Any engineers here? I need an explanation for this one.
We have 3 cars in our driveway.
One is the new Nissan Rouge I mentioned in an earlier post. We bought it so NewWifey(tm) wouldn’t be in danger of breaking down in the middle of the night and getting eaten by cannibals during one of her many cross-country business treks.
The other two, a 2001 Ford Escape with 280,000 miles on it and a 2006 Subaru Forester with 230,000 miles, are the vehicles I take to work every day. I alternate between them to hopefully make them last longer. Both have issues, so I’m constantly in danger of breaking down in the middle of the night and getting eaten by cannibals. (But I’m pretty sure I taste terrible (based on NewWifey(tm)’s testimony) so they’d probably leave after one bite.)
One of the issues with the Escape is a set of gradually leaking tires. I think they came from the factory that way. All four shoes need a fresh air injection at least once a week or you’re down to psi’s in the single digits. Drives me nuts because there’s still enough tread on them that shelling out for a new quartet feels like a real ripoff.
It’s not really a problem, though. I just make it part of my weekend routine to pump ’em up so I’m good to go til the next weekend.
So last weekend, like all the others, I pumped ’em up. On Monday I drove it to work, then Tuesday I switched to the Subaru, and Wednesday went back to the Escape.
However when I got out of work Wednesday, the Escape had a flat. Not the 7 or 8 psi “really low” kind of flat I’m used to seeing if I don’t do the weekend pump-up. No, this was a “riding on the rim” kind of flat, the kind you get when you back over a set of security spikes after discovering your GPS just directed you into an Army bomb testing range instead of the porn shop next door.
As any number of people who know me will attest, I’m not the manliest of men. However there is one typically male stereotype I do embody: I’m pretty good at changing tires. Years of racing cars, motorcycles, and bicycles has meant years of getting flats on cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. By now I’ve had so much practice at swapping out rubber on vehicles that I can practically do it while they’re still rolling.
So when I saw the back right tire on the Escape was pancaked I just rolled my eyes a bit. I was annoyed because I was in good work clothes and I was tired from working all day. And I wasn’t looking forward to driving an hour home on a donut spare. But otherwise it was no more than a minor inconvenience, a 15 minute kink in my plans, tops.
I opened the back hatch and lifted the floorboard over the spare. In the well was the donut tire, and clamped over it was the scissor jack. I took both out and reached into the bottom of the well for the lug wrench and folding jack cranking arm.
There was nothing there. All I felt at the bottom of the spare well was the bottom of the spare well.
What the hell? Where were the lug wrench and cranking arm? In the 16 years we’ve had the car (we bought it new), I’ve never had a flat on the road and had to use them. They should still be right where the factory worker on the assembly line put them. I couldn’t figure it out.
So I called NewWifey(tm).
“Dummy” she said, “You used them to jack up the Subaru last year, remember? You must have thrown the crank and wrench in there, instead of back in the Escape.”
Shit! She was right, I did. We bought the Subaru used, and the previous owner must have kept those two key parts for some reason. We didn’t find out til months later, when we needed them. That’s why I poached them from the Escape. And didn’t put them back.
Good as I am at changing flats, I still need a lug wrench to do it. My teeth just aren’t strong enough (I found out the hard way once) to undo the lug nuts on a 6,000 pound SUV. That cranking arm for the jack is pretty much a must-have item also. And now both those items were 50 miles away.
I guess I could have called a tow, but 1. oh, the indignity! “Hi, tow guy? I got a flat. YES, I’m a man...”, and 2. if I’ve been balking at scraping up the $500 for a new set of tires because we’re so tight with cash right now, spending half that to get flat-bedded to some shop for just ONE tire would be galling beyond my ability to describe. I needed a Plan B.
“Plan B” turned out to be begging my co-workers. I went back up to the 9th floor and headed for the producer’s area to see if any of those scumba…er, highly respected co-workers would dig through the trunk of their car and lend me the necessary equipment. Asking one of my fellow announcers would be useless of course, because they were all on the air. I had to lower myself to taking to – begging! – producers. Oh, how the mighty have fallen….
This turned out to be less traumatic than I initially feared. After some guffaws and good natured ribbing (“You’re fucking pathetic, you know that Danger? You must really be a piece of shit thinking you can come here and ask us for a favor after all the fucking shit you....” etc.) one of them grabbed his keys and grudgingly led me out to his car. He scrounged around in the back and lo and behold, emerged with a wrench and crank. We walked to the other side of the parking lot and my wounded Escape.
And his wrench didn’t fit. There are two sizes of lug wrench in the world, and his was in the other camp.
Back to the producer’s pen for more begging. Another producer finally rolled his eyes and grabbed his keys.
This time the wrench fit. “Just fucking make sure you bring it upstairs to me when you’re done. If you steal it, I’m gonna fuck up your newscasts” the producer guy said as he walked back to the studio.
I got to work. The frame on the Escape has a bump that fits a depression on the top of the jack, and it slotted in perfectly. I was on dry, flat ground so this should be a snap. I cracked the lugs and started cranking. The only real problem was the crank arm that he lent me was really short – they gotta save money somewhere on those bottom-of-the-line Hyundai’s, I guess – so it took freakin’ forever to get the jack up to the point where it actually started lifting the car. But hey, at least it WAS cranking. I should be done in an hour, at most.
Fiteen minutes later I was still cranking. (This was a REALLY short crank arm. It was like trying to crank with a pencil). But I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer. The scissor jack was almost fully extended. Another 5 or 6 rotations and it would be at its limit.
However – and I can’t believe I didn’t notice this earlier – although the jack was extending, the car itself wasn’t actually lifting all that much. All that was happening was the spring on the shock was extending.
What the hell? Why the hell would they place the car’s lift point where it couldn’t actually lift the car??
Gah. I started un-cranking.
For the next twenty minutes I turned that stupid pencil crank arm until the jack was all the way down. Then I moved it under the shock body itself. That should do it.
Another 20 minutes of cranking.
Sure enough, that got the ass end of the car high enough that I could shimmy off the flat. The jack was about fully extended, but it did it. I tossed the wheel to the side and grabbed the donut.
Oh NO! The car wasn’t up high enough to put the donut on!
Being flat, the regular tire’s diameter was much reduced. So reduced that the donut spare was actually larger than it by a good three inches. I was able to *just* sqeeze the flat full sized tire off, but putting the larger donut back in its place was impossible.
This was crazy! Ford supplied their 2001 Escape SUV’s with a jack that was too small to do jack shit! What the hell?? I fully intend to call the Blue Oval’s world headquarters in Dearborn Michigan tomorrow and demand to speak to the engineer who designed that system. Crazy, I say!
There was one option I might have tried at this point, which was to un-crank the car again then put a chunk of wood or a rock or something between the jack and the car, effectively making for a taller jack. The problem was, when it was fully down there was barely enough room to get the jack under the car as it was. I had maybe an inch to play with, and that wasn’t nearly enough.
I called NewWifey(tm) to see if she had any suggestions.
“Call a tow truck” she said. “Dummy.”
Nuts. It was looking more and more like I was gonna have to grit my teeth and go that humiliating, and expensive, route.
But I decided to try one more thing. I pushed and wiggled and kicked and cursed the flat back onto the car, then spent another 20 minutes lowering the jack, then tightened the lugs up.
Then I got in the car and, at about 1 mile an hour and with my hazards on, I drove the half mile/half hour up the shoulder of Rt.17 to the LukOil gas station where I knew they had an air pump. Maybe, just maybe, the tire only had a worsening leak rather than a cut or split.
There was a brief moment of panic when finally, a sweaty half an hour later, I pulled into the station and I saw the pump cost a dollar “only quarters“, and all I had was a bill on me. But a sympathetic attendant changed it for me, and I plunked them in.
Success! The tire pumped up…and it held! I didn’t know for how long, but it looked promising. I didn’t hear any telltale whistling, or feel a 40 psi breeze on my face. I hustled back to work so I could return the crank and wrench to the producer, then raced as fast as I could back to Dangerhouse. At least if I sensed deflation along the way there were a few tire stores I could pop into and buy a new one without needing a tow.
However the tire held the whole way home. I almost couldn’t believe it, but it did. I was pretty filthy from lying sideways on a New Jersey parking lot in my good work clothes trying to muscle a jack and two tires around for almost two hours, but that was small price to pay, considering. I stripped down, showered up, and hit the bourbon.
The next day I took the Subaru. And the day after that. At work, between reports, I’ve been researching tires trying to find a set that won’t break my meager budget yet still has things like tread, and a round shape. It’s been hard.
Then Friday after work, while relaxing at home playing “Animal Crossing” on GameCube, I got an itch on the back of my shoulder. I absentmindedly reached over to scratch it, and felt a lump.
I put my controller down and went into the bathroom to take a look, stripping off my shirt along the way. But as I took my shirt off, I felt…something odd. Like a little pinprick, for just an instant. And within less than a second I heard a very faint “plink” sound near my feet. I looked down.
There was a marble rolling on the wooden floor next to my foot. I reached down and picked it up.
It wasn’t a marble.
It was a fully engorged tick.
Engorged with my blood!
Dammit! I need that blood!
There was no way of putting it back, though. I went and showed NewWifey(tm). Her eyes grew big with what was, for once, genuine concern.
“Oh god, that’s one of those deer ticks. I hope you don’t get Lyme Disease.” She thought a minute. “Or that new one that there’s no cure for. I think it’s called Pocahontas or something.”
“Powassan” I said. “I had to report on it in my news cast.”
“Well I hope you don’t have either one” she said. “I’m too busy with my business to spoon feed you and change your catheter if you become incapacitated.”
“Thanks honey. I love you too.”
Thankfully our good family friend is also our family doctor. I called her and she drove right over to take a look at me and the tick.
“It’s a deer tick alright” she said. “When you die, can I have your VitaMix?”
Of course she was kidding – I think. I mean, who doesn’t want a VitaMix? But anyway, she wrote me out a prescription for Doxycycline and told me what symptoms to watch for in the coming weeks that might indicate I need further treatment. I asked her where she thought I might have been exposed to the tick, since it had been over two weeks since I’d last tramped through our woods.
“Ticks are really bad this year. You could have picked one up anywhere” she said. “In fact, if I had to guess I’d say you got it from lying in that parking lot when you were changing your tire. Your building is right in the Meadowlands, and that’s Tick Central Station down there with all the wildlife. They’re probably all over, not just in the meadows themselves.”
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing video golf and cooking. Around 7 she said her goodbyes and headed down our driveway to her car.
Which had a flat.
I changed it – in 10 minutes, using our portable hydraulic jack – but if I get another tick, she’s never getting my VitaMix ever. Ever.
My local grocery had baby back ribs on sale yesterday, ninety nine cents a pound, one day only. Ninety nine cents! I normally like the meatier spare ribs, but for .99/lb I’m not gonna argue. I picked up two full racks and BBQ’d them today.
First I brined them overnight in a salt/sugar solution, then this morning I coated them in a dry rub, some liquid smoke, and some oil. Let that sit for about an hour soaking it all in. Then onto a rack on a half sheet, and into a low (250 f) oven for 7 hours.
Now I know what BBQ purists are thinking here. They’re thinking, ‘BBQ in an oven? LIQUID SMOKE?! You will be consigned to the lowest, hottest, reaches of hell for all eternity for such heresy, son. You can ONLY do BBQ in a smoker!’
Yeah, yeah. I know. But what can I do? I don’t have a smoker. Even if I did, it’s been too cold and rainy up here to use one. I gots to go with what I’se gots. At 99-cents a pound I wasn’t gonna turn my nose up at the whole thing just because I wasn’t gonna win the American Royal with my recipe.
So waddaya think?
(Photography note to self: next time us a bounce flash, idiot, so the pale green homemade coleslaw with dark flecks of celery seed looks pale green with dark flecks, and not like a snowy pile of shredded coconut.)
For the last hour and a half I basted them lightly every half hour with the last of my precious “Three Little Pigs” BBQ sauce that NewWifey(tm) hauled back from Kansas City on her last trip there. That stuff is more precious than gold, and it killed me to see the last of it come out of the bottle. But it was worth it. Their BBQ sauce could make wallboard taste like a Michelin 3-star dish. If anything was gonna help this Yankee’s oven-made ribs, it was that. And it did. It was outrageously good. (Noting that, no, there is no fire ring when you cook anything in the oven. But that’s easy enough to fix. Just close your eyes when you eat it.)
Ok, gotta hit the sack. Time is ticking away. Tick…tick…tick….