The year the the Firestone Tire Company hyped an ad campaign for a super tire for the family auto was the same year the Keller family was vacationing from Wilmington, DE to California to visit parents and others. It was a natural move for us to buy the two new tires we needed for this long trip from Firestone. So we packed our station wagon with kids and dog and headed west. However, this highly touted rubber donut turned out to be infamous before the year was finished. And thereupon hangs a tale of our adventures.
We must have been in Wyoming by the time we realized we had purchased two of those pneumatic wheel covers destined for recall. Really, really in the middle of nowhere the cadence of our tire hernia grew more and more pronounced until we had to stop and check. Of course we had a spare, but it was not fun to empty the rear of the station wagon and get the spare and the jack. A rat (perhaps a prairie dog) had found refuge under the wheel I had removed, and it made me jump when he dashed away as I was picking up the old tire. Now what? It was a new tire, and we were determined to get a refund. So with a handy rope or bunji cord we tied the defective tire to the roof of the station wagon, and drove on.
When the station wagon is loaded with 6 children 2 parents and a dog, traveling can be an adventure with many distractions. We used to say that the dog was the best traveler of all. Talitha, our faithful poodle mix, was happy to be with her family, and as long as we filled her bowl with water whenever we stopped to eat or gas up the car, she was quite content to lie on the floor beneath the feet of the children. Or occasionally she would lie across a couple laps and enjoy strokes from one or more of the kids.
But traveling highways in deserted country is just a bit unnerving to a father who felt responsible for all these souls in the midst of hostile environments. Not dissimilar from that of the patriarchs in their prairie schooners. Okay, so that was a little over the top, but you get my point. We were in the desert, and I felt vulnerable.
Traveling with this restless crew is most readily accomplished by covering as many miles as possible while most are sleeping. This requires the driver to drive all night, and she who rides "shotgun" to help him stay awake. This strategy brought us into the wilderness of Nevada in the early hours of the morning. Now the steady drumbeat of the next tire hernia was detected by all. We couldn't change the tire since the spare was already in use, and the other tire was awkwardly strapped to the roof of the car. I slowed the car, hoping we would get more mileage with gentler use. Also there was the consideration that a blowout on the highway might not be so injurious at a lower rate of speed. But the next town was several miles ahead. What should we do? We were feeling desperate, and desperate people learn how to pray with importunity. Providence had us in training.
Weary from the tension of the circumstances, we saw the green sign announcing the approaching town. Some relief began to creep into our bodies. At least from here it would not be far to hike to the nearest service station, if need so dictated. As we approached the first gas station we saw it was closed. Remember this was rather early in the morning. Then we had the boldness to seek a station for which we held a credit card. We never seemed to have much money, and didn't carry much when we traveled. It would be best if we put the expense of the new tire on our credit card. After passing another station simply because it was not a sponsor of our credit, we found a Mobile station.
As we were pulling into the driveway, just passing the gas pumps, there was a rather loud "bang" as the latest hernia ruptured. Barbara laughed and said, "Well, I guess they don't need to ask us why we are here." Now the tension was over and prayer was wonderfully, and humorously, answered. I have been certain since that moment that God has a sense of humor.
We saw a place for breakfast just across the street from the Mobile station, and the kids were dazzled by the fact that even here there were the famous lights and one-armed bandits so famous in the silver state. How satisfying to have our car road-ready again and our bellies filled with ham and flapjacks. So off again, but now with two misplaced tires tied to our station wagon roof.