Ellie came in on Thursday night for a nice long weekend. On Sunday, she and I headed off to Sedona.
We had some concerns. I'd suggested Drew might want to come with us (and drive) or let me use his car (which... has never happened, but I've never asked, either). Since we went on Easter and his family is local, and he still can't drive a stick (not that he's ever asked to learn)... Ellie and I headed off alone in my car.
I knew my tires needed balancing, badly, but I didn't try to have it done on Easter. Instead, when we stopped for gas I put some air in the lowest tire. We also knew I was down one headlight due to an electrical thing, but we were confident that since I've fixed it before, between the two of us, Ellie and I could get - and keep - it working. (I drive eight miles a day five days a week, generally speaking. This is why my car is not that great a priority.)
Besides which, it's only 100 miles. That's, like, Cincinnati to Lexington and we've both done that drive scores of times in much less ideal cars.
Off we went. The drive up went well. We meandered into town. We went to the church that's all built into the rocks. We headed out to Oak Creek Canyon and walked around under the bridge. We headed back down to the Upper Red Rock Loop. The plan was to do the loop, hit the airport vortex (Ellie really felt obligated to go stand in one), watch the sunset from the airport overlook and then head back to Phoenix.
We were doing fine along the road. It changed to dirt and then we whined a bit about the truck in front of us kicking up dust, but really... it was completely spectacular and we were figuring it would be a nice sunset. The road became paved again and we were just expressing our relief to be off the bumpy dirt...
"Listen. Doesn't that sound for all the world like I have a flat tire?" "... kinda." "That can't be..." "It's probably just the last of the rocks from the unpaved part." "It can't be a flat tire..." "Maybe you'd better pull over and we should check."
So, at the next bit of straight road, we pulled over. I thought for sure if it was a flat tire, it was the front driver's side, since it was the one that had been low.
"We're okay." "No. You have a flat." "WHAT?" "You have a spare right?" "Yeah..."
I got the whole tire changing kit out of the car and then Ellie reminded me that I might want to turn the engine off. I looked: the sidewall had given out. Well, fuck. We tried wholeheartedly to get the bolts off. Not happening.
Grabbed my purse, got my cell phone. A) One bar of battery. B) No Service. Ellie's on the same network, but she had a little bit of reception in one particular spot. I called AAA. "It'll be ninety minutes if they can find you. It is six twenty-nine now. They should be there around 7:59. Your confirmation number, in case you need to call back--" "Wait! I need a pen! I can't move! We have no reception!" I grabbed an envelope and a lip gloss out of my purse and did my best to make it legible.
Ninety minutes. Fuck. That's after dark. I called work and left a "I'm... gonna be late tomorrow..." message. We really, really tried to get the stupid bolts off the tire. We cursed modern machinery. We tried standing on the tire iron, bouncing on the end of it. Nothing. Naturally, most cars just drove on by, we were in an area where people routinely just park on the side of the road and gape at the scenery, after all.
"Do you think if I dialed 911, they'd send a police officer to change the tire for us?" "I don't know. They'd probably tell us to call AAA." "We're stranded by the side of the road! I wonder how long it'll take for the people in those houses to call the police. Maybe I should go knock on someone's door." "Uh... that's probaby not a great idea." "Right."
(Later, Ellie realized we were in the national forest and the odds of a ranger being sent to help us were actually much better than when she thought I was just suggesting the local police force might have the resources to send someone to help us. (which is what I was suggesting, I forgot too.))
The third time the same car drove by, they asked if we needed help or if help was coming. I told the truth, help is coming, but we'd prefer it be here now. A guy and his son got out of the car, while the mother stayed in the backseat. I showed them how to use the jack and made sure it was in the right spot and they did all of the work.
Then these kind souls followed us out to the main road, pulled up beside us and let us know that the tire looked good. (I think they were concerned that I might never take the car over 20 mph again.)
We stopped for dinner at the first place we saw that looked open. I called Drew. "I don't have much battery. We got a flat tire. No way am I driving I-17 through the mountains on a doughnut, and really not in the dark. You have to find us a hotel room in Sedona tonight. Call me back." He called back with the hotel information.
He did a good job too. We stayed at a hotel so nice that we were a bit sad that we weren't really sticking around to enjoy it.
The next morning, I failed alarm clock, but Ellie got up in time for me to be the first customer at the tire store she'd spotted as we were looking for dinner. I left the hotel room all full of angst about being absurdly late for work, buying a new tire in such a tourist-town, and generally irritated at the massive stroke of (probably preventable) bad luck.
I walked outside, saw the morning light with some gray clouds on the rocks, remembered where I was, and calmed down. There are worse places to get stuck. I could afford an unplanned night in a hotel and a new tire. We knew where the tire store was. I wouldn't miss work entirely. We weren't still on the side of the road.
Within an hour, I had two new tires, had finally spoken with my boss, and we were on our way to getting out of Sedona. The ride was much, much smoother than the trip up. Clearly, I needed those tires.
By the time we made it back and I ran up to the apartment to take a super quick shower and change out of yesterday's clothes, I managed to be at work in time to put in half a day...