On the Road Between No and Where

Several years ago, I began describing places that were some distance away from towns of any size as “the intersection of No and Where.” On our recent road trip we discovered something even more isolated: “the road between No and Where.”

It was on such a road – Texas RM 2400 – that our right front tire decided to give way.

I should point out that RM 2400 (RM stands for “ranch to market”) is a perfectly good paved road. The problem was that it stretches between a state highway and a US highway and that even where it intersects those roads, there is no there there.

(I suspect that when Gertrude Stein said of Oakland that there is “no there there,” she had never been to any place where that was literally true.)

We were on our way back from seeing the eclipse and visiting family in the Texas Hill Country, and we had decided to take a short side trip down to the Alpine/Marfa area to see the high desert country in spring, which is a good time for visiting deserts.

There are ways to get there on somewhat more traveled roads, but this looked like it led to a scenic route. We’d had the car serviced before the trip and the tires were relatively new, so we were not expecting trouble.

I should point out that trouble usually happens when you’re not expecting it.

We were toodling along and all of a sudden things were very rough. The road hadn’t changed. I said, “Do you think we have a flat?”

We decided to pull over into the first driveway we came to (no real shoulders on that road).

The tire wasn’t flat. It was gone, left in shreds along the road.

So we took all the stuff out of the back that was on top of where the spare tire was. Lots of stuff – the casual packing of a road trip coupled with some things I was bringing back from Austin.

We found the spare and the lug wrench, but no jack.

That seemed odd, but it occurred to me that, despite the fact that my car is 18 years old (my mechanic assures me that it is never going to die on account of the fact that it is a Scion, which is to say a Toyota), I had never changed a tire on it. When I had a flat, I called Triple A.

Which we would have definitely done, except that we had no cell service. And of course, the nearest possible place that might have a Triple A person was at least 60 miles away.

Anyway, I was convinced there must be a jack somewhere, so I looked under the front seat and there it was. So we moved some more stuff to get at it, put the jack under the car, and started the process.

My sweetheart, who has knees, did most of the cranking of the jack. We then worked on the lug nuts. Three of them came off with some effort. However, there were four of them, and the fourth one was not coming off at all.

Apparently it was stripped.

Let me also note that with the exception of a semi that passed us right after we stopped, no one else had come down the road.

Fortunately, at this point a man in a pickup came along and turned in at the gate of the very place where we had stopped.

He stopped and we explained the problem. We concluded that it was going to be necessary to remove the bolt as well as the lug nut. He thought he might have a grinder that would make that easy.

It happened that we had stopped by the road to the hunting retreat where he worked, so first he checked there and then he drove back to his home about a mile back down the road to see if he had a tool that would work.

In the end, he ended up removing the bolt, and therefore the rest of the tire, by chiseling it off. It was hard work, though once it was off, it was easy to put the spare tire on.

I should mention that the spare is one of those small donut tires, and also that it was now held in place by three bolts instead of four.

During this time, two more cars drove by, one not stopping and the other checking to make sure we had things under control. Four cars total; two stopped.

Given that all the work he did was much more than helping someone change a tire, I tried to pay the man for his time, but he wouldn’t hear of it. We did give him the three beers we had left in the cooler. I wish we’d had more beer!

On the advice our helper, we decided to drive to Fort Stockton, which was back on I-10, rather than continuing our planned scenic route. While that was about 60 miles away, it was considerably closer than our destination, and there was no place in between us and our destination that was likely to have a tire place open.

Have I mentioned that it was Saturday afternoon? In my experience, small town businesses often shut down on Saturday afternoons. We were hoping to find a tire shop in Fort Stockton.

However, given that we were driving on the donut with three bolts, we did not hurry. We drove slowly toward the U.S. highway that led to Fort Stockton – not seeing another car – and then turned back north and drove slowly along that.

When we finally got cell service, we were able to determine that there were a couple of tire shops still open in Fort Stockton at four in the afternoon on a Saturday. Apparently repairing tires is a major business there, on account of the interstate highway.

We picked one, and a young man came out to help us. I swear he looked to be about 12 years old, but he did know what he was doing. He put a used tire on for us and sent us up to the auto parts store to get a couple of replacement bolts.

We brought those back, and he replaced them too, which involved taking off the brake. I was a little relieved when an older person came out and handled the trickier parts, including checking the brake.

And it worked fine, though there was a noise when we turned right at low speed.

We ended up cutting short our planned excursion, though we did drive down to Alpine and Marfa the next day by less scenic routes. At that point we needed to hurry down the road a bit because there was major wind and possible dust storms along our route in New Mexico and we needed to get to a stopping point before they hit.

All in all, a little more adventure than we had in mind, but all is well that ends well, and we made it home. We even took some nice scenic back roads in California, after checking with a mechanic to make sure the noise we kept hearing wasn’t serious (it wasn’t).

But I did put off writing this post until after we got home, because I didn’t want to jinx anything.

The moral of this story is that there are good human beings everywhere, even on the road that goes from No to Where.

Truth is, we didn’t run into any nasty human beings on our entire 4000-mile plus trip, unless you could some bad drivers who fortunately didn’t cause any wrecks.

It makes me feel better about the state of the world that there are so many decent people in it, and especially people who are willing to do much more than is required.

We may get through these difficult times yet.

4 thoughts on “On the Road Between No and Where

  1. I’m glad it turned out so well. A few times in my life (notably while driving a rental car in Dublin, Ireland, whose clutch decided to die within half an hour of leaving the airport) I have encountered strangers who have saved my bacon, my trip, and my faith in human kind,

    Your trip sounds wonderful.

  2. Individually, most people are kind. In groups, not quite so much. In large, overarching organisations, the machine takes over and the goodwill of the individuals gets crushed by the mechanisms of bureaucratic control—which are invariably commandeered by the very few who are motivated by self-interest only.

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