This is not my first experience in this rock slide area. Four years ago, in exactly the same spot, I was driving with my dog Ripley and encountered a rock slide, with bigger rocks. That time, it shredded my tire on the spot. I barely squeaked over to the side of the road – there is no shoulder, and it was too dangerous to stay in the car. So Ripley and I crossed to the other side. And of course, there’s no cell phone reception there. At least it was during the summer, and it was still daylight. A nice mom with kids stopped and gave us a ride to a nearby ranch with a phone, we called AAA, and then we sat by the road to wait. A UPS driver who came by to deliver a package even gave Ripley a cookie, leaving her with the distinct impression that the whole thing was just an unusual way to go about getting a treat.
Since then, whenever it rains, I try to remember to be alert as I approach that section of the road, to slow down enough that I have time to run through the rocks like a downhill ski slalom course. But, eventually, the habitual nature of the drive wins out, and I go into auto pilot, listening to books on CD or music, zoning out, until BLAM! There’s another damn rock.
Somewhere in my past lives, I’ve decided, I must have pissed off one of the tire gods. I have blown tires travelling at 65 miles per hour on the freeway. I have blown tires late at night on elevated on ramps in cities, where I had to get out and walk in the dark for over a mile because it wasn’t safe to stay in the car, even though I knew walking didn’t feel very safe either. I have spent three days meditating at a Zen retreat center on Skyline Boulevard, and then, completely blissed out, returning home on a two-lane, twisty country road, hit a rock on a blind curve and blown a tire, just as the skies opened up and the rain started to pour down.
I live in constant fear that my tires are going to go flat – that the air is slowly leaking out, that a nail is stuck in them, that the tread is worn to a point that they will just disintegrate. This regardless of the fact that I faithfully replace my tires. I am also terrified of putting air into them – I am afraid that I won’t know when to stop, and that they’ll overinflate, and explode, and fly off into outer space. Thank goodness for Cloverdale Automotive Services, where Butch, Andrea and Jeff know my name and my quirks. I’d be lost without them.
But back to last night. I have learned a few things. Now I know – if it’s a bad place to stop, keep driving, even if your tire is flat. If you ruin your rim, you can replace it. Bearing that in mind, since I had a flat tire, it was the middle of the night, there was no shoulder, no cell phone reception, and no one nearby, I kept driving for another mile and a half. I finally pulled into a driveway, safely off the road. Part of me was secretly hoping that I had just dinged the tire, that it wasn’t really flat. But as I slowed down, I could hear the thwacka-thwacka-thwacka. And when I stopped, I smelled the rubber.
My Zen calm completely left me. I was simply annoyed. I got out of the car and danced around for about one minute swearing at my bad luck. But then I called AAA, pulled the donut tire out of my trunk, called Sabrina to let her know what had happened — and believe it or not, 30 minutes later, I was back on the road, none the worse for the experience. (If you don’t count the bill for the new tire.)
Either I’m getting close to paying off this karmic debt, and this is one of my last flat tires, or I’m destined to deal with this particular frustration for the rest of this life, and maybe even the next. No matter which is correct, all I can really do each time, is fix the tire.