Skip to content


Mon, 3 Jul 2023, 09:41 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

This is a bit out of sequence. Before Michigan on this trip, before Wisconsin, before Minnesota, there was a northward trek across Central Iowa. This story is about that day one week ago.

And my apologies in advance: this one is kind of long in the telling.


1. Low Pressure

It’s Sunday. We are driving north on an empty, two-lane US-63 thru Central Iowa. It’s a gray day, and the wind is blowing from the west. The corn is bent over in waves that sweep across the fields that cover the rolling hills. 

A low tire pressure warning message pops up on the dashboard. We are south of Traer. We decide to check the tires there.

Two minutes later the display changes to an ominous stop-the-car-now message. I pull over at the next intersection, where we can get the car and trailer off the road onto flat pavement instead of a sloped gravel shoulder.

There is a yellow farmhouse across the street and three grey Butler silos on this side. The wind blows my door open. I get out to check the tires. The right rear is almost completely flat, and there is visible damage to the sidewall, and it has a leak. We clearly aren’t going to Traer on it.

2. Trying to Change the Tire

The skies in the west get dark. The wind is fierce. We unpack the car to get the jack. We unpack the car-top carrier to get the spare tire. Within 30 minutes, someone pulls over to see if we are ok. We were fine, we say. A few minutes later, someone else. We say we have a spare and are ok, but thanks. 

The western sky gets black. The wind begins to howl.

The car goes up on the jack easily enough, but I am unable to crank the lug nuts loose. Trudy calls AAA — fortunately we have two bars. They tell her that we’ll have to have the car towed and leave the trailer behind. At this point I kick the tire wrench hard to loosen the nuts which works. Trudy cancels the AAA request.

The bad tire comes off. (It is really, really bad. We’re lucky we didn’t have a blow-out.) I lift the spare tire up only to discover that the lug nuts don’t fit. The fair and industrious Trudy calls AAA again who again tell us we’ll have to leave the trailer behind, but we really have no choice. They file a service request for a truck to come get us.

A half hour passes, and it starts to rain. We rush to repack the car. Another half hour passes. It rains hard. After another 30 minutes, Trudy calls AAA to check on the status of our request. We’re next on the list, they say. We begin to think about the details of me driving with the tow truck and Trudy staying behind in the trailer.

The rain stops, but the wind keeps blowing, and the sky over the hill to our west still looks black.

3. Mike

A truck pulls up beside the trailer. A guy gets out to see if we’re ok. His name is Mike, and he owns a auto salvage yard.

“I came by here earlier and saw you. I felt guilty later about not stopping.” 

Mike’s wife is in the truck, and his teenage daughter is in the back seat. They are on the way to a pool party. He looks at the bad tire and the good tire and the car up on the jack and asks if he can help. We explain the story about the leak and the spare and the lug nuts but explain that AAA says we’re the next on the list.

Mike turns to leave and then looks back at the tires. He walks over to them, bends over and squints.

“You know,” he says. “I have a friend, Dale, who lives a mile down the road. He has a tire machine. I can put your spare tire on the good wheel.”

His offer sounds better than anything out AAA has offered us.

“Really? Sure!” 

He pulls out his flip-phone and explains things to his friend Dale. When he hangs up, he walks over to the car and picks up the flat tire and wheel under his one arm and the spare tire and wheel under the other and  walks over to his truck.

“I’ll be back in five minutes.”

He throws the wheels into the back of his truck and drives off. Trudy calls AAA and cancels our ticket.

Fifteen minutes later Mike, his wife, and his daughter come back with the spare tire ready to go. Within minutes he has it back on our car. (Right. He doesn’t just give us our new spare tire, he puts it onto the car, tightens the lug nuts, and takes the car off the jack.)

What kind of thanks are sufficient for something like this? 

“Thank you so very, very much,” we say. 

“You’re welcome,” he says. “Pay it forward.”

4. Epilog

Four hours after the first warning lit up on our dashboard, we are on the road northward, again. And in spite of the delay, we make it to the campground in time to set up before dark.

We plan to cancel AAA when we get home.

© jumpingfish by David Hasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License