressor (if you have one) to add air, or fill up low tires at your next gas station stop.

#6 Check your levels of oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. If any fluids are low, top them off.

#7 Plug in your electronics before you pull out of your parking spot. If you have an invertor, plug in your phone and or tablet so you can charge while you drive.

#8 Top off your rig’s fuel tank. Before you leave civilization, make sure

Person Holding Gasoline Nozzle

your fuel tank is full, especially if you’re heading to a remote location where you might not be able to find fuel. When you come out of a remote location, fill your tank as soon as it’s feasible, especially if you’re heading to another remote location. My goal is to never let my fuel gauge slip below a quarter of a tank, which means I should never run out of gas. Running out of gas could lead to needing a tow and/or a destroyed fuel tank, two things I want to avoid.

Again, price is another reason to fuel up before you leave civilization or once you return. You will probably find better prices on fuel for your rig if you buy it in a place where several gas stations compete for business. If you can even find fuel in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to pay more for it.

#9 Clean your windshield while you’re at the gas station. Trying to see through a dusty, bug-splattered windshield is not just annoying; it could be dangerous too.

#10 Once your engine has warmed up, check the level of your transmission fluid. Park on a level surface before you check. Shift through all your gears before you pull out your dipstick, and leave your rig running while you do your check. If the level is low, top off with the fluid that’s right for your transmission.

These tips are just suggestions. Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety and well-being. Only YOU are responsible for your safety and well-being.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-spoke-car-wheel-in-brown-sand-during-daytime-53161/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/asphalt-box-color-emergency-208459/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-navigation-guide-108942/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/car-refill-transportation-gas-9796/.

10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters

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You probably read about how I started off 2018 with a tire disaster. (Even one flat can be a huge inconvenience, but I’m going to call three flats on two vans and no usable spare a disaster.)

Today I’m going to share what I learned from my tire woes in hopes of helping my readers possibly avoid and at least prepare for their next flat. I wish a true tire disaster on no one, but if it happens, you can be ready.

#1 Run on tires that are in good condition. It’s easy to ignore tires when they’re doing a good job rolling you down the road. It’s impossible to ignore a tire that’s gone flat and left you stranded. While purchasing good tires may seem like an extravagance (it often has to me), you’re less likely to have a flat if your tires are strong and in good condition. Make sure your tread depth is within acceptable limits. Check for cracks in the tread or sidewall. If you can see the metal wires in the tire, you are in imminent danger of a blowout. If you’re buying a used vehicle, determine the age of the tires even if they look new. According to Car and Driver,

most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years and should be absolutely be swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.

#2 Don’t count on roadside assistance. It’s great to have roadside assistance, either through your insurance or AAA or the Good Sam Club. (Roadside assistance from my Progressive insurance has saved my butt on several occasions, as has AAA.) However, what roadside assistance offers may be limited. AAA can’t help you if you’re off the pavement. Roadside assistance is great if you’re on the road, but if you’re a few miles out boondocking on public land, you’re going to have to depend on yourself (or possibly the kindness of strangers).

#3 Know how to take off a flat tire and put on the spare and PRACTICE the procedure. This is a tip I need to take to heart. I know in theory how to change a tire, but theory will be mostly useless if I’m stuck somewhere without help. If you don’t have someone to teach you how to get the flat tire off and the spare tire on, watch a tutorial online, then get out there and put your knowledge to the test.

#4 Check your spare. Is it in good condition? Is it properly inflated? Can you remove it from its holder? A spare that’s flat or inaccessible is worthless.

#5 Have a jack that’s strong enough to lift your rig. The scissor jack that works to lift The Man’s minivan might not be able to handle the weight of my conversion van. Make sure your jack is what you need before you need it. Don’t have a jack? Get one.

Slime 40032 Automotive Accessories
#6 Invest in a portable air compressor that runs off your vehicle’s battery. I have a Slime brand portable air compressor and I’m quite happy with it. A hitchhiker The Man and I picked up warned me that the air compressor would drain a vehicle’s battery, but neither The Man nor I have had that experience. (That hitchhiker was a real naysayer on just about every topic.) If your tire has a slow leak, you can use the air compressor to pump it up enough to drive to a tire repair shop.

#7 Carry a can of tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator in your rig. This product (made by Fix-a-Flat and Slime, among others) costs under $10 (if you buy it in civilization and not at some rip-off gas station in the middle of nowhere), and will help get your rig to a shop where the tire can be repaired or replaced. I have a big van with big tires, so I carry a big can of Fix-a-Flat with me.

The DealNews website has a good article on the pros and cons of using tire sealant/aerosol tire inflator. I would not use my can of Fix-a-Flat before first trying to inflate the tire using my air compressor. If the tire wouldn’t hold air from the compressor, I would then take off the flat tire and put on my spare. I would only use the Fix-a-Flat if I had no other option. Also, tire sealant is not going to work on a gash, slash, or blowout, so its usefulness will depend on the type of damage the tire has suffered.

#8 Once you use sealant/aerosol inflator in the tire, get the tire to a repair shop as soon as possible. My understanding is that sealant/aerosol tire inflators (like Slime or Fix-a-Flat) are for temporary, emergency use only. You have to get to a tire shop as soon as you can to get a proper repair.

Fix-A-Flat S60269 Tire Inflator with Eco-Friendly Formula, (24 oz)

#9 Get the warranty when you buy new tires. I think I paid $20 per tire for my warranties, which felt like an extravagance at the time. However, the $20 I paid got a tire that cost over $100 replaced for free. The money I spent on the warranty seems like a bargain now.

#10 Choose your boondocking site carefully. If you’re boondocking on public land, think carefully about the spot you choose. Lots of folks like to be as far away from the main road and other campers as possible, but think about how far you’ll have to walk to get help if you have a flat or mechanical problem. If you can’t solve your own problems, you may want to park closer to the main road.

Also consider the road to the boondocking area. Can your tires handle ruts and pointy rocks that may be present? You don’t want to damage your tires while trying to get closer to nature. Get out and access the situation before you blissfully head out into the wild blue yonder.

Don’t let my story of tire disaster scare you. Use what I’ve learned so you can prepare for and hopefully avoid what I went through. However, please know that these tips are just suggestions. I am not responsible for your safety and wellbeing. Only YOU are responsible for your safety and wellbeing.

Also, feel free to share you stories of tire disasters in the comments section below.