We were twenty minutes east of Sioux Falls on our third day of fun, when I looked up from the laptop. The car felt like we were driving over a gravel road. Bumpbumpbumpbumpbumpbumpbump. ‘What’s going on with the road?’ I asked the professor, staring at the expanse of asphalt before me. The man of the house stared at the road from his window. ‘We have a flat tire,’ he sighed.
And we pulled over to the side of interstate 90. Somewhere between Sioux Falls and a [closed] rest stop in southern Minnesota.
I accepted the news with a surprising amount of perspective. In all our years of marriage, in the thousands of miles we’ve driven in those years, we’ve never had a flat tire. We were due.
‘Alrighty boys,’ I chirped calmly. ‘Let’s get out of our seats, we’re going to be here for a little bit.’
‘Maybe it would be easier if we took the plane,’ the Gort suggested, ever the master-of-timing, as though he’d stumbled upon some sort of genius solution to our travel woes. And just had to share it.
So the professor did his tire-changing thing while I entertained the troops in the car and 30 minutes later, when he had the spare tire on, I thought: ‘wow, that was no big deal!’
And then….there was sighing from the rear and an announcement filled with despair: ‘the spare is flat.’
‘No big deal,’ I thought again., ‘since we have that handy-dandy air-pump-thing in the back.’ An hour after we’d been sitting in the hot car, in the hot sun, in the middle of nowhere, the professor looked at me. ‘Do you have Dan and Amy’s number?’ I gave him a look and said ‘no, I don’t. And they live in Rochester, what are they going to do?’ He thought for a second. ‘Well can you call your mom or sister?’
And I gave him another look. ‘Did we just sit here for an hour before you finally decided to call someone?’
‘Well, how was I supposed to know the spare was flat?’ he protested. And I opened my mouth, fully prepared to express my outrage, but I had no words. Aren’t men supposed to check on things like spare tires before going on big trips?
So I called my mom and I texted my sister. And they fervently searched for someone in Adrian, Minnesota. Which we guessed (based on the closed rest stop) was the nearest town.
An hour and a half after we first pulled off the road, a truck-driving gentleman showed up, ready to fix the tire. He hadn’t realized the spare was also flat. So he drove back to the shop with the first flat tire, leaving us to fester inside the car-van for another thirty minutes.
I walked through the tall itchy grass beside the car-van, trying to soothe an irritated Percy while looking for a thick wad of cash that would magically airlift me out of my situation. I imagined the wad had been left there after a mobster-body was thrown from a car, Tony Soprano style, and the wad of cash had landed in an inconspicuous spot. For the sole purpose of saving me from spending another day in the Venture avec ma famille.
I faced a moral dilemma, of course. Knowing the origins of the cash (i.e., someone was tossed from a car) would I take it?
I was sweating, carrying a twentysomething pound sweaty baby. And I was probably getting some sort of melanoma from the irate sun.
‘Yes, I would keep the money,’ I decided. And then, with a sweaty sleeping baby in my arms, I stumbled back to the car-van.
And the truck-driving man showed up again. With a brand-new (likely expensive) tire. ‘I think we’re back on the road again…two hours later,’ I texted my poor sister who would have the arduous job of unlocking her home for us whenever we finally arrived.
Except we weren’t…on the road. The professor stopped at the shop to settle his account, and document the demise of our relatively new tire (thank you Canadian Tire!) and I took the boys to the nearby convenient store for Jolly Rancher ice cream pops and all the beverages we could consume. And yet another Subway sandwich.
They ate their ice creams. And we drank our drinks. And we ate our sandwich. And still no professor.
Three and a half hours after hearing bumpbumpbumpbumpbump, we were back on the road. Having driven less than 40 miles.
Our estimated time of arrival in Indianapolis: 4am.
‘I’m not driving until 4am,’ I announced to my better half. ‘We’re getting a hotel.’