I had my third rear blowout today on Interstate-5. Since there are dual wheels in the rear, there is a bang, and I feel the blow out, but I can just slow down, put my flashers on, and move to the right, find a spot of relative safety, and get off the road. I was on my way to the SEA-TAC airport to pick up my friend, RJ. Fifteen minutes away, and an hour early, but still, I knew it was going to be cutting it close. I’ve never had a roadside assistance guy show up in under an hour. So I contacted the Good Sam number, gave them my location and settled in to wait.
This flat was complicated by the fact that when it blew out, it also disconnected my tailpipe. I couldn’t see if the hanger was broken or just popped apart. The mechanic was supposed to bring everything he needed to fix it and get me back on the road.
Fifteen minutes after I made the call, a tow truck pulled up. I walked over to speak to the driver, and it turns out that he worked for Washington State, driving a HELP truck up and down the freeways to help folks and get them out of dangerous spots when they’d break down. So, not my mechanic, but he seemed like a nice guy, teasing me about coming all the way from New York to break down on his highway. When I told him I was on my way to pick up a friend at the airport, he offered to go get her, and bring her over here! How sweet is that?
He was a total sweetie. A big guy, nearing retirement age, and boy-howdy did we have plenty to talk about. When he got out of the military, he returned to the area of Idaho where he was raised, but “as a foster kid who had bounced around—well, there was nothing there for me.” So he bought a Harley and did the trip I’m doing—on his motorcycle. He worked his way around the country, mostly loading interstate moving trucks. He knew a guy who worked as dispatcher for this corporation, and the fellow taught Tony how to load really well, like putting a puzzle together. The drivers of these big trucks often want and need help to get the job done and keep on schedule, so Tony would rendezvous with the truck in front of the home. Load up, and then move on.
He laughed, “I’d pull up on the bike, and they’d be looking out the window at me, all scared. But by the end of the day, they’d want me to stay for dinner, hang out have a few drinks.” I can believe it. He’s a truly nice man.
We talked about our sons and his grandsons. He made his son stay out of debt—no credit cards. And since the son listened, Tony helps them out from time to time with some extras. Like this time, he bought him a boat to take the kids fishing. “You know, he takes them out and they stand on a bridge catching fish, but the kid looks at the boats going by, wishing that someday they could have one. In two weeks I have vacation and I’ll tow it to out to Nebraska and give it to them.” Big grin that lit up his eyes. Yeah. I know that feeling, when you can do something special for your family. Your heart just overflows with joy.
We talked about my rig, and my trip thus far. He was thinking about doing a trip like this after he retires. He also wondered how I would ever be able to go back to living in NYC, after living on the road. The answer is pretty simple, really: my kids are there.
About this time my repair guy turned up. An older Russian man, who spoke absolutely no English. It turned out to not be a problem. He was a good mechanic and we got along just fine with lots of pantomime. Tony sat behind us in the truck with his flashers on, laughing. He helped to keep us safe from the flying traffic, and we gave him some good entertainment value.
Over and over on this trip I have made heart connections with people I knew for all of five minutes. All we have are our stories. We share them, and are richer for it. I was about twenty minutes late to pick RJ up at SEA-TAC, and we had a great week together, but I am actually glad I had that particular blow out, because I had an opportunity to meet Tony.