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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Over the river and through the mill to grandaughter's room we went

It is always different when your baby has a baby. My daughter Michelle has produced a 5 pound, 12 ounce beauty named Angela Marie. Mom and baby were in the hospital a few counties away and we had Saturday to go and visit.

Strangely, the night before I had a dream in which I was much younger and my kids were all little again. I was holding them on laps and tossing them around and running with them, having a ball! I awoke, realized they were all big now, and felt a very profound sense of loss. I couldn't have my little boys leaping at me anymore, my little girls running away from my threatened tickle monster...I was exceedingly morose.

Later, I realized that in my dad-of-small-kids days I was very athletic and could throw them around and teach them all sorts of sports and just go all day long. Now that my kids were big, I had been in a serious accident, had surgeries, and just wasn't the physical presence I had been. I wouldn't be the same kind of dad now. Plus, no one could take all the memories away, I had been a very loving, hands-on father and my small guys would always be able to run and play in my mind even though they were now big.

I decided that it was the right time of life to become the grandfather. God is smart about these things! I would get to hang out with little kids, but now they would be the kids of my little kids and I would get them in much smaller doses, so a certain amount of dynamic goofing around would be feasible. Yeah, I guessed this was all okay.

So, we would grab the van and hit the road back to the old stomping grounds, where both the new parents and my mom live. The plan was to go get great-grandma and take her with us, and that went smoothly. Next, we went to the hospital to visit the proud new mom and dad and the baby. Uhm, we forgot the camera!!!! Fortunately, the hospital gift shop had disposable cameras and we were all set.

Angela is a very pretty little baby girl. Her C-sectioned mom would have to stay in the hospital along with her baby for a couple of days and dad was staying in the room, too. Great-grandma couldn't stay too long, so after awhile we said our goodbyes. We had time to go out to eat a midday meal, drop off my mom and hit the road. We made plans to come back the next week.

The first indication that things were going downhill was when I noticed the van was kind of leaning...the right front tire was almost entirely flat! Now, the van is pretty new and the tires have a lot of tread, so that was a surprise. We turned on the flashing lights and limped to the nearest gas station. Closed! Disgruntled, we limped to the second gas station. Open, hurrah! But the business end of their air hose had been broken off and we couldn't add air there, either. I had no idea where another station might be, so I reluctantly purchased a can of fix-a-flat. I crouched for five minutes while the can filled the tire enough to be safe and, tire bolstered, drove to the restaurant.

When we finally got ready to go back on the highway, we first stopped at a gas station, added some air to the tire to make the pressure correct after getting gas, and we were off!

Not a rumble strip


We were on the Indiana Toll Road, it was nice and dark and there was a light, cold drizzle forcing me to turn on the wipers on intermittent setting. We were flying along about 65 miles an hour when I saw the sign annnouncing a toll booth approaching. Just after that, I felt a vibration and there was a rumble. I figured they'd put in some additional rumble strips. But when the rumble increased and the steering wheel began to vibrate I knew it was a flat tire. But I was in the left-hand lane, with a car behind me and a couple of trucks to my right. I had to slow down dramatically, turning on my signal, and keep the car steady until the trucks passed and I could move to the right lane and on to the side of the road. We were just before a bridge so there wasn't much of an emergency lane there at all. By the time I could get stopped it was hard to steer and I feared perhaps the tire would shred and begin ripping off of the wheel.

Our van is a Grand Voyager with all the bells and whistles, you know what I mean, and we even have a central console with a food/drink compartment that will either cool or heat your stuff. But the jack and jack-handle looked pretty mickeymouse to me at first glance. First glance turned out to be right.

The spare was theoretically lowered from its berth beneath the rear area of the van by turning a screw. In this case, a metal cord lowered but the tire stayed right where it was. I completely lowered the metal cord without dislodging the spare, A struggle ensued as I tried spinning and hitting and pulling on the spare while sprawled on the pavement with big trucks zooming by at breakneck speed and the cold drizzle coming down. My poor wife was joining in the endeavor, providing light with a tiny keychain flashlight she had with her. (I had previously bought a set of those "shake-and-shine" flashlights and, as it turns out, they quit working after a few weeks of remaining unshook. What a ripoff!)

With the spare not coming off, I then grabbed the cell phone and called 911, who patched me in to the Toll Road operator. She let me know that I could call for a tow truck if I wished, but there was no service vehicle patrolling the Toll Road, so if I couldn't get the spare to work I'd have no other choice. If I left my vehicle on the road more than two hours, it would be towed by them at my expense. Great. After two different conversations (having ended the first to think and discuss with the wife what to do and so on) I was told by the operator that a maintenance truck was not far away and they might have a hammer or sledge that would help me get the spare off.

While we waited, I went back to pull and yank at the spare with the help of my wife. The spare almost immediately fell off right on my awkwardly splayed left hand. OUCH!!!! So it was off, but the stupid thing that had theoretically held the tire in place, a T-shaped thingy that had been at the end of the metal cord, was too big to get through the opening in the center of the spare tire. GRRRRRRRRRR!

I finally made the jackhandle into a hammer and, after whacking my hand once or twice in the process, managed to beat the stupid T-thingy through the opening and free the spare tire. We actually had a spare that was ready to go. So I figured all was well now. All I had to do was break the lug nuts, jack up the van, take off the nuts and change out the tire.

Design engineers at Chrysler strike again



It was bad enough that the "crank down" tire wouldn't crank down and that the T-thingy had to be hammered off....while still under the van.....in the drizzle, in the dark, with a smashed hand. Yeah, that was bad enough. Now, when I tried to loosen the lug nuts, it turned out that the wimpy little jackhandle wasn't strong enough to do the job. A couple of those nuts had been airhammered on a bit too strong and that little jackhandle just failed to handle the torque needed to do the job. I was getting pretty darned frustrated by this time...The spare tire design was a failure in a couple of important ways, the jackhandle was inadequate and we were getting nowhere fast.

They calvary thunders to the rescue

Just then, a car pulled up behind and I could see that it was a cruiser. The Highway Patrol! It was a somewhat diminuitive female officer named Sandra Sherer, who with a smile began saving the day. Did she have a jack? Yes, she had a four-way....and a 2 and 1/2 ton jack! What? Yes, she had a very cool portable little floor jack in a black plastic carrying case (I am getting one of those!) and a wonderful chrome four-way spinner.

It was also cool that, right next to her patrol car and leaning against the guard rail was a wheel cover...ours! I hadn't mentioned that the wheel cover had fallen off and I had written it off, probably way back somewhere and probably bounced off of the road. But no, it was just propped up there, unscuffed, waiting to be snagged and tossed into the back of the van.

We moved my pathetic little Chrysler jack out of the way and I hunkered down to begin taking the lug nuts loose on the front tire. Just then the highway maintenance truck arrived and the driver, Joe Clark, came up to help. I had just muscled the lugs all loose, but he helped me get the lugs off after the jack raised the van, and then get the flat tire off and the spare on, etc. I profusely thanked Officer Sherer and maintenance worker Clark (You guys rock!) and we were able to head back down the road.

It's always sumthin'

Except the parking brake was stuck. I couldn't get it loose, the patrol car was waiting patiently behind, so I decided to begin driving and pulling on the handle at the same time, hoping it would loosen. AAAArgh! I headed out, pulling and yanking on the handle while driving, wondering what next could take place? Fortunately, I felt the handle actually give and felt the van surge as the brake came loose and we were able to drive the rest of the way home without further incident.

Naturally, today the youngest daughter drove the little Kia some 20 miles away and promptly got stuck with a dead battery. I sent the college son to go get her, because I could tell the battery was dead and it was certainly an electrical problem, perhaps the alternator, since the battery is maybe two weeks old. I just couldn't deal with going out and fooling around with the stupid car. I figured tomorrow the battery would have had time to charge and we could drive it in the daytime, without the lights, and drop it off at my mechanic, who is a friend.

Bill the mechanic

It is a great thing to have an auto mechanic who is both competent and trustworthy and, even better, doesn't charge an arm and a leg to do things to your car. I once did all my own automobile work, other than messing with transmissions, but since I hurt my back and had surgery I have eschewed most auto repair myself. I can take the little car to Bill and he will find the problem quickly and fix it. Heck, I can take the van to Bill, put two new tires on the front and save the good but used left front tire as an actual spare. I'll put that dumb little temporary spare back in its little hideyhole, but on long trips we'll just toss an actual spare in the far back. It's a big van, so there's lots of room.

It has to be done right away. The Kia daughter needs the Kia, because she has a job and the college son needs to drive the Contour to classes and to work. The Subaru Forester is what we drive around town, but we'll need the van for the road. Saturday we go to have Christmas with great grandma again and also granddaughter. Sunday we celebrate Christmas with yet another daughter, owner of the two grandsons. Monday we travel out of state to visit my mother-in-law for Christmas there. Yeah, then my wife's cousin is getting married on New Year's, so we travel out of state for that, too.

So I am the owner of a sore hand, and I'm grumpy about the stupid cars, and so I am not particularly inspired. Such is life. Church was good and it was nice to hang out with friends. Football was entertaining today. But I have a busy work schedule all next week. I may not make a lot of long posts this week.

Of course, you may be too busy shopping and traveling and entertaining to read and comment on blogs anyway. Ha! In any event, from me to you, a slice of my life and if you aren't online again later this week, a merry a blessed Christmas to you! Through all that took place, I am now a grandpa for the third time. Hurrah!

3 comments:

loboinok said...

Sounds like you are ready for a floor jack and membership in a good autoclub.

Congratulations on being a "pawpaw" again. Beautiful name for little one!

Juggling Mother said...

Congratualtions to you, and Michelle. Being a grandparent sounds much better than being a parent to me:-) But then again, I am legally old enough to be a grandparent while still having three little balls of energy to look after! I can see the appeal of having them young - provided you've got some back-up!

Commiserations on the car trouble - I know how annoying it can be. Thankfully our current vehicle hasn't had any problems, but most of our previous ones have been old bangers and I've spent many a freezing cold evening by the side of the road! I love roadside assistance:-)

radar said...

Thanks...my insurance includes towing but I am one of those guys who thinks he can survive without an auto club. Before I take another trip in the "cruiser" (my wife's name for the van) we will have a four-way, a 2 and 1/2 ton jack and a full spare in the back. I bought two new tires for the front as well. One should be able to go for years without a flat if you change your tires at the appropriate time but a random nail at the wrong time apparently won the day that time.

JM has three balls of energy, eh? Been there but as you said I was pretty young at the time so I was more than a match for them. May you absorb their excess energy and stay one step ahead of them!