I heard a thump or a whump Tuesday afternoon, but I didn’t remember seeing anything on the freeway pavement.
I had just about decided it was nothing, when I thought I heard a really noisy vehicle trying to pass me. Then I realized the noise was coming from my car. I finally admitted to myself that I had blown or punctured a tire while barreling down Highway 101.
I pulled over. I needed to think. The traffic whizzed past at 65 and 70.
I remembered reading somewhere that changing a tire on a freeway shoulder is a dumb idea, and that it’s smarter to keep driving on the flat tire to the next off-ramp. The argument is that it’s better to sacrifice one tire than to risk your neck doing automotive repairs just inches from a roaring torrent of traffic.
The next 101 off-ramp for me was the Las Tablas exit to Templeton. That’s the exit I was going to take anyhow. I was on my way to pick up my wife, Mamie, at the Adult Day Center. So, I waited for a long break in the traffic and pulled back out into the slow lane.
I turned on my hazard flashers and hoped for the best. All the cars and trucks travelling in the slow lane managed to edge around me into the fast lane, except one. It slowed down and followed me. I like to think that driver was running interference for me.
I made it safely to the exit. Just after leaving the end of the off-ramp I turned right onto Duncan Road, which leads to the Day Center. It also passes the CHP office, which has a big parking lot in front. Once safely parked there, I got out and saw the left rear tire was flat.
I then briskly walked the quarter of mile or so to the day center to reassure Mamie that I hadn’t forgotten her. You see, by a really inconvenient coincidence, I discovered earlier that day that I’d lost my cell phone. (I’ll never again clip a phone to my jeans’ pocket.)
When I got to the day center I explained the problem to Mamie and used the center’s phone to call AAA. I figured Auto Club’s guys could change my tire a lot faster than I could. It was already 4:05 p.m. and the center closes at 5 p.m.
The AAA telephone operator said it might take 45 minutes to get the service truck to me but that she would ask them to rush. I decided to start changing the tire myself. If the AAA truck arrived while I was still working, they could finish it.
A worker at the day center drove me back to our car, and I barely had time to uncover the spare tire and the jack when the AAA truck drove up. Two gracious gentlemen changed the tire. I was able to pick up Mamie by 4:30 p.m.