Friday, September 28, 2007

I gotta get past Toronto...

Toronto was lovely, and I saw many friends, and spent three days there.It was fast and warm and fun. I think we saw a movie. Or did we miss it? Regardless, I was thoughtlessly hosted and fed by Mr. David Alexander, and was proud to say that I was the only truck/tent-trailer combo in the Toronto region to get three days worth of parking for five dollars from the friendly barely-English-speaking ladies at the donut shop across from Dave's beautiful multi-level condo. Evenings were filled with my Legacy-friends--those guys who I've known since newspaper work meant three beers between pages, and two-thirty am deadlines. The champions of history, trapped willingly in the text-based bustle of Canada's publishing hub.
Anyway, some people think Toronto has one of the best transit systems in Canada. The buses run on time, and the subway is the oldest and best the nation has seen.
But those stupid streetcars. Sure. They're nostalgic and they look cool, with their big red corpses dragging aboveground on busy streets.
But their tracks are the reason this story is at all interesting.
It's barely a memory now, but at one point, after a wrong turn downtown, the trailer hooks the trolley tracks. It results in a weird dragging-skid, but at the time, I don't even bother checking anything. I'm certain, if tracks were bad for tires, then they would have ripped them up years ago.
So, I'm just driving along, wheels turning, motor motoring, music musicking, when I feel a bit of a rumble. I think something is wrong with the motor, so I turn off the music for a moment to listen. There's a hum, and it's only when I accelerate.
There's no place to stop and investigate further on the 401, so I keep going.
Then the trailer starts jumping up and down on one side. It looks almost comedic in the rear view window, but, as much as I'm enjoying my trailer's destruction, I figure I should actually stop and take a look. By now, I'm pretty sure that there's a flat.
I look. Phew. It's not a flat at all. It's a shredded band of rubber horribly twisted around the rim of the wheel. And it's not an old tire--I just bought that tire three weeks ago. The 15-year old tire on the other side grins contemptuously at me.
I take stock of my options. The crank for the jack for the truck is under the hood, so there should be a jack in the truck somewhere. I take a look, but I can't find anything. I try to wedge one of the non-lifting stands that I have (basically, it's a post) under the frame of the trailer, and pull the trailer ahead so that it props up under the trailer and lifts it.
After plowing the gravel shoulder of the highway up, and dragging the tireless trailer 10 feet forward through numerous stupid-looking attempts, a thought pops into my head. "Hey. I don't know if I have a spare, anyway.
So I set up the rickety, off-balance trailer enough to get at the emergency compartment under one of the trailer's seats.
There is a spare!
Oh. My. God.
This is one of the tires that came with the trailer. It is cracked to hell, and patched with some sort of cave-man latex/pine tar. Not surprisingly, it's also completely flat. I guess it's been in there for 36 years, so the only thing that is surprising is that someone hasn't thrown it out yet.
After ignoring more logical answers like going back to Toronto and waiting another day to get a new tire from a proper store, I decide to roll into Kitchener, which is mercifully close. unfortunately, there's still no jack to get the wheel off the trailer.
Using the power of science, and with necessity being the whore mother of using junk to lift heavy things, I devise a system where I wedge a tire iron under one of the legs of the trailer, wedge a piece of wood under the tire iron to make a lever, and then lift the trailer up a fraction of an inch. Then I loosen the leg of the trailer, lower it to the ground, wedge the piece of wood and the tire iron underneath again---I know this doesn't make sense mechanically, and there's a piece missing, but I can't remember what it is. Needless to say, it's a long, slow process that becomes slower when I slip and the trailer falls back down.
But it gets up high enough, I take the tire off and throw it into the box of the truck, and speed off to Kitchener.
The Canadian Tire lifts my heart, and I smile, glad to know that a giant chain store might be my salvation. Considering they're the ones that sold me the shitty popped tire three weeks ago, I'm really excited to replace it with a similarly shitty tire, and have it pop when I ran over a bug or some air or a ghost.
Luckily, they're not open at all. It is 5:30 on a Sunday in a small town, I guess.
So, I take the only option available to me to the gas station across the street. I hook the 36-year-old tire to the air hose, and try to fill it, watching as the air pressure expands the cracks in the surface rubber.
Amazingly, it holds air. I pour some water on the tire to check for leaks, and there are none.
"Well, sure," I tell myself. "Wouldn't that be interesting if I could drive all the way back on this ancient tire?" It sure would, dummy. It sure would.
So, I get back to the trailer (with the overpasses and such it's about 20 km back, so I illegally cross the median on the 401 as soon as I see the trailer, and bottom out the truck) and remember that I still have no jack. I try the stupid pull-up-on-posts technique again, and then the amazingly-slow tire-iron jack system, and put the sad spare tire on.
I lower the trailer, fold it back up again, and begin to drive off. Less than five minutes later, on a random glance in the rear view window, I see a small black chunk of something fly off at the speed of sound. It's almost comedic, the velocity that this little fragment of tire flies. But the tire holds its pressure.
The Thousand Islands Bridge looms, taking me to cheap gas and New York State. Logic would dictate that it would make more sense to stay in Canada, where it's safe, and where I could get health insurance if something went wrong, or, most importantly, where there's another Canadian Tire. But I carry on. The Thousand Islands Bridge is huge, and the view below is beautiful. It passes over little green islands, surrounded by little boats, and covered with little cabins perched on the rocks. The lady at the toll booth tells me it's $4.75 to cross the bridge. I give her $3.27 and an apology, and cross back into the United States.

No comments: