“Yer wus a fur!”
“What?” Jimmy bellowed.
“Yer wus a fur!”
“OUR WHEEL’S ON FIRE!!” I shrieked.
We’d just picked up our travel trailer from its 6,000 mile brake and wheel bearing service and were winging our way north on I5 to a campsite when a car with two girls pulled up level with us, shouting and pointing.
Jimmy reacted very quickly, carved up two lanes of rush hour traffic and pulled onto the hard shoulder. A following wind brought the frightening stench of burning rubber to us when we stopped. Thick black smoke was pouring out of the wheel as it sat at a forlorn angle.
It was exactly five o’clock and the garage we’d just left closed at five.
Jimmy hurriedly dialed Walter, the garage owner and we waited a few tense moments until he picked up. We then waited a very apprehensive half an hour for him to drive the 10 miles (checking to see if his liability insurance was current?) to turn up in an ancient battered minivan.
I was not heartened.
Walter suggested he remove the smoking wheel so we could limp back to his garage towing our dual axle trailer on three wheels keeping to the back roads with him following. We’d spend the night on his not picturesque forecourt and then limp a bit further in the morning, presumably to a garage that wouldn’t forget to put the cotter pin on to secure the brake drum.
Jimmy and I exchanged that special look we have perfected, a pinched expression that says Oh sh*t!
“I’m not sure about this,” I muttered.
“Me neither.” Jimmy looked beyond pained.
Walter joined in, “I’ve seen it done loads of times.”
Not with our trailer, buster, I thought but left Jimmy and Walt to iron out the details.
Back in the car, fretting in relative safety, I felt the whole rig shaking as ol’ Walt battered the wheel and chassis. Jimmy appeared at my window. “Walter’s swearing a lot. I thought I’d get out of the way.”
Apparently after he got the wheel off he was trying to wedge some planks of wood between the chassis and the leaf spring to keep the brake drum from dragging on the road. I daren’t get out and look as we’d several miles to lurch along propped up on scaffolding and didn’t want the image of potential disaster ruining my blinkered thoughts.
Jimmy drove down the hard shoulder ve-e-e-ry slo-o-o-wly, exited the Interstate, crossed over and headed south again on the worst piece of road in Washington State.
We’d been so impressed with the kindness of people in Washington and the courtesy of its drivers so everyone we encountered that day as we bumped along with our hazard lights flashing must have been from out of state. They blared their horns at us, gestured rudely and screeched past as we negotiated potholes trying to keep the low slung underbelly of the trailer off the road.
“This will give you something to write about,” Jimmy quipped in an attempt to distract us both from the anxiety we were feeling.
“I like to write about things that strike me as funny. I’m not finding anything remotely humorous about this.”
“Well, no. I’m nipping my bum a bit.”
Indeed. I was so tense I could have cracked walnuts with several parts of my anatomy. My stomach seemed impaled on my backbone.
As my eyes bored holes in the windshield willing us forward safely, I heard CLANG!! TINKLE! Tinkle, tinkle, clink, clink, clink. I’d imagined we’d broken our back like a freighter in heavy seas and spewed the whole contents of the trailer across the road – plates, glasses, cutlery, saucepans all sounding like they’d been dropped from a great height. But we were still rolling along so I gripped the armrest for its comforting reassurance and waited for the calamity to unfold.
Jimmy pulled off the road, opened the door and jumped out all in one swift movement. I closed my eyes and pretended I wasn’t there.
The brake drum had fallen off the axle and rolled across the road into the path of oncoming traffic weaving its way into a ditch. The ever incompetent Walter, who hadn’t secured the brake drum for a second time, retrieved it and put it in his jalopy along with the previously stowed reeking wheel.
Ten miles and ten minutes due north on the interstate highway became an agonizing eternity of twisting country roads to return south – and east and west – to the garage.
At the end of the journey, we unwound our adrenaline flooded bodies from the car and took a look at Walt’s handiwork. The front axle of the twin axles on our trailer – minus the bulky brake drum – was a mere inch off the road.
It wasn’t all bad news though. The next morning when we were cast adrift – trailer-less and homeless as new brakes, brake drum, calipers and seals were fitted, not by the witless Walter – we paid Courtney’s cousin, Chrystal (How to Render your Husband Speechless, Again) a visit at the NASCAR decked espresso hut.
Chrystal wore a whole dress, but it barely covered her bum and was unzipped in front to her waist, her exuberant breasts launching themselves into the steamy coffee scented atmosphere.
Jimmy approached the drive-through window, having prepared to acquit himself in a manner befitting a Grandad. He did quite well with the coffee order though I couldn’t see his face or keep track of his eyes.
She was the one who lost her cool. “I just love you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” and as she chattered and gushed, encouraging Jimmy to keep talking, she unthinkingly put the coffee grounds back into my coffee.
In a fit of giggles, she dumped out the murky mess and started the long process of brewing coffee all over again, much to Jimmy’s delight.
Sorry fellas. No pictures of Chrystal. Thoughtless of me.